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Samuel H

- Research Program Mentor

PhD at University of Washington


Evolution, Zoology, Genetics, Genomics, Cancer, Computational Biology, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Marine Biology, Microbiology


I am a scientist living in Seattle, WA interested in all things relating to animals and/or evolution! I recently finished my PhD at the University of Washington, where I studied the evolution of a contagious cancer in clams - a rare instance in which cancer cells transmit from clam to clam (the cancer is approximately 500 years old!). I do a mixture of computational research (working with genetic data on the computer) and lab-based research, with a trip out to the field to collect clams every once in a while when I am lucky. I got started in science researching the microbiology of udder infections in dairy cattle at the University of Vermont, and developed my interest in evolution while studying the evolution of cellular cooperation at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. I am also passionate about science education/communication, and would like to teach at a university later in my career. Outside of the lab you can find me outdoors and/or playing sports. I am a life-long Ultimate Frisbee player and even played semi-professionally for a couple years before starting graduate school. I enjoy biking around Seattle during the week and getting out to the mountains/ocean during the weekends to camp and explore. I take a jack-of-all-trades/master-of-none approach to outdoor sports, dabbling in surfing, mountain biking, climbing and skiing when opportunities arise.

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.

Why don't whales get cancer more often than humans?

Whales have MANY more cells than humans. If each cell has the potential to mutate into a cancerous cell, why don't whales get cancer 100x more often than humans? In this project, you will review the literature on cancer genetics and propose experiments to test various questions in cancer biology. (Image source: https://ergo-science.com/petos-paradox/)

How do SARS-Cov2 variants differ from each other genetically?

We keep hearing about new and more transmissible variants of the SARS-Cov2 virus, but how are these variants different from the old ones? In this project, you will research the genetics of SARS-Cov2 and other viruses, download publicly available genetic sequences, and use these sequences to explore the evolutionary relationships of SARS-Cov2 variants. Prior coding experience is optional for this project. (Image source: https://www.jax.org/news-and-insights/2021/february/new-coronavirus-variants-spark-concerns)

Coding skills

R, Bash

Languages I know

German, conversational

Teaching experience

Teaching Trainee, Science Teaching Experience Program for Upcoming PhDs (STEP-UP), a year-long course for developing teaching skills, particularly focused on equitable and inclusive teaching using active learning techniques. Visiting Scientist, Skype a Scientist: visited 7 classrooms remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic to give an interactive presentation about science careers, my research and various questions about science. TA, UW Biology Dept: Instructor for the lab section of upper-level undergraduate biology course “Experimental Evolution”. Mentor for 4 undergraduate researchers for periods of 1-2 years each: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Field Teacher, Bryant Pond 4H Camp and Learning Center, Maine: Taught visiting school groups grade 3-12 ecological concepts, leadership, environmental conservation, and service learning in an outdoor educational setting.


Work experience

Pacific Northwest Research Institute (2018 - 2023)
Graduate Research Assistant
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (2015 - 2018)
Research Technician
Bryant Pond 4H Camp and Learning Center (2014 - 2014)
Field Teacher
University of Washington (2009 - 2013)
Research Assistant


University of Vermont
BS Bachelor of Science (2013)
University of Washington
PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Molecular and Cellular Biology

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