Carly Hester


Sylva, North Carolina

Academic Interests

Biology & Education

Fun Fact

I have two pet goats and a rabbit

Growing up in the Blue Ridge mountains, I have been lucky to surround myself with complex ecological systems and observe climate phenomena in my own backyard. I will always credit my origins in loving biology to my hometown and the niche experiences I had because of where I grew up. In high school, my love for biology was finally met with the resources to actually turn that passion into experience through the Summer Mentorship Program at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. Through this program, I had the life-changing opportunity to do research in the Vilgalys Mycology Lab, here at Duke. I used qPCR technology to quantify the relative abundance of ectomycorrhizal fungi in the roots of symbiotic tree hosts, which will help us better understand the genetic interactions between these organisms. This experience made me realize that I loved the lab environment and wanted to pursue a career as a research scientist. I plan to continue working with Dr. Vilgalys in his lab on various things throughout my time at Duke. Aside from mycology, I am also interested in drug/vaccine development, especially drug development that might help patients with genetic vascular malformations, because I happen to be a patient with a genetic vascular malformation.

Despite the focus of my research, I want to use my platform as a scientist to inspire and teach others. If you were to meet me, you would quickly discover that I love talking, and this aspect of myself comes alive when I am communicating science. I think that everyone deserves to understand and enjoy science, and I hope to be able to make difficult concepts more approachable and accessible to audiences in and out of traditional academia throughout my career. Outside of academics, I am a proud member of Duke On Tap, which is Duke’s tap dancing ensemble, and I volunteer with elementary-aged students at Lakewood Elementary through Duke service learning. I also enjoy going to Duke Chapel for Chapel Service on Sundays and spending my free time crocheting or watching movies with friends.

What do you like about being a SPIRE Fellow?

Duke is a place where you get to be exactly who you always dreamed of being. There are so many resources and spaces where you get to develop your academic interests, but you also get to develop your identity outside of academia as well. SPIRE connects you to those resources and is a big family of people who are like, “We hear you, your ideas and perspectives are important, and we’re going to help you get to where you want to be.” 

Carly Hester
Carly Hester