Scientist Spotlight: Dr. Beth Bearce

Dr. Beth Bearce was a doctoral candidate in the Lowery Lab at Boston College when this interview was conducted. She has sense successfully defended her dissertation. Beth studies the embryonic cells that later develop and differentiate to create almost all tissues of the face.

“I study the basic structural mechanics that allow these cells to move and infiltrate the regions that they need to populate in order to form craniofacial features, so I am quintessentially a cell biologist by training-- but I am fascinated by this tissue's niche in evolution as well. The idea that one cell type can go on to create so many different facial morphologies-- from fish lips, to bird beaks, to human skulls, and everything between-- is wild to me!”

Scientist Spotlight: Elise Gray

Elise Gray is a PhD candidate in the Meyer Lab at Boston College. Her research focuses on the evolution of cis-regulatory RNAs in bacteria and in her spare time she enjoys fiber arts and exploring nature.

“I research regulatory RNAs in bacteria, including how these RNAs evolve and are maintained, including studying if these regulators are a result of convergent evolution or arose multiple times. Currently, my main project focuses on studying the diversity of RNAs that can bind to a particular regulatory protein. The native regulatory RNA that interacts with this protein is interesting because while it is broadly distributed and structurally conserved, it changes in genomic context. In contrast, there are regulators that are narrowly distributed, but structurally diverse.”

Boston College 6th year doctoral candidate Elise Gray is interviewed by undergraduate EcoEvo teaching assistant Melissa McKenzie. This interview took place in Boston College's Center for Teaching Excellence in April of 2019.

Featured Project: The Social Scientist

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The Social Scientist is a project designed to help early-career scientists (or anyone interested in science) connect directly with scientists. Their website describes the project as follows:

We are here to help you navigate the scientific community, supporting everyone from high school students to associate professors. Regardless of where you are in your scientific career, we strive to provide an engaging community from our amazing group of volunteers.

 and lists their goals:

  • To support all generations passionate about science 

  • To provide contacts in various scientific positions that are readily available and willing to speak on their experiences

  • To create an engaging yet open atmosphere

  • Contacts through the program would be volunteering their time to aid others and improve the scientific community

Scientist Spotlight: Dr. AJ Kumar

AJ is the Chief Scientific Officer at Jana Care. Jana Care focuses on biomarker assisted chronic disease management. He was a Peace Corps volunteer and a Post-Doc in the Whitesides group at Harvard where he invented a point of care test for sickle disease and worked on low-cost diagnostics. He earned his BS in Physics from Stanford and his PhD in Applied Physics from Harvard.

In this Harvard Horizons talk from 2014 when he was a grad-student, AJ talks about the development of a low-cost test for sickle cell disease. I recommend watching this video before the interview below.


In this Scientist Spotlight interview from October 2017 Dr. Kumar talks about his career pathway (which includes physics, engineering) and how low cost technologies can influence medical care.

Scientist Spotlight: John Mead

John Mead is the Eugene McDermott Master Teacher in Science at the St. Mark's School of Texas, where I taught with him from 2006-2009. In addition to teaching, he is a National Geographic educator-explorer, serving as an Evolution Ambassador for the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). He is also the recipient of the Texas 2018 Outstanding Biology Teacher Award from the National Association of Biology Teachers. This interview took place in March or 2018.

John is a passionate and skilled science communicator and his YouTube channel is filled with “MicroSafaris” through pond water, as well as updates and descriptions of ongoing hominid fossil field work and research that he uses to connect his students and the public with current exploration and discoveries. You can watch a lecture he gave in October of 2018 about this work here.

Scientist Spotlight: Dr. Laura Lagomarsino

Dr. Lagomarsino is an Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences and proud Director of the Shirley C. Tucker Herbarium at Louisiana State University. She is a botanist and evolutionary biologist. In this interview from October 2017 we discuss her new position, the value of collections to the biological sciences, and other big evolutionary questions. You can find out more about her at

Featured Project: Leading Women in Marine Science

Writer Hannah Rudd has recently posted to her website an interview series with female marine scientists. The series is very much in line with my Scientist Spotlight project, and because of that I thought it might be of interest to people who find this page. I’ll try to use this blog as a place to bring together different people’s attempts to highlight and introduce interesting scientists. Full disclosure: I was interviewed as a part of this project, so my interview is among those featured.