Growing up in California, Katie Pitz was happiest surrounded by nature, whether it was scrambling over rocks in the intertidal zone of Monterey Bay, hiking to the top of Yosemite Falls, or just searching for insects in her own back yard. As an undergraduate majoring in molecular cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley, she discovered an interest in genetics. She cultivated that interest during an internship at Sangamo Biosciences and a post-college appointment at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and carried it into her studies in the MIT/WHOI Joint Program with her Ph.D. advisor Don Anderson. She also enjoys ceramics and makes a mean dinoflagellate-themed coffee mug. Her mentor on this article was Kate Madin, a writer and editor for Oceanus magazine.