I am an evolutionary biologist and work on the evolution of drug resistance in HIV and bacteria. I want to understand what determines the rate of evolution of drug resistance, so that we can find ways to halt the evolution of drug resistance.

I have also worked on ants, sympatric speciation and soft sweeps. Recently, I have published on fitness costs of mutations in viruses and the evolution of rats in New York. I also write and tweet and make video’s.

At SFSU, I am heavily involved in several programs to help bio/chem/biochem students learn computer science and coding skills. This includes the PINC minor program, the PINC summer program, the GOLD certificate for graduate students and the Science Coding Immersion Program (SCIP).

If you have questions or would like to discuss an idea, feel free to drop me a line (pennings at!

My complete CV is here: Pennings_CV_2019_01_short

Pronouns : she/her

Information for SFSU students

I hope you’ll email or come to my office hours! I love to hear about your goals and will try to help when you struggle.

I will listen and advocate for you, whether you are gay, trans, black, white, poor, muslim, depressed or undocumented. I do what I can to make my corner of academia more inclusive to all. In terms of personal experience: I am first-generation-ish (my parents didn’t go to university but they did get a teaching license as adult learners) and I have often suffered from depression and anxiety.

If you are an undergraduate student and want to do research in my lab, you should look into the BDSP/PINC summer program or the BREED REU program. I usually accept several students from these summer programs into my lab. I normally don’t accept new students in my lab during the year.

If you are interested in doing a master’s or a postdoc in my lab, please send me an email or message me on twitter. If you would like to do a PhD with me, that is currently impossible because SFSU has no PhD program, but I’d be happy to chat anyway.

Mini CV/resume

2020: promoted to associate professor in the Biology Department of San Francisco State University.

Since September 2014: assistant professor in the Biology Department of San Francisco State University.

November 2012 – August 2014: postdoc with Dmitri Petrov at Stanford, project partly funded by HFSP.

June 2010 -Oct 2012 : postdoc with John Wakeley in the OEB department at Harvard, working on HIV drug resistance, project funded by HFSP.

2009 – 2010: postdoc with Susanne Foitzik on ant population genetics project funded by the German Science Foundation.

2006 – 2009: coordinator of the “Munich Graduate Program for Evolution, Ecology and Systematics” funded by VolkswagenFoundation.

January 2007: defended PhD thesis titled “Models of Adaptation and Speciation” (awarded highest grade: summa cum laude).

2003 – 2006: PhD in Joachim Hermisson‘s group at the University of Munich (LMU).

1999 – 2003: worked in the field of science education and started own company “De Praktijk”.

1994: switched to University of Amsterdam to study biology.

1993: started undergraduate studies in Aberdeen, Scotland.

1975 – 1993: grew up in Castricum on the coast of The Netherlands.

Not on my CV

Obviously, many things are not on my CV, but an obvious one is that I started a PhD in 2001 and left after 6 months because I was miserable. Two years later I started again and everything was much better!

One Response to “Bio”

  1. David Stern (@sterndavidi) July 29, 2018 at 3:26 pm #

    I agree that some of those comments seem to be sexist. Having a foreign PhD also makes things tough. But I don’t think the comments about contribution are neccessarily sexist. I have written similar comments about men, myself. People do look for first author papers and in fields like economics single author papers. People do look for evidence of collaboration with people other than the advisor. Now I just looked at your track record on Scopus and I see there are three papers on “soft sweeps” and two have your name first, though the first and most cited has your advisor’s name first, which is unfortunate. I think this reviewer just looked at that and didn’t notice that the other two parts have your name first and came to the wrong conclusion. So that is bad.

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