Class notes

Cookies from the IMU Sugar and Spice shop with white icing decorated with red IU logo.
Cookies from the IMU Sugar and Spice shop. Photo by Indiana University

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In 1972, Okia accepted the position of assistant professor within the College of Agriculture at Makerere University in Kampala. He was promoted to associate professor of zoology at Makerere in 1974. He headed to Ann Arbor in 1977 to accept a postdoctoral research position at the University of Michigan’s Reproductive Endocrinology Program. A year later, Okia joined the University of South Florida faculty as an assistant professor of biology. He became an associate professor of biology at Auburn University in 1979 and was promoted to professor of biology in 1992. Okia retired in 2016, assuming the position of emeritus professor of biology at Auburn.


Karen J. Sherman, BS ‘76 Biological Sciences with High Distinction, earned a PhD in behavioral biology in 1976 from Cornell University and an MPH in epidemiology from the University of Washington in 1986. She has been conducting research on treatments for chronic pain over the last 25 years. Sherman is a senior scientific investigator at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute and an affiliate professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington School of Public Health. She was recently appointed to the Advisory Council of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health at the National Institutes of Health.

Heidinger is now an associate professor of biological sciences at North Dakota State University. She is lead author on an article, “Experimentally elevated testosterone shortens telomeres across years in a free-living songbird,” published in the 27 January 2021 issue of Molecular Ecology. Co-authors of the article include Samuel P. Slowinski (PhD ’17 Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior), and Nicole M. Gerlach (Ph.D. ’10 Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior), who were members of Distinguished Professor Ellen Ketterson’s lab when they were pursuing their graduate degrees. Ketterson is also a co-author of this study. Heidinger is married to fellow IU alum Benjamin Melby (MA ’06 English), who is on the English faculty at North Dakota State University. The couple, who reside in Fargo, have a daughter, Isla, and son, Harris, both of whom were born in Scotland, and a golden retriever named Rosie.


Erik D. Andrewski, BS ’14 Biology, with Distinction, MD ’18, completed a pediatrics residency at Riley Hospital for Children and started a fellowship in pediatric gastroenterology at Riley this year. Andrewski says he dearly loved his time in Bloomington and in the biology department.

Anna (Vorsilak) Geisinger, BS '10 Biology, is a research associate with the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute's Bioanalytical Technologies group. She has been with IBRI since 2017. Prior to joining IBRI, Geisinger was a microbiologist with the Indiana State Department of Health Laboratories. From 2011 to 2016, she was a contractor research associate at Dow AgroSciences (now Corteva Agriscience). She married Joe Geisinger in 2019. The couple resides in Westfield, Indiana.​

Amanda L. Kelly, BA ‘14 Biology and Criminal Justice, with Distinction, worked as a social worker in southern Indiana for three years before returning to IU where she works with IU Biology’s Outreach team. As an undergraduate, Kelly volunteered with this team for four years. Her minor in Animal Behavior has been put to good use as she also works as a professional pet sitter. For the last seven years, Kelly served as the Education Chair for the Sassafras Audubon Society, a local conservation and birding group. In 2017, she received the Donald R. Whitehead Conservationist of the Year award for providing ornithological outreach to hundreds of students, from kindergarten through sixth grade. Kelly volunteers at Uplands PEAK Animal Sanctuary in Spencer, Indiana, and serves on the committee of BloomingVeg, an area vegetarian and vegan social and advocacy group. She says she greatly appreciates all that IU Biology taught her about conservation, critical thinking, and teamwork—skills she continues to use daily.

Andrew “Drew” R. Morrow, BA ’12 Biology, with a certificate in Liberal Arts and Management, MD ’17, is now a physician with the University of South Carolina Family Medicine Center. He wrote to say, “During my senior year at IU I registered for a course on HIV offered by the biology department. The course's dual curriculum focused on both the virus's mechanics and how it challenged public health. Though I deeply enjoyed the course during college, I now work as a physician and I'm forever grateful for how that course illuminated the fact in my mind that medicine is more than disease. Hard science—like virology—provides the underpinning for treatment, but an equally important component of treatment is understanding the context in which patients live, eat, sleep, work, and play. The case studies from that college course helped me take a first step, a beginner's step towards understanding this crucial element of medicine.”

Gabriel Muhire Gihana, PhD ‘19 Genome, Cell, and Developmental Biology, received the Damon Runyon Fellowship—a prestigious, 4-year award for outstanding postdocs conducting basic and translational cancer research. Gabriel investigates the role of cellular morphology in mediating the oncogenic signaling of RAS in pancreatic cancer as a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of Gaudenz Danuser at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas.

Gina C. (Gordon) Neumann, BS ‘13 Biotechnology with Highest Distinction, earned her Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2018. She is now a Senior Scientific Manager at Benson Hill, a crop improvement company that unlocks the natural diversity of plants and empowers innovators with a revolutionary crop design platform to develop healthier and more sustainable food and ingredients. She resides in St. Louis with her husband, Tony. The couple welcomed their son, Logan, in February of this year. Neumann enjoys exercising, cooking, and baking in any free moments she can find!

In March of this year, Michael R. Nunley, BS ’12 Microbiology, rejoined the Hoosier Cancer Research Network as a lead clinical data manager. He previously worked for HCRN, an independent, nonprofit, contract research organization based in Indianapolis, from October 2015 through July 2018, holding positions as a clinical project manager and a clinical correlative research manager. He started out his career in sample management at Biostorage Technologies and has previously worked for Trifecta Clinical and Brooks Life Sciences.

Former Director of Strategic Initiatives for The Nature Conservancy, Dawn M. O’Neal, PhD ’10 Evolution, Ecology and Behavior, with a Certificate in Animal Behavior ’10, accepted a new position. According to a July 20 release from the Associated Press, O’Neal was appointed vice president of the nonprofit conservation group, the National Audubon Society (NAS), and executive director of Audubon Delta, a regional office created by NAS to include the Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi offices. “There is a ton of great work happening in the Delta region, arguably one of the most important areas for bird conservation in the country," she was quoted as saying. The area is a critical bird and waterfowl migration corridor and supports North America's largest wetland area and bottomland hardwood forest, according to NAS. O’Neal will direct a staff of 35 and manage a budget of 4.2 million to build and execute a comprehensive conservation action plan that leverages the unique assets, history, and interest of the region and is grounded in equitable conservation. She is an adjunct professor at the State University of New York at Albany. O’Neal is married to Mert Geveci and they currently reside in Delmar, New York, but are looking for a place in New Orleans.

Robyn E. Roberts, BS ’11 Biology, earned her PhD in Plant Pathology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2016, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at Cornell University’s Boyce Thompson Institute, where she studied a bacterial disease of tomatoes and identified new sources of resistance. Roberts credits her undergraduate research experience in Distinguished Professor Roger Innes' laboratory for sparking her interest in plant-microbe interactions. Currently, she is an assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural Biology at Colorado State University where she studies diseases of field crops, with a focus on wheat and tomatoes. Roberts has interests in undergraduate and postgraduate STEM mentoring and training and extension activities involving field crops growers across Colorado and the public. She appreciates her time at IU, saying the university, “gave me many opportunities to grow as a person and explore my interests. I participated in many organizations on campus including the Marching Hundred.” Roberts resides in Fort Collins.

Ashley (Hallford) Seidner, BA ’11 Biology and a Certificate in Liberal Arts Management, remembers her years at IU with great fondness. She attended Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine at A.T. Still University before completing her residency training in Dayton, Ohio. Seidner currently is on staff with Riverview Health Physicians of Indiana, seeing OB/GYN patients in Noblesville and Westfield. Riverview’s website indicates that she enjoys exploring the great outdoors with her husband, infant daughter, and dogs, as well as completing DIY projects and traveling.

Gabrielle Sell, BS ’12 Biology and Neuroscience with High Distinction and a Certificate in Animal Behavior, participated in the Integrated Freshman Learning Experience Program (IFLE) while at IU and still remains in contact with many of the friends she met through IFLE. Sell earned a PhD in neuroscience from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 2017. She currently is a postdoctoral fellow working with Dr. Kimberley McAllister at the University of California, Davis’ Center for Neuroscience. Sell married Hunter Piel in January and the couple resides with their dogs in Woodland, California.

Gabrielle Sell in black and gold graduation garb poses with her Ph.D. mentor Seth S. Margolis at Johns Hopkins University.
Gabrielle Sell poses with a penguin.
Gabrielle Sell and her husband looking lovingly at each other while standing with two alpacas in a pasture.

Gabrielle Sell with her Ph.D. mentor Seth S. Margolis, Johns Hopkins University. Gabrielle with a penguin. Gabrielle and her husband and alpacas. Courtesy photos

Carly A. Smith, BS ’14 Biology, with Highest Distinction, MD ’18, is an anesthesiology resident at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

Kayla S. (Mitman) Stoy, BS ’14 Biology, with departmental honors and High Distinction, is a National Science Foundation Research Fellow at Emory University where she studies the evolution and persistence of mutualistic symbioses. Stoy resides in Mableton, Georgia.

Anna C. Tam, BS ’17 Biology, MS ’18 Information Systems, joined Deloitte Consulting in 2019 as a business technology analyst. She became a consultant for the firm in June.

Briana K. Whitaker, PhD ’18 Evolution, Ecology and Behavior, is a research microbiologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Peoria, Illinois. She previously completed a postdoc at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Whitaker works to understand the role of microbes and the microbiome in mediating plant-pathogen relationships in wheat, barley, and corn, primarily focusing on mycotoxin producing pathogens in the genus Fusarium. Her research combines field manipulations with multi-species interaction studies in the lab and greenhouse to better understand the mechanisms driving toxin reduction and pathogen control by microbiota under diverse abiotic conditions.