Keir got hooked on research after witnessing a video of immune cells on the prowl in transparent zebrafish larvae. This experience motivated him to pursue work as a technician in David Traver's group at UC San Diego using zebrafish to investigate the development and function of vertebrate immune cells.

Bringing microbes into the picture, Keir joined Emily Troemel's lab for his PhD work to study the genetics of infection using a charismatic worm and its co-evolving pathogens. This work forged his interest in pursuing a greater understanding of evolutionary infection biology with common laboratory organisms made more wild by their microbes.

As a postdoc at the University of Utah in Nels Elde's group, Keir designed a new approach for infection surveillance that led him to discover naturally occurring viruses of zebrafish. 

Equipped with a transparent vertebrate and a diverse cast of viruses, the Balla lab is launching from a platform of virus discovery and experimentation to illuminate virus infection biology in toto.

Fitz received his B.S. in Biology from the University of Pittsburgh where he conducted research on the evolutionary development of the bursa copulatrix — a unique organ in some butterflies — and transcriptional regulatory elements in fruit fly pigmentation genes.

While initially planning to become a medical doctor, Fitz came to understand that medicine was too uncompromising for him. He much prefers the speculative nature of research with its emphasis on exploration. But not one to settle for the first thing, Fitz dabbled in other jobs — as a restaurant host, a ghostwriter, a plant-seller, and a manufacturer of probiotics — before ultimately returning to a career in science.

Evolution is at the root of Fitz's interests as he seeks a deep understanding of the mechanisms of change. Everything comes from something — untangling how and why these adaptations occur provides a deeper understanding of our current biology, where we came from, and where we've yet to go.

Deepika double majored in Physics and German Studies at the College of Wooster in Ohio, where her physics research focussed on experimental and theoretical quantum optics, drawing connections between classical and quantum interference. 

After college, she did the Teach for India fellowship in southern India teaching 6th and 7th grade students. She was drawn back to physics, now using optics to probe the workings of living things and started graduate work in Raghuveer Parthasarathy's lab at the University of Oregon and completed her PhD studying biophysical aspects of microbial communities, such as spatial structure, impact their interactions. During this time, she developed a combination of live imaging, computational image analysis, biophysical modeling and deep learning skills.

Outside of physics, Deepika enjoys playing Sitar, gardening and time in nature.

Jennifer became fascinated with viruses after reading the Hot Zone and taking a microbiology class at community college. After a meandering path through philosophy and psychology classes she finally settled into a BS in biochemistry at San Jose State University, where she studied genetic networks governing iron metabolism in methylotrophic bacteria. Her work in bacterial genetics continued at UCSF, where she utilized CRISPR interference to study essential genes in gram positive bacteria. 

It wasn't until graduate school that she managed to make her virology dreams come true. In Karla Kirkegaard's lab at Stanford University she studied genetic interactions in enteroviruses, with a focus on viral proteases. She developed expertise in viral genetic engineering and molecular virology, as well as a deep appreciation for the complexity and inexorability of viral evolution. 

Aside from viruses Jennifer enjoys good books, live music, craft beer, and enthusiastic karaoke.

Jared got his start in research as an undergraduate at Montana State University, where he isolated novel endophytic fungi from plants collected in jungles and rainforests all over the world. He got hooked on viruses during this time after realizing that with their diverse transcription, translation, and replication strategies, viruses are the rulebreakers of the molecular biology world.

With an interest in using virology as a lens to uncover novel aspects of host biology, Jared undertook a PhD in Bryce Falk’s lab at the University of California Davis, where he discovered that virus-derived sequences are widespread in arthropod genomes and may play roles in antiviral immunity. Jared continued his study of host-virus interactions as a postdoc in Carla Saleh’s group at the Institut Pasteur, where he leveraged the tractability of the fruit fly model to understand how viral infection disrupts gut homeostasis and accelerates aging processes.

Outside the lab, you can find Jared climbing up or skiing down mountains, running, or enjoying a good IPA.