Dr. Laura K. Reed

Program Director

Dr. Reed is an Associate Professor of Biology at The University of Alabama. Her research focuses on understanding how evolutionary, genetic, and environmental factors interact to shape complex metabolic traits, including diseases like obesity and type-2 diabetes. Laura joined GEP in 2011 and became the Director in 2017.

Katie Sandlin

Director of Communications

As a graduate student, Katie experienced firsthand how impactful the GEP curriculum is for biology education and was eager to join the staff in October 2019. Her main roles include designing and maintaining the GEP website, managing @GEP_CURE on Twitter and the GEP YouTube Channel, developing and updating curriculum, facilitating and/or conducting training, recruiting new members, copy-editing of manuscripts, conference presentations/posters, etc., and creating digital content. Her research interests include evolution of the insulin signaling pathway across metazoans, and she is particularly intrigued by the significant variation in the number of insulin genes, receptors, and substrates across species.

Wilson Leung

Director of IT

Wilson maintains the GEP servers and develops the annotation tools used by GEP faculty and students (e.g., GEP UCSC Genome Browser, Gene Model Checker, Gene Record Finder). He creates the Genome Browsers and the evidence tracks for the GEP annotation projects. He also assists with curriculum development and provides technical and pedagogical support to GEP faculty and students. His research interests are in chromatin packaging and in the evolution of the Drosophila Muller F element.

Chinmay Rele

IT Technical Specialist

Chinmay graduated from Rutgers with Honors in Genetics, Evolutionary Anthropology, and Computational Genomics. Since joining the GEP staff in August 2019, Chinmay has focused on building the microPublication pipeline, reconciling gene models, training student reconcilers for the Pathways Project, and working closely with the GEP virtual TAs. He is developing his skillset to analyze data for the Pathways Project publications.

Amy Smith

Program Assistant

Amy plays an integral role in coordinating the logistical and administrative tasks for the GEP. She helps to organize collaborative meetings, both virtual and in-person, including making travel arrangements for participants and coordinating payments to vendors. Amy also registers members and/or their students for conferences supported by the Sarah Elgin Travel Award.

Mukesha Voltz

Research Compliance Specialist

The Office for Research Compliance at The University of Alabama provides continuing oversight of the GEP’s human subjects research. As the Research Compliance Specialist, Mukesha assists GEP with securing an Institutional Review Board (IRB) Authorization Agreement (IAA) with each GEP faculty member’s institution.

Committee Leadership


Dr. Van Stry is an Associate Professor of Biology and Science Division Chair at Lane College where she teaches General Biology, Undergraduate Research, and Biochemistry. Her research interests include studying antibiotic resistance within the local environment and gene annotation of eukaryotic genomes. Dr. Van Stry is currently serving as Chair of the Assessment Committee where she works with external evaluators to develop, update, and analyze assessments of the impacts of GEP activities on faculty and students.

Dr. Cathy Silver Key is an Associate Professor of Biology at North Carolina Central University where she teaches Genetics. Her research interests include behavioral genetics, and her current focus is on alcohol-induced behaviors and a male sterility phenotype. Cathy joined GEP in 2009 and is currently assisting Dr. Van Stry as Vice Chair of the Assessment Committee.


Dr. Paliulis is a Professor of Biology at Bucknell University where she teaches General Biology and introductory and upper-level courses in Genetics. Her research focuses on the study of chromosome position and segregation during meiotic cell divisions. Dr. Paliulis is currently serving as Chair of the Curriculum Committee where she is involved in maintaining current and developing new GEP curriculum items.

Dr. Santisteban is a Professor of Biology at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke where she teaches Microbiology, Cell Biology, and Molecular Biology. Dr. Santisteban’s research interest is in the area of epigenetic control of gene expression. Using molecular genetics, she is trying to understand the role of Htz1, the Saccharomyces cerevisiae H2A.Z histone variant, in regulating transcription. Dr. Santisteban is currently serving as the Vice Chair of the Curriculum Committee where she assists with identifying new GEP curriculum needs, maintaining current curriculum, and developing new items. She is also chair of the Carolinas Regional Node.

Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI)

Dr. Klusza is an Assistant Professor of Biology at Clayton State University in Morrow, GA. A lifelong developmental geneticist, his research interests include the role of germline cells in female Drosophila fruit fly fertility and evolution of signal transduction pathways in motility between unicellular Chlamydomonas and multicellular Volvox algae. As a disabled scientist, Dr. Klusza is currently serving as Chair for the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, where he is involved in diversity initiatives to build a supporting and inclusive community for faculty and students in GEP and beyond.

Dr. Vida Mingo

Vice Chair

Dr. Mingo is a senior lecturer of biology at Columbia College. Prior to coming to Columbia College, Dr. Mingo was a K-12 (middle and high school) science teacher in New York City Public Schools. Dr. Mingo is an evolutionary geneticist by training and has a passion for integrating social justice into his biology courses. Dr. Mingo’s research involves integrating population genomic and epidemiological data to better understand the evolutionary changes in pathogen and vector populations as mechanisms of antimicrobial drug resistance. This type of genomic surveillance can provide crucial insights to disease control efforts, while also generating data of fundamental scientific interest, such as potential drug, drug resistance and vaccine targets.

Professional Development & Mentoring (PDM)

Dr. Long is an Assistant Professor of Biology at Oklahoma Christian University where she teaches General Biology, Genetics, Biochemistry, and Molecular Biology. She has a broad range of research interests including Genetics, Molecular Biology, and Science Education. Dr. Long is currently serving as the chair of the Professional Development and Mentoring Committee. This committee organizes and facilitates new member training, regional node events, and scientific conference attendance for current GEP faculty.

Dr. Merkhofer is an Associate Professor of Biology at Mount Saint Mary College where he teaches courses in Virology, Genetics, and Molecular Biology. Dr. Merkhofer’s research interests include studying the molecular mechanisms underlying pre-mRNA splicing using S. cerevisiae, as well as annotation and analysis of viral and eukaryotic genomes. As Vice Chair of the Professional Development and Mentoring Committee, Dr. Merkhofer is involved in coordinating GEP attendance at conferences and workshops, as well as facilitating professional development activities in the GEP.

Dr. Catherine Reinke

New Member Training Director

Dr. Reinke is an Associate Professor of Biology at Linfield University where she teaches Introductory Biology, Genetics, Molecular Cell Biology, and Animal Development. Her research explores gene silencing, specifically the mechanisms of microRNA biogenesis, function, and regulation. Her lab uses Drosophila melanogaster as a model system. As Director for New Member Training, Dr. Reinke has piloted and supported the expansion of the GEP through online training, and she also serves as a mentor to new GEP faculty.

Dr. Jenny Mierisch

New Member Training Co-director

Dr. Mierisch is an Associate Professor of Biology at Loyola University Chicago where she teaches courses in Cell Biology and Stem Cell Biology. Her research interests include the mechanisms regulating gonad development and gametogenesis in Drosophila melanogaster, as well as the genetic regulation of glial development. As Co-Director for New Member Training, Dr. Mierisch is involved in the training and mentoring of new members.

Dr. Jamie Siders

Regional Nodes Director

Dr. Siders is an Associate Professor of Biology at Ohio Northern University where she teaches Genetics and Molecular Biology. Dr. Siders’ research interests outside of the GEP include regulation of collective cell movement using Drosophila Border Cell migration as a model system. As co-directors of the Regional Nodes, Dr. Siders and Dr. Sawa work to assist regional node leaders in planning events and establishing the calendar of events for the year.

Dr. Alexa Sawa

Regional Nodes Co-director

Dr. Sawa is an Associate Professor of Biology at College of the Desert in Southern California where she teaches Molecular and Cell Biology, Anatomy and Physiology, and General Biology. She has been using the GEP CURE in her Molecular and Cell Biology classes since 2016. Dr. Sawa is currently serving as the community college representative on the GEP’s Steering Committee and Co-Director of the Regional Nodes Committee, and she is involved in training and mentoring new members.

Science & IT

Dr. Hays is a Professor of Biology at Western Colorado University. His research interests involve using genetic and biochemical techniques to examine the role chromatin plays in centromere formation and gene expression in Neurospora crassa. As the Science & IT Chair, Shan assists with identifying, incubating, and supporting the GEP’s scientific goals and projects, helps new science projects fit into the GEP framework, and oversees the maintenance of the technical infrastructure for those projects to succeed.

Dr. Cindy Arrigo is an Associate Professor of Biology at New Jersey City University. Her research involves analysis of eukaryotic genes and genomes. Cindy joined GEP in 2012 and became Vice Chair of the Science & IT Committee in 2020. As Vice Chair she assists Dr. Hays in support of the GEP’s scientific goals.

See GEP 2.0 for information regarding the priorities of each committee.