Celebrate A Scientist

Scientist of the Day

June 10th

Dr. Misty Kuhn

Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at San Francisco State University

Dr. Kuhn has been an Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at San Francisco State University since 2014. Her research is centered on foundational questions regarding the evolution of bacterial Gcn5-related N-acetyltransferases (GNATs), which are important for a variety of cellular processes, antibiotic resistance, and metabolic regulation. It is through this lens that students in her laboratory learn to utilize a variety of molecular biology and biochemical techniques to understand how specific amino acids contribute to catalysis, substrate specificity, and structures of these enzymes.


Nominated by Olivia Pham, Charles Houseman, Van Le, and 2 anonymous colleagues:

“Dr. Kuhn is a dedicated scientist and teacher. Her work characterizing gcn5-related N-acetyltransferases is setting the ground work for future studies and finding new biosynthetic pathways. Even while focusing on her work she manages to be a fantastic mentor to her students and promote their learning in the field of biochemistry.”

– Charles Houseman, Nominator

June 11th

Sara Schaal

Ph.D. Candidate at Northeastern University

Sara Schaal is a Ph.D. candidate at Northeastern University. Her research focuses on understanding the genetic architecture of ecotype evolution, both empirically using whole-genome sequencing and theoretically using evolutionary simulations. Her team is currently sequencing samples of stationary and migratory ecotypes of Atlantic cod collected from the US Gulf of Maine and Iceland. With this data, they aim to determine whether inverted genomic regions are implicated in their evolution, and whether ecotypes in different geographic locations arose under the same genomic architecture.


Nominated by an anonymous colleague:

“Sara is a graduate student working on her Ph.D. and she is amazing. She is using genomics to study how different types of Atlantic cod have evolved across the western Atlantic… She is integrating different data types on hundreds of cod that she collected from Maine and Iceland, including whole-genome sequencing, fish morphology, and isotope analysis on cod ear-bones (which is related to the temperature they experience). She deserves to be featured by GENEWIZ because of the international and interdisciplinary nature of her project on this iconic species!”

June 12th

Puneet Kaur Mangat

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Plant and Soil Science at Texas Tech University

In the lab of Dr. Rosalyn Shim at Texas Tech University, Puneet’s Ph.D. research focuses on the molecular analysis of introgression lines derived from the nightshade species, Solanum lycopersicoides, and identification of traits that can add value to cultivated tomatoes. Using a genome that she assembled and analyzed, her team built a marker resource that helped genetically characterize the S. lycopersicoides-derived introgression lines. These markers are now being used in genetic studies of other Solanum species. Puneet plans to make this genetic marker resource publicly available for other scientists working on similar or related species to use.


Nominated by Rosalyn Shim:

“[Ms. Mangat] painstakingly learned basic concepts in computational biology and bioinformatics so she can assemble and analyze a draft of the whole genome of S. lycopersicoides from Illumina-generated reads using publicly available software… She is currently in the process of depositing her sequence data to NCBI and making them publicly available… Important discoveries that can largely impact agriculture are being made in our laboratory because of Ms. Mangat’s dedication and perseverance in the assembly and analysis of the S. lycopersicoides genome.”

June 13th

Dr. Ajay Kumar

Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at North Dakota State University

Dr. Ajay Kumar is currently working with the wheat breeding program at North Dakota State University. His primary research focuses on germplasm characterization and enhancement, genetics, and the breeding of important traits related to yield, quality, disease resistance, and nutritional value for wheat improvement. His research integrates technological advances in quantitative genetics, statistics, and genomics with traditional plant breeding to bring desired genetic improvement at a faster and more sustainable manner. He also trains and mentors the next generation of agricultural scientists from diverse backgrounds, and serves as an editor of PLOS ONE and Frontiers in Genetics.


Nominated by an anonymous colleague:

“Dr. Ajay Kumar is a plant scientist broadly trained in breeding, genetics, and genomics. He is working to bring traditional and advanced tools and technologies together to enhance crop production towards food security…Under the current challenging agriculture environment, his collaborative and multi-disciplinary approach is paving the way to improve agricultural productivity in a sustainable way.”

June 14th

Celebrate a Scientist Winner

Dr. Rex Dunham

Professor and Aquaculture Geneticist in the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences at Auburn University

Dr. Dunham has been a Professor and Aquaculture Geneticist in the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences at Auburn University since 1981. His primary research focuses on the genetic improvement of catfish. His work, including releasing the first genetically improved fish in the US, has led to major changes in the industry. Catfish yield/acre has increased 5-fold since 1980, and at least half of this increase is due to the genetics and reproduction work that Dr. Dunham, his team, and his colleagues have conducted at Auburn University.


Nominated by an anonymous colleague:

“Rex’s work has established excellent genomics work in farmed catfish. Most people don’t realize that his work, starting with conventional breeding and cross breeding in the 1980s and 90s up until today with his genetic engineering, is steering the way forward for future US catfish farmers. His contribution to catfish genetics and genomics is epic!”

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