Biographical Sketch:

I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS in 1988. From 1989-1991, I worked at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama City, Panama, as a senior research assistant on a project that studied the evolutionary divergence of alpheids (snapping shrimp) across the Isthmus of Panama (Science, Knowlton et al ; Proceedings article, Knowlton and Mills in CV). In 1991, I returned to Texas and in 1993 earned my MS in Biology from Texas Christian University. My thesis project studied the lethal effects of ultraviolet light (UV) and various photosensitizers on the nematode, Caenorhabditis. elegans.

From 1994-1996, I worked for the Center Radiation Biology Branch, Center for Devices and Radiological Health, Food and Drug Administration, Rockville, MD. The project was focused on the risk of using UV-emitting medical devices to treat HIV-infected dermatology patients. It had been shown that UV activated HIV in vitro and patient safety of using UV treatment was in question.

In 1996, I began my doctoral studies at George Mason University in Fairfax , VA. During that time, I tested and optimized several molecular tools to study the microbial community dynamics during bioremediation of hydrocarbons.

After graduation, I moved to Miami, FL with my husband and joined Florida International University (FIU) as the manager of the DNA sequencing CORE laboratory. During that time, I began to build collaborations with FIU faculty members in the Dept. of Biological Sciences, the School of Computer Sciences and and the International Forensics Research Institute.


Soil Microbial communities.

My research interests are elucidating the link between microbial community structure and function and the environmental drivers that influence them (ADVANCE site). Because microbial populations operate at spatio-temporal scales far removed from typical human perception, it has been difficult in the past to investigate their role in complex ecosystem behavior

However, with the expanded use of molecular methods combined with computational tools, these limitations are rapidly decreasing. Molecular techniques for studying the structural diversity in ecosystems (i.e., soil, marine, aquatic) are now available. These molecular data can be correlated with the physical, biogeochemical, and chemical/nutrient data. Because of the wealth of data that can be produced in such comprehensive community analysis, bio- and eco-informatics tools that can better interrogate those data will also continue to be developed ( Pat Gillevet's site and Giri's site ). The integration of molecular biology, microbiology, and computational science is essential to unraveling the intricacies of complex microbial communities in situ . The long-term goal is to determine at what scale these critical components need to be tracked in order to develop a community-wide ecosystem picture. Once the scale is determined, much will be learned about microbial communities as they interact both structurally and functionally as they respond to natural or introduced environmental 'drivers'.


I have designed, implemented and taught workshops over the last four years in microbial community analyses for FIU graduate students as well USDA scientists and other professionals in the field as continuing educational credits through FIU. I also team-teach Forensic Biology for the Forensic Science program at FIU and direct research and analyses for the Forensic DNA Profiling Facility associated with the International Forensic Research Institute of FIU.

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