Shannon Hinsa-Leasure

  • O'Toole Lab '04

  • Professor of Biology, Grinnell College

Hello, I'm Shannon Hinsa-Leasure and currently I am Professor and Chair of Biology at Grinnell College. I completed my PhD in Microbiology and Immunology and MCB in the fall of 2004 under the guidance of George O'Toole. My time in the O'Toole lab trained me to be an independent thinker and a critical reader and writer, skills I work to instill in undergraduates today. Many of my students at Grinnell head off to graduate school and I tell them the most important thing to look for is a supportive mentor, and I tell them how mine let me follow my dreams and spend a month doing Mars simulation work north of the Arctic Circle. Outside of my lab, what I remember most are the people who supported me through the challenges of graduate school and beyond. The camaraderie we built in lab extended to mountain hikes and lake side bonfires. That network of friends continues to be a support system for me today. After leaving the O'Toole lab, I headed to Michigan State as a NASA Astrobiology postdoctoral fellow with Jim Tiedje. Once again, I landed in a tremendous lab with an advisor who helped me navigate my way to Grinnell College and helped me develop a reasonable work/life balance as a new parent. I always knew I wanted to end up in a place that valued teaching and I have been teaching and conducting research with undergraduates for the last 14 years at Grinnell College. Papers don't come as quickly here, but I have involved over 50 students in my research, many of them ending up on publications. Here, I have the flexibility to adapt my research focus so that I continue to challenge myself and learn new skills. We have worked on biofilm formation by Psychrobacter arcticus, to implementing and testing copper alloys to reduce the bacterial burdens around hospital patients, to antibiotic resistance at hog CAFOS, and a new project on Listeria. Although I still miss the mountains, the support for research and quality of students are hard to beat.

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