Assistant Professor, UC Riverside

Joining UC Riverside as Assistant Professor – as of Summer 2016

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.

4 Responses to Joining UC Riverside as Assistant Professor – as of Summer 2016

  1. Congrats Holly!

    As an alumnus of UC Riverside, I’m thrilled to learn this wonderful news.

    I would love to know more about your views of taxonomy and its position in the ‘big data’ era.

    I’m also quite curious about how your interdisciplinary background played out in your job search. Is it a plus? Are there caveats?

    Thanks.

    Guanyang (GY)

    • Hi Guanyang,

      Somewhat ironically, I think we’re going to become *more* reliant on taxonomists and ecologists as environmental sequencing and “big data” steams forward. I think its the only way we’re going to get meaningful (biologically relevant) patterns out of large datasets, and I also think that fine-scale taxonomy is where the most interesting questions and problems are.

      As for the job search, being interdisciplinary was good in some respects because I applied to (and got interviews for) a wide variety of jobs – including Bioinformatics, Microbial Ecology, Ecological Genomics and of course Nematode Systematics at UCR. But I did sometimes get comments about how I was an “out of the box” candidate in terms of my background and research interests, and so I had to be very careful to customize and pitch my skills according to the specific position I was applying for. But I think there are so many other stochastic factors too. Ultimately I was happy to see that a lot of people at different institutes were excited about my interdisciplinary background and research vision!

  2. Missed this news earlier. Congratulations! And a very good thing for nematodes and taxonomy I think! Ditto – I also think that fine-scale taxonomy is where the most interesting questions and problems are:-)

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