Current Lab Members

Principal Investigator

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Jo Handelsman
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor
Vilas Research Professor
Director, Wisconsin Institute for Discovery

Postdoctoral Researchers

Alex Cheong headshot
Alex Cheong
Postdoc
Julia Duncan
Postdoc
Margaret Thairu
Postdoc
I am interested in understanding how the formation and maintenance of symbiotic relationships shape and influence the evolution lineages. I focus on microbial symbioses, and by using both genomic and experimental techniques to I hope to understand factors that drive and shape these relationships.

Graduate Students

Mason Garza
Graduate Student
Austin Hall
Graduate Student
My research involves finding microorganisms that can invade established biofilms. After finding invaders, I look at how the polymicrobial community responds to invasion, and at the genetics related to invasion. Understanding these mechanisms can shed light on what makes a microbiome resistant to change.
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Shruthi Magesh
Graduate Student
I aim to identify the genetic determinants important for F. johnsoniae to survive in the rhizosphere. Two important behaviors of a bacterium to succeed in the rhizosphere are 1) colonizing on a surface, such as soil particles or the root, and 2) interacting with nearby bacteria. To study these traits, I employ a high-throughput genetic screen using a mariner transposon mutant library of F. johnsoniae to identify the fitness of genes using INSeq technology.
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Natalia Rosario-Meléndez
Graduate Student

Research Staff

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Martel DenHartog
Tiny Earth Chemistry Hub Manager
My research primarily focuses on advancing isolates in the Tiny Earth Chemistry Hub. To do this, I prepare genomic and metabolomic isolations from bacterial strains shown to produce inhibition against ESKAPE relatives. My role with the Chemistry Hub extends beyond WID to the Tiny Earth network, where I communicate with TE Partner Instructors about the research happening in our lab. I also work with every lab member to make sure their supply and equipment needs are met and help maintain organization in the lab. Outside of lab and administrative work, I enjoy writing feature science stories for the WID and Tiny Earth websites.
Trang Tran
Outreach Specialist
Grace Pausma
Grace Pausma
Research Intern

Undergraduate Students

Madison Schellinger
Undergraduate
Rilee Schmit
Undergraduate
Melis Baskaya
Undergraduate, Tiny Earth Media & Communications Intern
Charlie Halaska headshot
Charlie Halaska
Undergraduate
Emma Schmit
Undergraduate
Aidan Clubb
Undergraduate
Rachel Vogel headshot
Rachel Vogel
Undergraduate
Xingjian Yang
Undergraduate
Valeska Lasky
Undergraduate

Visiting Scholars

Kristin Labby
Associate Professor of Chemistry and Tiny Earth Partner Instructor, Beloit College
Dr. Labby joins the Handelsman lab during her sabbatical. She will be developing chemistry curriculum for Tiny Earth and helping the lab's chemists advance our antimicrobial discovery pipeline.
Natasha Mavengere
Senior Lecturer, Harare Institute of Technology (HIT) and Fulbright Research Fellow
Dr. Mavengere joins the Handelsman Lab as a Fulbright Research Fellow. She aims to study drug resistance and novel antibiotics using metagenomics.

Administrative Staff

Manny Turrubiartes
Executive Assistant to the Director
Sarah Miller
Executive Director of Tiny Earth
As the Executive Director of Tiny Earth at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Sarah oversees Tiny Earth's international network of over 700 instructors that teach more than 14,000 students per year.