Our Team

To contact the team, reach out to wolbachiaproject(at)vanderbilt.edu.

Sarah Bordenstein, M.S., Director and co-founder of The Wolbachia Project

Sarah Bordenstein

Sarah co-leads the Bordenstein lab and is the Director of Discover the Microbes Within! The Wolbachia Project) in which she develops and disseminates worldwide educational resources related to symbiosis and biotechnology. She is an expert in microbial ecology, genomics, and science education. In her experimental work, she is using quantitative and computational genomic analyses to study phage WO and plasmid biology in Wolbachia. Her favorite arthropod order are Lepidoptera.

Seth Bordenstein, Ph.D., Centennial Endowed Professor in Biological Sciences and co-founder of The Wolbachia Project

Dr. Bordenstein has studied animal-microbe symbioses and microbiomes for 25 years. He is an evolutionary geneticist and microbiologist in the Departments of Biological Sciences and Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN. He is the founding director of The Vanderbilt Microbiome Initiative and the worldwide HHMI-initiated science education program Discover the Microbes Within! The Wolbachia Project. He is also Associate Director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology and Inflammation. His laboratory endeavors to understand the evolutionary and genetic principles that shape symbiotic interactions between animals, microbes, and viruses and the major applications of these interactions to human health. Towards these goals, the lab employs hypothesis-driven approaches to study intimate symbioses between arthropods and obligate intracellular bacteria that modify sexual reproduction and facultative symbioses between animals and gut microbes that impact animal health, fitness, and evolution. He is the recipient of the 2014 Jeffrey Nordhaus Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, 2014 Chancellor’s Award for Research, 2018 Chancellor Faculty Fellow Award from Vanderbilt University, and 2020 Genetics Society of America Award for Excellence in Education.

Athena Lemon, M.S., Project Coordinator

Athena joined the Project in February of 2020 after working with fleas and the plague at Washington State University.  She is passionate about science communication and outreach.  Her goals are to maintain and expand the project in exciting new directions, while performing experimental research. When not in lab, Athena knits, quilts, and gardens. Her favorite arthropod order are Siphonaptera.

Brittany Leigh, Ph.D., Outreach Specialist

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. Brittany holds the NIH F32 Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Postdoctoral Fellowship. She is always eager and excited to talk with students about the world of Wolbachia. Her favorite arthropod order are Amphipoda.

Nick Negretti, Ph.D., Database Administrator

Nick designed and built The Wolbachia Project database. He is currently working at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in the department of pediatrics, division of neonatology. He enjoys working on digital projects, 3D printing, and gardening. His favorite arthropod species are roly poly’s and honeybees.

Mahip Kalra, Undergraduate Ambassador

Mahip (Class of 2022) started in the Bordenstein lab in September of 2018 to study the microbial genetic basis of cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI). In August of 2020, he became an undergraduate ambassador for The Wolbachia Project, and is available to video conference into classrooms. His favorite arthropod order are Araneae.

Emily Layton, Visual Artist

Emily Layton worked in the Bordenstein for four years as an undergraduate scholar. During the summer of 2020, she worked to create visual art and figures for The Wolbachia Project. Her favorite arthropod order are Diptera.