B.S., Beloit College; Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Vanja Klepac-CerajAssistant Professor of Biological Sciences
Microbiologist, interested in understanding stability and resilience of microbial communities; teaching introductory biology and microbiology
My research interests are focused on understanding how microbial communities are formed, their stability and resilience in relation to particular environmental variables, microbe-microbe interactions, and how these interactions shape evolution in these populations. It is becoming increasingly clear that microbial communities play an crucial role in maintaining the health of an environment, whether that environment is a human body or a lake, and it is therefore important that we understand which variables cause community shifts and how microbial interactions contribute to stability of such communities. To this end, my research fosters collaboration among scientists from different disciplines including biology, chemistry, geology and medicine, and is pursued in collaboration with investigators at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Forsyth Institute and other institutions.
I teach at all levels of the curriculum with a focus on the interdisciplinary nature of microbiology and microbial ecology. I teach a lecture and laboratory section of Introductory Cell and Molecular Biology (BISC 110/112), Microbiology (BISC 209) and Environmental Microbiology (BISC 314). The upper-level microbiology course is a hands-on course that explores the diversity of microbial life, physiology, evolution and ecology in nature. In the future, I hope to develop and conduct various senior seminars including seminars on human microbiota and health, marine microbiology, and microbial ecology and evolution.
I became a scientist because I find the natural world fascinating. As a professor, I enjoy transmitting this enthusiasm to my students in both the classroom and research lab setting. I view teaching science as an opportunity to encourage independent thinking and to share an appreciation of scientific ideas. In my classes, I enjoy discussing primary (hot-off-the press) literature and incorporating a wide variety of teaching methods and exercises, combining PowerPoint and videos, student presentations and discussions.
When I am not teaching or doing research, I go on hikes in New England with my husband Ivan and our two daughters. I also enjoy skiing, sailing, diving, cooking and reading. Almost every year we visit my parents in Croatia where we sail the crystal clear waters of Adriatic Sea.