Maya Emmons-Bell

PhD student, Hariharan Lab

11402744_10152827518047027_4819667797149033689_nHey! I’m Maya. As a kid, I was a bug-collector, zoo-frequenter, and general living-things-watcher. I was also an enthusiastic journaler, and filled notebooks with descriptions of the comings and goings of my pet fish, musings on which soils my Venus fly traps preferred, and sketches of birds that frequented my homemade feeder. I have always had an enthusiasm for biology, and in science research I’ve found an outlet for two things I’ve always loved: watching and writing.

Today, I’m a PhD student in the Hariharan lab at UC Berkeley. I study how organisms develop into complex animals. My day to day work is very much like what I did for fun as a child – I watch cells as they divide, communicate, wiggle around, stretch, and take on new fates in order to build a tissue or organ. I record as much about them as I can, come up with theories as to how they’re pulling off such a dramatic self-construction, and then put those theories to the test.

Outside of science, I spend my time looking for the best trail runs, beer gardens, and live music venues in the Bay Area. I also try my best to read for fun and keep my houseplants alive.

Tess Linden

PhD student, King Lab

P1150845 (1).jpgHi! I’m Tess, and I’m a dork about all things Darwin. Over the past five years I’ve used evolutionary biology research as an excuse to watch Mexican cavefish through night vision goggles, trap chipmunks to analyze their stripes, and catch orchid bees in the Costa Rican rainforest with a super dorky Spongebob net.

As a kid, I drove my parents nuts with incessant questions about what my snot was made of and how my nightlight worked, and requests for permission to do strange things like feed alcohol to spiders (I wanted to see if it would change the webs they made — it did!). Later, in a high school zoology class, I fell in love with evolution. You can imagine my delight when someone told me you can get paid to think about this stuff. Well, paid-ish.

Currently, I’m a PhD student in the King Lab at UC Berkeley, where I spend most of my waking hours watching microscopic, kinda-spermy-looking organisms called choanoflagellates swim around in sea water. Those little things are the closest living relatives of animals — much more closely related to you than a plant or a fungus — and I hope to use them to reconstruct what the ancient ancestor of all animals, which lived over 600 million years ago, looked like at the molecular level.

When I’m not pipetting small volumes of liquid, you might find me hiking, writing a crossword puzzle, falling over in yoga class, learning a language, or marveling at the age of the universe when I should be working.

Arik Shams

PhD student, Corn Lab

me calI am a PhD student at the University of California, Berkeley, studying Molecular and Cell Biology. When not working in the lab, I like to think about lab-work, critique TV shows and movies, and try to organize my thoughts through writing.

I was a “scientist” for as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest experiments involved following ants in my mother’s garden as they foraged for crumbs and communicated with other ants, mixing together the contents of whatever bottles I found around the house, and taking apart all my toys and discarded electronics just because I was curious about what they were made of. I used to get scolded for taking very long showers as a child, because I would spend too much time observing the flow of water and how it changed when I added soap. I was also scolded when my mother discovered that her plants were the subjects of an experiment where I was trying to find which plant burned the easiest. In many ways, I’m still very much the same, except now I write down the results of my experiments in a notebook.

I’m currently in the Corn Lab, which is part of the Innovative Genomics Institute (IGI) at UC Berkeley. I’m working with the CRISPR-Cas9 system of editing genes, which you may have heard of in the news as a revolutionary new technique that could change mankind. For me, that means I get to spend several hours in the lab every week trying to make it safer and more effective.