Stephen Wandro joined Micronoma in August 2020 as a senior scientist, with a speciality in analyzing DNA sequencing data. He is responsible for building computational pipelines and interpreting biological data with statistics and machine learning. He organizes and interprets the extensive data from our wet lab into the exciting results that inform our diagnostic test. Though from the Bay Area, he has lived in San Diego for the last three years. He received his B.S. from UCLA in Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics, and his Ph.D. from UC Irvine in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and worked for the UC San Diego Center for Microbiome Innovation before joining the team at Micronoma.


Stephen spoke with us to provide some insight into his work and path to Micronoma.

What does a typical day look like for you?

My days are mostly spent on the computer processing, organizing, and analyzing data. It may sound boring to some, but I absolutely love it. Every dataset has a hidden story to discover. It starts out as a jumble of data and I use my time and experience to interpret what the biology is trying to say. I spend the most time creating pipelines to analyze data in new ways, and analyzing results from our existing pipelines. We generate lots of DNA sequencing data and run an ever-increasing number of analyses, so there is never a shortage of data that needs my attention.


Tell us about your educational background and previous work.

I first became interested in the human microbiome and its effects on human health while studying microbiology and immunology at UCLA. Afterward, I earned my PhD with Katrine Whiteson at UC Irvine, where I studied the human microbiome and learned many of the cutting-edge techniques for probing microbial communities and their interactions with human health. Much of my work there was focused on bacteriophages, which are fascinating viruses that infect bacteria and are important members of all microbial communities. Next, I continued to study the human microbiome as a postdoc at the Center for Microbiome Innovation at UC San Diego, directed by Rob Knight. There I honed my computational biology skills and learned about the latest tools for analyzing microbiome data. Now, I’m lucky that I get to use my extensive background in human microbiome research and apply it to my work here at Micronoma.


Did anyone inspire you along the way? Tell us about them.

My parents inspired my love of science from an early age. They shared their backgrounds in math and chemistry with me, but my true calling was always in biology. I have fond memories of my dad helping me with my middle school science fair projects. I definitely wouldn’t be a scientist without their influence and support.


What led you to working at Micronoma?

During my postdoc at the Center for Microbiome Innovation, I was fortunate enough to work with all three Micronoma co-founders, Greg Sepich-Poore, Sandrine Miller-Montgomery, and Rob Knight. When I was offered the chance to join them at Micronoma working on such an exciting topic, it was an exciting opportunity.


What’s your favorite part about working at Micronoma?

My favorite part about working here is the people I get to work with. It’s a wonderful collaborative environment and everyone is so friendly. I also really like that I am given the freedom to try out new ideas and approach problems in my own way.


What gets you most excited about the company’s future?

I’m most excited to see our diagnostic test in action helping to save lives. It will be very interesting to see how our technology evolves and improves over time. There is so much space to explore at the novel intersection of cancer, microbes, and machine learning that I can’t wait to see where our innovation takes us.


What are your hidden talents or hobbies?

I’ve been doing my best to embrace the San Diego lifestyle by picking up surfing and beach volleyball. I’m no expert at either, but they are both super fun activities that help me unwind after a long day of data analysis!

Someone told us about Floral Friday, can you tell us more about this?

Since the beginning of graduate school 7 years ago, I’ve worn floral shirts on Friday and encouraged everyone around me to do so as well. Anything works, from colorful Hawaiian shirts to subtle floral prints, as long as you have a positive, relaxed Floral Friday spirit. I think it’s a fun way to celebrate the end of the week, and I’m happy to say that many others here at Micronoma have picked up the tradition!