Steven Biller

Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences

Studying marine microbes, from the genomic to ecosystem level.

My research investigates the systems biology of microbes living within complex communities. I use model systems to decipher the genetic and cellular mechanisms through which individual cells interact with other organisms and their environment, and explore how these interactions ultimately contribute to emergent community behaviors. I am particularly interested in the oceans, and much of my current work centers around the marine cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus—the smallest and most abundant photosynthetic organism on the planet. My lab explores diverse aspects of this microbe through a combination of laboratory, computational, and field studies. Some current areas of interest include investigating the ecological roles of extracellular vesicles, the impact of co-culture interactions on microbial physiology, and the forces that shape the function, biogeography, and evolution of these organisms in the global oceans. To address these types of cross-scale questions, my group integrates approaches from genomics and computational biology, ecology, cell biology, microbial physiology, systems biology, and oceanography.

I teach across the Biology curriculum, including Introductory Cellular and Molecular Biology (BISC 110), co-teaching Genetics (BISC/BIOC 219), and a course in Genomics and Bioinformatics. In my teaching, I try to convey my fascination with complexity of the natural world and the importance of thinking about questions in Biology from a combination of molecular, ecological, and evolutionary perspectives. I hope students walk away from my classes both with both new knowledge about topics in biology as well as an appreciation for all that is yet to be discovered.

In addition to my own teaching and research, I am interested in the development of genomic database resources and educating the public about the importance of the oceans to our planet. I have also been involved in teaching a graduate-level summer microbiology course in CA.

Outside of the lab, I enjoy running around with my kids, exploring the outdoors, woodworking, reading, listening to music, baseball, and playing guitar (extremely poorly).


  • B.A., Williams College
  • Ph.D., Stanford University

Current and upcoming courses

The goal of the course is to develop an understanding of the fundamental principles of genetics at the molecular, cellular, organismal, and population levels. The course establishes a link between the generation of genetic variants through mutation and recombination, their patterns of inheritance, interactions between genes to produce complex phenotypes, and the maintenance of such genetic variation in natural populations. The course also explores principles of genome organization and the mechanisms that regulate gene expression. Other topics include: DNA sequencing and the use of genomic data to address questions in genetics, comparing and contrasting genetic regulation strategies across the three domains of life, and exploring experimental approaches for addressing genetic questions. Laboratory investigation will expose students to the fundamentals of genetics including transmission, molecular, and computational techniques for genetic analysis. Students must attend lab during the first week in order to continue in the course. During certain weeks, students are required to come in outside of scheduled lab time for approximately one hour 3-4 days after the scheduled lab. Please plan your schedule accordingly.

The course has a waitlist which will operate on a first-come, first-served basis. If offered a seat, you will receive an offer for the lecture and will be able to accept a seat in the course only if a laboratory which has an available seat can also fit into your schedule. Flexibility for lab times increases your ability to accept an offer.

(BIOC 219 and BISC 219 are cross-listed courses.)