Michael Burns

After receiving his Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the University of Minnesota in August of 2013, Michael joined the HHMI science education program as a post-doctoral fellow. 

Michael’s graduate work, in Reuben Harris’ lab, focused on the mutagenic potential of the APOBEC family of DNA cytidine deaminases in human cancer. He discovered that APOBEC3B is contributing to the evolution of several different human cancers, ranging from breast to uterine. As part of his research, Michael utilized data from The Cancer Genome Atlas, an endeavor that fostered an enthusiasm for performing bioinformatic analysis of large datasets.

As well as performing basic science research in graduate school, Michael was able to participate in the Preparing Future Faculty Program, take advantage of the numerous pedagogical seminars and workshops offered through the Center for Teaching and Learning, and complete the National Academies NorthStar Summer Institute for Undergraduate Science Education in 2013. Each of these experiences highlighted for him how important it is to apply the same scientific principles of evidence-based inquiry used in biological research to education. 

Following graduation, Michael obtained a position as an HHMI post-doctoral fellow where he is working in Ran Blekhman’s lab studying the interactions between the human microbiome and cancer, a primarily bioinformatic project. This position is a perfect fit as it will allow Michael to continue to work in a cutting-edge research field while also, as part of a pilot section of BIOL2004, bring in undergraduate students to participate in formulating and answering their own research questions. 

In collaboration with Jane Phillips, Michael also teaches BIOL3700, The Nature of Science and Research, a course that is designed to make it easy for CBS transfer students to participate in undergraduate research at the U of M. As Michael was also a transfer student as an undergraduate, he is well-suited to instruct this course.

Following his post-doctoral work as a researcher and instructor, Michael will pursue a career as academic faculty member with joint research and teaching responsibilities.