Where we're from...

Friends, Collaborators, & Cool Scientists

Anthony Amend - University of Hawai'i, Manoa

Betsy Arnold* - University of Arizona

Claudio Avignone-Rossa - University of Surrey

Ignazio Carbone* - North Carolina State University

Roger Chang - Harvard Medical School

Renee Cunningham - UM School of Education

Antonio Di Pietro - University of Córdoba, Spain

Amar Chittiboyina - UM National Center for Natural Products Research

Pierre-Marc Delaux - Paul Sabatier University, Toulouse, France

Rob Dunn - North Carolina State University

Emilio Fernández - University of Córdoba, Spain

Aurora Galván - University of Córdoba, Spain

Amy Gladfelter - University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

Anna Gorbushina - Freie Universität Berlin & BAM, Germany

Quincey Justman - Cell Systems, Cell Press

Yarden Katz - Harvard Medical School

Sergey Kryazhimskiy - University of California San Diego

Liedewij Laan - Kavli Institute of Nanoscience

Soni Lacefield - Indiana University Bloomington

Jun-Yi Leu - Institute of Molecular Biology, Taiwan

Alex Lewin - Feed Me Like You Mean It

Louise Lewis* - University of Connecticut

Sam Lisi - University of Mississippi (Math)

Mike Lomas - Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, Maine

François Lutzoni* - Duke University

Georgianna Mann - University of Mississippi (Nutrition and Hospitality Management)

Franck Marchis - SETI Institute

Catherine Masson-Boivin - INRA, Auzeville, France

Maria Mittag - Friedrich-Schiller-Universität, Jena, Germany

Craig Nelson - University of Hawai'i Manoa

Irene Newton - Indiana University Bloomington

Nicole Pietrasiak^ - New Mexico State University

Alex Penn - University of Surrey

Nirmal Pugh - UM National Center for Natural Products Research

Severin Sasso - Friedrich-Schiller-Universität, Jena, Germany

Alison Sherwood - University of Hawai'i, Manoa

Eric Smith - Earth-Life Science Institute, Tokyo, Japan

Jason Stajich^ - University of California Riverside

Cole Stevens - UM Department of BioMolecular Sciences

San Trull - The Sloth Institute of Costa Rica

Ben Wolfe - Tufts University

Cristina Varese - Università degli Studi Di Torino & Mycotheca

Peter Zee - University of Mississippi (Biology)

* part of a collaborative NSF GoLife project
^ part of a collaborative FICUS JGI/EMSL project

Lab Members

Head Coach

Erik Hom (New York, NY)
Nicknames: "Dr. Evil," "Señor Chang"
Principal Investigator


Trained as a biophysicist with a bent towards physical chemistry, my current research focuses primarily on understanding how microbes adapt to live together symbiotically, particularly at the level of genes and metabolism. My research interests over the years have been (and remain) eclectic, but there is actually some rhyme and reason to them (see the research tab). More about Erik here.

Graduate Students

Michael Clear (Greensboro, NC)
Nicknames: "Inspector Gadget," "Big Montana," "Dad," Cookie"
Ph.D. student; B.S. Environmental Science, UNC-Chapel Hill

I love algae, do you? I am currently working on transcriptomic analysis of synthetic algal-fungal mutualisms and am involved with identifying novel fungal-algal mutualisms as part of a NSF GoLife grant. I am also interested in exploring co-evolutionary principles through experimental evolution of synthetic fungal-algal mutualisms. When I'm not trying to make the Hom Lab a more stream-lined operation, fashioning some new lab gizmo with Raspberry Pis, directing minions in research, or writing SOPs with a passion, I enjoy brewing and drinking a good cup of coffee or keg of beer in the company of friends. Cookies beware: I will hunt you down and gobble you up! When I grow up, I want to be a pinheaded academic just like Dr. Hom -- or at least make lots more money.
Keywords: cool, cookies, fungal-algal mutualisms, GoLife, DIY Biology, gadgets, Raspberry Pi, SOPs, beer, coffee, brewing, experimental evolution, co-evolution, synthetic lichens

Thuy Nguyen (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)
Nicknames: "Queen-dow," "Tweetie"
Ph.D. student; M.S. Biology, University of Mississippi; B.S. Biotechnology, Cantho University, Vietnam

I am involved in a collaborative effort between the Hom lab, the National Center for Marine Algae and Microbiota (NCMA) at the Bigelow Laboratory in Maine (Dr. Michael Lomas) and the National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi (Dr. Amar Chittoboyina), to explore and better understand the bioactivity and regulation of secondary metabolite production from marine algae. I was supported by a Vietnam Education Foundation (VEF) Fellowship and my particular project is to better understand the regulation of secondary metabolism in marine algae. I am also interested in novel compounds that can be derived from marine algal cultures and have therapeutic value. Outside of the lab, I like to enjoy and make delicious food with friends and family, sing karaoke, do online shopping, and watch lots of Asian soap operas on my laptop -- all activities consistent with me being the youngest child in my family.
Keywords: marine algae, secondary metabolite production, VEF, Bigelow Lab, secondary metabolites, food, karaoke, shopping

Maya Kaup (Arcata, CA)
Nicknames: "Sloth girl," "Maya Papaya"
M.S. student; B.A. Biology, Willamette University (Oregon)

I am interested in tree sloths and the algae and fungi that grow in their fur. In collaboration with The Sloth Institute of Costa Rica, I am culturing and characterizing the algal and fungal species found growing on sloths. I am interested in understanding whether the algae provide the sloths any benefits, whether the algae grows environmentally in addition to growing on sloths, whether the fur microbiome changes depending on season, and whether the algae require unique cracks found in sloth hair to grow. In my spare time, I like to bake, hike, read, and go bird-watching. And I move much faster than the sloths I love to study!
Keywords: Sloth, algae, fungi, symbiosis, mutualism, ecology

Xia Li (Tangshan, China)
Nicknames: "Haha!," "fox," "bling-bling"
Ph.D. student; M.S. Marine Biology, Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (IOCAS), Qingdao, China; B.S. Handan College, Handan, China

I am working to characterize the "core" microbiome communities of water and milk kefir, both fermented beverages. They are yummy and I like to hug them and keep my cultures warm. I also like to sing and watch movies, and when I grow up, I want to be a researcher. Previously, I worked on kelp, which is also very yummy!
Keywords: yummy!, kefir, food science, bacteria, fungi, metagenomics, fermented beverages, probiotics, prebiotics


Jaylen Powell (Lambert, MS)
Nickname: "Jay," "J-J"
Class of 2021, University of Mississippi

Whatsup?! I work on the lab's NSF GoLife project and help with lots of fun co-culture experiments between fungi and algae. I've been hanging out in the Hom Lab since I graduated from high school...it's been good. I love singing, dancing, and watching TV. I have high hopes of becoming a professional Microbiologist one day. My dream career would be to work at the CDC.
Keywords: microbes, fungi, algae, co-culturing, so-you-think-you-can-dance?

Natalie Williams (Pensacola, FL)
Nickname: "Naynay," "Femme Fatale"
Class of 2019, University of Mississippi

I'm on the NSF GoLife team. I've only broken a couple pieces of glassware so I call that a win! My work is mainly related to running algal-fungal co-cultures to explore the mutualistic interactions between these organisms. This includes running assays on assays on assays. My goal is to use the work I have done to write my senior honors thesis. When I’m not busy placing hole punched fungus into tubes, I love spending time with friends and family, eating good food, going to the beach, and having a good ol’ dance party. Though I’ve enjoyed my time in the lab, I hope to attend dental school upon graduation and start the next leg of my education.
Keywords: assays, GoLife, mutualisms, algae & fungi are neat, fooooood, beachin' in, dance party

Charles Kuhlmann (Gulfport MS)
Nickname: "Charlie," "Joel a.k.a. Osteen"
Class of 2020, University of Mississippi

I'm currently investigating several marine algal cultures trying to understand the production of sulfated polysaccharides, and NRPS/PKS gene clusters in marine cyanobacteria. In the long term I hope to better understand: How cells mediate their extracellular environment, how genetic components and population/community dynamics contribute to this mediation, the functionality of bio-generated molecules in and out of their primary contexts (e.g., in culture or in clinical application), and the nature and practice of biological research. I'm actually much more fun and dynamic than this write-up suggests....
Keywords: EPS, secondary metabolites, NRPS/PKS, Bigelow, marine algae

Jaden Pounds (Columbia, MS)
Nickname: "Doe-a-Deer"
Class of 2021, University of Mississippi

It was love at first sight between algae and me, although I can’t really speak on their part. I enjoy working with Maya to learn more about the “green stuff” on sloth fur. We are interested in the numerous species of algae and cyanobacteria and relationships between those and fungi. Working in the lab is by far the best part of my day, and one day, I hope to work in a conservation or ecological research-based setting to learn more about the abundance of life around us. In my spare time, I love reading, being with friends, listening to music, going outdoors, and calling my mom and grandmother.
Keywords: sloths are cool, algae, fungi, culture transfers, Greek life, conservation biology, more-to-life-than-pre-med

Brandon Brown (Ellisville, MS)
Nickname: "Brownie," "Fifth-Year"
Class of 2020, University of Mississippi

I am not boring. Really. I'm not.... I’m interested in computer science and engineering science. I want to develop ways to protect computers (cybersecurity) because they have feelings too. I aspire to be a computer engineer/scientist aka a nerd. I plan to attend grad school after finishing my college degree to study for an M.S. in Engineering with an emphasis in Computer Science. I'm currently working to characterize marine fungi some of which associate with coral reefs. My long-term goals are for the most part, pretty broad: I would be just as happy being a software engineer as I would be working in cyber security. However, I’ve gone through probably 20 different careers choices since I’ve been at Ole Miss so who the hell knows what I’ll actually end up doing. I enjoy watching the office and vegetizing myself from playing videogames. P.S. I’m only 21 despite my photo suggesting that I’m over 35.
Keywords: indecisive, sporadic, The Office, vegetable, Computer Science, Engineering, Video Games

Isabelle Garlotte (Flower Mound, TX)
Nickname: "Southern Belle"
Class of 2021, University of Mississippi

I'm a Texan! I’m working with Michael on the GoLife project studying symbiotic relationships between algae and fungi. I'm working towards earning my undergraduate degree in biology and am hoping to continue on to grad school to study something genetics-y. I love learning about DNA, patterns of inheritance, and genetic mutations! I'm hoping to one day have a career in genetics research or genetic counseling. In my free time, I love dancing and am extremely passionate about ballet. I also really love watching movies (especially Disney movies with or without princesses), spending time with my family, painting, and drawing. h
Keywords: GoLife, fungi-are-cool, algae, DNA, ballet, dance, Disney movies, drawing

Alexander Oliveri (Mandeville, LA)
Nickname: "Alex," "Squeaky"
Class of 2021, University of Mississippi

I am working with Xia investigating the microbial composition of kefir. I wish to eventually be able to investigate how individual components contribute to kefir’s myriad health benefits. I plan to attend medical school and am considering the MD/PhD route. On my free time, I enjoy working out, hanging it with friends, playing video games, reading, or watching Netflix. I love to travel (my picture is from Cuzco, Peru).
Keywords: kefir, MD/PhD, optimum health, Netflix, heavy things, globetrotter, PUBG, Fortnite

Joseph Malouf (Madison, MS)
Nickname: "Joey," "Dude...Dogs"
Class of 2019, University of Mississippi

I'm an undergraduate at Ole Miss working with Dr. Hom to create agent based simulations of microorganisms and find patterns in which they live and grow together. (Haha! I'm really just pretending I know what's going on because I'm a computer science major with almost no previous biology experience.) After graduating I will pursue a masters in boinformatics at the University of INeedToStartApplying, and from there will pursue a PhD as a mad scientist. Outside of school I enjoy dogs, working out, dogs, volleyball, dogs, and video games.
Keywords: computer science, agent-based simulations, dogs, future mad scientist

James Long (Olive Branch, MS)
Nickname: "James," "Doc"
Class of 2019, University of Mississippi

I am currently working on Dr. Hom’s Adaptive Image Deconvolution Algorithm, AIDA. These tasks include updating AIDA to Python 3, bug fixes, and creating a user interface for less terminal-savvy users. I'm a senior in Computer Science and am currently applying for medical school. In my free time, I enjoy playing volleyball and video games. Bring it!
Keywords: AIDA, GUI, FFTW3, Python 3, volleyball, gaming

Harsh Nagarkar (Pune, India)
Nickname: "Harsh," "Hershey"
Class of 2020, University of Mississippi

Who am I? Call me by my badass name Harsh. I love machine learning and I am currently working on hyperparameter estimation classification for Dr. Hom's Adaptive Image Deconvolution Algorithm. I consider myself a pupil of Alan watts a visionary philosopher so to put. Meditation, to be honest, is my hobby (along with watching Bollywood movies), and I am interested in data mining and blockchain. I would like to pursue my masters in artificial intelligence and then work in the Bay Area. #foodie
Keywords: Pune, AIDA, deconvolution, machine-learning, image processing, artificial intelligence, blockchain, datamining, food lover, Bollywood, The Guru!