I have been passionate about biology since I started studying the turtles and frogs at the pond near my childhood home in Kansas. This quote from a birthday card I received at age 18 from our neighbors pretty much sums things up: “Dear Emily, we remember when you were a young girl, digging in the dirt and playing in the mud. And now you are a young lady . . . digging in the dirt and playing in the mud . . .”
In my early teen years, I started volunteering regularly at the University of Kansas Natural History Museum under the mentorship of Joseph T. Collins, and began spending all my free time there in the ichthyology and herpetology divisions (I slept under the lab tables at night!). In the later teen years, I started my first molecular project in Walter Dimmick's lab, sequencing DNA the old-fashioned manual way, ugh. In college, I worked with amphibian biologist David Sever on several projects studying the reproductive biology of frogs and salamanders.
For graduate school, I joined the labs of David Cannatella and David Hillis at the University of Texas, Austin where I learned how to tip canoes (and get away with it), eat barbeque, and say “ya’ll” properly (hey, we English speakers need a you plural pronoun too!). I also met my wonderful husband Alan Lemmon, who was then a fellow graduate student. I received my Ph.D. from UT Austin in 2007 and then moved to Brad Shaffer’s lab at the University of California, Davis for postdoctoral research. In January 2009, I started as a new faculty member in biology at Florida State University.
Because early experiences with professional biologists had such an important influence on me, I make an effort to mentor students of different ages, from grade school through college. I really enjoy encouraging the enthusiasm of aspiring young scientists. I believe that brilliance is not necessary to succeed as a biologist, instead, I think that with enthusiasm, motivation, and hard work students can attain their dreams.