We’re taking time to get to know the members of the GSA’s Early Career Scientist Committees. Join us to learn more about our early career scientist advocates.

Sarah Gilmour
Multimedia Subcommittee
Stowers Institute for Medical Research

Research Interest

Questions of evolution have always fascinated me. I am extremely fortunate to be starting out my research career in a time where technological advances are illuminating the intricacies of rapidly evolving, highly repetitive regions of the genome.  Long-read sequencing and other genomic techniques have revealed that centromeres —regions of the chromosome where spindles attach during cell division— are remarkably variable among closely related individuals across many species. Given that centromeres predominantly consist of highly repetitive sequences, a key driver of this variability is the copy number variation within these repetitive arrays. My research delves into both the evolutionary underpinnings of this copy number variation and its consequential functional impacts.

In pursuit of these questions, I focus on the model organism Schizosaccharomyces pombe, a highly tractable fission yeast. Similar to many mammalian systems, S. pombe has a centromere array composed of highly repetitive sequences that vary in copy number between individuals. I am investigating how copy number variation influences diverse aspects of centromere function, including mitotic and meiotic cell division, chromosome segregation fidelity, suppression of meiotic recombination, and establishment of heterochromatin. I am pursuing these questions as a PhD student at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research. I am fortunate to be co-mentored by Dr. Sarah Zanders, an authority in S. pombe evolution and meiosis, and Dr. Jennifer Gerton, an expert in centromere biology.

As a PhD-trained scientist, you have many career options. What interests you the most?

Ever since high school, I have been fascinated with biology and genetics. However, the concept of a “scientist” as a viable career path was initially foreign to me. It was during my undergraduate studies that I was introduced to academic research, igniting my passion for the spirit of exploration and curiosity that propels scientific inquiry. These early research experiences solidified my aspiration to pursue a PhD and a future career in research. Beyond my current pursuits, I plan to explore postdoctoral fellowship opportunities upon completing my PhD, with the ultimate aim of establishing myself as an independent investigator dedicated to unraveling the mysteries of evolution and genome organization.

In addition to your research, how do you want to advance the scientific enterprise?

Beyond my scientific training, I have experience as a student journalist and worked for my undergraduate institution’s student news outlet for four years. Although the connection between science and journalism may not be obvious to many, I see my experience in journalism as an essential part of my scientific training, as it honed my ability to convey important information in a concise and approachable manner.

The challenge of communicating both the nuanced details and broader implications of research is pervasive across the scientific community, often hampering effective cross-disciplinary dialogue. I am heartened by the ongoing shift in the scientific community towards accessible and engaging scientific communication. I am committed to contributing towards this shift by presenting my research with utmost clarity. Moreover, I am to contribute novel tools and avenues that empower my fellow scientists to communicate more effectively and inclusively.

As a leader within the Genetics Society of America, what do you hope to accomplish?

My role in the multimedia subcommittee will directly support my goal of improving the culture of science communication. While traditional avenues of communication like posters, talks, and journal papers remain vital, the modern era offers an array of creative channels for disseminating knowledge in engaging and accessible formats. In the multimedia subcommittee, I will collaborate with my peers in the ECLP program and the GSA staff to share interesting research in a variety of formats including podcasts, social media, and livestreams. These multimedia initiatives not only enrich the scientific discourse but also propel the scientific community toward embracing innovative and interactive modes of communication.

In addition to the projects I will complete with my subcommittee, the ECLP program provides a valuable platform to foster connections and networks amongst early career scientists. I hope that my participation in the ECLP will help me to build and maintain a robust network of professional and personal support. A career in science can be difficult and isolating at times so I am a firm believer that the more support you can get, both inside and outside your institution, the better.

Previous leadership experience

  • Predoctoral Research Council Chair, Graduate School of the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, 2023-

  • Admissions Committee Predoctoral Representative, Graduate School of the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, 2021-

  • Tri Beta Biological Honors Society Chapter Vice President, Hendrix College, 2017-2019

  • Digital Editor-In-Chief, Hendrix College Student Newspaper, 2016-2019

Graduate student and postdoctoral leaders from the Early Career Scientist Committees of the GSA.

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