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SaraH Zanders

B.S., Biology, University of Iowa
Ph.D., Genetics and Development, Cornell University

Portrait of SaraH Zanders

Selfish drive alleles have no apparent redeeming features: their sole function appears to be to selfishly destroy their competition. This selfish behavior comes at a significant cost to fertility.

Research Areas

Development and Regeneration, Genetics and Genomics, Evolutionary Biology, Molecular and Cell Biology

Courses Taught

Genetics; Laboratory Rotation; Thesis Laboratory



National Institutes of Health New Innovator Award


Searle Scholar


Basil O’Connor Scholar

SaraH Zanders fell in love with genetics as an undergrad at the University of Iowa, after taking her first genetics course. She spent many happy hours in the lab, digging into the genome of budding yeast. Today, her continued fascination with what’s passed on from one generation to the next drives her lab’s research on genetic parasites, and how they cause infertility.

After graduating with a B.S. in biology, Zanders completed her Ph.D. at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and a postdoctoral fellowship at the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington. Along the way, she became intrigued by parasitic genes and their role in the evolution of genomes. Zanders has made significant contributions to the field including the discovery of meiotic drivers in fission yeast. She set up her lab in 2016 at the Stowers Institute.

Apart from research, educating the next generation of scientists is a top priority, crediting her mentors for teaching her how to think critically, communicate, and conduct research. In July 2019, Zanders became the first person to fill the role of Vice Dean of the Graduate School of the Stowers Institute. As a mentor and a teacher, she strives to prepare students to conduct innovative and creative investigations of their own.

Featured Publications

wtf4 meiotic driver utilizes controlled protein aggregation to generate selective cell death

Nuckolls NL, Mok AC, Lange JJ, Yi K, Kandola TS, Hunn AM, McCroskey S, Snyder JL, Bravo Nunez MA, McClain M, McKinney SA, Wood C, Halfmann R, Zanders SE.  eLife. 2020;9:e55694. doi: 55610.57554/eLife.55694.

Atypical meiosis can be adaptive in outcrossed S. pombe due to wtf meiotic drivers

Bravo Nunez MA, Sabbarini IM, Eide LE, Unckless RL, Zanders SE. eLife. 2020;9:e57936. doi: 57910.57554/eLife.57936.

Dramatically diverse Schizosaccharomyces pombe wtf meiotic drivers all display high gamete-killing efficiency

Bravo Nunez MA, Sabbarini IM, Eickbush MT, Liang Y, Lange JJ, Kent AM, Zanders SE. PLoS Genet. 2020;16:e1008350. doi: 1008310.1001371/journal.pgen.1008350.

Killer meiotic drive and dynamic evolution of the wtf gene family

Eickbush MT, Young JM, Zanders SE. Mol Biol Evol. 2019;36:1201-1214.

A suppressor of a wtf poison-antidote meiotic driver acts via mimicry of the driver’s antidote

Bravo Nunez MA, Lange JJ, Zanders SE. PLoS Genet. 2018;14:e1007836.  doi: 1007810.1001371/journal.pgen.1007836.

wtf genes are prolific dual poison-antidote meiotic drivers

Nuckolls NL, Bravo Nunez MA, Eickbush MT, Young JM, Lange JJ, Yu JS, Smith GR, Jaspersen SL, Malik HS, Zanders SE. eLife. 2017;6:e26033. doi: 26010.27554/eLife.26033.

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