Published: May 31, 2023

Emily Kibby is a 2025 PhD candidate in Biochemistry in the Aaron Whiteley Research Group. She became an NIH Signaling and Cellular Regulation Trainee in 2020 and in 2021 received a Graduate Teaching Award.


It was only in high school that I started to appreciate chemistry and developed an interest in biology. Up until then I thought I might be a writer and most likely an educator - following in the footsteps of my parents. I became fascinated with understanding the molecular mechanisms that serve as the foundation for life. As is true for many people, I would say the mentorship I’ve received (and given) and the people that I have worked with have been really important parts of my development as a scientist.



I focus on understanding bacterial immune systems, and investigating the many ways that bacteria have to protect themselves from viruses and other threats. I’ve always been fascinated by the diversity of microbes and the interactions in host-pathogen conflicts, so I love working on a system where both the host and the pathogen are microbes! I think I’m always going to be fascinated by the same things that I love now, but that might expand to looking at the immune systems of other organisms like fungi or archaea, and I anticipate that I will also broaden the strategies I use to answer scientific questions. Genetics are and will always be an incredibly powerful tool to answer the types of question I am excited about, but I’m hoping to learn and use other strategies to investigate microbial conflict systems. Emily’s first first-author paper was just published in Cell (Volume 186, Issue 11, P2410-2424.E18, May 25, 2023)!



I chose the CU Boulder Department of Biochemistry because I really loved the collaborative and supportive community found in this department - not to mention the excellent shared facilities and science. I arrived at CU Boulder as a first-year grad student Fall of 2019 and managed to experience most of the first year in person before we were shut down due to COVID. Professor Aaron Whiteley started his lab in January of 2020 and after initial rotations, I found the Aaron Whiteley Lab was a great fit with my research interests! Mentoring and teaching are in my DNA and early-on I became involved in undergraduate mentoring, tutoring students through the Student Academic Success Center, and volunteering with Partnerships for Informal Science Education in the Community (PISEC) and the Science Community Outreach Program and Education (SCOPE). Along my journey toward a PhD I’m hoping to learn new skills and strategies for framing, communicating, and investigating exciting scientific questions, and then putting those strategies into practice to do some cool science! Because I have received really helpful mentorship, I wish to continue mentoring others and get other young scientists excited along the way. When I’m not in the lab, I enjoy the many outdoor activities accessible in Boulder, playing volleyball, and other group activities that our community is known for! I hope that my career will lead me to an academic environment where teaching is paramount - but never removed from the joy and application of the research.

Emily has an inquisitive mindset about life, “I just love that biochemistry gives a window to better understand the molecular strategies used by us and other organisms to live. “Life” as we think about it is already so incredible, the fact that we can understand it on a molecular level and that we still have so much to learn has always been really exciting to me. I also love that biochemistry has so many applications for making life on this shared planet better for everyone.” Not to mention, when she's not in the lab, Emily is using her teaching mindset to tutor and mentor undergraduate students and provide support to her fellow graduate students. Download Emily's CU Boulder Biochemistry journey

Aaron Whiteley Research Group - BCHM