Welcome stellar new faculty
Thursday, January 26, 2012
EEB is pleased to welcome new assistant professors Vincent Denef and Stephen Smith to the department, along with Melissa Beth Duhaime, research scientist.
Professor Denef hails from the University of California, Berkeley where he was a postdoctoral researcher. His primary research interests are freshwater microbial evolutionary ecology, and community and population genomics.
“It is a particularly exciting time to join U-M as a microbial ecologist, since the university has increased its focus on the microbial world through a series of junior hires across campus in the last few years,” said Denef. “While microbial ecology, which has recently found its second breath through a series of technological and conceptual breakthroughs, has traditionally found its home in microbiology departments, the maturation of this field makes it a perfect time to increase the focus of EEB departments in this field. Exploring how ecological and evolutionary theory as it has been developed for plants and animals applies to the microbial world is a fascinating challenge that I look forward to take on with students.”
Professor Smith joins EEB from Brown University, where he was an iPlant Postdoctoral Researcher. His research interests are in phylogenetics, computational evolutionary biology, biogeography, and phyloinformatics.
Smith primarily tackles questions about evolution at a broad scale with the tree of life and especially in plants. "Constructing and analyzing the tree of life is an enormous challenge, and I develop methods for doing this at large scales, taking advantage of the ongoing revolution in data collection. Although these trees are relevant to any number of questions, I look at how we can use these data to better understand things like the rates of evolution and the geographic history of organisms." Smith currently develops a number of different scientific software packages to do this. He was named a “Scientist to Watch” in the magazine The Scientist, March 2010, in which he was dubbed "The Botanist Hacker" because of his incredible computing skills and ability to pull things together to use in new ways.
Dr. Duhaime studies marine viral community genomics and virus-host model systems, where she is particularly interested in better understanding host range determinants and the role of viruses in defining the genomic "mobilome” of the microbial hosts they infect. Duhaime is also looking at plastic-microbe associations in aquatic systems, interested in connections between microbial community composition and plastic polymer or organic pollutant type. She joins the department from a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Arizona, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology where she studied marine virus genomics with Dr. Matthew Sullivan. Her mentor is Professor Gregory Dick, an assistant professor in U-M’s Departments of Earth and Environmental Science and EEB.
Denef and Smith are currently seeking students to work in their labs. Undergraduate students interested in a summer project can contact Duhaime.
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