Barrick Lab :: Team


Principal Investigator

Prof. Jeffrey E. Barrick 🐋

Associate Professor of Molecular Biosciences, Fellow of the Lorene Morrow Kelly Professorship in Microbiology (01/2011–present)
B.S. Chemistry, Caltech
Ph.D. Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University
Postdoc, Michigan State University
Twitter: @barricklab

Prof. Barrick has a longstanding interest in fundamental and applied studies of molecular and microbial evolution. He is currently interested in intersections between those topics, synthetic biology, and entomology. He is an avid if plodding swimmer and enjoys the "classics" of literature, including a certain 19th century American novel involving a monomaniacal fascination with an albino cetacean.

Lab Manager

Sarah Bialik 🐒

Lab Manager (03/2019–present)
B.S. Biology and Environmental Studies, Centre College
M.S. Population and Conservation Biology, Texas State University

Sarah loves pop gen and conservation. It started with collecting marine invertebrates from the English Channel which led to running around mountains catching butterflies. In the Barrick lab, she has transitioned to studying plant virus evolution and leafhoppers. If she is not in lab making sure everything (and everyone) is functioning properly, you can find her in the local yarn shop knitting up a storm or doing yoga, hiking or climbing like a monkey on some rock outside with her well-behaved crag puppy, Telo.

Senior Researchers

Prof. Dennis Mishler ⚔

Assistant Professor of Practice and Research Educator for the Freshman Research Initiative (04/2013–present)
B.S. Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California at San Diego
Ph.D. Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University
Postdoc Emory University

Dr. Mishler leads the "Microbe Hackers" undergraduate research lab and co-advises the UT Austin iGEM team with Professor Barrick. The Microbe Hackers most recent research has focused on "Caffeinated Coli", including a 2019 publication in AEM, among other projects. He is super proud of all of his students, but wants to give a shout out to the 2019 iGEM team members who were recognized with a Best Measurement award this past fall. Prior to coming to UT Austin, he worked in the fields of pre-mRNA splicing and synthetic riboswitches. He is an avid gamer and can be found regularly playing games throughout Austin. He annually attends the World Boardgaming Championships, where his main games include Here I Stand and Sekigahara

Dr. Daniel Deatherage ✅

Research Associate (09/2011–present)
B.S. Biochemistry, University of Evansville
Ph.D. Molecular Cellular Developmental Biology, The Ohio State University

Dan’s exposure to Illumina sequencing data in his graduate work on ovarian cancer has morphed into an interest in using next generation sequencing data to answer questions about evolution and synthetic biology in microbes. Dan is always exploring ways of using non-standard library preparation techniques to get extra data from NGS data to do such things as lower error rates and limits of variant detection, increase coverage of variant regions, and replace laborious assays with NGS workflows. Recently published work on selecting for microbes with lower-than-natural mutation rates has encompassed many of these methods. He looks forward to publishing another such study involving tracking evolution at low frequencies soon. In his spare time Dan wonders if his listening to audiobooks counts as having “read” 100s of books per year, or reading zero books per year.

Postdoctoral Fellows

Dr. Peng Geng 🔥

Postdoctoral Fellow (11/2015–present)
B.S. Biochemical Engineering, DLU
Ph.D. Biochemical Engineering, DLUT

Peng is interested in using sensory photoreceptors to mediate optogenetic control over DNA-associated processes. Peng currently works on creating genetic tools that improve the success of cloning and editing plant viruses maintained as infectious clones in bacterial cells. Peng is a licensed cook.

Dr. Isaac Gifford 🐴

Postdoctoral Fellow (01/2020–present)
B.S. Microbiology, University of Texas at Austin
Ph.D. Microbiology, University of California Davis

Isaac’s primary research interests are the mechanisms of horizontal gene transfer and its role in genome evolution. He currently works with Acinetobacter baylyi ADP1 while his graduate work focused on molecular genetics of Frankia nitrogen-fixing symbioses. Isaac’s personal interests include game design and 21st century sequential art.

Graduate Students

Sean Leonard 🐝

CMB Graduate Student jointly advised with Nancy Moran (05/2015–present)
B.S. Cell and Molecular Biology, Loyola University
M.S. Biotechnology, UT at San Antonio
Twitter: @spleonard1

Sean engineers microbiomes, and currently works in the honey bee gut. He is broadly interested in symbiosis and microbial evolution, as well as design principles and best practices for synthetic biology. Some days he bakes (mostly sourdough), and he tries to spend time with his pets (never as much as he should). Every now and then you’ll find him dancing two-step to live music at a local Austin honky-tonk, too.

Kate Elston 🐿

Microbiology Graduate Student (05/2017-present)
B.S. Molecular and Cellular Biology, Texas A&M University
Email: kelston18ATutexasDOTedu

Kate's main focus is on how we can use synthetic biology tools to manipulate the relationships between the bacteria and their host insects. Currently, she work with aphids and their gut symbiont and think about ways to change their impact on food security. In her free time you can find her two-stepping, obsessively completing crossword puzzles, and pursuing artistic endeavors.

Julie Perreau 🦀

Microbiology Graduate Student jointly advised with Nancy Moran (05/2017-present)
B.S. Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida
M.S. Evolutionary Biology, MEME program
Twitter: @jmaperreau

Julie's research is focused on identifying molecular mechanisms used to initiate and maintain symbiotic interactions between bacteria and aphids. In her spare time, Julie goes on trail runs with her dog Tuna, dances country swing, and takes care of her backyard chickens.

Matt McGuffie 🦗

Microbiology Graduate Student (05/2018-present)
B.S. Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of Michigan
M.S. Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, University of Michigan
Twitter: @matt_mcguffie

Matt is broadly interested in synthetic biology, basic bacteriology, and data science/visualization. Previously, Matt studied bacterial biofilms and phages, and he is currently examining the evolutionary failure of genetic devices. In his time outside of lab, he likes to obsessively accumulate hobbies including, but not limited to: guitar, rock climbing, gardening, mushroom farming, insect rearing, scuba diving, and backpacking.

Cameron Roots 🦊

Biochemistry Graduate Student (05/2020–present)
B.S. Biochemistry; Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, University of Washington
Non-degree Postbaccalaureate, National Institutes of Health
Twitter: @_croots

Cameron is exploring techniques, results, and implications of bacteriophage engineering. His past work was in mitochondria systems genetics and cell-machine interfacing. Ultimately, Cameron would like to work towards synthetic biology as a system to solve human-derived problems like diabetes and pollution through contributing research, policy, or outreach. He has too many hobbies, but some highlights include Dungeons and Dragons, playing guitar, and running.

Undergraduate Students

Elizabeth Robinson 🐺

Undergraduate Researcher (01/2018-present)
B.S. Honors Biology, B.A. Honors Humanities, UT Austin (in-progress)

Elizabeth's research focuses on using RNA interference to replace crop insecticides, which often harm other insect species and humans by accident. Currently, she's trying to engineer symbiotic leaf bacteria to produce the necessary dsRNA for us. On a typical day in lab, you can see her following Kate around or trying to figure out how to keep her tobacco hornworms alive. In her spare time, she loves creative writing, stressing out over nothing, memorizing songs, and nerding out about anthropology.

Spencer Hamrick 🦈

Undergraduate Researcher (08/2018-present)
B.S.A. Biochemistry, UT Austin (in-progress)

Spencer is interested in experimental evolution and works on the hypothesis that accumulated membrane stress is responsible for dead ends in the E. coli long-term evolution experiment. Outside of science, Spencer is interested in coffee, scuba diving, sharks, and stressing about graduate school.

Eleanor Young 🦔

Undergraduate Researcher (12/2018-present)
B.S. Biology, UT Austin (in-progress)

Eleanor's research focuses on broad host range vector choice for engineering non-model organisms and the effect antibiotic resistance choice has on copy number and long term stability. Eleanor's hobbies include cooking, rock climbing and playing banjo with almost no proficiency.

Shireen Shah 🐑

Undergraduate Researcher (07/2019-present)
B.S. Biochemistry, B.A. Art History, UT Austin (in-progress)

Shireen’s research is focused on characterizing the cellular capacity of E. coli strains with a reduced and increased number of ribosomal operons. She likes baking apple pies, cooking, drinking hot chocolate, and hunting for free cheese boards.

Ginny Mortensen 👌

Undergraduate Researcher (01/2020-present)
B.S. Cell and Molecular Biology, UT Austin (in-progress)

Ginny's work is focused on utilizing computational tools to model the mechanisms of gene expression and examine their effect on genetic construct evolutionary stability. Ginny aims to create tools which can help synthetic biologists create more stable constructs. Ginny's primary hobbies include volunteering to help at-risk individuals and petting her dog.

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Topic revision: r206 - 14 Aug 2020 - 20:58:48 - Main.KateElston