Sophie Walton

2020 Hertz Fellow

By exploring the evolutionary and ecological dynamics of diverse microbial ecosystems, Sophie Walton is working to provide insight into the processes that give rise to the vast microbial diversity observed within microbiomes.

She is currently pursuing a PhD in biophysics at Stanford University, where she is advised by Dmitri Petrov (Biology) and Benjamin Good (Applied Physics). She graduated from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) with a bachelor’s degree in bioengineering. As an undergraduate, Sophie worked on a diverse set of problems in biology and bioengineering. While studying the genetics of heat shock response in Caenorhabditis elegans with Professor Paul Sternberg, she cloned and characterized a novel regulator of heat shock induced gene expression. Sophie also conducted research on generative modeling for protein engineering with Professor Possu Huang at Stanford, and she worked on developing genetic circuits for dosage control with Professor Richard Murray at Caltech.

In her PhD work, Sophie is studying evolution in complex microbiomes, including the rumen microbiome and human gut microbiome. Sophie seeks to examine the ecological and evolutionary drivers of selection on the genetic composition of microbes to understand the link between evolution and ecology in diverse ecosystems.

A member of Tau Beta Phi, she has received multiple fellowships for her undergraduate research. In addition, Sophie has been a teaching assistant for classes in biology, applied mathematics, and data analysis at Caltech. She hopes to combine her passions for teaching and research as a professor.

In her free time, Sophie enjoys reading, running, backpacking, and spending time outdoors. She was born and raised in Emerald Hills, California.

"I am excited by challenges in biological engineering. Through learning to engineer biological systems, we can explore the limits of biological designs while creating technologies to solve pressing problems."
– Sophie Walton

Graduate Studies

Stanford University

Undergraduate Studies

California Institute of Technology


2020-2023, Stanford Graduate Fellowship
2019-2020, President, Tau Beta Phi at California Institute of Technology
2019, Jack E. Froehlich Memorial Award Nominee, California Institute of Technology


Related News

May 20, 2020
The Fannie and John Hertz Foundation has announced the 2020 recipients of the Hertz Fellowship. This year’s fellowships will fund 16 researchers whose goals range from developing more effective drugs to advancing artificial intelligence to creating a carbon-neutral future.