Dan Pollard , PhD
Associate Professor · He/They
I’ve always been deeply curious about how organisms work and how the diversity of organisms came to be. My childhood involved endless hours observing tent moth caterpillars build their homes and metamorphose, cicadas molt and battle wasps, and frog eggs develop into tadpoles and then frogs.
Despite my love of biology, it took me a long time to realize I wanted to be a biologist and even longer to feel like I actually identified as a biologist. In high school my attention gravitated towards history, music, and math. In college I was on a mission to save the world from injustice, war, and environmental disaster while also trying to become an indie-rock star and a mathematician. My environmental studies degree required some biology and after I completed my requirements, I kept saying to myself that I wasn’t going to do a biology degree but I’d just take one more biology class. After graduating with a major in math and a minor in biology, my career aspirations had been narrowed down to musician and/or biologist. I landed a research assistant position working on the genetics of cell signaling pathways at Harvard Medical School and my band was busy recording and touring. At some point it became clear that I could be a biologist who had a serious music hobby but not the other way around.
Knowing I wanted to be a biologist didn’t mean I felt like I was a biologist. When I started my PhD in Biophysics, I was pretty sure someone was going to notice that I wasn’t a real biologist and tell me to leave. To avoid the embarrassment, I was strongly considering making a quiet exit. Before I ducked out, I managed to find inspiring mentors and colleagues who believed in me and made working on complex research problems fun and accessible. Their support gave me the confidence to start taking the lead on projects, give talks at conferences, publish papers, and eventually come to see myself as a biologist.
As a faculty member I now have the awesome responsibility of mentoring students in my classes, research lab, and our degree programs. My goal is to make these experiences as inclusive, meaningful, and rewarding as possible so that each person I work with can see themselves as what they want to be.
Outside of being a professor, I love spending time with my wife and son, running the trails, rock climbing in the gym and occasionally at the crag, and playing music.
We study the causes of cellular trait variation. Our primary system is mating pheromone induced cell differentiation in budding yeasts (i.e. baker’s yeast). We use a broad array of techniques from genome editing to fluorescence microscopy to computer modeling. Much of our work focuses on RNA and protein metabolism. Current student projects include:
- Molecular mechanisms of natural variation in protein production and degradation
- Genomic analysis of RNA interference pathway proteins
- Inhibition of CRISPR Cas-9 by nucleosomes
- Molecular interactions between replicative aging and mating efficiency
- Diversity and substrate specialization of yeast species in Whatcom county (outreach project w/ local middle schools)
Current Lab Members
- Benjamin Haagen, Graduate Researcher (Projects: Estimation of protein expression heritability; Genetic mapping of protein expression modifiers)
- Sam Herr, Undergraduate Researcher (Projects: Estimating protein production and degradation rate variation using mass-action models; Cell segmentation optimization; Identification of candidate genes in protein expression QTL)
- Maggie Barry, Post-Bac Researcher (Projects: Genetic mapping of protein expression modifiers; Impact of polymorphic codon bias and mRNA folding strength on translation rate; Inhibition of CRISPR Cas-9 by nucleosomes)
- Nadine Tietz, Undergraduate Researcher (Projects: Genetic mapping of protein expression modifiers; Impact of polymorphic codon bias and mRNA folding strength on translation rate; Inhibition of CRISPR Cas-9 by nucleosomes)
- Jasmine Chen, Undergraduate Researcher (Project: Genetic mapping of protein expression modifiers; Impact of replicative aging on mating pheromone response)
- Trinity Wilson, Undergraduate Researcher (Project: Genetic mapping of protein expression modifiers; Impact of replicative aging on mating pheromone response)
- Tara Wirsching, Graduate Researcher (Project: Genetic mapping of local cis-acting protein expression modifiers)
- Katie Lane, Undergraduate Researcher (Project: Characterization of gene expression divergence from RNAseq and mass spec data)
- Aidan Corbin, Undergraduate Researcher (Project: TBD)
Former Lab Members
- Erik Ehlers (currently Research Associate at Allen Institute)
- Amy Williams (currently Technician at Foundation Plant Sciences)
- Krista Miller (currently Research Assistant in Stone Doggett's lab at the Portland VA Research Foundation)
- Becca Yarbrough (currently BS student at Western Washington University)
- Tanner Thuet-Davenport (currently MS student at Central Washington University)
- Gaea Turman (currently Research Assistant in Roger Brent's lab at Fred Hutch)
- Anastacia Wienecke (currently PhD student in Alain Laederach's lab at University of North Carolina)
- Garrett Strawn (currently MS student in Thibault Mayor's lab at University of British Columbia)
- Chayse Jones (currently Research Associate in Carolyn Calfee's lab at University of California San Francisco)
- Tiara Johnson (currently Mentor at WWU Campus Christian Fellowship)
- Brian Miller (currently MS student at Denver University)
- Halley Steiner (currently PhD Student in Deborah Wuttke's lab at UC Boulder)
- Yuli Buckley (currently PhD Student in Jason Mears' lab at Case Western Reserve University)
- Shelby Duffy (currently MA Student at Western Governors University)
- Ciara Asamoto (currently PhD Student in Sebastian Kopf's lab at UC Boulder)
- Emma Ciechanowski (currently Research Assistant at Seattle Genetics)
- Austin Abendroth (currently Field Instructor for Second Natural Wilderness Family Therapy)
- Homa Rahnamoun (currently Postdoc Researcher in Scott Armstrong's lab at Dana Farber Cancer Institute)
- Daniel Cohen (currently Associate Partner at McKinsey & Company)
- Genny Gould (currently Senior Manager of Computational Biology at Myriad Women's Health)
Please consider joining our research team. We are currently recruiting undergraduate and masters graduate students.
- WWU undergraduates seeking research experience who have at least one year until graduation are encouraged to apply via email with a brief description of interests and a transcript copy.
- Masters program applications are officially due February 1st. Our master's program involves both course work and a research thesis project. With very few exceptions, master's students receive teaching assistantships for three out of four quarters per year, which covers tuition and provides a stipend. If you are considering applying to our master's program and are potentially interested in doing your research thesis with me and my lab, please get in touch via email introducing yourself. Even if I am not your top choice for thesis advisor, I strongly recommend getting in touch so that I can make sure your application gets proper consideration. Follow these links for information about the Masters in Biology and the Application.
Educational & Professional Experience
University of California, Berkeley 2001-2007 Ph.D in Biophysics with a designated emphasis in Computational & Genomic Biology. Mentored by Michael B. Eisen and committee members Montgomery Slatkin & Ian Holmes. Areas of specialization: Bioinformatics, Evolutionary Genetics, & Developmental Biology
Selected Awards & Honors
Suzanne R. Lee, Daniel A. Pollard, Domenico F. Galati, Megan L. Kelly, Brian Miller, Christina Mong, Megan N. Morris, Kerry Roberts-Nygren, Geoffrey M. Kapler, Matthew Zinkgraf, Hung Q. Dang, Erica Branham, Jason Sasser, Erin Tessier, Courtney Yoshiyama, Maya Matsumoto, and Gaea Turman (2021). Disruption of a ∼23–24 nucleotide small RNA pathway elevates DNA damage responses in Tetrahymena thermophila. Molecular Biology of the Cell, 30(15), 1059-1524.
Kuo, S., Egertson, J., Merrihew, G., MacCoss, M., Pollard, D., & Rifkin, S. A. (2019). A simple mass-action model predicts protein timecourses from mRNA trajectories during a dynamic response in two strains of S. cerevisiae. bioRxiv, 805846.
Pollard DA, Asamoto C, Rahnamoun H, Abendroth A, Lee SR, Rifkin SA (2016). Natural Genetic Variation Modifies Gene Expression Dynamics at the Protein Level During Pheromone Response in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. BioRxiv.org.
Li XY, MacArthur S, Bourgon R, Nix D, Pollard DA, Iyer VN, Hechmer A, Simirenko L, Stapleton M, Luengo Hendriks CL, Chu HC, Ogawa N, Inwood W, Sementchenko V, Beaton A, Weiszmann R, Celniker SE, Knowles DW, Gingeras T, Speed TP, Eisen MB, Biggin MD (2008). Transcription factors bind thousands of active and inactive regions in the Drosophila blastoderm. PLoS Biol. 2008 Feb;6(2):e27.
Clark AG, Eisen MB, Smith DR, Bergman CM, Oliver B, Markow TA, Kaufman TC, Kellis M, Gelbart W, Iyer VN, Pollard DA, Sackton TB, Larracuente AM, Singh ND, Drosophila 12 Genomes Consortium (2007). Evolution of genes and genomes on the Drosophila phylogeny. Nature, 2007. 450(7167):203-18.
Pollard DA, Moses AM, Iyer VN, Eisen MB (2006). Detecting the Limits of Regulatory Element Conservation and Divergence Estimation Using Pairwise and Multiple Alignments. BMC Bioinformatics, 2006. 7:376.