Join us in welcoming Dr. JL Weissman (they/them or she/her) to Schmid College as an Assistant Professor of Computational Biology! We asked Dr. Weissman a few questions to get to know them!

Q&A with Dr. JL Weissman

Q: Tell us about yourself! Education, career, hobbies, anything. 

A: I’m originally from NY and went to a small college upstate where I majored in math and biology. At various points in my freshman year I planned on majoring in creative writing, photography, and chemistry. I didn’t plan on majoring in math because I didn’t think I was smart enough until a calculus prof really pushed me down that road. I only majored in biology because I had a scholarship for it. But, I fell in love with both fields and I ended up going to grad school with the intention of getting a PhD modeling animal movement and memory in a big ecology lab where we put GPS trackers on all kinds of animals (birds, bats, turtles, wolves, caribou, pandas). While there I started working on a side project modeling CRISPR adaptive immune systems in bacteria, realized this was a great system to ask questions about the evolution of memory, and before I realized it my dissertation was about bacteria. All of the sudden, I was looking at bacterial genomes and taking courses in population genetics and microbial ecology. I went on to win a fellowship to do a postdoc studying marine bacteria at USC. This time I had to learn about oceanography (turns out the ocean isn’t just a big puddle), and I even ended up on a boat once or twice. Now, as I start my lab at Chapman, I’ve started collaborating with people who study the frozen microbial communities in permafrost communities. As our earth warms due to anthropogenic climate change, these microbes are waking up, and we are trying to figure out what this means for the future of our changing climate. So, in summary, it’s ok to not know exactly what you want to do at first and to just follow the most exciting path in front of you. I’m a microbiologist, teaching microbiology this semester, who has never actually taken a general microbiology class.

Q: What are you most excited about with this position? 

A: Showing students that anyone can be a computational biologist, and how easy it is to ask your own questions with publicly-available datasets! Most students come into my lab with no coding experience, and its always awesome to see them gain the confidence to design their own projects over time.

Q: A fun fact! 

A: I like to write articles about my research for the general public too. Check out these articles describing my work written for K-12 students.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with our Schmid College community? 

A: My door is always open to students, staff, and faculty! Stop by my office Keck 154 anytime to chat.


Welcome to Schmid College, Dr. Weissman!