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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.


For the most up-to-date listing of my publications, visit my Google Scholar page or my ORCID page.

Functional Genomics

Hormones and Behavior

Reviews and Commentaries

Educational Materials


In addition to doing research, I really enjoy teaching and mentoring. After undergrad, I was became full-time teaching specialist in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UT Austin for three years. In this role, I supervised over 200 in organic chemistry labs, helping them to learn how to carry our pretty soficiated chemical experiments.

I teach people how to teach (so meta) as part of the Software Carpentry Instructor Training Program. I also helped start the Summer School for Big Data in Biology which provides hands-on training in bioinformatics. The thing I like most about these two programs is that I'm empowering other teachers by giving the new skills and a large audience for sharing their research expertise.

In 2012, Hans Hofmann and I created a new laboratory course called "Integrative Molecular Neuroscience" that we have been teaching every summer at the Marine Biological Laboratories (MBL) in Woods Hole Massachussets. This is a two week course students learn molecular and bioinformatic techniques and then carry out their own discovery-driven experiments in molecular neuroscience. This type of reserach-based education is a very fascinating way to become a better scientist. You can view a poster I made about the reserach-drvien education at MBL here:


I love bringing people together to talk 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

Social Media

I find social media useful for global communication and sharing. It helps me stay in touch with friends and colleagues around the world. You can also check out my Instagram photos to see the nice mix of science, nature, family, friends, yoga, dancing, and adventure in my life.

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