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

David Baum - University of Wisconsin-Madison

Stephen Callister - Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Ignazio Carbone* - North Carolina State University

Jitka Cejkova - University of Chemistry and Technology, Prague, Czech Republic

Roger Chang - Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Lee Cronin - University of Glasgow, Scotland

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

Matthew Egbert - University of Auckland, New Zealand

Emilio Fernández - University of Córdoba, Spain

Aurora Galván - University of Córdoba, Spain

József Geml* - Eszterházy Károly University, Eger, Hungary

Amy Gladfelter - University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

Ursula Goodenough - Washington University of St. Louis

Anna Gorbushina - Freie Universität Berlin & BAM, Germany

Quincey Justman - The Broad Institute

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

Franck Marchis - SETI Institute

Catherine Masson-Boivin - INRA, Auzeville, France

Jake McKinlay - Indiana University

Seppe Kuehn - University of Chicago

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

Georg Pohnert - Friedrich-Schiller-Universität, Jena, Germany

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

Nicole van Dam - iDiv, Leigzig & Friedrich-Schiller-Universität, Jena, Germany

Cristina Varese - Università degli Studi Di Torino & Mycotheca

Sarah Walker - Arizona State University

John Yin - University of Wisconsin-Madison

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: "Erik", "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

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've been 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. Now, I am working on biological soil crust communities in collaboration with the fun labs of Jason Stajich (UC-Riverside) and Nicole Pietrasiak (New Mexico State). 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

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. Biology, 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

Tsui-Ting Hsu (Taipei, Taiwan, R.O.C.)
Nicknames: "TT"
Ph.D. student
M.S. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, National Taiwan University
B.S. Anthropology, National Taiwan University

I am a new PhD student in the Hom Lab. My main interest is the evolution of symbiosis. I am particularly interested in the Verrucariaceae, a family of fungi that like to form marine-like lichens and associations with seaweeds. When I grow up (after graduating with my degree), I plan to travel around the world by doing postdocs. I love birds, tidal pools, fungi, keeping aquaria, and traveling. Oh and I manage a Facebook page on lichens in Taiwan too!
Keywords: lichens, marine things, evolution, anything living, swimming

Prabin Dawadi (Gorkha, Nepal)
Nicknames: "Gorkhali", "PD"
Ph.D. student
M.Sc. Medical Microbiology, Central Department of Microbiology, Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal
B.Sc. Microbiology, Pinnacle College, Tribhuvan University, Lalitpur, Nepal

I am an incoming (Jan 2023) Ph.D. student in the Hom Lab. I’m interested in understanding microbial interactions in microbial communities and will work in part in continuing the work on fermented foods in the lab. After training in my Ph.D., I wish to lead product-oriented research and relate it to health benefits. Outside of the lab, I love playing ping-pong and basketball! Also, I'm a good listener :) because I enjoy hearing about other people's life experiences.
Keywords: fermentation, product-oriented research, bacteria, fungi, metagenomics, bioinformatics, table tennis, basketball, listening


(Katherine) Quay Robinson (Petal, MS)
Nickname: "Quay"
Class of 2023, University of Mississippi (B.A. Biology; minors: Chemistry & Math)

My name is Quay! I’m on the pre-med track and plan to attend Medical School after my undergraduate. I’m interested in Biology and the field of Medicine. I am researching the microbial composition of both milk and water Kefir grains — currently focusing on colony isolation as well as developing the most well suited mediums for each grain type. I’m a Diamond Girl for the baseball team and a member of Kappa Delta sorority. I enjoy reading, hanging out with family and friends, watching Food Network, traveling, and cheering on the Rebs at Baseball and Football games..
Keywords: kefir, Ole Miss Baseball, football, yummy food, let's hang!

(John) Peyton Hodges (Madison, MS)
Nickname: "Peyton," "The Quiet Guy"
Class of 2024, University of Mississippi (B.A. Biology)

My name is Peyton and I help Xia with the milk and water kefir research project. After undergrad, I plan on attending dental school and owning my own practice one day. In my free time, I enjoy traveling, hunting, hanging out with friends, playing golf (I am really bad), and watching Ole Miss play.
Keywords: kefir, pre-dental (I like teeth), hunting, bad golf, Hotty Toddy!

Brenan Kronenberg (New Orleans, LA)
Nickname: "Brenan," "Funny Guy," "The Baron"
Class of 2024, University of Mississippi (B.B.A. Business)

I am interested in microbiology, epidemiology, and gastroenterology. I am currently putting together an experiment to test the effects of the kefir as a probiotic for patients who have IBS. My hobbies include tennis, golf, and poker (when I am financially able to participate). I plan to be a pediatric gastroenterologist in the great city of New Orleans, and spend my nights fighting crime as a masked vigilante, like Batman, but who's significantly less athletic and wealthy.
Keywords: New Orleans baby, microbiology, epidemiology, gastroenterology, pediatrics, kefir anyone?, ... vigilante

(Ethan) Chance Walters (Hernando, MS)
Nickname: "Chance," "Chancey man", "computer guy"
Class of 2023, University of Mississippi (B.A. Biology; minors: Business; Chemistry)

My name is Chance, or Ethan to all the professors who forget to read the closings of my emails. I am currently assisting Dr. Hom on the nutristat experiment and using its results to write my thesis for the Honors College at Ole Miss. I hope to attend medical school after graduation and establish an orthopaedic practice eventually. Outside of school, I enjoy spending time with friends, watching sports (specifically Ole Miss and the Atlanta Braves), playing videogames, building computers, walking my dog, and volunteering for the local animal shelter.
Keywords: computers, nutristats, mutualisms, pre-med, baseball, videogames, animals

Jake Harthcock (Madison, MS)
Nickname: "Jake v. 2.0," "Jake-e-poo-two", "the quiet giant"
Class of 2023, University of Mississippi (B.A. Biology)

I am interested in metagenomics, bioinformatics, and CRISPR stuff. I am currently working on determining the viral infection history of bacterial cells that have the CRISPR-Cas System. My interests outside of the lab include spending time with my two-year-old Goldendoodle and my girlfriend. I also am involved in a few extracurricular activities which include my role as a supplemental instruction leader for Physics 213, and my time spent volunteering through the clinical experience network. This is all in preparation for medical school in the (hopefully) near future.
Keywords: Goldendoodles, metagenomics, bioinformatics, Crispr, pre-med

Donivan Smith (Saucier, MS)
Nickname: "Donny"
Class of 2025, University of Mississippi (B.A. Chemistry; minor: Biology)

Hi! I'm Donivan. I'm a Grove Scholar and really excited to learn about science and be a part of the lab. I think Biology is so interesting and can't wait to learn a lot. At the moment, I've been getting familiar with where everything is the lab, but Dr. Hom says he wants me to do experiments soon. I'll write more when I have time!
Keywords: biology-is-cool, Grove scholars

(Divyasai) Vedanth Buddala (Madison, MS)
Nickname: "Vedanth," "Buddy"
Class of 2024, University of Mississippi (B.A. Biology; minors: Business, Chemistry)

I'm the newbie in the lab! I'm planning to do my Honors thesis with Dr. Hom on something slothy. More details about me soon! Suffice it to say the waters run deep Padwan...
Keywords: sloths, Greek life, pre-med, video game, gym rat