Class Notes

Part of the motivation for launching the annual Plant & Microbial Biology newsletter is to bring our community together. We hope you will enjoy reading the notes from these PMB alumni and students, and even consider making a new connection with the contact information listed in each entry. To submit your update for a future issue of the newsletter, please use this form

Muz Ahmad (BS ’22)

Ahmad will be starting medical school this August at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine in Michigan and is excited to apply the knowledge and skills he learned as a Microbial Biology major to medicine. He is happy to share any resources or guidance with pre-med Bears who hope to matriculate into an MD program in the future.

Alexa Gomberg (BS ’20)

Gomberg just wrapped up her second year in MIT's Microbiology program and is excited to continue her research. She works in the lab of Professor Alan Grossman on mobile genetic elements in Bacillus subtilis. Outside of the lab, she runs the MIT Microbiome Club and participates on the club gymnastics team. 

Aaron Gronstal (BS ’02)

Gronstal began working at the Astrobiology Integration Office at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA, prior to graduating in 2002. While at NASA, he earned an MSc in Space Science from the International Space University in France and a PhD in Geomicrobiology and Astrobiology from the Planetary and Space Science Research Institute in the United Kingdom. As the field of astrobiology grew at NASA, Gronstal transitioned to the NASA Astrobiology Program Office at NASA Headquarters. Alongside his scientific role, he participates in communications and policy development for the program. He is the author and artist of the NASA Astrobiology Graphic History series, a series of graphic novels that tells the story of NASA's search for life in the Universe.

Zachary Henning (BS ’20)

After graduating, Henning entered the synthetic biology industry working for Zymergen. He is currently a PhD student in Dornsife College at USC, pursuing research in Microbial Metabolism and Ecology.

David Lowry (BS ’01)

Contact: LinkedIn or
Lowry is an Associate Professor of Plant Biology and Associate Director of the Plant Resilience Institute at Michigan State University. The overarching objective of his current research program is to answer fundamental questions regarding the evolution of adaptations to environmental stresses in plants. In turn, his work aims to leverage our understanding of evolutionary adaptations to improve crop species to meet 21st-century challenges, especially global climate change. To accomplish these objectives, Lowry’s research combines genetics/genomics, physiology, developmental biology, evolutionary ecology, and climate modeling. 

Dylan McClung (PhD ’22)

Contact: LinkedIn
Last September, McClung started a new job as a science communications consultant at Gryphon Scientific, where he works with NIH-funded research consortia studying influenza, vaccine development, viruses with pandemic potential, and other clinical research. He predominantly focuses on outreach to the public. On a personal note, he is marrying his fiancé (Stuart) in 2024. 

Elena Ochoa (BS ’23)

Ochoa currently works as a research assistant at UCSF. She and the research team are studying a respiratory fungal pathogen that causes the disease known as Valley Fever in hopes of finding better treatment options!

Tuesday Simmons (PhD ’20)

Contact: LinkedIn or 
Since graduating, Simmons has worked for 3 different startups—slowly transitioning out of lab work and into marketing. Currently, she is a science writer for Trace Genomics and loves contributing to her favorite aspect of science: communication. The job is fully remote, so she was able to move out of the Bay Area and closer to family on the East Coast. 

Basem Al-Shayeb (PhD ’22)

Contact: LinkedIn or
Al-Shayeb recently co-founded Amber Bio, a biotechnology company pioneering multi-kilobase gene editing platforms to reach previously undruggable diseases. Amber Bio launched in August with an oversubscribed $26 million in seed financing to advance a first-of-its-kind RNA editing platform. By enabling multi-kilobase edits, a single drug can be used to treat diseases with high allelic diversity. This holds great promise for patients who suffer from diseases that arise from diverse mutations.