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Using evidence to teach effectively and equitably

As scientists, we find motivating questions, we collaborate with colleagues, and we engage with peer-reviewed studies to guide our research. As teachers, we should do the same to guide our teaching. In this talk, I'll explain (a) what my teaching goals are, (b) how my practice is guided by pedagogical studies, (c) how I contribute to pedagogical research, and (d) future goals for undergraduate education at UW Biology.

Role of mobile genes in the community interactions of the intestinal microbiota

Our intestinal microbial community is quickly evolving with us, following changes to modern lifestyles and even throughout our lifetimes. I aim to understand how horizontal gene transfer shapes interactions in the microbiota and the implications of this pervasive phenomenon for community properties relevant to human health (e.g. resilience of a healthy microbiota to perturbations). I identified a large conjugative plasmid that frequently transfers to multiple species within a person and mediates the formation of multi-species biofilms.

How does the brain know it’s cold?

Mammals maintain stable body temperature largely independent of the temperature of their environment and even small deviations from optimal internal temperature can threaten their survival. Thermoregulation critically depends on the ability to sense deep body temperature by the intrinsically warm and cold-sensitive neurons in the preoptic area of the hypothalamus (POA). However, the precise physiological roles of the temperature-sensitive POA neurons and the molecular mechanisms responsible for their temperature sensitivity are poorly understood.

Functional genomics of adaptation to abiotic stresses

Plant nutrient metabolism is regulated through a variety of biological processes, many of which are controlled and coordinated by internal factors such as cell type and developmental stage as well as external factors such as soil quality and other environmental conditions. My research focuses on investigating the genetic and molecular underpinnings of developmental and physiological processes that have been altered to allow plants to tolerate challenging nutrient environments.

Up close and personal: Short-range heat and humidity detectors for mosquito host-seeking and egg-laying behaviors

Mosquitoes use multiple host-associated cues to efficiently locate sources of blood. While detection mechanisms for longer-range cues like CO2 and odors have been widely studied, less is known about how mosquitoes sense the short-range heat and humidity gradients surrounding hosts. We recently demonstrated that heat-seeking in the malaria vector Anopheles gambiae is driven by cooling-activated neurons requiring the Ionotropic Receptor (IR) subunit IR21a.

Innovation in the Classroom: Moving toward Equity and Improving Student Skills

For two decades, I created new courses, developed new teaching strategies, and mentored
junior faculty and postdocs while teaching a wide range of Biology courses. Then in 2020 the
pandemic and stark racial injustices forced us to make drastic changes in how we teach, and to
rethink how we address students’ experiences of our coursework. I will describe how the
pandemic has been an opportunity for me to improve student experience and growth in my
courses: getting rid of high stakes exams where I can, creating student-centered policies and


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