Sunday, August 26, 2012

A first post, and introduction...

Hello, fellow Micronauts, or people interested in microbiology!

So I am finally starting a microbiologically-themed blog, after many years of reading and enjoying the blogs of many other talented people.  What do I have to offer?  Well, I have some things I would like to say about microbiology, and I would also like to chronicle my upcoming class in microbiology here at the University of Puget Sound.

First, an introduction.  I was born in Compton, California (yes, I am an OG) and raised in North Long Beach.  After graduating from David Starr Jordan High School, I attended UCLA, where I earned a B.A. in Biology.  After that, I went to Stanford University, and earned my Ph.D. in the laboratory of Dr. Sharon Long (my thesis work involved dicarboxylate transport in the plant symbiont Sinorhizobium meliloti, as well as developing a phage mediated generalized transduction system for that organism).

I then did two short postdocs in San Diego, one involving bacterial bioluminescence in Vibrio harveyi (with Dr. Michael Silverman) and one studying (to my microbial shame) Arabidopsis thaliana (with Dr. Nigel Crawford).  Following that, I worked for seven years as a research microbiologist for Kelco (then owned by Merck) in San Diego; it was interesting to try to optimize polymer production in Xanthomonas campestris and Sphingomonas elodea (their products are in Snackwell cookies and salad dressings!).  

It was then (well, after I was laid off) that I made the jump back to academia, teaching at Occidental College in Los Angeles for eight years, and finally to the University of Puget Sound, where I am currently an Associate Professor of Biology.

Along the way, I met and married Dr. Jennifer J. Quinn, who is currently Associate Director for Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington, Tacoma (and also Professor of Mathematics).  We have two sons, my sensitive poet twelve year old Anson and my circus acrobat nine year old Zachary.  We live in the North End of Tacoma and love it. 

Here at Puget Sound, I teach Microbiology to seniors and introductory cell and molecular biology (which we call "The Unity of Life") to freshmen.  I also have a small undergraduate based research lab, in which we study predatory bacteria (such as Bdellovibrio, Ensifer, and Saprospira) and mutualistic associations between bacteria and other organisms (lizards and crabs).  More about those topics, and teaching, in future posts.

What defines me?  Several years ago, during a faculty meeting, two colleagues were discussing what, if we received funding, kind of faculty hire should we make in the future.  As they were both botanists, they agreed that a botanist would be a good choices, since plants were the basis of the biosphere.  

I said nothing.  One of my colleagues drew me into their conversation, remarking that I probably thought that bacteria were more important than plants.  I replied that plants did many interesting and cool things that they learned from bacteria and archaea.  

My colleague grinned and called me a "microbial supremacist."  And I smiled right back and agreed.  The artwork below says it all!

(Artwork by the talented Ms. Kaitlin Reiss)

It will be interesting to see where all this takes me---designing a blog, writing more regularly, thinking about microbiology and teaching.  Welcome to my blog, and I hope you find what I write interesting or even useful.  More to come!


  1. First comment! Long overdue and very nice intro. You are, of course a first rate writer and a great microbiologist/educator. I did the blog thing for a few years way back, and have thought about starting up again, so try not be be so good at it that it discourages lesser lights such as myself :). Cheers and good luck!

  2. It's about time. After all the reading and commenting you have done over the years, you should be the master of your own blog. Good luck.

  3. I already shared you on my Yuck Factor Tumblr! The M&M's are too cute not to share.

    Gotta love social media:


I am happy to hear your comments and suggestions. I hope to avoid spammage. We shall see how that works out!