I was born in north-western Pennsylvania in 1971. In the autumn of 1990, after free-lancing as a photographer, I enrolled in the B.Sc Environmental Sciences program at the State University of New York (College at Purchase) with a focus in Environmental Organic Chemistry. At the start of my third year I took a course in vertebrate evolution. During the course I realised that I wanted to study evolutionary biology. In the autumn of 1993 I transferred to the University of Maryland to pursue my studies in evolutionary biology. I earned my B.Sc degree in 1995.
After completing my undergraduate studies I continued with graduate studies at Maryland in the Department of Zoology and at the then Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History Laboratory of Molecular Systematics (LMS; now known as Laboratory for Analytical Biology), a Department of the National Museum of Natural History located at their Museum Support Center (MSC in Suitland Maryland). From 1995 until 1998 I was a Pre-doctoral Fellow at the Smithsonian.
In the fall of 1998, I began my Ph.D. work on experimental evolution and statistical phylogenetics with John Huelsenbeck at the University of Rochester, New York. I earned my Master of Science degree in 2000 in Evolutionary Genetics and then my Ph.D. in October of 2004.
After completing my Ph.D. I moved to the University of Copenhagen, Denmark to work with Rasmus Nielsen on a number of problems in statistical genetics. I worked in Denmark from the autumn of 2004 until the spring of 2008. I then moved from Copenhagen to the University of Edinburgh, Scotland to work with Andrew Leigh-Brown and Andrew Rambaut on the evolutionary dynamics of influenza.