Vanja Klepac-Ceraj

Theresa Mall Mullarkey Associate Professor of Biological Sciences

Microbial ecologist, interested in understanding the impact of diversity, dynamics, and function of microbial communities on human and environmental health; teaching introductory cell and molecular biology, microbiology, and environmental microbiology

My research lab focuses on studying microbial ecosystems, identifying patterns within genomic and metabolomic data to elucidate the dynamics between microbial community composition and their functions in natural settings. We aim to understand how microbial communities form and the impact of environmental factors, such as diet and xenobiotics, on microbial interactions and the overall stability of these communities. Additionally, we explore how microbes contribute to variations between individuals. This research encourages interdisciplinary collaboration, drawing on expertise from biology, chemistry, geology, neuroscience, and medicine. We work with scientists from all over the world, including collaborators in South Africa and Malawi.

In my teaching role, I cover all levels of the curriculum, emphasizing the interdisciplinary aspects of microbiology and microbial ecology. I teach both lecture and laboratory sections in Introductory Cell and Molecular Biology (BISC 110/112), Microbiology (BISC 209), and Environmental Microbiology (BISC 314). The upper-level microbiology courses are lab-based courses that explore the diversity of microbial life, physiology, evolution and ecology in nature. Looking ahead, I plan to offer senior seminars on topics such as human microbiota and health, our brain and microbes, and the ten microbes that changed the world.

I became a scientist because I find the natural world fascinating. As a professor, I'm keen on inspiring my students with this fascination, both in academic and research environments. 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.

Outside the academic world, I enjoy hiking in New England with my husband Ivan and our two teenage daughters, traveling, cooking, and reading. We frequently visit family in Croatia to enjoy its islands and sail in the Adriatic Sea's crystal-clear waters.

Education

  • B.S., Beloit College
  • Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology