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Jodi Schwarz Associate Professor of Biology

Dr. Schwarz is an associate professor of Biology with participation in the Biochemistry and Environmental Studies programs. She works with students to become integrative thinkers of biology both in and out of the classroom. Her research lab studies coral symbiosis and genomics. She serves as Program Director for Vassar's Grand Challenges program, an initiative to foster an inclusive community of scholars and learners working together to tackle complex issues of global significance, funded through the Howard Hughes Medical Institute program for Inclusive Excellence.

STUDENTS: Check out opportunities to do research in my lab by filling out the Biology Intensives Expression of Interest Form (select the BIOL395 option). I am committed to fostering inclusivity and equity in a research environment.



  • BA History 1989 Oberlin College
  • BA Biology 1994 University of California, Santa Cruz
  • MS Marine Sciences 1996 UC Santa Cruz
  • PhD Zoology 2002 Oregon State University
  • Postdoc Researcher, Microbiology & Immunology, Stanford University
  • Postdoct Researcher, Evolutionary Genomics, Joint Genome Institute

Research Interests

Coral symbiosis and genomics. The beautiful and biodiverse coral reef ecosystem is built upon the back of a symbiotic interaction between corals and photosynthetic algal symbionts. The symbionts produce food and stimulate growth of the coral skeleton, resulting in growth rates sufficient to form both the actual rock and the ecological foundation to support the hundreds of species that comprise coral reef ecosystems. My lab works on several aspects of coral biology and symbiosis, primarily using genomic, cellular, and bioinformatic approaches as tools. We employ the sea anemone Aiptasia pallida as a model organism, but also work with corals in their native enivronment in Bermuda, Taiwan, and Japan. Our amazing Vassar students in Biology, Biochemistry, Environmental Studies, and Computer Science are actively involved in the lab, and have served as the inspiration for some of the lines of research that are now central to the lab. Currently, with several collaborators, we are pursuing several lines of investigation:

  • the genetic basis of reproduction in corals
  • the genetic, proteomic, and lipidomic basis for interactions between the host and symbiont
  • responses of corals to environmental stressors

Genomics Pedagogy. I am interested in investigating pedagogical approaches for supporting authentic genomics and bioinformatics research in the classroom. With collaborators, we are implementing and assessing ways to scaffold student learning so that they can do genomics research without losing sight of the underlying biological concepts and processes.

Teaching Interests

My teaching goals include working with students to become integrative thinkers of biology. Courses I've taught include:

  • BIOL105 Let’s Get Together: Symbiosis in Biology
  • BIOL106 Introduction to Biological Investigation
  • BIOL244 Genetics and Genomics
  • ENST245 Global Decline in Coral Reefs (with Brian McAdoo in Earth Science)
  • ENST260 Climate Change in the Caribbean (with Lisa Paravisini)
  • BIOL353 Bioinformatics (with Marc Smith in Computer Science)
  • BIOL 380 Engaging Biologists and Their Research
  • BIOL387 Symbiotic Interactions
  • BA, Oberlin College; BA, MS, University of California, Santa Cruz; PhD, Oregon State University
  • At Vassar since 2006



  • BIOL 244. Genetics and Genomics

Selected Publications


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Photo: Spencer Ainsley / Vassar College