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Faculty Profile

Dana Somers

Associate Professor of Biology (2013)

Contact Information

James Hall - Rector Complex Room 2219


I teach classes in genetics, molecular biology, bioinformatics, and microbial fermentation. Research in my lab focuses on microbial genome evolution, particularly as it relates to understanding microbial ecology and biodiversity. We use functional, ecological, and evolutionary genomics to address these basic questions. In one project, my students and I are seeking to understand how climate-mediated changes in lake habitat can influence microbial communities by examining microbial diversity in Arctic lakes, a region where climate change has been particularly rapid. In another project, we are observing the evolutionary dynamics of laboratory domestication in the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and the related species S. paradoxus. Finally, a third project seeks to expand our understanding of yeast biodiversity by discovering and characterizing novel species of yeasts.


  • B.A., Franklin and Marshall College, 2002
  • Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2007

2021-2022 Academic Year

Fall 2021

BIOL 132 Intro to Molecules/Genes/Cells
This introductory course approaches core biological themes from the molecular and cellular level, and is complementary to BIOL 131, Introduction to Organisms, Populations, and Ecosystems. Course content will be focused around a specific theme determined by the instructor, and will include biomolecule and cell structure and function; cell signaling and communication; chromosome and gene structure; DNA replication; transcription; and translation. The course will involve lecture, discussion, and readings from scientific literature. Laboratory exercises include both classic and modern approaches to cellular and molecular biology utilizing prokaryotic and/or eukaryotic organisms. The laboratory will stress the discovery approach in applying current techniques to biological experiments. Three hours classroom and three hours laboratory a week. This is one of two courses required of all Biology majors before completing upper level coursework. It is complementary to BIOL 131 – Introduction to Organisms, Populations, and Ecosystems, and the courses may be taken in either order.

BIOL 401 Methods in Molec & Cell Bio
This class is intended for students who took one or more classes in the molecules, genes, and cells categories (BIOL216, BIOL313, BIOL326, and BIOL425) during pandemic-affected semesters (Spring 2020, Fall 2020, or Spring 2021) when lab sessions were conducted remotely. The course will cover methods used in the fields of cell and molecular biology with an emphasis on literature analysis, experimental design, data analysis, and communication of results. This course will only satisfy the BIOL major requirement for “two additional lab courses at the 200, 300, or 400 level”. It will not satisfy any BCMB major requirements. 3 hours of lecture and 3 hours of lab/week. Pre-requisite is BIOL216.

BIOL 416 Population Genetics w/Lab
This is a course on advanced genetics in the genomics age. Whole genome sequences are accumulating at an increasingly rapid pace. Our current challenge is to uncover meaning in the hundreds of billions of base pairs that are now available. The fields of study that strive to make sense of all this variation are population and quantitative genetics. In this course, we will survey topics in population genetics, the study of frequencies of alleles in populations, and quantitative genetics, the study of continuously varying traits, with the goal of developing a deeper understanding of the connection between genotypes and phenotypes. This course will integrate lectures, in-class discussions, and wet and dry (computational) labs to provide a comprehensive perspective on population and quantitative genetics. Three hours classroom and three hours laboratory a week. Prerequisite: 215 or 216.

BCMB 560 Stu/Faculty Collaborative Rsch
Student/Faculty Collaborative Research allows a student to conduct original research in close partnership with faculty collaborator(s). The project should be designed as an investigation yielding novel results that contribute to the area of study. With the faculty collaborator(s), students will develop the project and participate in all aspects fo the reasearch. It is expected that the faculty member will work closely with the student for at least half of the time the student is pursuing the research. The final project must be presented to the faculty collaborator(s) no later than one week prior to the end of the evaluation period. The course will typically earn one half or one full course credit per semester.

BIOL 560 Stu/Faculty Collaborative Rsch