Arielle Kim


Fairfax, Virginia

Academic Interests

Microbial Ecology, Genomics, Evolutionary Biology, & Biotechnology

Fun Fact

I love to do jigsaw puzzles!

I'm Arielle Kim (Trinity '26), a prospective biology major concentrating in genomics or ecology. My curiosity about the intricacies of life has led me to develop a profound interest in the biological sciences, specifically in microbial ecology—the study of interactions between microorganisms and their physical environments. One class that particularly solidified my interest in this field is "Genomics of Symbiosis," in which I delved into the symbiotic relationships between microorganisms and their hosts and the collective impacts these relationships have on ecosystems. Examining microbes within an ecological context heightened my appreciation for their significance across all of biology and their applications in medicine, environmental conservation, etc. Furthermore, exploring the genomic and phylogenetic approaches used to characterize these interactions strengthened my interest in utilizing genomic tools to study microbial dynamics.

I have pursued my research interests through Duke's Biological Sciences Undergraduate Research Fellowship (BSURF) this past summer and an ongoing project with Dr. Lydia Greene, who studies lemurs. In BSURF, I worked in the Lutzoni Lab, which studies lichens—symbiotic organisms involving fungi and photoautotrophic organisms. I had the opportunity to use the principles of genomics, evolutionary biology, and ecology to study the cyanolichen symbiosis, which involves associations between fungi and cyanobacteria. Alongside my work with lichens, I am investigating the variation in the gut microbiome structure across the annual hibernation cycle of dwarf lemurs, providing insight into how microbiome-mediated metabolism aids energy saving-strategies like hibernation under contrasting environmental conditions. In the future, I want to get involved in more microbial ecology projects and pursue a Ph.D. in the biological sciences.

Outside of the classroom and lab, I'm involved as a peer reviewer at Vertices, Duke's undergraduate research journal, and as a member of Duke STEM Connect, a club dedicated to supporting STEM curricula in local Durham schools. I also love animals and volunteer as a Technician Assistant at the Duke Lemur Center on the weekends. Back at home, I work as a STEM Educator at the Children's Science Center, an interactive museum dedicated to inspiring within kids a love of learning STEM through engaging activities, exhibits, and programs.

What do you like about being a SPIRE Fellow?

The people I have met through the SPIRE Fellows program are incredible! I have formed close friendships through the program, many with people who share my academic and career interests. Being in the same programs as my SPIRE peers also creates a more welcoming environment wherever I go. I am also grateful for the academic and professional support provided by SPIRE through panels, workshops, and funding, as well as the support from the directors and upperclassmen.

Arielle Kim
Arielle Kim