Vanderbilt School of Medicine | Vanderbilt University | Vanderbilt Medical Center




Seth Bordenstein, Ph.D., Primary Investigator

Dr. Bordenstein is a biologist in the Department of Biological Sciences and in the Department of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN. He is the founding director of The Vanderbilt Microbiome Initiative and the worldwide HHMI-initiated science education program Discover the Microbes Within!. He is also Associate Director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology and Inflammation. His laboratory endeavors to understand the evolutionary and genetic principles that shape symbiotic interactions between animals, microbes, and viruses and the major applications of these interactions to human health. Towards these goals, the lab employs hypothesis-driven approaches to study intimate symbioses between arthropods and obligate intracellular bacteria that modify sexual reproduction and facultative symbioses between animals and gut microbes that impact animal health, fitness, and evolution. He is the recipient of the 2014 Jeffrey Nordhaus Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, 2014 Chancellor’s Award for Research, and 2018 Chancellor Faculty Fellow Award from Vanderbilt University.

Seth Bordenstein CV | Blog: Symbionticism | Seminars: Video Channel

Email: s.bordenstein(at) / Phone: 615.322.9087








Sarah Bordenstein, M.S., Senior Research Specialist

Sarah Bordenstein has a Masters degree in microbial ecology and a background in project management and outreach. As a Senior Research Specialist, Sarah is the go to person for all lab activities and continues to build educational resources related to symbiosis (e.g., Discover the Microbes Within! and Wolbachia, A Heritable Pandemic). In her experimental work, she is using quantitative and computational genomic analyses to study the genetics and function of phage WO in Wolbachia.

Email: sarah.r.bordenstein(at) / Phone: 615.322.9094


Aram Mikaelyan, Ph.D., Postdoc

Dr. Mikaelyan (Website) joined the lab in the summer of 2016 to study the genetic and microbial basis of speciation, namely the number and types of animal genes that interact with gut bacteria to cause hybrid mortality between closely related Nasonia species.

Email: aram.mikaelyan(at) / Phone: 615.322.9094











Brittany Leigh, Ph.D., Postdoc

Dr. Leigh (Website) joined the lab in September of 2017 to study the genetic and molecular bases of animal-bacteria-bacteriophage interactions, specifically cytoplasmic incompatibility caused by Wolbachia prophage WO genes in Drosophila melanogaster. CI is at the forefront of mosquito control efforts to curb the transmission of dengue and Zika viruses and is also a speciation mechanism between various arthropod species.

Email: brittany.a.leigh(at) / Phone: 615.322.9094











Teddy Van Opstal, Graduate Student

Teddy joined the lab in 2014 to study the evolutionary and functional basis of host-microbe interactions in Nasonia, namely how (i) microbial communities are consequential to host performance and fitness and (ii) mothers genetically regulate transmission of bacteria. Teddy is passionate about science ourtreach and policy and has served in several graduate student leadership positions in the Department of Biological Sciences Graduate Program.

Email: evanopstal87(at) / Phone: 615.322.9094






Andrew Brooks, Graduate Student

Andy joined the lab in 2014 to study animal-microbe assembly patterns with respect to (i) host phylogenetic relationships and (ii) human ethnicity and genetics. Andy is part of the Human Genetics Program at Vanderbilt and is supported by the NIH Human Genetics Training Grant

Email: andrew.w.brooks(at) / Phone: 615.322.9094












Jessie Perlmutter, Graduate Student

Jessie joined the lab in 2015 to study the molecular genetics and mechanisms of how Wolbachia infections hijack animal reproduction. Her work centers around the genetic basis of male killing.

Email: jessamyn.i.perlmutter(at) / Phone: 615.322.9094













Dylan Shropshire, Graduate Student

Dylan (Website) joined the lab in 2015 to study the microbial genetic basis of cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI). CI occurs when Wolbachia-infected males mate with uninfected females and despite over 40 years of resarch, the Wolbachia genes underlying CI remain unknown. CI is at the forefront of mosquito control efforts to curb the transmission of dengue and Zika viruses, and CI is also a speciation mechanism between various arthropod species.

Email: john.d.shropshire(at) / Phone: 615.322.9094












Emily Layton, Undergraduate Student

Emily (Class of 2020) joined the lab in 2016 to study the microbial genetic basis of cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI). In December of 2017, she was awarded the SyBBURE Searle Undergraduate Research Fellowship that will support her research in the lab until she graduates in 2020. She has a publication on the discovery of the genes that underpin CI, and she is currently investigating biotic factors that impact variation in the penetrance of CI in Drosophila melanogaster. Emily has conducted extensive research in the lab during the following semesters: F: 2016. Sp: 2017, Su:2017, F:2017, S:2018

Email: emily.m.layton(at) / Phone: 615.322.9094















Gabe Hoppock, Undergraduate Lab Assistant

Gabe (Class of 2020) started in the lab in September of 2016. Gabe is resposnsible for laboratory maintenance of the fly room. The fly room in the Bordenstein lab is the place for cultivation of Sarcophaga bullata flies. S. bullata pupae become food for Nasonia parasitoid wasps.