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Alumni Spotlight: Austin Swafford

Updated: Mar 1, 2019

Name: Austin Swafford

Nicknames: None that ever stuck

Spouse/kids/pets (and if so, names):

Spouse: Dr. Jessica Galant-Swafford

Dogs: Mozart Heschel Swafford (15 lb Shi-Poo)

Groot Falkor Swafford (62 lb Labradoodle)

Class: '05 (the best)

Major: B.S. Molecular Biology with a focus on Nanotechnology

Graduate school and degree (if applicable): PhD in Medical Genetics and Immunology; University of Cambridge-National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease

Hometown: New Orleans, LA, USA

Home teams: Geaux Saints! 

Current location: San Diego, CA, USA

Occupation: I’m the Director of Research- Innovations at the UC San Diego Center for Microbiome Innovation. My primary role is to work with partners in industry and professors at UC San Diego to develop new technologies and techniques to advance research into the microbiome, the countless microbes that cover nearly every surface of the planet, including your own body. I also serve as the representative for microbiome research at UC San Diego in a variety of public-facing activities aimed at improving research in our field.

Coolest part about your job: Day-to-day I love mentoring students and postdocs, helping them achieve the ‘Aha!’ moments of insight and inspiration that makes science rewarding, but the ‘coolest’ part is when I get to have an impact on major policy decisions such as how to secure the food supply, which standards we should use to assess the quality of microbiome experiments, or how to design an appropriate genetic inventory to answer the question of whether there is life on Mars.

Dream end-of-career job: Although hopefully the end of my career is far in the future, I’d like to end my career in public service, and then segue into a passive ‘career’ as a public intellectual.

Future non-career ambitions: Starting a family!

Outside talents (e.g. sports, music, theater, trivia...): I’m an amateur polyglot (French, Spanish, Hebrew, Japanese, British English, German, TBD..) and linguist, I enjoy cooking (always spicy) and baking (except cookies which I can’t make to save my life), trivia (non-sports), and most recently designing board games.

The most dangerous / exciting thing you've done:

Dangerous: Skydiving with the Extreme Sports Club at UTD.

Exciting: Before we became ‘old’ (30) I gathered a group of friends from UTD, grad school, and my professional life and we spent 5 days hiking in the Andes and ending at Machu Picchu.

One surprising thing Alumni wouldn't know about you: I'm an avid brewer, with plans to begin selling my ales this fall. 

Favorite part about UTD: Late nights with my friends, be it epic board game sessions, spelunking, or making up for procrastination on Destination Imagination.

Favorite McDermott memory: Winning the Comet Cup as A Modest Proposal!

What you want to tell the McDermott Scholars: Breathe. You are here because of your spirit, your character, and your passion for doing great things and giving back to the community that gives to you. But you’re not alone, and you don’t have to do it all. Look at the amazing people around you and reach out to them for help, in your classes, on your projects, and for physical and mental support. Your classmates are some of the most impressive people you’ll ever meet, so cherish your time together, and remember to pay attention to where you are and who you’re with and you’ll all make it to your bright future ahead.


Want to be our next spotlight, or know of an awesome alum we should feature? Send an email today!


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