Alex A. Erwin

PhD spring 2018
Primary office:


Advisor: Justin Blumenstiel
Research interests: Genetics, epigenetics, germline conflict
Hometown: Willard, MO


  • B.S., with Honors and Distinction in Microbiology, Summa cum laude, Missouri State University, Springfield, MO

Publications (Peer Reviewed)

  • Blumenstiel, J.P., Erwin, A.A., and Hemmer, L.W. 2016. What drives positive selection in the piRNA machinery? A genomic autoimmunity hypothesis. Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. 89(4): 499–512.
  • Erwin, A.A.*, Galdos, M.A.*, Wickersheim, M.L., Harrison, C.C., Marr, K.D., Colicchio, J.M., and Blumenstiel, J.P. 2015. piRNAs are associated with diverse transgenerational effects on gene and transposon expression in a hybrid dysgenic syndrome of D. virilis. PLoS Genetics. 11(8):e1005332.
  • Li, C.,* Erwin A.A,* Pap, D., Coleman, C., Higgins, A., Kiss, E., Kozma, P., Hoffmann, S. Ramming, D., and Kovacs, L.  2013. Selection for Run1-Ren1 Dihybrid Grapevines using Microsatellite Markers. American Journal of Enology and Viticulture. (64):152-155.

*authors contributed equally

Grants, Scholarships, and Awards

  • 2017                STEMMy Student Achiever Award, Central Exchange
  • 2017                Inclusive Environments and Metrics in Environment Biology Education Research (iEMBER) Supportive Preliminary Award for Research Collaboration (SPARC), (collaborative grant) $1,500.
  • 2017                Kathleen McCluskey-Fawcett Woman Mentoring Women Award, $500.
  • 2016                American Association for University Women Campus Action Grant (collaborative), lead author. $4,800.
  • 2016                Genetics Society of America Travel Award for The Allied Genetics Conference, $600
  • 2016                Graduate Student Distinguished Service Award, $500
  • 2016                Genetics Society of America Trainee-Organized Symposium (collaborative), lead author. $2,000
  • 2014-present    Graduate Research Predoctoral Fellowship. NSF. $126,000.
  • 2014                Research in the Biology of Aging Scholarship. American Federation for Aging Research. $5,000.
  • 2012-2013        First Year Fellowship.  The University of Kansas. $18,000.
  • 2012-2013        Graduate Research Fellowship.  The University of Kansas. $5,000.
  • 2012                Outstanding Graduating Senior. Missouri State University. $500.
  • 2011-2012         Biology Alumni Scholarship. Missouri State University. $500.
  • 2010                Summer Research Scholarship. Missouri State University. $2,000.
  • 2008-2012        Bright Flight. $20,000.
  • 2008-2012        Board of Governor’s Scholarship. Full tuition coverage.

Selected Service

  • 2017                Co-chair of the Early Career Scientists Steering Committee at the Genetics Society of America (GSA); oversee, guide, and directions of four subcommittees (policy, professional development, communication and outreach, diversity and inclusion)
  • 2016-2017        Lead organizer of a collaborative semester-long program to minimize the gender leadership gap in STEM fields (
  • 2016                Chair of the Scientists Exploring non-Academic CaReer CHoices (SEARCH) organizing Committee
  • 2016                Genetics Society of America trainee organizing committee member for The Allied Genetics Conference; organized and facilitated two professional development events
  • 2016                Kansas DNA Day Module Creator and Coordinator; developed Model Organisms Module (
  • 2015                Invasive Mosquito Citizen Science project with students at Wyandotte High School
  • 2014-2015        Participated in GSO pollinator garden project and teaching at Wyandotte High School (semester-long project)
  • 2014-2015        Initiated and ran a workshop on beginning computer programming for EEB and MB REU students for summer 2014 and summer 2015
  • 2014-present    Created an activity for elementary age students about Drosophila genetics and life cycle to advocate for model organism research; continual participation with science nights at local schools
  • 2011                Assisted in organizing interdisciplinary (science/history/art) exhibit at Discovery Center, Springfield, MO focusing on Missouri grape breeder, Hermann Jaeger

Departmental and University Service

  • 2016                Graduate student representative in the following groups: Graduate Student Advisory Board, Student Senate, Student Senate Executive Committee, University Senate, University Senate Executive Committee, University Graduate Student Health       Insurance Work Group
  • 2012-present    Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Graduate Student Organization: Co-president (2016-2017), vice President (2015-2016), chair of Awards Committee (2014), student representative on the EEB Department Executive Committee and Graduate         Program Committee (2016-2017, 2015-2016)

Selected Presentations

  • Erwin, A., and J. Blumenstiel. The developmental effects of germline ablation contribute more strongly to somatic gene expression than the maternal effects of piRNA. Kansas City, KS. September 2016. Greenwald Symposium. Poster presentation.
  • Erwin, A., and J. Blumenstiel. The genome strikes back: The DNA battle raging within us all. Kansas City, KS. August 2016. MidAmeriConII, 76th Annual World Science Fiction Convention. Poster presentation.
  • Erwin, A., and J. Blumenstiel. The developmental effects of germline ablation contribute more strongly to somatic gene expression than the maternal effects of piRNA. Orlando, FL. July 2016. The Allied Genetics Conference. Poster presentation.
  • Erwin, A., and J. Blumenstiel. Altered expression of mitochondria and heterochromatic genes in egg and follicle cells of aged Drosophila females. Santa Fe, NM. May, 2016. Keystone Symposia: Epigenetic and Metabolic Regulation of Aging and Aging-Related Diseases. Poster presentation.
  • Erwin, A., Mauricio Galdos, Michelle Wickersheim, and Justin Blumenstiel. Understanding the tension between genome defense and genomic autoimmunity by piRNAs. Kansas City, KS. October 2015. Missouri Iowa Nebraska Kansas Women in Computing Conference. Poster presentation.
  • Erwin, A., M. Wickersheim, J. Blumenstiel. New roles for TE silencing mechanisms in gene regulation. University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS. February 2015. BIO3 Seminar Series. Oral Presentation.
  • Erwin, A., M. Galdos, J. Blumenstiel. Caught in the crossfire: genes tangled up in host-mediated transposable element defense. Evolution, Raleigh, N.C. June 2014. Oral Presentation.
  • Galdos, M., A. Erwin. C. Harrison, and J. Blumenstiel. Dynamics of transposable element derepression in a hybrid dysgenic cross of Drosophila virilis. San Diego, CA. March 2014. National Drosophila Genetics Research Conference. Poster Presentation.
  • Erwin, A. M. Wickersheim, J. Blumenstiel. Global TE destabilization influences genic piRNA production for endogenous genes in Drosophila virilis. Washington, DC. April 2013. National Drosophila Genetics Research Conference. Poster presentation.
  • Galdos, M., A. Erwin, M. Wickersheim, C. Harris, and J. Fang. Genetics and Epigenetics of Hybrid Dysgenesis of Drosophila virilis. University of Illinois, Monticello, IL. November 2012. Midwest Drosophila Conference, Poster presentation.
  • Erwin, A., K. Pilinksy, and L. Kovacs. Investigating the role of sirtuins in plants. Mt. Grove, MO. July 2011. Missouri Grape Research Consortium. Oral presentation.
  • Erwin, A. H. Syed, K. Pilinsky, and L. Kovacs. An investigation of the role of sirtuins in plants. Missouri State University, Springfield, MO. March 2011. CNAS Undergraduate Research Day, Poster presentation.
  • Erwin, A. J. Glasson, A. Higgins, C. Coleman, and L. Kovacs. Using molecular markers to breed disease-resistant grapevines for sustainable viticulture. Missouri State University, Springfield, MO. March 2010. CNAS Undergraduate Research Day, Missouri State University. Poster presentation.


KU-calendar-full event list: EEB Seminars
One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
5th nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets: Colleges," Military Times
KU Today