Interviews with current/past Watkins Fellows:

J. Alan Goggins | Watkins Fellow 2014-2017

JAGoggins600J. Alan Goggins is originally from North Carolina. He received his bachelors of science in Environmental Public Health from Western Carolina University in 2010. After graduation he enrolled directly in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, where he is studying the host adaptive immune response against Salmonella. He is scheduled to complete his doctoral degree by the end of 2016 and upon graduation he plans on obtaining a postdoctoral position at a government based research institution.

What is the most valuable aspect of the Watkins Fellowship?
Receiving the Watkins Graduate Research Fellowship has had a tremendous impact on my graduate career. I've had the opportunity to meet amazing scientists at all career levels. I've made lasting connections with both my peers and prospective employers alike. I've learned about scientific career opportunities I would have never known about otherwise. Having the Watkins Graduate Research Fellowship on my CV helps designate me from my peers when applying for competitive awards and has helped me obtain several other prestigious research and career development opportunities. This award is about so much more than the financial support, its about reaching your true potential as a research scientist by connecting with and learning from the brightest minds in Microbiology.

Jordan Mar | Watkins Fellow 2012-2015

Jordan Mar received his B.S. in microbiology at UC Davis. Following his undergrad, Mar spent two years as a research associate for Adam Arkin at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory where he studied the biology of ethanol producing bacteria in the context of biofuel production. Currently, he is wrapping up his Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences at UCSF. Mar's thesis research is being conduct under the guidance of ASM member, Susan Lynch and focuses on the connection between the gastrointestinal microbiome and host immune regulation. He hopes to pursue a research career in industry investigating medically relevant topics. 

What would you say to those considering applying for the Fellowship?
DO IT!! The ASM Fellowship is a great opportunity! Attending the ASM general meeting every year not only helps you grow as a scientist through exposure to all types of research, but it also is a great venue for career development. ASM is really pushing a lot of new career development programs that alternative fellowships simply don't offer. Plus, the education board at ASM is really proactive. They listen to the needs of graduate students and really try to help them succeed in any way they can. 

What is the most valuable aspect of the Watkins Fellowship? Attending the ASM general meeting. As a fellow, you get access to all types of additional programs... particular ones related to career development.

Sophonie Jean | Watkins Fellow 2011-2014

JeanSophonie Jean received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology from the University of Richmond. She is receiving her PhD from Virginia Commonwealth University Department of Biology, Integrative Life Sciences Program where she studies outer-membrane transporters in Neisseria gonorrhoeae and their role in nutrient acquisition and virulence. Jean is very much interested in the intersection of microbiology research and public health and hopes to pursue a career either in clinical/diagnostic microbiology or surveillance/management of disease outbreaks.

What would you say to those considering applying for the Fellowship?
I would definitely encourage students to apply for the Fellowship! There really is nothing to lose and everything to gain. Even if you are not awarded the fellowship on your first try, the experience of completing the application process will only make you more competitive for future application cycles.

What is the most valuable aspect of the Watkins Fellowship?
In addition to the considerable financial support, I have found the most valuable aspect of the Watkins Fellowship to be the incredible access to the ASM Education and Post-doctoral Committee network. Watkins fellows have the opportunity to meet with renowned scientists in smaller gatherings at the General Meeting and at workshops like the Kadner Institute and Scientific Writing and Publishing Institute.

If you are a past Watkins Fellow and would like to be interviewed, please contact Leah Gibbons ( 

Excerpts from articles about ASM Watkins Fellows:

Ruth Kabeche Awarded ASM Robert D. Watkins Graduate Research Fellowship

"The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) has selected Geisel School of Medicine graduate student Ruth Kabeche as a 2014-2017-award recipient of the ASM Robert D. Watkins Graduate Research Fellowship. Kabeche will receive up to $21,000 in an annual stipend for three years to continue her research on the role of membrane compartments in fungal biology.

“This award is very well deserved. It recognizes Ruth’s past accomplishments and future potential,” says James Moseley, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry at the Geisel School of Medicine and Kabeche’s mentor. “She has tackled a very basic problem in cell biology: how are compartments inside the cell made, and what are their functions? As a graduate student at Geisel, she has characterized the formation and function of a previously mysterious compartment in fungal cells. The work has major implications for understanding how cells work, and may someday be applied to therapies that target fungal infections.”"

UT grad student Veronica Garcia awarded microbiology fellowship

"Veronica Garcia, a student at The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston, has been awarded a Robert D. Watkins Graduate Research Fellowship from the American Society for Microbiology. Each fellow is awarded up to a $21,000 annual stipend for three years.

Garcia is using the fellowship to research the underlying causes of Alzheimer's disease and other disorders. Alzheimer's disease affects as many as 5 million Americans age 65 and older.

Her research is focused on molecular machines that protect cellular proteins, which if folded incorrectly can lead to disease. "We're looking at a quality control mechanism that is supposed to prevent these problems from occurring," said Garcia, who is pursuing a doctoral degree in microbiology."

Elyse E. Munoz Receives the ASM Robert D. Watkins Graduate Research Fellowship

"Elyse E. Munoz, a Ph.D. genetics graduate student in the laboratory of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology faculty member, Scott Lindner, was named a 2014-2017 recipient of a Robert D. Watkins Graduate Research Fellowship.

Munoz will receive a stipend over the next three years to conduct research and will have the opportunity to present her research results at the annual ASM General Meeting. Her research, entitled, “Identification of Puf2-storage granule components that preserve Plasmodium sporozoite infectivity" focuses on understanding the role of RNA-binding proteins in preserving infectivity of Plasmodium, the parasites that cause malaria. Munoz explained, “Puf2 is one such RNA-binding protein that binds specific mRNAs to preserve infectivity of sporozoites, which is the form of the parasite that is transmitted from the salivary glands of mosquitoes. This is an important point for these parasites, as they are unable to predict the moment of transmission to a host. Therefore, the parasites must maintain their infectivity for an extended period of time, which they accomplish by modulating RNA homeostasis through the action of RNA-binding proteins. Further, Puf2 forms what appears to be storage complexes in sporozoites; however, the composition of these complexes is still unknown.”"

Comments from past Watkins Fellows:

"This is an extremely valuable program that enriches the Graduate training experience. It allows freedom to explore new research avenues through experimentation as well as travel and presentation/networking opportunities at National conferences for the candidates."

"Being a Watkins Fellow has been by far the most important career building opportunity I've had as a graduate student. I've been able to meet and network with current and former fellows across the country, had the opportunity to participate in the Kadner Institute, and volunteer at ABRCMS. The staff at ASM has been more than helpful with anything I've ever needed. It sounds cliche, but I feel like I've become a member of the ASM family by being a Watkins Fellow. Thank you."

"The ASM Educational Board does an excellent job of supporting, mentoring, and preparing young scientists. This has been my longest lasting and most profitable association. Thank you very much for all the wonderful programs you offer."

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