• Elizabeth Ariadne Lagesse

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    Education, job history, fellowships, and awards

    Volunteer work, leadership, and community involvement

    Examples of scientific work, writing, public speaking, and more

  • A bit of backstory

    Starting out

    At first glance, my personal history doesn’t seem conducive to work as a skeptic, scientist, and advocate for social justice. Much of my research has been rooted in the intricacies of evolutionary theory, yet as a child I was taught that modern biology is an elaborate hoax. The origins and scope of our universe have captivated me for as long as I can remember - in spite of science classes that contradicted much of modern cosmology, geology, and biology. Even the moral framework that motivates my advocacy is not the one in which I was raised.


    These experiences have contributed to my determination to use my technical and scientific skills in support of causes that matter. I have spent much of my adult life as a community activist promoting skepticism, diversity in STEM, and public science literacy. Moving forward, my overall goal is to make the greatest possible impact as an evidence-based advocate for a better world.

    Becoming a scientist

    My introduction to scientific research involved using bioinformatics to study the evolution of a protein family. This experience was an incredibly valuable introduction to the process of answering scientific questions, and an opportunity to learn the programming skills that have made the rest of my work possible.

    Because evolution is an unguided search - which tends to find ‘good enough’ solutions rather than optimal ones - evolutionary insight can often lead to functional insight. In the case of the protein family I studied, there is an alternative form of the protein without the ‘on switch’ - creating a safeguard against developmental abnormalities and cancer.


    To further develop my skills in bench chemistry and experimental design, I joined a protein bioengineering lab. My goal was to uncover the structure of a viral protein, which also had chemical properties that show promise for engineering drug delivery nanoparticles.


    My recent research has involved one of today's most difficult computational problems: protein structure prediction. Many devastating diseases, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, are related to defects in protein structure. Bacterial resistance to antibiotics can also be caused by a critical change in protein structure.


    In addition to the human costs of these issues, the problems themselves are innately irresistible - with solutions that require a combination of chemical intuition, clever computation, and an understanding of the protein’s evolutionary past. With an international team of scientists and engineers, I helped build and use a suite of software to predict protein structure and design synthetic molecules.


    Beyond the satisfaction of working on fascinating and important problems, my scientific experiences left me with a broad base of technical and intellectual skills for tackling hard problems in any context.

  • Samples of writing, speaking, graphics, and more

  • Education, Awards, and Experience


    Graduate Research Assistant, Gray Lab; Johns Hopkins University. – 2015-2016

    • Molecular Modeling: Helping to create, maintain, and apply the premier software suite for macromolecular modeling as member of the RosettaCommons development team
    • Projects included developing methods to predict the fitness effects of deletion mutations, applying existing methods to predict protein stability, and rewriting documentation for Rosetta users and developers
    • Publications: (in review) "A High Throughput Mutagenic Analysis of Yeast SUMO Structure and Function" PLOS Genetics, (β-lactamase fitness landscape manuscript in preparation)
    • Technical Skills: Python (fluent - including  NumPy/matplotlib/etc), Git/Github, C++ (limited), Unix, Condor, PyMol, software documentation, parallel/high performance computing, technical writing, graphic design 

    Python Tutor, UC Santa Cruz – 2014

    • Tutoring for an upper division Python programming class with an emphasis on bioinformatics
    • Technical Skills: Python, Unix

    Senior Thesis Research, DuBois Lab; UC Santa Cruz – 2013-2014

    • Experimental Biochemistry: Cloning, expression, purification, crystallization, and structure determination of the human astrovirus 1 capsid protein, acidic domain
    • Technical Skills: PyMol, Unix, ApE, technical writing

    NSF Summer REU Fellow, SFSU “Biological Research in Ecology, Evolution, and Development” – 2012 (returned, summer 2013)

    • Bioinformatics: Independent research with Professor Scott Roy, exploring computational methods for extracting new information from pre-existing sequencing data
    • Projects included studying the evolutionary history of alternative splicing in the TCF/LEF family of transcription factors using high-throughput sequencing data, and creating software tools to streamline data collection and processing for other lab members
    • Technical Skills: Perl (limited), Python, Unix, LaTeX, BLAST, ClustalW, TUXEDO (Tophat/Cufflinks/etc), interfacing with NCBI data resources

    Chemistry Tutor, City College of San Francisco – 2011-2012

    • Leading discussion sections, tutoring individual students, and holding review sessions for general and introductory chemistry courses

    Education and awards

    Chemistry (BS), University of California, Santa Cruz – 2014



    • National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship
    • Rosetta Commons Service Award 
    • Anita Borg Institute Grace Hopper Conference Scholarship
    • Dean’s Research Award, Physical and Biological Sciences
    • Crown Undergraduate Research Fellowship
    • Dean’s/EOP Honors
    • National Science Foundation REU Summer Fellowship 


  • Advocacy

    Organizer: Rosetta Commons at the 2016 Grace Hopper Celebration


    Preparing outreach materials and coordinating attendees for the Rosetta Commons presence at Grace Hopper - a conference to promote the inclusion of women in computing


    Policy Advocacy: Increasing diversity in STEM


    Visiting the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy with a delegation of Johns Hopkins students and faculty to advocate for programs that increase the inclusivity of STEM fields


    Volunteer: 2016 Animal Rights National Conference


    Assisting the conference team with audio/visual, registration, and other assorted tasks


    Outreach Team: Women in Science and Engineering at UC Santa Cruz


    Visiting local schools to perform demonstrations and encourage students from all backgrounds to pursue careers in science and technology

    Founder/President: Chico Skeptics


    Building and maintaining an organization for the promotion of science, skepticism, and critical thinking through camaraderie and positive contributions to the wider community


    Activity Development Task Force: Camp Quest West


    Developing curricula for a children’s summer camp focusing on science, critical thinking, environmentalism, and ethics 


    Vice President: Secular Student Alliance at UC Santa Cruz


    Building a student community for humanists, atheists, agnostics, and others with a naturalistic worldview


    Tutor: Berkeley United in Literacy Development


    Promoting literacy in Oakland and Berkeley elementary schools through after school programs focused on building students’ basic math and reading skills

  • Photos from Occupy, European Anti-Austerity Protests, Homeopathy Awareness, and the Baltimore Uprising/Black Lives Matter

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