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Schield '12 Contributes to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Posted by Pengxeu Thao '15, Roseville on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014

University of Minnesota, Morris alumnus Drew Schield ’12 is conducting research on reptile population genetics, phylogeography, and comparative genomics at the University of Texas, Arlington. His post-undergraduate research contributed to a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the official journal of the United States National Academy of Sciences.

Schield began this research upon starting his graduate career. Shortly after entering Arlington, he joined Assistant Professor of Biology Todd Castoe’s lab to conduct research on the Burmese python genome. The project allowed Schield to examine genes involved with metabolism, development, and other systems in snakes. PNAS published the lab’s findings in November 2013, and Schield was listed as the fifth author. The article was later referred to in the December 6 issue of Science.

“I was tasked with analysis of transcriptomic data to better understand how many and what types of genes significantly fluctuate in expression following feeding in these snakes,” says Schield. “The research and analysis part of the project was very rewarding, as it gave me numerous opportunities to cut my teeth and develop skills relevant to my own research.”

Schield’s research interests include the interactions between the evolutionary forces of gene flow and selection as well as their effects on diversity and speciation. He is conducting dissertation research on the population genomics of North American rattlesnake species. The primary goal of his research is to understand how selection influences the genomic landscape across populations and species.

“I think that a person who is likely to succeed in research is someone who is constantly asking questions and searching for meaningful answers,” says Schield. “Ask questions, delve into the literature, and be proactive about your own goals and the future.”

Schield stresses the importance of his undergraduate research experience in helping him prepare for graduate school and a research-focused career path. At Morris he worked with Tracey Anderson, associate professor of biology, Margaret Kuchenreuther, associate professor of biology, and Heather Waye, assistant professor of biology, as a research and curatorial assistant. Schield also took the opportunity to participate in both the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) and the Undergraduate Research Symposium to cultivate research skills.

“We’re very proud of [Schield] and his involvement in some very interesting research,” says Waye. “We certainly encouraged him to consider graduate school, and I think his experience with research at Morris has helped him stand out.”

More information about Schield’s research can be found at

From left to right: Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of Texas, Arlington Todd Castoe, PhD student, Jacobo Reyes-Velasco, PhD student/Morris alumnus Drew Schield '12.