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An NSF Grant to Study Invasive Microbes

Topher Weiss-Lehman ’10 earned a prestigious National Science Foundation graduate fellowship to support his doctoral research at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Weiss-Lehman is studying invasive species through a theoretical lens. His current project involves building mathematical models to study the effects of introducing invasive species into microbial systems. This work could lead to new medical treatments using invasive microbes to combat disease.

“These sorts of treatments have already proved successful, but we don’t know yet why they work,” he says.

At Colorado, Weiss-Lehman is part of the first cohort of students in a new program in interdisciplinary quantitative biology. During their first year, he and his fellow students rotated through various labs at the university so they learn about the diversity of approaches to scientific inquiry.

Weiss-Lehman’s own work draws on his passions of mathematics and ecology, both of which grew during his Earlham years.

“I came to college thinking I would major in mathematics, but when I took Ecological Biology with [Professor Emeritus] Bill Buskirk, I was hooked. That course got me thinking about the underlying questions of biology in ways that hadn’t occurred to me before.”

He also worked closely with Assistant Professor of Biology Chris Smith and spent a summer working for Tom Mitchell-Olds ’78, who runs a plant genetics research lab at Duke University.

“I was able to complete three or four complete research projects as an Earlham student, and I got a summer job in a laboratory thanks to Earlham connections. Those things were excellent preparation for the work I am doing now.”

Topher Weiss-Lehman

Topher Weiss-Lehman 2010, Graduate Student, University of Colorado at Boulder

Hometown: Swarthmore, Pa.

Major at Earlham: Biology

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