Emery Longan

Graduate Student, The Fay Lab

You work in a laboratory.  What are you currently researching?

I am currently studying evolutionary constraint in the microbes present in vineyards. For thousands of years, humans have been using the fermentative capacity of Saccharomyces cerevisiae (brewer’s yeast) to produce wine and other alcoholic beverages. Through time, many strains of S. cerevisiae have adapted to a vineyard lifestyle. However, in general S. paradoxus (the sister species of S. cerevisiae) does not display similar vineyard-specific adaptations. I use techniques including mutagenesis and experimental evolution to investigate this discrepancy.

What was it that originally sparked your interest in biology?

I distinctly remember the day I was taught Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium in AP Biology. Understanding and explaining evolution with the aid of population genetics really resonated with me. However, my undergraduate genetics course gave me the final push necessary for me to choose to fully pursue biology. 

What’s the most important thing that you’ve learned working here and/or studying biology?

I would say the most important thing I have learned studying biology is that your own research progress depends not only on careful thought about your experiments, but also making yourself as well-read in your field as possible.

How do you think our biology department stands out in comparison to other universities?

I think that our department has a wide range of very interesting research topics. I feel that being a department that tackles diverse questions in a variety of organisms is a great strength here at the University of Rochester.

How do you unwind when you’re not in the lab?

I have been competing in powerlifting for nearly four years. Powerlifting is a sport that requires participants to lift the heaviest weights they possibly can. It might seem odd as a means of unwinding, but in training for these competitions I am able to have a constructive hobby outside of research.