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Kate L

- Research Program Mentor

PhD at Stanford University


biology, microbiology, ecology, evolution, genomics, zoonotic disease, antimicrobial resistance, biodiversity conservation


I recently completed my PhD in Biology at Stanford University. My dissertation investigated the ecology and evolution of Escherichia coli in wild animals using a combination of culture-based methods and whole genome sequencing. Broader impacts of this work include informing the propensity for wildlife to harbor and transmit pathogenic and antibiotic resistant E. coli and even act as "melting pots" of novel genetic combinations that could threaten global public health. I am broadly interested in research that contributes to our understanding of human impacts on wildlife and their associated microbiota. During my undergraduate career at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where I double majored in Microbiology and Environmental Sciences, I was also a member of a lab in the Plant Pathology Department where I studied the pathogenesis of the common crop pathogen, Pseudomonas syringae. Growing up in Lincoln, Nebraska, I spent the majority of my days playing outside and kept an eclectic mix of pets including a snake, ducks, mice, frogs, fish, dogs, cats, and various interesting insects that occupied my bug box (built-in magnifying glass included). Steve Irwin was my childhood idol and the reason I begged for a pet snake, whom I named Freckles. I currently have a lovely Gordon Setter named Kona. In my free time, I still love to be outdoors and stay active. I enjoy doing yoga, reading, playing the piano, and cooking healthy recipes (and baking not-so-healthy desserts)!

Project ideas

Project ideas are meant to help inspire student thinking about their own project. Students are in the driver seat of their research and are free to use any or none of the ideas shared by their mentors.

Impacts of captivity on wild animal microbiomes and the implications for conservation

Animals in captivity are often treated with antibiotics, have very close contact with humans, and are usually fed a diet different from what they would experience in the wild. All these factors and more impact the gut microbiota of wild individuals held in captivity, causing it to differ from that of their wild counterparts in significant ways. Captive-breeding and rehabilitation can be positive interventions to support endangered species and help increase wild populations, but the health effects of altered microbiomes caused by such practices remain unclear. Your review article would contribute to the field by synthesizing current knowledge and summarizing results from previous investigations into the impacts of captivity on microbiomes, ultimately identifying gaps in the literature and therefore future research priorities. How you will gather information: Search scholarly databases such as PubMed and Google Scholar for scientific articles, speak with experts in the field Skills you will learn: Comprehension of scientific literature, critical thinking, scientific writing, figure design, basic microbiology, host-microbe interactions Potential student outcomes: Research paper, Youtube video, Podcast

The plight and promise of environmental microbial communities in the Anthropocene

The Anthropocene is defined by extreme and rapid environmental change that is attributed majorly to human actions. Choose your favorite environmental or climate-related challenge (e.g., desertification, global warming, pollution, biodiversity loss, etc.) and it is sure to involve a microorganism (or entire communities of them). These microbes experience a multiplicity of related negative impacts and, largely due to the evolvability of microbes, also possess real potential to adapt and adjust to such change in ways that could be harnessed to combat many of the negative impacts of climate change. Together we could write a perspective piece on the good and bad sides of microbial response to an environmental impact of your choosing, hopefully illuminating potential solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges today in the process. How you will gather information: search scholarly databases such as PubMed and Google Scholar for scientific articles, speaking with experts in the field Skills you will learn: Comprehension of scientific literature, critical thinking, scientific writing, figure design, climate change impacts, environmental microbiology Potential student outcomes: Opinion piece, Blog post, Youtube video, Podcast

Coding skills

R, bash, python

Teaching experience

During my undergraduate career, I volunteer taught for summer-session and after school STEM programs for elementary and middle school students. During my PhD, I mentored numerous undergraduate students on short independent research projects and also TA'ed a number of Ecology courses at Stanford University. For 3 years now, I have mentored dozens of students with Polygence on an exciting variety of research topics including wildlife disease and conservation, animal social behavior, impacts of urban development of biodiversity, and applications of bacteriophage therapy in human medicine.



University of Nebraska, Lincoln
BS Bachelor of Science (2017)
Microbiology, Environmental Studies
Stanford University
PhD Doctor of Philosophy (2023)
Biology (Ecology and Evolution)

Completed Projects

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