Dr. Susan Perkins
is a curator and professor at the American Museum of Natural History and an adjunct Professor at the CUNY Graduate Center in the EEB (Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior) subprogram of the Biology PhD program. Her research centers on several aspects of microbial symbioses. She has been working on studies of the diversity of the malaria parasites (Haemosporida) that use vertebrates other than humans as their hosts. These animals include lizards, birds, turtles, bats and ungulates. Her work involves field collections of new specimens and characterization of the parasites using both morphological and molecular methods. Dr. Perkins has conducted the most comprehensive systematic studies of the relationships of this group. In addition to work on the malaria parasites, Dr. Perkins and her students (four of which have been CUNY students) have also studied other parasite systems, including trypanosomes and canine heartworm and the interactions of parasites and host microbiomes and immune systems. She served as the President of the American Society of Parasitologists from 2017-2018.
Dr. Perkins is a native of northern New York State and a graduate of SUNY Potsdam (B.A., 1993) and the University of Vermont (Ph.D., 2000). She had two consecutive postdoctoral fellowships at the AMNH, one a Roosevelt Fellowship and one an NSF Bioinformatics Fellowship. She was an Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado in Boulder from 2001-2004 and then returned to the AMNH in 2004 as a curator. From 2010-2011, she was a Program Officer at the National Science Foundation in the Division of Environmental Biology.
Dr. Perkins has taught several courses in the Museum’s Richard Gilder Graduate School, including Evolution, Applied Phylogenetics, and even a course dedicated just to the biology of Anolis lizards. Several CUNY EEB students have been part of these classes and in addition to the four CUNY students that she has worked with, she has also served on the committees of five other CUNY Ph.D. students and is in her third term on the EEB Subcommittee.
Being at the Museum has also allowed Dr. Perkins to engage in several outreach activities to bring the world of microbiology to diverse audiences. She was the co-curator of the exhibit “The Secret World Inside You,” which highlighted the human microbiome and its impact on our health. She and Dr. Rob Desalle published a popular book on the topic as well, published by Yale Press. An avid lover of tabletop gaming, Dr. Perkins also was part of a team that created a card game called “Gutsy,” that pitted players against each other to develop the most diverse gut microbiomes that they could and a smart-phone video game that used augmented reality to bring alive the hidden microbial worlds inside the Museum’s exhibits.
Finally, Dr. Perkins is also an advocate for enhancing diversity in science. She founded the chapter of the Association for Women in Science at the AMNH, spoke at the 2018 “March for Science NYC,” and will serve as an “EvoAlly” at this year’s Evolution meeting. She also runs the “Early Career Reviewer Database,” which serves as a resource for journal editors to identify the talented scientists emerging as graduate students, postdocs and early career scientists to serve as reviewers.
To find out more, see Dr. Perkins’ website http://www.susanperkins.net
, or follow her on Twitter @NYCuratrix
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