Amy Kistler

Group Leader, Infectious Diseases

How did you become interested in science?

My older brother and sister played a formative role. They introduced me to science. I remember seeing their science fair projects when I was very young and thinking that science seemed so fun and interesting. We also managed to do a lot of clandestine experiments on our own outside of school. These were typically performed in the absence of parental supervision, and were particularly exciting for me. Thus, I came to view science primarily as a sort of adventure-puzzle activity that involved challenging ourselves to come up with tests in order to understand how things worked.

I couldn’t wait to get to school and have the chance to pursue my own science projects, and maybe someday be able to do this as a job. (Nobody in my family was a scientist, so what this would actually look like wasn’t clear to me.)

From grade school and through college, I was lucky to have opportunities to participate in science fairs and independent study activities where I could pursue open-ended research projects of my own design. Once I learned about cell and molecular biology, it was over. I was totally hooked. Still am. This is a field with an infinite number of exciting questions about how the basic molecular building blocks of life work.

What was your educational path?

I took a few detours along the way. Made my parents nervous! But it all worked out in the end.

While I was an undergrad at Penn, where I majored in environmental studies and biology, I did a semester at sea with the Sea Education Association. I studied marine biology. I also spent a semester at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at UCSD where I focused on cell biology. I eventually finished my undergraduate degree and went on to grad school. 

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?

I’m an outdoorsy person. I enjoy hiking and rock climbing. I’ve spent a lot of time hiking in the Eastern Sierra. It’s truly beautiful up there. And of course, Yosemite is breathtaking. I’ve done the Half Dome hike. When I’m home, I have fun going on runs with my French Brittany spaniel.

I also love to travel. I want to spend more time in Asia. It’s an area I haven’t visited as much as I’d like.

What brought you to CZ Biohub?

This was the professional opportunity of a lifetime. I couldn’t imagine not accepting the job when it was offered. I had been looking to make a move into a non-profit, and I have a passion for studying infectious diseases. The position I have at CZ Biohub is a perfect fit for me. I consider myself very fortunate to work with brilliant colleagues, utilize cutting-edge technology, and help cultivate collaboration among our university partners at Cal, UCSF and Stanford. I see a lot of exciting days on the horizon!

Educational Background

  • BA – University of Pennsylvania
    Biology and Environmental Studies
  • PhD – UCSF
  • MPH – UC Berkeley
  • Post Doc – UCSF
    Focused on discovery of viral pathogens in human and animal diseases