Graduate Students

Hello, I’m Alienor! I grew up on the coastline of southern California, where I fell in love with science and the natural world. For undergraduate, I studied biochemistry and molecular biology in the MCB department at UC Berkeley. During that time, I worked with Dr. Abby Dernburg studying the evolution of meiotic recombination mechanisms in nematodes. After undergrad, I worked as a technician in Dr. Gary Karpen’s lab, where I studied how liquid-liquid phase separation contributes to the organization of heterochromatin in the nucleus. For my graduate work, I wanted to combine my background in cell biology with my love for microbial physiology and evolution. I’m really excited to be a member of the Nayak Lab, where I will be studying the function of histones and other DNA binding proteins in the model archaeon Methanosarcina acetivorans. Outside of the lab, I can usually be found in the ocean, climbing things (mountains, rocks, trees…), or living my best medieval princess life (via making costumes). I’m also continually hunting for mushrooms and the best sour beers in the Bay Area.

Alienor Baskevitch (she/her)

Email: kbaskevitchATberkeley DOTedu

Graduate Student
August 2020-present
Graduate Group in Microbiology


B.S. Molecular and Cell Biology cum laude. University of California, Berkeley; Berkeley, CA.

Hi! I’m Katie. I grew in Los Angeles, CA where I developed a love for nature and all of the science that comes along with it. During my time as an undergrad I explored all kinds of research ranging from environmental science to plant pathology, eventually landing on microbiology. Over the past couple of years, I’ve become fascinated by how evolution and metabolism intersect, resulting in unique strategies that microbes use to adapt to and shape their environment. After graduating in 2019, I spent a year as a technician in the Nayak lab where I fell in love with metabolism and methanogens. I joined Berkeley’s PMB department in Fall 2020 and am super excited to be back here as a grad student! Outside of research, I love thinking about ways we can share science (ask me about BAS!), being outdoors (especially backpacking & climbing!), crafting, and doing the crossword!

Katie Shalvarjian (she/her)

Email: kshalvATberkeleyDOTedu

Graduate Student 
August 2020 – present 
Graduate Group in Microbiology

B.S. Microbiology. University of California, Berkeley; Berkeley, CA

Hello! I’m Sophia, a PhD student in the MCB department here at Berkeley. I am originally from Jenkintown, PA. I did my undergrad at Temple University in north Philly where I worked in the Wengryniuk Lab developing novel oxidation reactions using nitrogen-ligated hypervalent iodine reagents. As I began grad school, my interests shifted away from the synthetic chemistry that we as scientists can do and towards understanding the incredible biochemistry that living organisms have been doing for billions of years. I am incredibly excited to be part of the Nayak Lab where I will be studying the process of methane production in methanogenic archaea. By utilizing an interdisciplinary approach of both genetic and biochemical tools, I will be examining the final enzyme of methanogenesis, Methyl-coenzyme M Reductase (MCR), as well as trying to understand the genes and proteins that interact with and regulate it. Besides being a scientist, I am also an artist and an avid lover of the arts in general. If I’m not in the lab, you will likely find me making handmade jewelry or exploring one of the many thrift and/or craft stores in Berkeley.

Sophia Adler (she/they)

Email: Sophia_adlerATberkeleyDOTedu

Graduate Student
August 2020 – present
Molecular & Cell Biology 

B.S. Biochemistry summa cum laude. Temple University, Honors Program; Philadelphia, PA.

Hi, I’m Blake. Scientist. Choir kid. Hiker. Sour beer aficionado. Jedi (wannabe). A bit about me: I grew up on the gusty, sun-baked plains of Oklahoma, but exchanged that life for a taste of bitter cold, cheese curds, and a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology at the University of Minnesota. During my time in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, I conducted research in Dr. Jeff Gralnick’s lab where I fell in love with microbial metabolism. I came to Berkeley’s PMB Department hoping to study the genetic underpinnings of metabolic pathways, and I am absolutely thrilled to be a graduate student in the Nayak Lab where I get to make that dream come true. My project in the lab focuses on using genetic tools in the model methanogen M. acetivorans to help piece together the physiology of closely related, but as of yet un-isolated, methane-consuming archaea (ANME).

Blake Downing (he/him)

Email: blkdwnngATberkeley DOTedu

Graduate Student
August 2019-present
NIH Genetics Predoctoral Trainee
Graduate Group in Microbiology

B.S. Microbiology cum laude. University of Minnesota; Minneapolis, MN.

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