About Me

UPDATE: In August 2019, I started as a postdoctoral research associate in the Ecology and Evolution of Disease Systems lab, led by Dr. Dustin Brisson, at the University of Pennsylvania.


I recently defended my PhD in biology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I worked in Charles Mitchell’s lab. My work broadly integrates ecological and evolutionary biology methods to better understand the consequences of within-host microbial interactions on disease. In particular, my graduate research addresses how microbial interactions shape plant parasite growth and replication within individual plants and structures of populations of parasites within multiple plants. I emphasize that an understanding of plastic and genetic responses is critical at two key levels: the parasite individual and the parasite population. I addressed these questions experimentally by studying responses of a focal plant parasite, Rhizoctonia solani, to microbial interactions within its grass host, tall fescue (Schedonorus arundinaceus).

In addition to being a researcher, I am also a dedicated educator and science communicator. In the fall of 2018, I taught an introductory biology course for non-majors at Meredith College, an all-women small liberal arts college in Raleigh, NC; you can view my syllabus here. I was also involved in the organization of a yearly science communication workshop for graduate students, ComSciCon-Triangle.

I am eager to connect with the larger Philadelphia community. If you are interested in disease ecology/evolution, undergraduate STEM education, and/or science communication, please reach out to me here, via email at kokeeffe [at] sas [dot] upenn [dot] edu, or on twitter (handle: @KOKeeffe12). I look forward to hearing from you!

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