Meet IOS

Welcome Suzy Renn — Program Director in the Behavioral Systems cluster

Suzy Renn joined the Behavioral Systems Cluster in September 2022

Suzy Renn is a professor in the Biology Department at Reed College in Portland Oregon and started at NSF as a rotating PD in the Behavioral Systems Cluster. Suzy’s funded research projects include behavioral genomics of maternal care, the evolution of behavioral plasticity, and genome evolution using various species of African cichlid fishes. Her research interests are far ranging and often guided by the interests of the amazing undergraduate students who populate her lab. These include epigenetics of early life experience, circadian rhythm, communication in killer whales, telomere dynamics, gut-brain-microbiome interactions and many other unpublished projects. Suzy says she is psyched to join the NSF-IOS (but also has great affection for DEB and DBI with whom she’s done a lot of reviewing in the past). Outside of work, you’re likely to find Suzy eating pizza with friends after a bike ride of some sort. When it comes to cycling, she believes in diversity and enjoys road biking, mountain biking, cyclocross, and even BMX equally. When the weather turns, you’ll find Suzy on the slopes where she is partial to a snowboard but is happy to share with skiers.

Meet Liz Wenker — IOS Science Assistant

Liz Wenker joined IOS in September 2022

Liz is a DC area local, growing up in Chevy Chase and went to undergraduate at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She most recently came from the National Zoo where she worked as a research contractor for the Department of Nutrition Science. Liz worked on and off there for around five years taking time off to get her masters in Conservation Biology from the University of Rhode Island.
Liz’s background is in general biology/environmental science with focuses in conservation management, zoology/ornithology, wetland/estuarine sciences, and general ecology. Liz says she is very excited to start working at NSF and is ready to field all the weird zoo questions!

Meet IOS’s Two Newest Program Directors — Aruna Kilaru and Quentin Gaudry

Quentin Gaudry joined the Neural Systems Cluster in September 2022

Quentin Gaudry is an associate professor in the Biology Department at the University of Maryland, and starting at NSF as a rotating PD. His research interests include chemosensation, animal behavior, and creating new genetic tools to probe the nervous system. Specifically, Quentin’s lab uses Drosophila melanogaster as a model system for determining how modulatory neurons, such as those that release serotonin, alter olfactory circuits and our sense of smell. His lab’s studies often employ calcium imaging, electrophysiology, and computational modeling. Historically, Quentin has also studied circuits that generate rhythmic behaviors or participate in decision-making in the medicinal leech. Quentin is thrilled to join the NSF and IOS, where he can have a broad view of the incredible research being done by IOS funded PIs. He looks forward to reading and sharing lots of wonderful science and promoting science wherever he can.

Outside of work, Quentin loves being outdoors and in nature. He enjoys visiting state and natural parks. When he is not satisfying his own personal me time, Quentin can usually be found shuttling his kids to various ice rinks for hockey tournaments near and far.  

Aruna Kilaru joined the Physiological Mechanisms and Biomechanics in August 2022

Aruna Kilaru is AAAS Fellow (American Association for the Advancement of Science) and Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences at East Tennessee State University (ETSU), Johnson City. Aruna earned her master’s degree in Biotechnology from Maharaja Sayajirao University in India and her Doctoral degree from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. She completed four years of postdoctoral work at University of North Texas at Denton studying plant lipid signaling, and two years on storage lipid metabolism at Michigan State University, East Lansing. Her research at ETSU is focused on understanding stress response mechanisms and oil biosynthesis in plants to improve crop productivity through metabolic engineering. Her research is funded by NSF and USDA.

In her free time, Aruna enjoys travel with her daughter Rachana, photography and cats (Micah & Miya).

Meet IOS’s Newest Program Director, Kan Wang 

IOS welcomes Kan Wang as a rotating Program Director for the Plant Genome Research Program (PGRP). Kan joins us from Iowa State University (ISU) where she serves as the Global professor of Biotechnology in the Department of Agronomy. She also serves as Co-Director of the Crop Bioengineering Center, an interdisciplinary research consortium consisting of over 30 ISU and 4 non-ISU researchers.  

Kan’s research focuses on the exploration and development of crop bioengineering technologies including genetic transformation and genome editing. She also studies the biology of Agrobacterium tumefaciens, a soil bacterium that has been repurposed for plant genetic engineering.  

Kan graduated with her BS in Biochemistry from Fudan University in Shanghai, China. She obtained her PhD from Ghent University in Ghent, Belgium. Kan spent 7 years at ICI Seeds (now Syngenta) as a project leader in genetic transformation of corn and soybean before taking a position at ISU where she established the first public crop transformation facility, providing genetic transformation services for the corn, soybean, and rice research communities. Kan is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She is also a Fellow of the Society for in Vitro Biology.  

Kan’s husband, Ling Qin, is in risk management and works for Wells Fargo. They have two children – Evelyn, who is currently a resident physician specializing in physical and medical rehabilitation at the University of Washington in Seattle; and Alex, who is a senior integrated technologies consultant for Cerner Corporation. The family enjoys movies/shows, tennis, hiking, traveling, and global gastronomy.  

Meet IOS’s Newest Biologist, Rachel Shackelford

Rachel has lived in Old Town Alexandria since early 2016. Prior to moving to the east coast, she grew up, went to college, and worked in Hawaii, where her family still lives. She is a member of the Washington Canoe Club which is where she paddles on the river during warmer months and compete as part of the outrigger team. Her data analysis skills have been supplemented by visiting the deep-sea via human occupied submersible while working for the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory, and riding a ship across the Drake Passage to Palmer Station while working for the United States Antarctic Program.

Meet IOS’s Newest Program Director, Sean Place

Sean is an eco-physiologist interested in the cellular and organismal response to stress. He grew up in northern New Mexico and yet still developed a passion for the marine environment. He spent time in Arizona and South Carolina before landing in Northern California where he now resides with his wife and young son. In his free time he enjoys a variety of outdoor activities including mountain biking, skiing, fly fishing, and hiking.

IOS Welcomes Two New Program Specialists! – Eric Kornegay & Chakiar Trotman

IOS welcomes Eric Kornegay who joins the Division as one of our new Program Specialists.  Eric has an A.S. in Computer Science from Northern Virginia Community College and a B.S. in Health Informatics from George Mason University. Eric was formerly a Program Assistant at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) where he supported the 1994 land-grant extension and several research programs. Aside from work, Eric is a Baltimore Ravens fan and enjoys spending time outdoors with his family and friends.

IOS welcomes Chakiar Trotman, one of our newest Program Specialists. Chakiar is originally from the “sunshine” island of the Caribbean – Jamaica. After becoming a U.S. citizen, Chakiar joined the Department of Homeland Security, first serving as a Transportation Security Officer and then, for the remainder of her career with DHS, she had the opportunity to serve in a few field offices in support of the DHS Mission before joining NSF. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in psychology part-time and, plans to start nursing school in Fall 2022. Chakiar is a mom of two boys. As a family, they enjoy everything outdoors during the warm months and board games and snuggling during the cold season. Her favorite things to do is travel and eat like the locals do in whatever country she visits and, her most favorite place to go is the beach.

Meet IOS’s Newest Program Director, John McDowell

John enthusiastically joins the IOS team as a rotating Program Director in the Plant Biotic Interactions (PBI) program from Virginia Tech where he serves as the J.B. Stroobants Professor of Biotechnology in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences (SPES). John received his Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of Georgia and conducted postdoctoral research in plant-pathogen interactions at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. In 2000, John joined the faculty at Virginia Tech as a professor of molecular plant pathology. His current research explores the mechanisms through which oomycete pathogens manipulate plant cells. His group conducts fundamental research on oomycete virulence proteins and their targets in plant cells. Another set of projects is designed to identify mechanisms through which oomycetes manipulate plant cells to extract nutrients.

John’s group is also keenly interested in translating this fundamental research into new strategies for durable disease resistance using pathogen effector proteins as probes to identify new sources of plant resistance genes, or by identifying plant genes that could be edited to restrict pathogen access to nutrients.

John recently served as the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions and currently serves on the editorial boards of Science Advances and The Annual Review of Phytopathology (co-EIC effective January 2022). He teaches graduate-level courses in Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions and Translational Plant Science and has sustained a long-term outreach/education program in which high school classes conduct original research that ties into the McDowell group’s projects. John has also served in leadership roles to nurture interdisciplinary research at Virginia Tech. John’s wife, Cathy, is the Chief Operating Officer of Synergy Health Care Partners. Their two sons are in college (Emerson and George Mason) and together they enjoy cycling, skiing, hiking, cooking, and travel.

Meet IOS’s Newest Program Director, Anna K. Allen!

IOS welcomes Dr. Anna Allen who joins the Developmental Systems Cluster from Howard University in Washington, DC where she serves as an Associate Professor in the Department of Biology. Anna received her undergraduate degree in Biology and Environmental Studies from George Washington University and a Ph.D. in Biology from The Johns Hopkins University. As an undergraduate, she conducted research in yeast at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the lab of Dr. Alan Hinnebusch and her graduate work on Drosophila female reproduction under the guidance of Dr. Allan Spradling.

Anna received a post-doctoral fellowship to work in the laboratory of Dr. Andy Golden at NIH, where she continued to follow her interests in reproduction by studying C. elegans meiosis and oocyte maturation. In 2012, she joined the faculty at Howard University as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology and was granted tenure and promoted to Associate Professor in 2018.

Anna has been involved in numerous efforts to diversifying the STEM fields starting at the undergraduate level both at Howard and through nationwide organizations and societies. She also recently served as Graduate Director for the Biology graduate program between Fall 2018 and Fall 2021. Outside of work, Anna is the proud mother of two children, Stephanie (11) and Theodore (9), and two fur children (Trooper and Watson). As a family they spend a lot of time hanging outside in the background playing soccer, baseball, and lacrosse, and going for walks or hikes. When not spending time with her family, you can find her reading a book or (guilty pleasure) binge watching a TV show.

Meet IOS’s Newest Program Director, John Long!

John enthusiastically joins the IOS team as a rotating Program Director in Physiological Mechanisms and Biomechanics (PMB) Program from Vassar College where he is a member of the Departments of Biology and Cognitive Science, and he co-directs the Interdisciplinary Robotics Research Laboratory.  His research is made possible by great students and colleagues. He works on questions about the evolutionary origins of vertebrates, how fish swim, and the biomechanics of vertebral columns.

Meet IOS’s Newest Program Director, Courtney E. Jahn! 

IOS enthusiastically welcomes Dr. Courtney E. Jahn as a Program Director in the Plant Genome Research Program (PGRP) cluster.  Courtney joins IOS from the Department of Agricultural Biology at Colorado State University (CSU). Her research focuses on understanding plant physiology and metabolism and how they contribute to stress tolerance and sustainability. Additionally, she teaches several courses at CSU, including ‘Plants and Civilization’ a large enrollment course for non-majors, and co-teaches a cross disciplinary course on biobased fuels, energy, and chemicals with a chemical engineer. When not geeking out about plant science or stalking the Mars rovers, she loves to camp, hike, and bike with her family as well as cook, bake, and dance. 

IOS Welcomes Two New Program Specialists!

Janice Hermann, a native of Northern Virginia, holds a BS in Sociology from Virginia Tech and brings nearly 14 years of administrative/financial experience with her from the Department of Interior. Janice and her husband have a son and a daughter. Aside from work, Janice enjoys spending time with family and friends, going for walks at local parks, digging around in antique/consignment shops, and playing with Baily, her family’s loveable Golden Retriever.

Joelle Thresher, originally from Guam, joins IOS after working in the financial services sector for about 13 years. Joelle received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Guam. She moved to Virginia in 2018, shortly after marrying her husband. Together they have a daughter. Joelle has a twin sister. A self-proclaimed foodie, her favorite food is white rice, an everyday staple in Guam.  Joelle’s favorite season is summer, and this is her first experience with cicadas.

IOS is excited to have both Janice and Joelle aboard our team!

Welcome IOS’s Newest Program Assistant – Clay Nguyen! 

IOS welcomes Clay Nguyen, our newest program assistant. Clay is a graduate student at George Washington University studying Paralegal Studies in the hopes of pursuing a career in the legal field working in either housing or health policy.  Aside from his studies, Clay loves to spend time with his dogs, Sunny and Luna, who he considers the sun and moon of his life. Additionally, he enjoys Greek and Roman mythology and cracking jokes and puns. 

IOS wishes a fond farewell and a thank you to Program Director Sharon Swartz.

Sharon Swartz returned to her position as Professor of Biology and Engineering at Brown University in January 2021, after serving as a rotator in the Physiological Mechanisms and Biomechanics Program (PMB) in IOS.  While at NSF, Sharon participated in several working groups including the BIO-MCA (Mid-Career Advancement), IOS Impacts: Industries of the Future, and IOS Education and Training. Sharon was instrumental in establishing collaborative relationships across directorates including with the Biomechanics and Mechanobiology program in Engineering, Fluid Dynamics in MPS, Biological Anthropology in SBE, and Sedimentary Geology and Paleobiology in GEO. We will miss Sharon but wish her the best of luck as she continues her exciting research in investigating the mechanistic basis of flight in bats.  

IOS welcomes two new Experts, Miriam Ashley-Ross and Ann Powell!

Miriam Ashley-Ross, a Professor of Biology at Wake Forest University, recently joined IOS as a part-time Expert in the Physiological Mechanisms and Biomechanics Program (PMB). Miriam has served in this same capacity twice previously, most recently in 2019. 

Ann Powell, Emeritus Professor at UC Davis, also recently joined IOS as a part-time Expert in the Plant Genome Research Program (PGRP). Ann previously served as a rotating Program Director and an Expert in the Plant Biotic Interactions program (PBI). 

IOS Welcomes Daniel Gerszewski as Operations Manager!

IOS welcomes Daniel Gerszewski as our new Operations Manager. Daniel returns to IOS after spending time in the Office of Budget, Finance, and Award Management at NSF. We are glad to have him back! Daniel has a BA from George Washington University and a MPS in Applied Economics from the University of Maryland. Between his degrees, Daniel spent time in the Peace Corps in the Republic of Vanuatu where he taught business, budgeting, and financial literacy classes to Vanuatu residents.

IOS wishes a fond farewell and thank you to Program Specialist Talisa Jackson.

IOS will certainly miss Talisa Jackson and wishes her well in her new endeavor as the Learning & Engagement Program Manager for the Center for Inclusive Computing at Northeastern University. Talisa joined IOS as a Program Assistant and ended her tenure as a Program Specialist. We will miss Talisa’s contributions to various working groups including the IOS Blog. With her passion for broadening participation in STEM, we are confident that Talisa will excel in her new venture!   

Meet IOS’s Newest Program Director, Colette St. Mary!

IOS enthusiastically welcomes Colette St. Mary as a Program Director in the Behavioral Systems Cluster. Colette is a behavioral and evolutionary ecologist whose work seeks to understand the forces of evolution, including the nature of natural and sexual selection, genetic drift, and mutation, and the consequences of these forces for phenotypic trait distributions, especially behavior.

Colette’s research program typically focuses on traits that contribute to reproductive life history, such as reproductive behavior, the size and number of offspring, and parental investment. However, she is also interested in aspects of phenotype that appear distinct from this, e.g., animal personality, domestication, and cancer incidence, although these too are strongly tied to life history. While fishes are used as the model organisms of her research, she also collaborates on studies of other organisms.

As climate change has become an even greater threat, her current research includes studying the dynamics of range shift including behavioral determinants of successful range shifts, behavioral and life history changes associated with range extension, and the consequences of range shift for species interactions. To accomplish these research goals, she integrates field studies, laboratory experiments, and mathematical modeling approaches.

Welcome IOS’s Newest Program Director, A. Mark Settles!

IOS enthusiastically welcomes A. Mark Settles as a Program Director in the Plant Genome Research Program (PGRP) cluster. Mark earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Delaware and Ph.D. at SUNY Stony Brook in Long Island. He joins IOS from the University of Florida where he is a professor in Horticultural Sciences and teaches Genetics as well as Plant Cell and Developmental Biology at the graduate level.

Mark’s research program is diverse, with a primary focus on the study of corn endosperm. The endosperm is the part of cereal grains that feeds the developing embryo and is used for making flour. Over the years, his lab has used a variety of cell biology, gene expression, genomics, and phenomics approaches to identify genes that are important for endosperm development. His lab has developed seed and seedling phenotyping technologies in efforts to improve corn adaptation to changing climates. In the last few years, Mark has become interested in algae as a potential platform for synthetic biology to replicate endosperm cellular phenotypes in unicellular photosynthetic organisms. His current projects include improving sweet corn breeding and studying the effects of space flight on algal genome stability.

Welcome IOS’s Newest Program Assistant – Emily Cunningham!

Emily Cunningham is joining IOS from the Peace Corp where she spent over a year in Senegal working with entrepreneurs and women’s groups in the beautiful city of Saint-Louis. Due to COVID-19, her group was evacuated from Senegal and, upon her return to the U.S., she applied for jobs in the federal government.  The rest is history, and we are delighted that she chose NSF as her next endeavor.  

Emily graduated with a BA in International Studies from North Carolina State in December 2018. She is a fan of indie folk music, international cuisine, and podcasts. Emily is looking forward to moving to the Washington, DC area and is excited to be working with IOS Staff.   

Meet IOS’s Newest Program Director, Nicole Donofrio

IOS enthusiastically welcomes Nicole Donofrio as a Rotator in the Physiological and Structural Systems Cluster, Plant Biotic Interactions Program. She comes to us from the University of Delaware, Department of Plant Pathology. Her group investigates the molecular mechanisms which govern the outcome of interactions between plant pathogens and their hosts. Systems under study in her lab include the devastating cereal fungal pathogen Magnaporthe oryzae and the bean downy mildew pathogen Phytophthora phaseoli, an oomycete and close relative of the pathogen which caused the Irish Potato Famine.  Interests also include reactive oxygen species in pathogenicity.  Nicole is extensively engaged in mentoring and is the Senior Editor of two journals in her field, Phytopathology and Molecular Plant Pathology. A veteran PBI panelist, she looks forward to now serving as an IOS Program Director.

IOS welcomes new staff members to the Team and bids Farewell to departing staff!

IOS welcomes two new rotating Program Directors, John Godwin and Paulyn Cartwright, Ted Morgan, a new permanent Program Director, and a new Science Assistant, Donaven McClaurin.  But with welcomes also come goodbyes.  IOS bids a fond farewell to an outstanding Program Specialist, Kevin Nguyen and rotating Program Director, Anthea Letsou!

Welcome IOS’ newest Program Directors!

Paulyn Cartwright is joining the Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS) from the University of Kansas, where she is a Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.  Her research uses genomic strategies to examine the development and evolution of marine invertebrates, e.g. jelly fish and coral.  Much of her research has been funded by IOS and Division of Environmental Biology (DEB).  In addition to her research, Paulyn is actively engaged in training, education, and outreach activities.  She has organized many community workshops and symposia and has been a valuable member of NSF review panels.  While at NSF, Paulyn will work in the Developmental Systems Cluster, where she will help run programs on Animal Developmental Mechanisms and Evolution of Developmental Mechanisms (Evo/Devo).

John Godwin comes to IOS from North Carolina State University, where he is a Professor of Integrative Physiology and Neuroscience within the Department of Biological Sciences.  His research interests are in the areas of molecular endocrinology, neurobiology, and behavior, with a primary focus on the mechanisms and evolution of animal behavior and sexuality.  He is particularly interested in applying neurobiological and genomic approaches to linking genes to behavioral and sexual phenotypes important for various adaptive challenges, including mating and coping with stressors.  He combines field and laboratory research, studying bluehead wrasses, southern flounders, and zebrafish, and he has an extensive track-record teaching, training, and mentoring undergraduate students.  He has served as rotating Program Director in the Neural Systems Cluster previously, and IOS is very pleased that he is back.

Ted Morgan first joined NSF as a rotator in the PSS cluster in 2017 wherehe helped to manage the animal side of the Integrative Ecological Physiology program. Ted joined NSF from Kansas State University, where he was most recently a Professor in the Division of Biology. Ted’s research focuses on evolutionary and physiological genomics of adaptive traits, primarily in the fruit fly, Drosophila. As a rotator, Ted contributed significantly to the launching of the EDGE (Enabling Discovery through GEnomic Tools) program, and he spearheaded IOS involvement with other agencies on comparative genomics. After returning to Kansas State for almost a year as part-time Expert, Ted joined IOS as a permanent Program Director in August 2020.

Welcome IOS’ newest Science Assistant!

Donaven McLaurin is IOS’ newest Science Assistant. He is an ecologist by training with a research focus on understanding how the composition of longleaf pine forests in Mississippi has changed from the time of Euro-American settlement to present day. In addition to his ecological interests, he also has a background in science education research. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Biological Sciences at the University of Southern Mississippi. Beyond science, Donaven is passionate about advancing diversity and inclusion within Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) through the creation of initiatives that promote the persistence of groups that are traditionally underrepresented in these disciplines. These passions were birthed from his experiences and the support that he received through NSF’s Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program and as a McNair Scholar.

IOS wishes a fond farewell and thank you to Program Specialist Kevin Nguyen!

We will certainly miss working with Kevin because he was such a valuable member of the IOS team.  We appreciated his resourcefulness and professionalism and wish him the best in the future. Kevin will stay at NSF but has moved to the Directorate for Engineering (ENG) in the Division of Civil, Mechanical, and Manufacturing Innovation (CMMI).  With Kevin’s ability to solve problems and his can-do attitude IOS is confident that he will excel in his new environment.  Although he is a phone call away, we look forward to seeing him around the agency be it virtually or in-person. 

IOS wishes a fond farewell and a big Thank You to Program Director Anthea Letsou!

Anthea Letsou returnedto her position as Professor of Human Genetics at University of Utah School of Bioscience, after serving as a part-time rotator in the Developmental Systems Cluster. Anthea’s research focuses on understanding basic mechanisms of animal development using Drosophila and other model systems; she also has a breadth of research and teaching experience across all systems to ask fundamental biological questions with translational impact.  Anthea first served as a rotator from 2014 through 2017, when she helped launch the EDGE program while also serving as Science Advisor in IOS. We were fortunate that Anthea could serve again in the past year as a part-time rotator managing the animal developmental mechanisms program. She returned to her position in Utah in August of 2020.