Curriculum vitae (last updated Nov. 2019)


Biography

I have eclectic interests spanning the sciences and arts including music, graphic art, and poetry. My scientific work blends the fields of computer science and evolution to better understand biomedically and biotechnologically significant fungi. For example, what causes some species of fungi to be pathogenic while close relatives are harmless? Or what is the evolutionary signature of domestication among yeast associated with wine-making? My artistic endeavors explore aspects of modern life experienced on global and personal levels such as raising awareness to critically endangered animals, shedding light on the everyday task of teasing apart reality from false facts, and the meaning of life itself.

My overarching goals include making education more accessible to all, facilitate student learning, and participate in artistic and scientific community engagement. To this end, I am the chair of MEGAMicrobe (an education outreach event that teaches children and adults about all things microbial), serve on committees across Vanderbilt University that aim to enhance diversity and inclusion, am a science fair judge for the Middle Tennessee Science and Engineering Fair, participant in ArtLab (an artistic exploration of the intersection between art and science), and much more.


Research Interests

Recent representative publications:
Steenwyk et al. (2019) mBio
Steenwyk et al. (2019) PLoS Biology
Steenwyk and Rokas (2018) Frontiers in Microbiology


In brief, my research interests include evolution, genomics, and phylogenetics, with a particular interest in molds and yeasts.

My research, conducted as part of the Antonis Rokas Lab at Vanderbilt University, aims to utilize various 'omics approaches to understand the evolution and function of fungal genomes. I implement computational tools to conduct analyses of species relationships, sequence evolution, and mutational variation across the fungal tree of life or populations thereof. These analyses can inform the evolution and/or divergence of traits important to our lives such as pathogenicity and bioindustrial traits like fermentative capacity. More generally, I am most interested in how populations and/or species evolve, diverge, and what genomic elements and traits define them.

Current projects involve wine associated strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae (baker’s yeast) and the non-conventional wine yeast genus Hanseniaspora. Past work includes study of the primary human and animal pathogen, Cryptococcus gattii.

To facilitate these analyses, I implement multiple programming languages. Numerous scripts that I have written are publicaly available among my github repositories. These respositories aim to enable the analysis phylogenetic, molecular, and related analyses.

Additionally, much of my scientific work has been enhanced thanks to collaborative efforts. A non-exhaustive list of collaborator/friend labs include the following: Rokas Lab, Xing-Xing Shen, Matthew E. Mead , Hittinger Lab , and Gibbons Lab. I am always interested in collaboration because what we can achieve together is far greater than what we can achieve alone - please feel free to get in touch.

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Reduced Curriculum Vitae

Please see link above for complete CV


Education

Pres.   Graduate Student, Biological Sciences, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
2016   M.S. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Clark University, Worcester, MA
2015   B.A. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Clark University, Worcester, MA

Invited Talks

2019   Gordon Research Conference, Molecular Mechanisms in Evolution, Easton, MA
2019   Gordon Research Seminar, Molecular Mechanisms in Evolution, Easton, MA (declined)
2019   Focal Point, ArtLab, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
2019   30th Fungal Genetics Conference at Asilomar, Pacific Grove, CA
2019   Phylogenomics and Evolution Group of North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC
2018   ArtLab, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
2015   TedXClarkUniversity, Clark University, Worcester, MA

Contributed Talks

2019   Research in Progress Seminar, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
2019   Biological Sciences Annual Retreat, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
2019   Science club at the library, Nashville Public Library, Nashville, TN
2018   Nashville Science Club, Jackalope Brewing Co., Nashville, TN
2017   Mycological Society of America University of Georgia, Athens, GA
2016   Mycological Society of America, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
2016   Graduate Student Multidisciplinary Conference, Clark University, Worcester, MA

Awards

2019   Gilliam Predoctoral Fellowship, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
2019   Ann Bernard Martin Award for Excellence in Graduate Research, Vanderbilt University
2019   Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award, National Institutes of Health
2019   Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship, Ford Foundation
2019   Graduate student travel grant, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
2019   Curb Center Fellow, ArtLab, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
2018   GENETICS Peer Review Training Program, Genetics Society of America
2018   Best poster award, Gordon Research Conference, Holderness, NH
2018   Best poster award, Gordon Research Seminar, Holderness, NH
2018   Best poster award, Department of Biological Sciences, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
2018   T-shirt design contest winner, Department of Biological Sciences, Vanderbilt University
2017   Graduate student travel grant, Vanderbilt University, TN
2016   Graduate Student Council Travel Award, Graduate Student Multidisciplinary Conference, Clark University, Worcester, MA
2015   Summa Cum Laude, Clark University, Worcester, MA
2014   Summer research scholar, Bridging the gaps, University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine
2013   Global environmental microbiology scholar, Center for dark energy biosphere investigations, University of Southern California
2011   Jonas Clark Scholar, Clark University

Service

2019-Pres.   Inclusion Coordinator, The Evolutionary Studies Initiative at Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
2019-Pres.   Graphic Illustrator, The Evolutionary Studies Initiative at Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
2019-Pres.   Co-chair, MEGAMicrobe, Vanderbilt Institute for Infections, Immunology and Inflammation, Nashville, TN
2018-Pres.   Vice President, Inclusivity in Biological Sciences Association, Department of Biological Sciences, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
2018-Pres.   Vice President, Graduate Student Association, Department of Biological Sciences, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
2018-Pres.   Member, American Society of Microbiology Tennessee Chapter
2017-Pres.   Educational outreach booth design and execution, MEGAMicrobe, Nashville, TN
2017-Pres.   Communications chair, Inequalities in Biological Sciences Association, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
2017-Pres.   Graduate Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
2017-Pres.   Judge, Middle Tennessee Science and Engineering Fair, Belmont University, Nashville, TN
2019      Peer review workshop leader, 30th Fungal Genetics Conference at Asilomar, Pacific Grove, CA
2018-2019   Vice co-chair, MEGAMicrobe, Vanderbilt Institute for Infections, Immunology and Inflammation, Nashville, TN
2017-2018   Secretary, Graduate Student Association, Department of Biological Sciences, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
2017-2018   Scientific consultant, Little Harpeth Brewing, Nashville, TN
2017      Vanderbilt Student Volunteers for Science, West End Middle School, Nashville, TN
2014-2015   Subcommittee for Multiple Departments Faculty Search Committee, Clark University, Worcester, MA
2014-2015   Science Education Outreach Blogger, C-DEBI Sci-Curious Blog

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