Where we're from...

Friends, Collaborators, & Cool Scientists

Ameeta Agarwal - UM National Center for Natural Products Research

Betsy Arnold* - University of Arizona

Claudio Avignone-Rossa - University of Surrey

Ignazio Carbone* - North Carolina State University

Roger Chang - Systems Biology Research Group

Renee Cunningham - UM School of Education

Steve Harris - University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Melissa Jacob - UM National Center for Natural Products Research

Quincey Justman - Cell Systems

Yarden Katz - Broad Institute

Sergey Kryazhimskiy - Univeristy of California San Diego

Liedewij Laan - Kavli Institute of Nanoscience

Soni Lacefield - Indiana University Bloomington

Jun-Yi Leu - Institute of Molecular Biology

Louise Lewis* - University of Connecticut

Mike Lomas - Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences

François Lutzoni* - Duke University

Franck Marchis - SETI Institute

Maria Mittag - Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena

Irene Newton - Indiana University Bloomington

Sasan Nouranian - UM Department of Chemical Engineering

Dave Pasco - UM National Center for Natural Products Research

Alex Penn - University of Surrey

Nirmal Pugh - UM National Center for Natural Products Research

Severin Sasso - Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena

Jason Stajich - University of California Riverside

* part of the collaborative NSF GoLife Project

Lab Members


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.


Surabhi Shukla (Gorakhpur, India)
Nicknames: "Surabhi"
Ph.D. (2016) Pharmaceutical Sciences (Pharmacology), University of Mississippi

I have a great interest in understanding neurodegenerative diseases and developing drugs for treatment of neurodegenerative disorders. During my Ph.D work, I studied the role of histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi) in neuronal differentiation using PC 12 cells as a model cell line. Using various pharamacological inhibitors of cell signaling pathway, I studied the mechanism of action of a pan-HDAC inhibitor, vorinostat, in neuronal differentiation. Currently in Dr. Hom’s lab I am trying to understand the core microbial communities of traditional fermented beverages using culture-dependent and culture-independent approaches. In the future, I am interested in investigating the probiotic benefits of certain fermented beverages on nutrition and neural behavior.
Keywords: neurodevelopment, HDACi, epigenetics, pharmacology, neuroethology, fermented beverages

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-dows," "Tweetie"
M.S. student; B.S. Biotechnology, Cantho University, Vietnam

I am involved in a new collaborative effort between the Hom lab, the National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi (Dr. Melissa Jacob), and the Bigelow Laboratory in Maine (Dr. Michael Lomas), to explore and better understand the bioactivity and regulation of secondary metabolite production from marine algae. I am supported by a Vietnam Education Foundation (VEF) Fellowship and my particular project is to better understand the regulation of secondary metabolism in toxic marine algae. I am also interested in novel compounds that can be derived from marine algal culture 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: toxic algae, secondary metabolite production, VEF, Bigelow Lab, secondary metabolites, food, karaoke, shopping


Michael Hohl (St. Louis, MO)
Nicknames: "Mike," "Silky Mike"
B.S. Biology (2016), University of Mississippi

Hey girl, wanna sit poolside and drink some IPA with me? I'll bring the sunshine. When I'm not working on my tan, I'm working on standardizing an optimal RNA extraction protocol for fungal-algal co-cultures using various commercial extraction kits and homogenizers...did you follow that? I know you did, girl, 'cause you're smart... like me. You're probably thinking "He's going to be great one day" and you're right because I'm sexy and I know it.
Keywords: silky, RNA extraction, fungal-algal symbiosis, bead-beating, don't-do-this-at-home, public health, infectious diseases

Jessica Marshall (Madison, MS)
Nicknames: "Mom," "Mother Hen"
B.A. Biology (2015), University of Mississippi

Enjoys milkshakes, mini hippos and pigs, anything that’s purple, witty remarks and microbes. Likes to live in the moment but also enjoys reminiscing in moderation. Currently looking to pursue a position in the food science industry. In the lab, working on defining and characterizing the microbial communities of fermented beverages through metagenomic (next generation) sequencing and culture-dependent methods. Interested in creating fermented beverages from “scratch” and learning about the interactions and nutrient exchange between the microbes involved.
Keywords: nerds-the-word, purple, in-the-moment, food science, microbial ecology, fermented beverages, metagenomics, hippos and pigs


John Joseph Angel (Madison, MS)
Nickname: "Milky"
Class of 2018, University of Mississippi

I am working on RNA-Seq analysis on several fungal-algal mutualisms in the Hom lab. My personal interests include: binge watching the funny "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives," backpacking through areas I will probably get lost in, and cheerleading as I watch other people play video games. I used to be a Multi-Rank One-Gladiator on Nerd of Warcraft, until a career-ending injury (don't cry for me Argentina).
Keywords: RNA-Seq, fungal-algal mutualisms, World of Warcraft, binging, cheerleading, gladiator

Robert Barber (Hernando, MS)
Nickname: "Rob the Red"
Class of 2016, University of Mississippi

Neal Curran (Warwick NY)
Nickname: "Neal Man"
Class of 2018, University of Mississippi

Charmin Guy (Olive Branch, MS)
Nickname: "Beaker"
Class of 2018, University of Mississippi

I am an introverted dog lover assisting graduate student Michael Clear with fungal/algal mutualism experiments. Our goal is to co-culture well-studied fungal and algal organisms in an attempt to identify new beneficial interactions and to screen for molecular markers indicative of mutualism formation. Currently, I am pre-med, Biology major with aspirations of becoming an endocrinologist. When I’m not in class or lab, I enjoy baking and volunteering at the veterans home.
Keywords: dog-loving, fungal-algal mutualisms, GoLife, endocrinologist, baking, champion of veterans

(William) Hamilton Moore (Florence, AL)
Nickname: "Jamón"
Class of 2017, University of Mississippi

I am working with Vicky Calatrava this summer. I enjoy spending my free time hanging out with friends, being outside, and travelling to new places. I have spent roughly six months in nine different countries and plan to continue travelling after graduation. I am a big Ole Miss sports fan and also support the Memphis Grizzlies. My favorite food is shrimp and grits, but am always down for eating pizza. I have always loved science and am naturally inquisitive. My scientific interests include brain and behavior, microbiology, and physiology. I am pre-med and plan to attend medical school after graduation.
Keywords: world-traveler, Rebels fan, ham, shrimp and grits, pizza, brains, pre-med, microbiology, physiology

Kristen Stricklin (Ocean Springs, MS)
Nickname: "Kristen"
Class of 2017, University of Mississippi

I am pursuing a bachelor’s in biological sciences with minor focuses in Spanish and Chemistry. My current projects are RNA extraction in fungal and algal co-tissues and the effects of cryogenics on RNA stability. In the future I plan to attend medical school and complete residency in either general surgery or OBGYN. When I am not working in the lab, I’m generally studying for the MCAT, working on AMCAS, or possibly watching Game of Thrones. Other interests and activities I enjoy include painting, weight lifting and attending Ole Miss Football games.
Keywords: RNA extraction, fungal-algal tissues, surgery, OBGYN, Game of Thrones, painting, Rebel Football, heavy things


Lee Brewer (Oxford, MS)
Nickname: "The Origami Killer"
ARISE@UM High School Intern; Oxford High School (Class of 2016)

In search for enlightenment and an algorithm capable of determining whether any two microbes will form symbiotic/mutualistic relationships. Hopes to one day earn a Ph.D. in Computer Science. Likes podcasts and short walks on the beach.
Keywords: enlightenment, short walks, podcasts, computer science, mutualisms, symbiosis, microbial matchmatching

Victoria Calatrava (Córdoba, Spain)
Nickname: "Vicky"
Visiting Ph.D. student, University of Córdoba, Spain

Spanish and Andalusian, happy and motivated. Before you ask: No, I don’t stop working to take a siesta (debunking stereotypes). I love music, outdoors and science, especially all in good company. Currently enjoying my stay in the Hom Lab researching microalgae-bacteria interactions (yes, they also date). To contribute my grain of sand on science and enjoy every moment are my main life goals.
Keywords: siesta, Andalusian, Chlamydomonas, bacteria, mutualism, microbe dating, legal alien

Marawan Elgohry (Bahna, Egypt)
Nickname: "Marawan"
ARISE@UM High School Intern; rising sophomore, Oxford High School, MS

Although born in Egypt, I spent most of my life in Oxford, MS. I currently work under Michael Clear on various projects in the lab involving algae. My drawing ability is a smaller then the algae I work with. My hobbies include video games, reading paper kindles, and criticizing apple commercials.
Keywords: algae, satire, chemistry, video games, terrible puns
Favorite Quote: "Never give up on your dreams, therefore keep sleeping"

Vivian Vo Van (Winona, MS)
Nickname: "Triple V," "V-Cubed," “Vivan,” “Vivo”
ARISE@UM High School Intern; rising senior, Mississippi School for Math and Science

I am working collaborative in the labs of Dr. Hom and Dr. Nouranian (Dept. of Chemical Engineering) to make alternative materials for dental composites based on graphene. When I grow up, my dream is to be on an NCIS team (in real life or on TV), although a more realistic goal might be to survive medical school. I like food, tennis, people (most times), ukulele, doing spontaneous things, and traveling. A long term goal of mine is to make enough $ to support my aforementioned likes, and to allow my mom to travel the world. Another long-term goal is to routinely cuddle with many puppies at one time.
Keywords: dental composites, graphene, NCIS, tennis, food, ukelele, $$$, poly-puppy cuddler