I’m absolutely delighted to announce that I will be starting a tenure-track faculty position at the University of California, Riverside in summer 2016, as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Nematology.
Yes, Nematology. For someone who sits at the interface of many disciplines, I can’t say I ever expected to join a Department that is eponymous with a very specific taxonomic group. But after several wonderful visits to UC Riverside (and chatting with some fabulous worm-y colleagues), I have convinced myself that this is the necessary way forward.
My goal at UC Riverside will be to bring taxonomy into the 21st Century – leveraging the deep knowledge within the Department to explore fundamental questions in evolutionary biology, ecology, and biodiversity. With a focus on worms, of course. Free-living nematodes–especially those that live in marine habitats–are an unacknowledged pot of gold in biology. After spending the last few years moving between genomics centers and different microbially-inclined projects, I’ve come to realize the importance of a solid taxonomic foundation. For Environmental DNA studies (metagenomics and marker genes), we can always think big, but we have to start small. We can work outwards from Phylum Nematoda, but it makes sense to go back and start there – since Nematodes are where my scientific career first began in 2006. Without that taxonomic anchor, some grand ideas will seem perpetually insurmountable as “big data” continues to get even bigger. And as I come full circle back towards Nematodes, I’m convinced that my scientific ideas will take the next leap forward.
I’m also thrilled to be joining one of the 5 most diverse major research universities in the USA (with a diverse student population and a commitment to expand faculty diversity with 300 new hires by 2020). UC Riverside is a designated Hispanic Serving Institution, with a melting pot of students from different backgrounds. By bringing my research program to UC Riverside, this is a first step towards my long-term commitment towards improving diversity in STEM disciplines.