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Meet our Faculty: Tory Hendry

Tory Hendry holding a plant in her labTory Hendry, assistant professor, Department of Microbiology

Academic focus: Evolution and ecology of host-microbe interactions, particularly how microbes adapt to the complex environments host present and how hosts are influenced by the biochemical diversity of microbes

Previous positions: research scientist, Cornell, 2016-18; postdoctoral fellow, UC Berkeley, 2013-15; postdoctoral associate, University of Arizona, 2012-13

Academic background: B.A., biology, Williams College, 2004; Ph.D., evolutionary biology, University of Michigan, 2012

Last books read: “Wishtree” by Katherine Applegate (with my 7 year old son, we both loved it), "Spinning Silver” by Naomi Novik (love reimagined fairy tales)

What do you do when not working? Most of my non-work time goes to my two children (7 and 2 years old), as well as my furry, feathered and scaled dependents (eight chickens, one dog, one cat and miscellaneous fish). We all try to spend as much time playing outside as possible. Expect for the fish.

What gets you out of bed in the morning? Since becoming an independent researcher I’ve appreciated having the freedom to investigate what I want. I can go to work everyday and ask interesting questions that I can’t wait to find out the answer to. I’ve always been drawn to unusual biological systems; I love figuring them out and learning how they do or don’t match our expectations. I believe strongly in the importance of basic research to understand the natural world and in the ground-breaking discoveries that can come from such work. I’m also passionate about mentoring and supporting the members of my lab to grow as scientists and find fulfilling careers.

Current research projects? I’m interested in a wide range of questions and research systems, so projects in the lab can be pretty diverse. At the moment most of us are focused on understanding how plant-associated bacteria and herbivorous insect pests influence each other. Others are working on the evolution and ecology of luminous bacterial symbionts and deep-sea anglerfish. I’m also involved in collaborations focused on insect microbiomes, including one that I’m very excited about looking at bacteria in floral nectar that interact with pollinators.

Current outreach/extension projects? Microbes are awesome! I love engaging with people about the importance of microbes in our lives, especially since these organisms are often overlooked. The lab has taken part in multiple outreach activities including the SIPS BioBlitz and the PRI Darwin Days activities.

What are three adjectives people might use to describe you? Approachable and enthusiastic (I asked my lab members for these, not a bad response!) and sarcastic (just being honest)

Courses you’re most looking forward to teaching? Microbial ecology!

If you had unlimited grant funding, what major problem in your field would you want to solve? I’d be most excited to delve deeply into the research areas we are currently working on and to fund and train promising people to do good science. By supporting more trainees I’d love to help address the problem of unequal representation in science by promoting diversity in the lab.

What most excites you about Cornell CALS? The breadth of exciting work being done by scientists across so many biology departments. The prospect for collaborations and productive discussions here is really impressive and it helps make Cornell and CALS a great place to do science.

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