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Kayla W

- Research Program Mentor

PhD candidate at University of California San Diego (UCSD)


Drug discovery, bioinformatics, enzymes, science communication, the oceans & human health, marine science


My current research focuses on the intersection of human health and the world's oceans, specifically discovering new medicines from marine sponges. My work is very interdisciplinary, utilizing skills and knowledge from organic chemistry, molecular biology, and marine science. With a bachelor's degree in chemistry, a master's degree in oceanography, and my current PhD work in marine chemical biology, I have a diverse skillset and knowledge base suitable to a wide range of students. In my free time, I love being in the ocean. I'm an avid scuba diver, snorkeler, and sailor. My coolest fun fact is that I've sailed across the Atlantic Ocean twice. When I'm on land, I enjoy gardening, playing with my dog, and doing all sorts of arts and crafts. I'm also a huge podcast fan.

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.

Investigating marine genomes

Learn how to access and analyze publicly available genomes. of marine creatures like bacteria, corals, sponges, and sea weeds. Search for genes and learn what they encode. Learn how to connect DNA to antibiotic production. Learn bioinformatics and basic command line functions. End product can be a written report, a video, a presentation, or other options if you have an idea in mind.

Online science communication

Learn how to write and produce online content to teach the public about interesting science topics. Create videos, infographics, and/or podcast episodes that cover pertinent science topics like gene editing, climate change, public health, electric cars, etc.

Coding skills

Linux command line

Teaching experience

I have mentored several undergraduate students in wet lab research. I also supervise our paid undergraduate lab assistants.


Work experience

ChemSampCo (2016 - 2016)
Safety Assistant
Southern Methodist University (2012 - 2012)
High school research assistant


Rhodes College
BS Bachelor of Science (2016)
University of California San Diego (UCSD)
MS Master of Science (2018)
University of California San Diego (UCSD)
PhD Doctor of Philosophy candidate
Marine chemical biology

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