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Beckman Scholars



Zack Ely

VU Beckman Scholar: Zack Ely

Originally from East Tennessee, Zack is a rising senior at Vanderbilt University, majoring in Molecular and Cellular Biology and minoring in Chemistry and Literary Studies. Zack first developed his passion for science in high school, while reading the works of Richard Dawkins, Jared Diamond, and Nick Lane. His research experience began and continues in the Rokas laboratory, where he applies computational genomics to study the galectin gene family. He is specifically interested in understanding how galectins affect human pregnancy outcome, and he seeks to answer prevailing questions regarding the transcriptional regulation and recent evolution of placentally expressed galectin genes. In addition to his role as an undergraduate researcher, Zack is a Justice of Vanderbilt Student Government’s Judicial Court, an avid reader and hiker, and a frequent occupant of the carrels in the Science and Engineering Library. He intends to pursue a PhD after graduation.


VU Beckman Scholar Mentor: Antonis Rokas, Ph,D., Cornelius Vanderbilt Chair in Biological Sciences, Professor of Biological Sciences and Biomedical Informatics

Dr. Antonis Rokas is currently the Cornelius Vanderbilt Chair in Biological Sciences at Vanderbilt University. He earned his B.Sc. in Biology at the University of Crete, Greece and his Ph.D in Evolutionary Biology from the University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom. Dr. Rokas conducted his post-doctoral work at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Since 2007, when he established his lab at Vanderbilt University, his laboratory’s research has focused on the study of the DNA record to gain insight into the patterns and processes of evolution. Through a combination of computational and experimental approaches, his current research aims to understand the molecular foundations of the fungal lifestyle, the reconstruction of the tree of life, and the evolution of human pregnancy. Research in Dr. Rokas’ lab is supported by the National Science Foundation, the March of Dimes, and the National Institutes of Health. Discoveries from his laboratory have been reported in the world’s premier journals, receiving thousands of citations, and been recognized by many awards, including an endowed chair (2013), a Chancellor’s Award for Research (2011), an NSF CAREER award (2009) and a Searle Scholarship (2008). He serves as an Associate Editor in several journals including eLife, Evolution, Medicine & Public Health, PLoS ONE, BMC Genomics, BMC Microbiology, and G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics.


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