Meet the Co-Chairs


Erin Roberts, Ph.D. candidate
University of Rhode Island
[email protected]

Hello! I am in my third year as a PhD student at the University of Rhode Island working with Dr. Marta Gomez-Chiarri. My research investigates the genetic basis of mechanisms of innate immunity in the Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica). Specifically, I seek to understand how pathways of apoptosis in the Eastern oyster respond to disease pressure and the role that expanded gene families may play in enhancing the diversity of responses to these pressures. I received her B.S. in Biological Science from the College of William and Mary, where I focused on studying the functional morphology of gill structures in the American shad (Alosa sapidissima). In my career, I hope to apply my knowledge of Eastern oyster genetics and innate immunity toward the fields of shellfish pathology research and aquaculture breeding programs in order to improve the health and sustainability of shellfish as a food source and thereby improve the productivity and livelihood of growers. If your travels ever take you to Rhode Island, be sure to ask me about the best views, food, and surf spots!


Laura Spencer
University of Washington

[email protected]

Greetings!  I am in my second year at the University of Washington in Steven Roberts’ lab as an NSF Fellow, studying the Olympia oyster (Ostrea lurida) and Pacific geoduck (Panopea generosa), both native West Coast species. I am exploring the potential for transgenerational plasticity in the Olympia oyster in the face of environmental stressors, and the proteomic stress signals in geoducks in different habitats. Prior to starting graduate school, I worked with the Puget Sound Restoration Fund in the Ken Chew hatchery to produce Olympia oyster seed for restoration projects, worked as an environmental consultant and program manager, and holds a B.S. in Chemical Oceanography from the UW. I live in Seattle and have a long list of favorite restaurants, coffee shops, breweries, and running routes, so contact me if you’d like help planning your March trip.