As announced earlier on social media, our election for President-elect and two Councillors whose terms will begin on 1 January 2022 resulted in the following appointments:
SMBE President-elect: Dr. Kateryna Makova
A native of Ukraine, Kateryna Makova received her PhD from Texas Tech University, where she studied the genetic consequences of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant accident. She then completed her postdoctoral studies at the University of Chicago, where she investigated differences in mutation rates between males and females, among other topics. She has been a Professor in the Department of Biology at the Pennsylvania State University since 2003. Her laboratory conducts research in evolutionary and medical genomics. Current topics of interest include sex chromosome evolution, evolution of non-B DNA, mitochondrial DNA evolution, regional variation in mutation rates, and childhood obesity. The research in Kateryna’s laboratory is highly interdisciplinary and collaborative. The group collaborates with statisticians, computer scientists, and biochemists.
During her career Kateryna has mentored 15 PhD students and 11 postdoctoral fellows, and co-authored over 100 scientific manuscripts. She currently directs the Center for Medical Genomics, which brings together basic science and medical researchers at Penn State University. She is an Editor of Genome Research and is a member of the Board of Scientific Counsellors to the National Library of Medicine (the National Institutes of Health).
Kateryna still remembers attending her first SMBE meeting in 1998 in Vancouver. She has been an active member of the society since then. Kateryna was a member of the Organizing Committee of the SMBE annual meeting hosted in 2004 at Penn State. In subsequent years, she was a member of the Nominating Committee, Fitch Prize Awards Committee, and Travel Awards Committee, as well as organized multiple symposia at the SMBE annual meetings. Kateryna was a Councillor of SMBE in 2015-2017. Her main contributions while serving at the Council include establishing the uniform annual meeting format and handling the satellite meetings program. She has been a strong supporter (and an occasional user) of the childcare program and advocated for increasing the number and amount of meeting travel awards. Kateryna was a member of the Editorial Board of Genome Biology and Evolution from the foundation of the journal in 2009 and until 2020.
As the next SMBE President, Kateryna proposes to work on:
SMBE Councillor: Dr. María C. Ávila Arcos
- Developing a hybrid meeting format for future SMBE conferences, which should include in-person and on-line events. What can we learn from the pandemic? How can we build an annual conference that enables both on-line attendance to anyone in the world and live interactions to those who can travel.
- Augmenting annual SMBE conferences with public lectures given by our leading researchers. Communicating our scientific discoveries to the public, including school students and teachers, is of paramount importance in the time when science is not trusted in many countries.
- Establishing novel mentorship opportunities at all career levels (from undergraduate students to assistant professors) within the society both during and outside of the annual meeting. Females and people from minority groups should have a priority in such mentorship opportunities.
- Expanding regional meeting programs to include more developing countries. Not everyone can afford to attend an annual meeting on another continent, so could regional meetings provide an alternative opportunity for live scientific interactions?
- Exploring opportunities for running satellite meetings and workshops jointly with other professional societies. Many scientific projects are currently interdisciplinary. Can we bring together molecular evolutionists and scientists of another discipline (e.g., computer scientists) by organizing topic-focused satellite meetings potentially co-sponsored by another society?
Dr. María C. Ávila Arcos is an Assistant Professor in the International Laboratory for Human Genome Research at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). She investigates the effects that European colonization has had on the genomes of populations in present-day Mexico. She combines ancient DNA and population genetics of present-day populations to understand these effects. Since 2015 she started the yearly MexPopGen meetings, and she’s been in the organizing committee of all editions.
Dr. Ávila Arcos and her team have attended numerous SMBE meetings (including satellite ones). She has served as an Associate Editor for MBE since 2020 and as a reviewer for GBE. She participated in two bids (unsuccessful) to host SMBE in Mexico; she still gets upset when remembering the rejections.
She cares deeply about justice in academia. She thinks science should be a mean to narrow (and never widen) the gap between privileged and historically underserved groups. As the first councilor from a Latin American institution, she hopes to bring to SMBE the perspectives of scientists from that region, as well as from others in the ‘global south’. She looks forward to promoting diversity and equity in the Society and helping make its meeting more welcoming and affordable for underrepresented groups in the field.
SMBE Councillor: Dr. Jeffrey Ross-Ibarra
Dr. Ross-Ibarra is Professor at the University of California Davis in the Dept. of Evolution and Ecology. His team uses computational and experimental approaches to ask questions about how evolutionary processes play out across landscapes and along the genome. They focus largely on maize and its wild relatives, taking advantage of the genomic, genetic, and phenotypic resources available for maize as well the opportunities to study natural populations of many of its wild relatives. Dr. Ross-Ibarra has been a member of SMBE, attended and presented at multiple SMBE conferences, and has published and reviewed for MBE and GBE. He is currently on the editorial boards of G3, New Phytologist, eLife, and PeerJ. He believes strongly in society journals and in transforming scientific publication to be faster, more transparent, and more equitable.