2019 Spotlight Archive

The Spotlight series was created in 2009 as a way of building camaraderie in our department and as a way of communicating our unique departmental culture to prospective students and visitors. Featuring current graduate students, postdoctoral associates, technical staff, and administrative staff it showcases the broad interests and talent of our many department members. In April of 2015, we launched our first online version.

Moriana Garcia

December 2019

I am the librarian for biology and have been in this position since I arrived at the University of Rochester in November of 2015. I support the information needs of the department, teach students strategies and tools to search more efficiently, and maintain the River Campus Library collection in biology and related sciences. I also support biomedical engineering and brain & cognitive sciences, so I like to say I am the “BBB librarian”. 

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Marcus Kilwein

November 2019

I am researching how Drosophila embryos utilize their fat reserves.  Our lab and others have demonstrated that lipid droplets (fat storage organelles) are highly motile, but little is known about the functions of this motility. I am investigating how this lipid droplet motility affects fat utilization throughout embryonic development.

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Xiaolu Wei

October 2019

I work in the Larracuente lab and am interested in the male meiotic drive system in fruit flies called Segregation Distorter (SD). In this system, the driver SD can manipulate meiosis to favor the transmission of itself at the cost of the other allele. The consequence is a lower fertility of the fly and almost all its offspring will have the driver. I am working to understand the molecular mechanism of this selfish behavior.

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Jonathan Gigas

September 2019

I work in the Gorbunova/Seluanov lab where we study mechanisms of aging. I work on a protein called Sirtuin6 and its role in human aging by studying a variant found in people who’ve lived over 100 years.

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Lindsey Perrin

August 2019

I’m a laboratory technician in the Chen Lab and I’ll be joining the department as a PhD student this fall.  The Chen lab studies population genomics using pedigree data from the Florida Scrub Jay, an endangered species of bird endemic to Florida.  Using this unique combination of pedigree and genomic data, we can ask questions about evolutionary biology and conservation genomics that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

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Jillian Ramos

July 2019

I work in Dr. Dragony Fu’s lab where I look at a population of people that have intellectual disability due to a mutation in a protein that is known to modify tRNA. I am trying to determine why a single mutation in a protein leads to this disorder.

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Vamsi Kovelakuntla

June 2019

I work in the Meyer lab. We use synthetic biology techniques to engineer bacteria to produce composite materials. We are also developing new methods to combine with 3D bioprinting to produce patterned biologically active materials.

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Rachel Hammelman

May 2019

I work in the Brisson lab and we are studying evolutionary genetics and genomics in the pea aphid. Currently one of the big questions we are working on is the evolution of wings and their developmental mechanisms.

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Thomas Lyon

April 2019

I’m the lab technician for the Teaching Labs. Basically, we prep and manage all of the undergraduate biology labs.

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Beatriz Navarro Dominguez

March 2019

I work in both the Presgraves and Larracuente labs and am interested in the evolution of selfish DNA, which is a general term to describe several kinds of genetic elements that spread within the populations without contributing to the fitness of the organisms carrying them.  I am currently working on population genomics and transposable element load of the Segregation Distorter (SD) system of Drosophila melanogaster, a gene complex that achieves high transmission rates to offspring causing alterations during meiosis in its favor and in detriment of other genes. I am also interested in the roles of satellite DNA and transposable elements in hybrid incompatibilities between related species of Drosophila.

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Nicholas Macoretta

February 2019

I work in the Gorbunova lab, so my general interests lie in aging.  Now, there are many different aspects to this generalized process, so I have to narrow my focus when asking questions about aging organisms.  So I focus on the epigenetic components of aging organisms.  I am particularly interested in histones, the proteins that form the primary organizational unit of DNA organization (the nucleosome).  These proteins have several isoforms, variants, and post-translational modifications that seem to change during aging processes.  These affect DNA organization and chromatin overall.  If I had to summarize what I study in one sentence, though, I would say that I am interested in how a long-lived rodent species, the naked mole rat, maintains its epigenetic memory during aging processes compared to short-lived species, such as the mouse.  

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Cordelia Forkpah

January 2019

I am currently working in the Werren Lab as a lab technician so apart from working to keep the lab going, I am working on finding the genetic differences in learning and aggregation behavior in Nasonia, a kind of wasp.

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