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 an Associate Professor with broad interests in the role of microbes in animal evolution and health, including the microbial basis of animal speciation, horizontal gene transfer, bioprospecting archaea for antibiotics, genome evolution of viruses and host-associated bacteria, and the importance of maternal microbial transmission. He is the founding director of The Vanderbilt Microbiome Initiative and the worldwide HHMI-initiated science education program Discover the Microbes Within! Dr. Bordenstien's research has been highlighted in numerous popular science media including a documentary on bacterial symbiosis, CNN, The New York Times, National Geographic, Discover Magazine, PBS, The Huffington Post, Scientific American, BBC Radio, among others.

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 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(@) / Phone: 615.322.9094






We are always looking for talent, self-motivated passion and a commitment to excellence, especially in the areas of intimate and facultative symbioses. If this sounds like you, please email Seth with a CV and statement of interest that covers your strengths, areas to grow, research goals, and why you want to join the lab. For postdoctoral candidates, please send a description of the sources of funding you intend to pursue for your project and salary.







Ananya Sharma, Class of 2019, Research Intern (F: 2015, S: 2016, F: 2016, S: 2017, F:2017)

Emily Layton, Class of 2020, Research Intern (F: 2016. Sp: 2017, Su:2017, F:2017)

Helen Zhou, Class of 2018, Research Intern (F: 2016, S: 2017, Su: 2017, F:2017)

Gabe Hoppock, Class of 2019, Lab Assistant (started September of 2016)

Cassie Slaybaugh, Class of 2021, Lab Assistant (started August of 2017)

Ejhazz Milford, Class of 2021, Lab Assistant (started August of 2017)