Dr. Kishana Taylor is a postdoctoral researcher of virology at Carnegie Mellon University and the co-founder and president of the Black Microbiologists Association. Her current work looks at the role of two types of white blood cells — monocytes and macrophages — in the development of severe COVID-19. Previously, she researched how influenza changes through reassortment, in which the genetic material of viruses mix. Reassortment between mammalian and avian influenza viruses gave rise to the pandemics of 1957, 1968 and 2009.
Her research interests also include how viruses evolve, especially those transmitted by insects, and how viruses interact with their hosts and vectors. She advocates for studying emerging infectious disease and pandemic preparedness through the lens of social justice and racial equity.
Taylor has an interdisciplinary biomedical sciences Ph.D. from the University of Georgia, with a focus on disease ecology. She also holds a master’s in public health microbiology and emerging infectious disease.
Virologist, Carnegie Mellon University
Expertise Fields: Virology, COVID-19, influenza, public health microbiology, virus reassortment, virus mutation, insect-borne disease
Paloma Vargas is an Assistant Professor of Biology and the Hispanic-Serving Institute Coordinator at California Lutheran University. As an expert in the study of microbiology and host-parasite relationships, her research interests include infectious diseases and cell culture.
Before joining California Lutheran’s faculty, Vargas taught at both the high school and community college-levels. She led a number of outreach efforts at Northeastern Illinois University’s Student Center for Science Engagement, where she was a STEM specialist. When she is not teaching, Vargas mentors and recruits underrepresented minority students, particularly those of Latino/a heritage. She is an alumna and active member of the Linton-Poodry Leadership Institute of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Latinos and Native Americans in Science.
Assistant Professor of Biology, California Lutheran University
Areas of Expertise: Microbiology, Cell Activity, Higher Education, Diversity, STEM
Lisa Alvarez-Cohen is a civil and environmental engineering professor at the University of California, Berkeley. She also serves as the vice provost for the Division of Academic Planning at UC Berkeley. Her expertise is in environmental microbiology, environmental engineering and bioremediation – a waste management technique that uses organisms to remove contaminants. Alvarez-Cohen is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and has co-authored an undergraduate textbook titled Environmental Engineering Science. She is a dynamic speaker as you can see in one of her lectures, here.
Professor of Environmental Engineering at UC Berkeley
Areas of Expertise: Environmental Engineering, Environmental Microbiology, Bio-remediation, Molecular and Isotopic Techniques for Studying Environmental Microbial Communities
Mariel Vazquez is a professor of Microbiology, Mathematics, and Molecular Genetics at the University of California, Davis. She is an expert on the topology of DNA– how DNA strands are looped and knotted. She uses mathematical tools to understand it’s tangled structure. Vazquez is the 2012 recipient of the U.S. Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) and has served on the Advisory Board at the National Institute of Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS). She has a passion for simplifying the complex nature of DNA to understandable concepts as demonstrated in this video from Numberphile.
Professor of Microbiology, Mathematics, and Molecular Genetics at the University of California, Davis.
Kristala L. Jones Prather teaches in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is also a MacVicar Faculty Fellow, the highest honor given for undergraduate teaching at MIT. Prather joined the faculty of MIT after four years in BioProcess Research and Development, working on projects in the areas of biocatalysis for small molecule transformations, high-yield production of plasmids as DNA vaccines, and mammalian cell line development for production of therapeutic proteins.
Prather’s current research interests are centered on the design and assembly of recombinant microorganisms for the production of small molecules, with additional efforts in novel bioprocess design approaches. She has been the recipient of many awards, among them the Technology Review “TR35” Young Innovator Award (2007), a National Science Foundation CAREER Award (2010), and a Young Scientist of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of the New Champions (2012).
Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering, Co-Director of Microbiology Graduate Program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Areas of Expertise: Metabolic Engineering, Synthetic Biology, Biochemical Engineering