Julia Schwartzman

Gabilan Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences
Julia Schwartzman
Pronouns She / Her / Hers Email julias21@usc.edu


Julia Schwartzman is an Assistant Professor in the Marine and Environmental Biology Section of BISC. Julia received her PhD in Microbiology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison studying how marine bacteria persist as animal symbionts. She subsequently trained as a Ruth Kirschstein Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard Medical School where she investigated the evolutionary diversification of animal-associated bacteria, and as a Postdoctoral Associate at MIT where her work focused on the ecological consequences of phenotypic heterogeneity in marine bacteria. At USC, Julia’s lab studies the microscale microbial interactions that shape life in marine environments.


  • Ph.D. Microbiology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 2015
  • B.A. Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Middlebury College, 2009
    • Postdoctoral Associate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2017-2022
    • Postdoctoral Fellow, , Harvard Medical School, 2015-2017
  • Tenure Track Appointments

    • Gabilan Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, University of Southern California, 01/2023 –
  • Summary Statement of Research Interests

    Emergent multicellular behaviors are common in the microbial world. Microbes form aggregates, biofilms, or collectives to distribute metabolic functions, survive stress, or reproduce. Although it’s clear that these behaviors are the rule rather than the exception in nature, we’re in a time where our ability to obtain information about the gene content of microbes far outpaces our ability to observe behaviors in situ. A consequence of this imbalance is that while we can generally list many of the molecular ‘parts’ we don’t understand how genetic variation translates into quantitative differences in complex behaviors. Solving this problem would transform our understanding of how microbes contribute to biological processes ranging from nutrient cycling to the development of large multicellular organisms.

    Our work on cellular behavior takes inspiration from bacteria that live in coastal marine ecosystems. Coastal ecosystems buffer a large portion of the human population from the effects of climate change and are critical for the sustainability of fisheries. Bacteria contribute to coastal ecosystems by cycling nutrients and forming symbiotic associations with marine plants, animals, and algae. We currently do not understand how to predict key ecosystem-level functions such as the rate at which bacteria cycle nutrients or the specificity with which they form symbiotic associations, but this information will be critical to understanding how coastal ecosystems respond to effects of climate change and human activity. The Schwartzman group addresses this challenge using a combination of genomics, genetics, and quantitative light microscopy.

    Research Keywords

    Marine microbiology, Phenotypic heterogeneity, Microbial physiology, Microbial ecology, Micro-scale interactions, Host-microbe interactions, Morphogenesis, Multicellularity

    • (Spring 2023) BISC 313. Evolution and Population Genetics, MWF 11:00am – 11:50am, ZHS163
    • (Spring 2023) BISC 599. Special Topics, W 12:00pm – 01:50pm, AHF259
    • (Fall 2023) BISC 529. Seminar in Marine Biology, T 12:00pm – 12:50pm, OFFICE
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