Profiles of Women Working In STEM

Karmella Haynes

Biological Engineer

Karmella Haynes, Ph.D. is making waves in biological engineering by using a cutting-edge research approach called synthetic biology to break down barriers to understanding how human chromosomes work. She is currently a Principle Investigator (PI) who is leading her own research team at a tissue culture and DNA engineering laboratory that she launched at Arizona State University in 2011.

Before becoming an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at ASU, Dr. Haynes earned her Bachelor’s degree in Biology at Florida A&M University and visited MIT during the summer to learn Drosophila (fruit fly) genetics and DNA engineering techniques from Dr. Mary-Lou Pardue. She returned to her hometown, St. Louis, MO, and earned her Ph.D. studying Drosophila epigenetics, chromsome structure, and function at Washington University in the lab of Dr. Sarah Elgin.

She became inspired to merge traditional epigenetics research with the emerging field of synthetic biology as a postdoctoral fellow, first at Davidson College in the synthetic biology lab of Dr. Malcolm Campbell, and then at Harvard Medical School in the systems biology lab of Dr. Pamela Silver. Today, her research aims to identify how the intrinsic properties of chromatin, the DNA-protein structure that packages human genes, can be used to understand and control cancer and cell development.

Dr. Haynes’ research has been recognized bay many honors including “Publication of the Year” in 2008 by the Journal of Biological Engineering for her work on bacterial DNA-based computing, an Early Stage Investigator grant from the Arizona Department of Health, an NIH Young Faculty grant (K01), and being named a “Scientist to Watch” by The Scientist Magazine in 2013. She also is a two-time featured guest on PRI’s Science Friday.

Today, Dr. Haynes serves leadership roles in major national and international synthetic biology organizations. She is currently a Councilor of the Engineering Biology Research Consortium (EBRC), and Advisor and Judge Emeritus for the International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) competition.

Read more about Dr. Haynes on the Ella Project.

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