Fresh Insights into UW Biology: Part 1

This post is the first in a series featuring our current 1st-year Grads. These blurbs are meant to better introduce our department's newest members and allow them to share their thoughts on the Biology Department and UW thus far. In each post one grad is given a more in-depth feature. Thanks are owed to 1st year Melissa Steele-Ogus for putting this all together!~Brandon

Alex Lowe was lured to UW Biology by the long history of great ecologists in the department as well as the diversity of research within, which he finds "gives you access to tools and information far beyond your specific research needs." He says that, "the collaborative nature of the department ensures that you can take advantage of those tools in ways that expand your research." Since arriving, he has found that he is constantly challenged to improve, while still being inspired by faculty members and the other grads. Alex is currently rotating in Jennifer Ruesink's lab, focusing on the environmental and biological factors that can change the amount of food available to consumers in food webs, and the causes and consequences of this variability in marine ecosystems.

Rochelle Kelly's research interests can be summed up in one word: bats! Specifically she is interested in the functional, behavioral, and community ecology of these winged mammals. She came to the University of Washington to work with Sharlene Santana, but says that the integrative and collaborative environment in the bio department really won her over. Thus far, Rochelle has found her first year of grad school to be challenging and intense, but "in a good way." She feels that the department is well run and welcoming, providing excellent academic and professional resources for their graduate students.


CJ Battey is interested in the ecological and geographic mechanisms that lead to speciation. The strong history of population genetics and genomics research in the Biology Department and Burke Museum fist attracted CJ to UW. He has found the department to be mostly hands-off, but "really supportive when they need to be." CJ is currently working on inferring the evolutionary history of a paraphyletic "species" of new-world blackbird (Quiscalus mexicanus/major) from mitochondrial DNA sequences in the lab of John Klicka.

Hannah Jordt attended UW for her undergraduate education, and choose to stay for graduate school because of the collaborative and collegial atmosphere in the department, and says that "even as an undergraduate" she was treated more as a colleague than a student. She says she "could not be happier with UW Biology" and has found the department to be extremely supportive and full of opportunities for collaboration, outreach, and exploration of "anything you can dream up." Hannah is in Ben Kerr's lab, where she is using microbial systems to study altruism evolution, how antibiotic resistance develops, and biofuels.

Foen Peng
originally hails from Hunan Province in central China, and attended East China Normal University in Shanghai. He had never visited the United States before moving to Seattle to attend UW. While the transition has been somewhat challenging, he considers it an adventure. Foen says he enjoys "the process to independently find solutions and overcome difficulties" in respect to living in a completely different culture than what he's used to. Although he spent a good deal of time in lab this quarter and hasn't yet had many opportunities to explore, he has found Seattle to be a fun city, filled with friendly people. In particular he likes the Burke-Gilman trail, Suzzalo library, and the many city parks.
      Foen first became interested in biology in high school, finding both the diversity of life and the common underlying mechanisms of diversity particularly amazing. In college he wanted to "explore a wider spectrum of [his] interests and expand [his] scope of knowledge" and chose to study Urban Planning as it contained a number of sub-disciplines, including: geography, ecology, and economics. However, he found that nothing got him "happy and excited" quite like biology, so he switched back to his true passion. Foen now studies evolutionary biology, conducting research on the genetic basis of floral traits in the laboratory of Toby Bradshaw.


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