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Megan J Palmer


I am a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Department of Bioengineering at Stanford University in the the lab of Drew Endy and am serving as the Deputy Director of Practices for the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (SynBERC).

Contact Info


Megan J. Palmer, Ph.D.

Stanford University

Y2E2 Building, 269 C

473 Via Ortega

Stanford, CA, 94306


mjpalmer 'AT'


2010 Ph.D. Biological Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA

2004 B.Sc.E. Engineering Chemistry, Queen's University, Kingston, ON, Canada

Postdoctoral Research

Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (SynBERC), Deputy Director of Practices

  • Advisor: Drew Endy
  • Co-direct efforts within a multi-university engineering research center to explore how scientists and engineers can consider and respond to societal ramifications of developments in synthetic biology.

Graduate Research

Lauffenburger Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Deptartment of Biological Engineering

  • Advisors: Douglas A. Lauffenburger, Darrell J. Irvine
  • Thesis Title: Cytokine Signaling Control of Naïve CD8+ T Cell Homeostasis
  • Identified and characterized novel heterogeneities within CD8+ T cell populations in terms of their responsiveness to interleukin (IL) family cytokines supporting homeostatic survival and proliferation.
  • Performed experimental and mathematical modeling analysis of IL‐7 ligand/receptor binding dynamics and signaling, revealing receptor expression as the dominant controller of T cell responsiveness to IL‐7.
  • Translated in vitro results to in vivo murine models, demonstrating that modulation of IL‐7 levels in vivo alters the clonal composition of the T cell repertoire and revealing IL‐7 levels supporting homeostatic diversity.

Undergraduate Research

Bioengineering and Bioprocess Development Group, Dept. of Chemical Engineering, Queen’s University (2003‐2004)

  • Advisor: Andrew J. Daugulis
  • Thesis Title: A Two‐Phase Polymer Bead Bioreactor for Microbial Benzene Degradation
  • Designed and characterized a novel bioreactor system allowing for improved efficiency of benzene degradation by a defined microbial consortia using polymers as partitioning agents.

Pharmaceutical Production Research Facility, Dept. of Chemical Engineering, University of Calgary (2003)

  • Advisor: Leo A. Behie
  • Established improved cell culture methods for the in vitro expansion of mammary and neural stem cells.

Sniekus Lab, Dept. of Chemistry, Queen’s University (2001‐2003)

  • Advisor: Victor Snieckus
  • Developed and refined novel methods for synthetic organic and organometallic chemistry.

Science and Technology Policy, Education, and Outreach

Co-organizer, The Synthetic Biology Slam (2011-present)

  • Organized a series of workshops in which diverse members of the synthetic biology community share their visions for the evolution of the field and contribute to a collective roadmap for biotechnology development.

Human Practices Judge, International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Competition (2010, 2011)

  • Evaluated teams' approach to the societal ramifications of biotechnology development for a worldwide competition in synthetic biology in which students design and build biological systems inside living cells.

Scholar, Siebel Scholars Foundation (2010-present)

  • Served alongside leaders in business, computer science and bioengineering as an advisor to the Siebel Foundation on directing its philanthropic efforts towards solving pressing global problems.

Volunteer, Cambridge Science Festival (2009, 2010)

  • Facilitated activities at a festival highlighting local science and technology outreach programs.

Graduate Teaching Certificate Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2009)

  • Completed an optional intensive graduate teaching program in which I was evaluated on development of program curriculum, lectures, evaluation methods and teaching style.

Regional Hub Team Member, Coalition on the Public Understanding of Science (2008‐present)

  • Coordinated multiple science advocacy groups to successfully organize a series of local science cafes aimed at developing a public understanding and appreciation for science.

Executive Member, MIT Science Policy Initiative (2007‐2010)

  • Arranged multiple seminars, short courses, workshops and trips to Capitol Hill to educate and engage science and engineering students in the public policy of science, technology, research and innovation.

Graduate Research Mentor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2005‐2009)

  • Mentored two undergraduate students in successfully developing independent research projects.

Teaching Assistant, “Biomolecular Kinetics and Cellular Dynamics”, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2005)

  • Prepared and evaluated problem sets, taught weekly recitations and prepared resource materials for a graduate course on mathematical modeling of biological systems.

Steering Committee Member, MIT Technology and Culture Forum (2004‐2010)

  • Organized over a dozen public seminars exploring the role of science and technology in promoting positive social, ecological, and economic change.


Palmer MJ, Mahajan VS, Trajman LC, Irvine DJ, Lauffenburger DA, Chen J. Interleukin 7 Receptor Signaling Network: An Integrated Systems Perspective. Cellular and Molecular Immunology. 2008. 5(2): 79‐89. [PMID 18445337]

Palmer MJ*, Mahajan VS*, Chen J, Irvine DJ, Lauffenburger DA. Signaling Thresholds Govern Heterogeneity in IL‐7-Receptor‐Mediated Responses of Naïve CD8+ T Cells. Immunology and Cell Biology. 2011. 89(5): 581-594. [PMID 21339767]

See commentary in the same issue: Jameson SC, Fulton RB. "Not all naive CD8 T cells are created equal". Immunology and Cell Biology. 2011. 89(5):576-577. [PMID 21483444]

Podium Presentations

  • 2012 National Academies Synthetic Biology Six Party Symposium
  • 2011 Siebel Scholars Conference: Synthetic Biology
  • 2011 SB5.0, The 5th International Conference on Synthetic Biology
  • 2010 StemCellMathLab
  • 2010 American Association of Immunologists Annual Meeting
  • 2009 Biomedical Engineering Society Annual Meeting
  • 2008 Biomedical Engineering Society Annual Meeting
  • 2007 Joint Meeting of the National Centers of Systems Biology

Poster Presentations

  • 2011 SB5.0, The 5th International Conference on Synthetic Biology
  • 2009 International Conference on Systems Biology
  • 2009 Engineering Cell Biology III
  • 2009 Cells, Circuits and Computation
  • 2008 Systems Biology of Human Disease
  • 2007 National Academies Science and Technology Policy Student Forum
  • 2007 Biomedical Engineering Society Annual Meeting
  • 2007 Engineering Cell Biology II
  • 2007 Joint Meeting of the National Centers of Systems Biology

Fellowships, Scholarships & Awards

  • 2012 National Academies Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Fellow
  • 2010 BioVision.Nxt Fellow
  • 2010 Siebel Foundation Scholar
  • 2008‐2009 Koch Institute for Integrated Cancer Research Graduate Fellowship
  • 2005‐2006 Integrated Cancer Biology Program Graduate Fellowship
  • 2004‐2005 Noubar Affeyan Graduate Fellowship In Biological Engineering
  • 2004 NSERC Canada Graduate Scholarship (awarded, but not accepted for studies abroad)
  • 2004 Queen’s University Medal
  • 2000‐2004 Queen’s University Dean’s Honors List, with Distinction
  • 2004 Mark A. Bernstein Prize in Engineering Chemistry
  • 2002‐2004 Northeastern Chemical Association Scholarship
  • 2002,2003 NSERC Summer Research Scholarship
  • 2002,2003 RT. Mohan Scholarship in Chemistry
  • 2002 Canadian Society for Chemistry Award


Languages English, French

Hobbies Gardening, Cooking, Running, Cycling, Triathlons, Rock Climbing, Photography, Travel