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

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

Roger Chang - Harvard Medical School

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

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

Franck Marchis - SETI Institute

Catherine Masson-Boivin - INRA, Auzeville, France

Jake McKinlay - Indiana University

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

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.

Staff & Postdocs

Damien Barrett (Corvalis, OR)
Nicknames: "Domino"
Research Associate (starting mid-Sept 2020)
ABD Ph.D. Microbiology, Oregon State University
B.S. Microbiology & Botany, Oregon State University

Hello! I’m currently finishing up my PhD at Oregon State University before joining the Hom lab as a research associate in the Fall. I enjoy cooking, gardening and long noncoding RNAs. My thesis work dealt with fish genetics and immunology and I am excited to take the natural next-step of working on the evolution of fungal-algal mutualisms and microbial communities in general. I’m excited to apply my skill set to a new system and look forward to spending many hours staring at the command-line
Keywords: Genetics, Bioinformatics, Immunology, next-gen sequencing, yeast-alga coevolytion, franken-lichens, fish, cooking, gardening, lnRNAs

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'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


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?

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 work on Team Sloth 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. I am also working on a new project on synthetic communities with Dr. Hom. 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

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

Sarah Walls (Dallas, TX)
Nickname: "Sarah"
Class of 2021, University of Mississippi

Hey, I am working on Dr. Hom’s tea tree endophyte project, which is still fairly new. The tea is from a farm in Hawaii, and we sampled and processed some of this on a class trip that Dr. Hom led and that I was a part of. That’s actually how I got into the lab -- I wanted to follow-up on the work we started! My future goals are to first, GRADUATE from Ole Miss which is turning out to be a marathon and not a sprint. Then, I want to get masters degree in Marine Biology. I'm really interested in marine mammal behavior so that's something I want to explore and pursue. In my spare time, I love to scuba dive, travel, and spend time with friends and family.
Keywords: tea, endophytes, marine mammals, scuba

Isabel Collingsworth (Pickerington, Ohio)
Nickname: "Izzy"
Class of 2021, University of Mississippi

I work with sloth algae and am interested in understanding what role the odors of these algae might have in the ecology of the sloth hair ecosystem. These algae can stink and I get to sniff them everytime I'm in lab (haha, J.K.). I'm exploring the idea that these sloth algae attract/deter insects. I'm having a lot of fun -- almost too much fun for a girl from O-Hi-O!
Keywords: sloth algae, stinky smells, insects, culturing

Valerie Quach (Austin, TX)
Nickname: "Val"
Class of 2022, University of Mississippi

Hey y’all! I am work with the sloth team to study the volatile organic compounds emitted from the algae and fungi on sloths’ fur. We are looking to identify any secondary metabolites in the algae and their applications. I’m a pharmacy major and hope to one day have a career in research and development of drugs. In my free time, I enjoy hanging out with friends, playing violin and piano, and learning to cook new things! Oh, and I'm part of the growing Texan Mafia in the lab. Go Texas!
Keywords: sloths, algae, VOCs, natural products, music, food

Paige Smith (Madison, MS)
Nickname: "Paige," "Peaches"
Class of 2021, University of Mississippi

Hey! I am on the Sloth Team founded by former graduate student Maya. We work with algae and the compounds it emits found in Costa Rican sloth hair. I am a biochemistry major and plan to do my honors thesis on my sloth research. I plan to go to dental school after I graduate and pursue a career in the dental field. In my free time, I enjoy hanging out with my friends, working out, and being outside!
Keywords: sloths, costa rica, biochemistry, drug discovery, teeth

Kathryn Cavitt (Hernando, MS)
Nickname: "Kathryn"
Class of 2021, University of Mississippi

Hey guys! Right now, I'm assisting Thuy with her project observing the secondary metabolism of marine algae. I'm also helping her with a project involving desert soil crusts and the biodiversity of cyanobacteria, algae, and fungi within them. I am a pharmaceutical science major and will be attending the School of Pharmacy at the University of Mississippi. After seventh year of school, I'd love to do research and development for a pharmaceutical company. I like playing tennis, reading, singing, and baking. Even though I love books, I try to find ways to get my nose out of them and have new experiences.
Keywords: emarine algae, soil crusts, cyanobacteria, fungi, tennis, baking, new things

Jake Fanning (Philadelphia, MS)
Nickname: "Jakey," "Jakey-poo"
Class of 2021, University of Mississippi

So, I was the newbie, now I'm the big brother (not really). I started in the lab working with Michael on running algal-fungal co-culturing experiments to explore the mutualistic interactions between them. I am now working on a new project on synthetic communities that will be part of my Honor's thesis. I'm a biology major with minors in chemistry and business on a pre-dental track. I love working with my hands, and with people and being outdoors (sometimes all of those things together?). I love biology!
Keywords: nerd, pre-dental, chemistry, business, algae, fungus, Michael, co-culture, mutualism, synthetic communities

Grace Howell (Liberty, MS)
Nickname: "Gracie"
Class of 2021, University of Mississippi

My name is Grace! I love music and watching Netflix, but most of my free time is spent studying studying studying! Someday, I aspire to work as a physician specializing in emergency medicine. I am an EMT- Basic and am excited to learn more about the process of providing emergency care to individuals on the receiving end rather than the transport itself. I will be working with Thuy and cannot be more excited to be part of the research team.
Keywords: medium, EMT, Netflix, ER medicine

Nelson Howell (Batesville, MS)
Nickname: "Nelly"
Class of 2021, University of Mississippi

My name is Nelson Howell, and I plan on attending medical school in the future. I love rock n’ roll music, playing guitar and everything biology related. I will be working closely with Thuy in the Hom lab. I am always eager to learn and I look forward to working in lab research!
Keywords: rock n' roll, guitar, biology, medicine

Alex Lazzara (Jacksonville, FL)
Nickname: "Allen", "The other Alex"
Class of 2021, University of Mississippi

Hello and welcome to my profile, I hope you thoroughly enjoy your time here. Do I look cold? I work with Jake, Jaden, and others in the #syncommunity project. It’s a can’t miss event for (mostly) unicellular organisms. Currently we are still in the developmental stages but (hopefully) soon we’ll get things off the ground and can begin observing interactions. Can’t wait! I, like many others here, am a Biology major with Chem and PoliSci minors and am in the process of applying to dental school. Feel free to reach out if you want to talk microbes, pre-dent, academics, or any of my hobbies such as fishing, road trips, and watching the Jaguars lose. *Quiet Duuuval*
Keywords: syncommunity, metabolism, genomics, dental, lava, KSM King, FloridaStuff, fishing

Mary Barnes (Ardmore, OK)
Nickname: "Morgan"
Class of 2022, University of Mississippi

I recently joined the lab and work with Xia. I first got to know Dr. Hom in Genetics and enjoyed that so much, I wanted to join the lab. I like sorority life and enjoy doing lots of service projects like More-Than-a-Meal. I'm in the Honors college and will need to write more here when I have time!
Keywords: genetics, kefir, sororities rule