Katherine Petrie



As an assistant teaching professor, I bring bioinformatics and genomics—key tools for doing biology in the 21st century—into the undergraduate curriculum at UC San Diego. I am interested in how enabling students to use this technology impacts their learning and careers. In my teaching efforts, I use proven active learning strategies to maximize student engagement. I am interested in developing new teaching strategies for building scientific literacy, and on expanding access to STEM fields by incorporating research with primary data into the classroom experience. As part of this effort, I am incorporating CURES (Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experiences) into the courses I teach. These gives students the opportunity to make a genuine contribution to scientific knowledge during their laboratory classes, and have the potential to increase inclusivity and retention in STEM careers.


As an evolutionary biologist, I am interested in understanding the driving forces for evolution, including the mechanisms underlying evolutionary innovations. In collaboration with members of Justin Meyer’s lab here at UCSD, I use genomic and laboratory approaches to better understand how evolution can lead to new traits and functions. Recently, we’ve discovered a multi-tasking protein that enables an important evolutionary transition: the ability of a virus, bacteriophage λ, to infect a new host. In collaboration with researchers at the Earth–Life Science Institute in Tokyo, Japan, I am also studying how selective interactions between nucleic acids and minerals might have contributed to pre-Darwinian enrichment processes on the early earth prior to the origin of life.

Select Publications

  • Rohan Maddamsetti, Daniel T. Johnson, Stephanie J. Spielman, Katherine L. Petrie, Debora S. Marks, Justin R. Meyer. Gain-of-function experiments in bacteriophage lambda uncover residues under diversifying selection in nature. Evolution in press
  • Katherine L. Petrie, Nathan D. Palmer, Daniel T. Johnson, Sarah J. Medina, Stephanie J. Yan, Victor Li, Alita R. Burmeister, Justin R. Meyer. Destabilizing mutations encode nongenetic variation that drives evolutionary innovation. Science 359, 1542-1545 (2018)
  • Katherine L. Petrie, Gerald F. Joyce. Limits of neutral drift: Lessons from the in vitro evolution of two ribozymes. Journal of Molecular Evolution 79, 75-90 (2014)
  • Katherine L. Petrie, Gerald F. Joyce. Deep sequencing analysis of mutations resulting from the incorporation of dNTP analogs. Nucleic Acids Research 38, 8095-8104 (2010)