- Sol Reisberg '13
- Miguel Alvarez-Flatow '14
- Margo Smith
- Max Elder
- Jane Jongeward
- Matthew Metz
- David Masnato
- Austin Griffin
- Sally Wilson
- Athene Cook
- Will Kessenich
- Logan Kinsey
- Ziyue "Zoey" Guo
- Becca Roth
- Cole Dachenhaus
- Sarah Friedman
- Audrey Bebensee
- Glenn McNair
- Aaron Yeoh
- Camila Odio
- Ivonne García
- Lars Matkin
- Zoë Kontes
- Michael Greenberg
- Joan Slonczewski
- Deborah Laycock
- Alberto Solis
- Howard Sacks
- Rachel Goheen, Stephanie Caton, and Nora Erickson
- Linda Metzler
Favorite courses: Microbiology; Biology in Science Fiction
Research grants: National Institutes of Health; National Science Foundation.
Guilty pleasure: Chocolate cake. "I make a good chocolate cake, the best in Gambier."
Inspiring authors: Jane Austen, Robert A. Heinlein, Ursula K. LeGuin.
About Kenyon Science: "Student research is fundamental to the Kenyon experience."
Microbiology is an open book to biology professor Joan Slonczewski. She wrote it.
Microbiology: An Evolving Science is an undergraduate textbook about microbiology published in 2008 and co-authored by Slonczewski, who spent seven years on the project. Describing microbiology was as stimulating to her as writing her acclaimed science fiction novels.
"During the period I wrote this book, there were more exciting things going on in microbiology than there were in science fiction," she said. "There's a lot of storytelling. You tell a story about the microbe and how microbes relate to each other."
Her interest in the unseen mechanics of life has led to research prominence in how Escherichia coli bacteria survive in extreme acid or base environments. With the help of student researchers, Slonczewski seeks to identify genes and proteins regulated by acid and base, possibly targets for the design of new antibiotics. She's also exploring Bacillus subtilis and genes relevant to anthrax and bacterial insecticides.
That her research has some medical relevance is a balm to her parents, who encouraged her to pursue medicine. Her father is a physicist.
"I'm interested in how people interact with science."
"I was interested very early in cell biology," she said. "I think that was because when I was growing up very few books were in color and one of the first children's books I read that was in color was a book about the human body. I got interested in that."
Books have continued to be life markers for Slonczewski. Her reading of classic literature helped spark her interest in writing. Her bedrock knowledge of science and global concerns brought forth a string of science fiction novels contemplating nuclear holocaust, how humans relate to their environment, and the essence of humanity.
"My first really successful book was A Door into Ocean, about two cultures and each considers the other inhuman or alien. So there were gender issues and sort of ethnic, genetic issues behind that," she said. "My more recent book, Brain Plague, dealt with much more extreme issues, where humans had to deal with microbes that could be considered human and machines that could be considered human. So what is a person?"
Writing is a solitary affair, and teaching is a communal experience. Interaction with students is enlightening to Slonczweski. "I'm interested in how people interact with science, so I enjoy learning from students as well as teaching them."