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Who we are

Junior Fellows

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Rachna Pannu is an incoming Master’s student joining Dr. José de la Torre’s lab, majoring in ecology, evolution and conservation biology at San Francisco State University. Her project will study the role of viruses in the ecology and evolution of microorganisms in extreme environments, with a focus on the isolation of a putative virus from species of thermophilic nitrogen-cycling archaea, found only in hot spring environments, for which no viruses have previously been identified. Rachna graduated with a B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Michigan State University in 2013. She has played a lead role in the development of a quantitative phageFISH method for tracking the infection of bacteria by viruses and the development of qPCR and RT-qPCR assays for avian botulism. Rachna’s research interests include the ecosystem-level impacts of environmental microorganisms and functional diversity of viruses.


Rachna Pannu

Jr. Fellow, SF State Student

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Madison Bullock studied fisheries and wildlife sciences with an emphasis in conservation genetics at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Her undergraduate research focused on identifying the genetic causes of various inheritable diseases in domestic dogs. However, Madison’s true passion lies in conservation genetics, which she plans to pursue through a M.S. degree with San Francisco State University beginning in the Fall of 2018. Her research, in the lab of Sarah Cohen, will address the issue of biodiversity in tunicates regarding field chimerism rates, fusion outcomes, and characterization of levels and patterns of population variability of chimerism in tunicate populations in hopes of helping to answer the question “What are the fundamental parameters and bounds of life?”


Madison Bullock

Jr. Fellow, SF State Student


Wilmer Amaya-Mejia was the first person in his family to obtain a Bachelor’s degree when he graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University. He studied biology with a focus in ecology and after graduating took two years to work before returning to school. As a Master’s student, he will work with Ravinder Sehgal at San Francisco State University to study how human activity, such as climate change, can impact infectious disease ecology. As a part of Global Viral, he will conduct work on samples collected from the Atacama Desert of Chile, the Mojave Desert and Death Valley. Through metagenomic analysis he hopes to understand how microbial life can sustain itself in the extremely dry environments, which can be potential analogs to conditions found on Mars.


Wilmer Amaya-Mejia

Jr. Fellow, SF State Student

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