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Rayna M. Harris


I am a first generation scientist. Growing up in a small East Texas town, I thought all excellent science students became medial doctors. Since realizing I could be a female academic scientist, I have pursued a career exploring mechanisms that generate biodiversity. Fascinated by tropical ecosystems, I moved to Costa Rica and studied fungi that thrive in coral reefs. While SUCBA diving, I became enthralled with the phenotypic diversity of fish, so I joined Dr. Hans Hofmann's lab to investigate variation in fish behavior. While studying the molecular basis of aggression, I discovered a novel gene product, and this sparked my interest in gene duplication and loss. Further exploration of gene regulation required genetic tools, so I turned to laboratory mice where I could test effects of gene knockouts on learned behaviors, physiology, and gene expression. This research is still underway, but I'm hoping to wrap it up soon and obtain my Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Biology at the end of 2017.

You can view my CV here and my resume here.


For publication details visit my Google Scholar page or my ORCID page.

  1. The one with lesson development rules. Article.
  2. The one with reproducible hippocampal transcriptomics. Article.
  3. The one with body color and social behavior. PDF.
  4. The one with crab neurons and gene expression. PDF.
  5. The one with brain evolution and development. Article.
  6. The one with aromatase and sex changing cichlids. PDF.
  7. The one with vasopressin and space use theory. Link.
  8. The one with wrasse reproductive tactics. PDF.
  9. The one with tilapia response to pheromones. Link.
  10. The one with opsin gene evolution. Link.
  11. The one with the five cichlid genomes. Link.
  12. The one with swordtails, hormones, and body size. PDF.
  13. The one with stressed-out guppies. PDF.
  14. The one with social behavior and genomics. Link.
  15. The one with pro-opiomelanocortin gene evolution. PDF.
  16. The one with monogamy and steroid hormones. PDF.
  17. The one with monogamy and peptides. PDF.


I really enjoy teaching and mentoring. Some teaching highlights including teaching undergraduate organic chemistry laboratory skills, teaching Software Carpentry Instructor Training, and teaching molecular neuroscience during the summer at the Marine Biological Laboratories (MBL) in Woods Hole Massachussets.

Some of my teaching materials are published and freely available under a Creative Commons license.


I enjoy bringing people together to talk about science, especially when I see that these interactions foster new relationships and projects. The Software Carpentry (SWC) and Data Carpentry organizations bring together people from all over the world, from all different disciplines, to talk about challenges and opportunities for today's researchers. It's an honor to be on the SWC Steering Committee, where I have the chance to learn about community needs and implement new programs to meet those needs. Working with the The Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, I have many opportunities to organize networking events, yearly symposia, and training opportunities for researchers using computational approaches to solve biological problems.


I have written a handful of guest blog posts for PLOS Neuroscience, BEACON, and Software Carpentry on topics related to academic research, education, and mentoring. All of these blogs can be found here on Medium.

Rayna M Harris

Hablando en español

Para aprender español, tomé algunos cursos en la escuela y un curso intensivo en el Ecuador. En 2008 fui a Costa Rica hacer la investigación científica en el Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad. Allí, trabajé en el campo y el laboratorio. Todos los meses, fui con dos compañeros de trabajo en el Caribe o del Pacífico para bucear y recoger muestras de sedimento. Luego regresamos al laboratorio para crecer y examinar la micro-hongos que viven en el sedimento. Aprendí mucho y tenía una experiencia increíble. Al año siguiente, cuando volví a Austin, enseñé clases de español a los niños en la escuela primaria. De vez en cuando, traduzco documentos del Inglés al español o viceversa y chat en español con amigos a través de cervezas o copas de vino.

Contact Information

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