Mark is a first-year PhD student in the Allen lab studying diatom physiology. He earned his BS in biomedical engineering from Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts in 2011. After graduating, he stayed in Boston and started a research assistant position in George Church’s lab for synthetic biology and genetic engineering at Harvard Medical School. Mark’s research focused on development and optimization of the CRISPR/Cas gene editing tool in mammalian cells including induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). He then moved to San Diego in 2014 to pursue his PhD in marine biology at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Research Interests:

  • Development and optimization of CRISPR/Cas gene editing in diatoms
  • Nitrogen Metabolism in pelagic phytoplankton
  • Transposon activity in response to environmental stress in phytoplankton
  • Synthetic biology

Mark is also interested in the speciation of phytoplankton. Transposable elements are mobile genetic elements that are reactive to environmental stress and are proposed to be involved in genome expansion and species adaptation. By using molecular manipulation techniques, he wants to investigate the relationship between DNA methylation, transposable elements, and environmental stress as they apply to marine diatoms.

Mark is interested in developing molecular tools in marine diatoms, specifically the CRISPR/Cas genetic engineering technology. He currently focuses on using CRISPR/Cas to knock-out genes involved in nitrogen metabolism in the model pennate diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum and he hopes to apply this method to other model pelagic diatoms such as T. pseudonana and T. oceanica.

Selected Publications:

Mali, P., Aach, J., Stranges, P. B., Esvelt, K. M., Moosburner, M., Kosuri, S., Church, G. M. (2013). CAS9 transcriptional activators for target specificity screening and paired nickases for cooperative genome engineering. Nature Biotechnology31(9), 10.1038/nbt.2675. doi:10.1038/nbt.2675

Esvelt, K. M., Mali, P., Braff, J. L., Moosburner, M., Yaung, S. J., & Church, G. M. (2013). Orthogonal Cas9 Proteins for RNA-Guided Gene Regulation and Editing. Nature Methods10(11), 10.1038/nmeth.2681. doi:10.1038/nmeth.2681