Maike Morrison

Maike Morrison

PhD Student, Stanford University


I am a PhD student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Stanford University working with Noah Rosenberg with funding from a Stanford Graduate Fellowship and the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program.

I am interested in research questions involving evolutionary genetics, statistics, and infectious disease dynamics.

In May 2020, I graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a BS in Mathematics through the Dean’s Scholars Honors Program. My undergraduate research was advised by Mark Kirkpatrick and Lauren Ancel Meyers in the UT Austin Department of Integrative Biology. I also conducted summer research with John Witte in the University of California, San Francisco Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, and Ephraim Hanks in the Penn State University Statistics Department.



How can we quantify ancestry variability using the output of population structure inference software?

September 2020 – Present Stanford University Department of Biology
I am working with Dr. Noah Rosenberg to develop an $F_{ST}$-based tool for measuring ancestry variation in inference of population structure. More info to come!

How many isolation beds are needed to protect people experiencing homelessness in Austin from COVID-19?

April 2020 – May 2021 UT Austin Department of Integrative Biology

Dr. Lauren Ancel Meyers, Dr. Spencer Fox, Tanvi Ingle, and I modeled demand for COVID-19 isolation beds for the Austin homeless population based on epidemic projections. This work was done in collaboration with public health leaders from the City of Austin.

This project is now published in PLOS One! See this link for the open-access paper.


Mathematical Statistics in Epidemiology: A Discussion of the Mathematical Concepts Employed in Regression Analyses and Studies of Disease Spread.

August 2019 – May 2020 UT Austin Mathematics Department

I wrote an honors mathematics thesis with the supervision of Dr. Stephen Walker as part of my degree through the Dean’s Scholars Honors Program.

You can view an abridged copy of my thesis here!


What is the genetic basis of how strongly our immune system responds to infectious diseases?

May 2019 – July 2019 University of California, San Francisco Department of Biostatistics & Epidemiology

As part of the UCSF Summer Research Training Program and the Amgen Scholars Program, I worked with Dr. John Witte, Dr. Linda Kachuri, and Dr. Sara Rashkin to conduct genome-wide association studies of immune response strength to 22 distinct antigens.

We identified many interesting and novel single-nucleotide polymorphisms that are implicated in immune response variability.

This work is now published in Genome Medicine! You can find the open-access paper here and my poster here!


How does terrain patchiness influence spatial infectious disease spread?

June 2018 – August 2018 Penn State University Department of Statistics

As part of The Mathematical Biosciences Institute NSF REU Program, I worked with Dr. Ephraim Hanks and Emily Strong to explore the dynamics of disease spread over patchy terrain through an extensive simulation study.

We found that terrain heterogeneity (i.e. resource selection) can cause population dispersal to be heavy tailed, creating accelerating epidemic waves.

You can view our poster here and a recording of our final presentation here!


How many ecotypes make up the world’s most abundant photosynthetic organism?

December 2017 – Present UT Austin Department of Integrative Biology

Under Dr. Mark Kirkpatrick, I am evaluating the performance of Bayesian Phylogenetics and Phylogeography (an MCMC program for analyzing DNA alignments under the multispecies coalescent model) when applied to prokaryotic genomic data.

I have used this tool to identify independently evolving lineages, or ecotypes, within a superabundant marine cyanobacteria responsible for 5% of global oxygen production, Prochlorococcus marinus.

You can access my poster from the 2019 Evolution Meeting here!


What are the drivers of rising vaccination exemptions in Texas schools?

August 2017 – March 2020 UT Austin Department of Integrative Biology

With the guidance Dr. Lauren Ancel Meyers and Dr. Lauren Castro, I analyzed the Texas counties and school districts most at risk of an outbreak due to high conscientious vaccination exemption rates and fit an array of models to identify sociodemographic predictors of these exemptions.

This work is now published in PLOS Medicine! You can find the open-access paper here.

Selected Media Coverage

Research Coverage:

Live television interview: Discussed Texas vaccination exemptions with Amanda Salinas on FOX 7’s Good Day Austin, an Austin-area morning show. March 13, 2020.

“Which Texans are less likely to vaccinate their kids?" By Wes Rapaport, KXAN (Austin’s NBC affiliate). March 12, 2020.

“Rich White Texans Are Running With Anti-Vax Misinformation." By Julia Ries, VICE. March 10, 2020.

“White, College-Educated, Wealthier Parents Less Likely to Vaccinate their Children, Texas Study Reveals." By Kashmira Gander, Newsweek. March 10, 2020.

Personal News:

2020 Recipients of Stanford Graduate Fellowships in Science & Engineering: I was awarded a three-year, endowed fellowship to support my graduate studies at Stanford. Each year, approximately 100 such fellowships are awarded to outstanding, department-nominated PhD students from across engineering and the sciences.

Meet the 30 Dean’s Honored Graduates for this Year: I was named a 2020 Dean’s Honored Graduate, a distinction awarded to less than one percent of the UT College of Natural Sciences graduating class in recognition of research, service, and leadership.

UT Honors Five Undergraduates for Academic Excellence: I was one of five undergraduates awarded the UT University Co-op George H. Mitchell Award in recognition of my research on vaccination exemptions.

Two College of Natural Sciences Students Selected as 2019 Goldwater Scholars: I was one of two students in the UT Austin College of Natural Sciences selected to earn a 2019 Goldwater Scholarship, the United States’ premier undergraduate research award.


Graduate School Application Guide

Intending to help younger students in the Dean’s Scholars Honors Program who were hoping to apply to graduate school after finishing their undergraduate degrees, my friend Griffin Glenn and I wrote a guide to graduate school applications! It contains:

  • A timeline beginning in the first year of undergrad
  • An overview of the application and interview/visit process
  • A summary of the application materials

We aimed to share what we wish we knew before we began the application process; we hope it serves you well!

Faith & Science Resources

I spent much of my undergraduate career unaware of organizations seeking both to harmonize faith and science and to provide community for scientists who are also people of faith. Here are a few of the organizations and resources I wish I had learned of earlier:

  • BioLogos: Founded by Dr. Francis Collins, the former leader of the Human Genome Project and current NIH director, BioLogos invites the church and the world to see the harmony between science and biblical faith by presenting an evolutionary understanding of God’s creation. I also recommend Dr. Collins’ book The Language of God and the BioLogos podcast by the same name.
  • The American Scientific Affiliation: The ASA is an international network of Christians in the sciences. They publish a journal on science and faith, host conferences, and have chapters all over the world.
  • The Emerging Scholars Network: The ESN is a national network within InterVarsity’s Graduate & Faculty Ministries which supports those on the academic pathway as they work out how their academic vocation serves God and others. In July 2020 I attended a virtual conference jointly hosted by ESN and ASA–it was a great opportunity to discuss science, faith, and career with other young scientists!