Staff

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 Program Director in 2017. Laura is also the Project Leader of the Pathways Project, chairs GEP’s Steering Committee, oversees the virtual GEP TAs, the GEP staff, and all financial aspects of the partnership.

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.

Jeanelle Graham

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, Jeanelle assists GEP with securing an Institutional Review Board (IRB) Authorization Agreement (IAA) with each GEP faculty member’s institution.

Dr. David Lopatto

Assessment Consultant

David Lopatto is Professor of Psychology and the Samuel R. and Marie-Louise Rosenthal Professor of Natural Science and Mathematics at Grinnell College. He has been with the GEP since its founding, working in the area of assessment of student learning. His published work includes Science in Solution: The Impact of Undergraduate Research on Student Learning.

Dr. Sean Gehrke

Assessment Consultant

Dr. Sean Gehrke is the director of the Office of Educational Assessment at the University of Washington, where he provides leadership and support to UW in assessing achievement of its educational outcomes. His research has examined faculty engagement with STEM education reform efforts, evolving faculty roles in higher education, outcomes-based assessment, and college student development. He serves as an internal evaluator and research consultant for GEP’s NSF-IUSE grant, engaging in research on the evolution of and faculty outcomes associated with involvement in the GEP as a community of practice.

Dr. Christine Pribbenow

External Evaluator

Christine M. Pribbenow, PhD is a Senior Scientist and PI in the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER) at UW-Madison and provides evaluation services as a consultant nationally. As an educational researcher and program evaluator, she studies interventions that enable and enhance the full participation of underrepresented gender, racial, and ethnic minorities in K12 and higher education. She has served as the Evaluation Director for many NSF and NIH-funded grants that are intended to increase participation in STEMM fields and enhance scientific workforce diversity.

Committee Leadership

Assessment

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 serving as Chair of the Assessment Committee.

Dr. Tanner is an Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg, SC. He teaches Genetics and Developmental Biology. He uses C. elegans to investigate intestinal development related to inflammatory bowel disease and necrotizing enterocolitis. Dr. Tanner joined the GEP in 2020 and is the vice chair of the Assessment Committee, assisting Dr. Key.

Curriculum

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 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.

Dr. Don Paetkau

Vice Chair

Dr. Paetkau is a Professor of Biology at Saint Mary’s College (South Bend, IN) where he teaches mainly Molecular Cell Biology, Biotechnology, and the MCB Seminar, but he has been seen in Intro Biology, Genetics, Non-majors Biology, Intro to Research, and Bioethics labs and classes, over the years. Dr. Paetkau’s research interests have shifted from the molecular basis of fly vision degeneration to designing inexpensive yeast-based paper analytical devices for the initial screening of pharmaceutical and food/water contaminants. Dr. Paetkau is currently serving as the Vice Chair of the Curriculum Committee where he assists with identifying new GEP curriculum needs and maintaining current curriculum items.

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. 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. James Godde

Vice Chair

Dr. Godde received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Illinois in 1993 and then went on to do his postdoctoral studies at the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Godde has taught at Monmouth College in Illinois for the past 20 years, where he is currently the McGrath Professor of Biology. Dr. Godde’s research interests are in repetitive DNA as well as chromatin and chromatin-like structure in both eukaryotes and prokaryotes. Dr. Godde joined GEP in 2019 and has been active in the Professional Development and Mentoring Committee ever since.

Dr. Catherine Reinke

Director of New Member Training

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 of 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. Judy Leatherman

Co-director of New Member Training

Judy Leatherman is an Associate Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Northern Colorado. Her research area is in stem cell biology, using the Drosophila testis model system to study how adult stem cells are maintained by their in vivo niche. She also performs educational research on classroom teaching innovations, and involves undergraduates in GEP research projects both in the classroom and as independent study projects. Judy joined the GEP in 2012.

Dr. Joyce Stamm

Co-Director of New Member Training

Dr. Joyce Stamm is a Professor of Biology at the University of Evansville, where she teaches courses in introductory and upper-level genetics and genomics. She is particularly interested in developing wet-lab and computer-based research projects (especially those that use Drosophila as a model organism) that engage undergraduate students in the research lab or in the classroom. As Co-Director for New Member Training, she is involved in the training and mentoring of new members.

Dr. Alexa Sawa

Director of Regional Nodes

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 Director of Regional Nodes, and she is involved in training and mentoring new members.

Dr. Norma Velazquez-Ulloa

Co-Director of Regional Nodes

Dr. Norma Velazquez-Ulloa is an Associate Professor of Biology at Lewis & Clark College. She teaches courses for majors and non-majors in neuroscience and behavioral genetics. Her research interests include characterizing how genes influence development, the nervous system, and behavior using Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism. Dr. Velazquez-Ulloa joined the GEP in 2016. She is currently serving as Co-Director of Regional Nodes, and she is involved in training and mentoring new members.

Science & IT

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 Chair of the Science & IT Committee in 2021. As the Science & IT Chair, Cindy assists with identifying, incubating, and supporting the GEP’s scientific goals and projects, helps new science projects fit into the GEP framework, and oversees maintenance of the technical infrastructure for those projects to succeed.

John Braverman, S.J., is an Associate Professor of Biology at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, PA. His research area is evolutionary genetics, using multiple organisms including Drosophila. He uses the GEP annotation opportunities in his undergraduate Bioinformatics course. John is also a Jesuit. He joined the GEP in 2011.

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