Welcoming New Faculty Members to the College of Biological Sciences

new faculty group photo

Left to right: Priya Shah, Samuel Díaz-Muñoz and Laci Gerhart-Barley join the College of Biological Sciences.

by Greg Watry

For the 2017-2018 academic year, we are proud to welcome three new members to the UC College of Biological Sciences faculty. Below you’ll learn more about the research interests of each faculty member, as well as what brought them to UC Davis.

Laci Gerhart-Barley (EVE)

Laci Gerhart-Barley

Laci Gerhart-Barley, Department of Evolution and Ecology

Laci Gerhart-Barley joins the Department of Evolution and Ecology as a lecturer. She instructs BIS 2B, Introduction to Biology: Principles of Ecology and Evolution. Gerhart-Barley is interested in developing other courses for both biological sciences majors and non-majors, including a course on the natural history of the UC Davis campus.

Gerhart-Barley was previously a lecturer at the University of Hawaii, where she taught a variety of introductory biology courses at the Mānoa and West O’ahu campuses. She received a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Kansas.

“My research focus previously has been on isotope dendrochronology, which I plan to pursue still, focusing it on opportunities for undergraduate research,” she said. “Also, I plan to develop some research projects around student experiences and knowledge retention throughout their degree program.”

An avid reader of science-fiction and fantasy, Gerhart-Barley also collects vintage and antique science textbooks. Her collection won University of Kansas’ book collecting competition in 2013.

Gerhart-Barley said UC Davis’ reputation as a high-end research university with an emphasis on focused instruction drew her to the College of Biological Sciences.

“The culture of Davis and UC Davis are very much in line with my personality and personal philosophy,” she said.   

Samuel Díaz-Muñoz (MMG)

Samuel Díaz-Muñoz

Samuel Díaz-Muñoz joins the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics

Samuel Díaz-Muñoz joins the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics as an assistant professor. He recently taught and conducted research at New York University, where he was a National Institutes of Health Pathway to Independence Fellow.

“I study what I call the social lives of viruses,” said Díaz-Muñoz. “I am interested in all the ways viruses can affect the reproduction and evolution of other viruses, especially when they infect the same host.”

His research investigates the evolution, ecology and molecular mechanisms of virus-virus interactions using genomics, experimental evolution and environmental microbiology.

Díaz-Muñoz received a Ph.D. in Integrative Biology from UC Berkeley and completed postdoctoral training at UC San Diego. 

Priya Shah (MMG)

Priya Shah

Priya Shah, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics

Priya Shah joins the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics as an assistant professor. She holds a joint appointment with the College of Engineering as an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering.

Shah seeks to understand how viruses hijack cells with hopes of using synthetic biology to apply their methods to biotechnology and biomedicine. She recently finished a postdoc program at UC San Francisco, where she explored systems biology techniques to study virus-host interactions.

“I decided to come to UC Davis because of its strengths in biology and engineering,” she said. “In particular, I study mosquito-borne flaviviruses, like the West Nile and Zika viruses, and Davis is a great place to connect with other scientists doing complementary research.”

Shah received a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from UC Berkeley and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In her free time, she enjoys hiking with her family and dog.