2021 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.

Minseon Lee

December 2021

I work in the Gorbunova & Seluanov lab and study mechanisms of aging. SIRT6 has an important role in DNA repair and heterochromatin regulation. My current research focuses on the role of SIRT6 in rejuvenating the epigenome and maintaining genomic stability in aged cells.

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Omid Saleh Ziabari

November 2021

I’m interested in how evolution acts in natural populations, particularly in changing environments. So I study the relationship between the environment and the genetic forces upon which evolution operates. Environmentally controlled traits, like how royal honey diets in developing honeybees determine the worker/queen caste, rely on some environmental cue to drive the developmental of alternative traits. In contrast, some traits are entirely controlled by genetic factors. There’s a much longer list of examples here, but think of familiar examples from your biology textbooks like eye color and the number of fingers on your hand. 

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Hannah Cook

October 2021

This month I started working in the Trop Bio Lab as a laboratory technician where I am assisting in a variety of projects pertaining to social wasps. These projects relate to topics ranging from investigating the effects of parasitic manipulation to analyzing population genomics and potential local adaptations. I look forward to getting more involved in the research happening in the Trop Bio Lab over this next year. 

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Aaron Lewis

August 2021

I am the Assistant Facilities Manager. My role is basically to fill the needs and requests of the department, which range from making service calls, shipping and receiving packages, overseeing the stockroom, and taking care of any crises that arise in the labs or building.  

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Josie Emmanuele

July 2021

I am mainly interested in the cellular portion of biology and began studying developmental biology with the Lambert Lab in Spring 2020. The overall goal of the research I was conducting was to clone the open reading frames (ORFs) for Cyp26 and RDH10 from the mollusc Ilyanassa and construct plasmid vectors for expression of these genes in mRNA. This study, like many studies in developmental biology, was to observe whether genes could be rescued by expressing mRNAs while in the presence of morpholino knockdowns. Loss of function, knockdown, and rescue experiments with the use of morpholino oligonucleotides, overall, are popular in studying the developmental process and molecular backbone in many different organisms.

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Maria Isabel Castano

June 2021

I'm a Colombian biologist, broadly interested in the role of behavior as a driver of population differentiation. I joined the TropBioLab (Uy Lab) in Fall 2020 aiming to explore the field of behavioral ecology using experimental and genomic approaches. I'm particularly keen on how visual and acoustic signals involved in mate choice are shaped by ecological pressures that ultimately result in reproductive isolation of neotropical birds. I recently obtained a grant to do my first field work season in Colombia exploring a unique hybrid zone between two subspecies of a colorful Neotropical Tanager system.

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Felix Beaudry

May 2021

I research sex: I address century-old questions about mating system evolution using modern genetic tools. I have spent a lot of time considering why some organisms have sex chromosomes. I ask this question in a variety of ways. Why can we reliably identify the specific chromosome-pair associated with sex under the microscope? Why is a distinct chromosome-pair correlated with each sex, while this is not the case for any other physical aspects of the body? Is there a benefit that can explain why evolution keeps around chromosomes associated with sex? My work tests the prevailing theory that sex all relates to getting rid of bad mutations and helping good mutations spread. 

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Nancy Corson

April 2021

I am a laboratory technician in the lab of Drs. Andrei Seluanov and Vera Gorbunova.  My current role is to manage the Naked mole rat and Damaraland mole rat satellite facility.  I also oversee lab animal protocols, which details the many animal protocols currently being implemented in the lab. 

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Lynn Sidor

March 2021

I am researching in the Meyer lab. My project is a bacterial optics project; specifically I am working to create bacterial microlenses and biolasers. To do this, I am engineering bacteria to coat themselves in polysilicate, also called bioglass. Inspiration for this comes from aquatic organisms – brittlestars are coated in microlens structures, which have been said to have nearly perfect optical properties, and sea sponges have internal skeletons made of silicate. Using the unique enzyme silicatein, from sea sponges, we are able to create bioglass-encapsulated bacterial cells. Additionally, I am working to manipulate the size and shapes of bacterial cells in order to produce a library of microlenses with different light focusing abilities.

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Kathryn Neville

February 2021

I am currently working in the Bergstralh lab studying spindle orientation. When cells divide, there’s a group of proteins that guide the mitotic spindle into the correct position. I study those proteins. They are super interesting because the proteins seem to work slightly differently in a variety of tissues depending partly on how the tissue needs to be built and maintained. I use fruit flies as a model system. Specifically, I use their ovaries and embryos to study spindle orientation. 

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Elsie Shogren

January 2021

I’m interested in how evolution, ecology, and behavior interact and how those interactions influence species’ evolutionary trajectories. In the Trop Bio Lab here at U of R I’m focusing on questions related to hybridization of bird species in the Solomon Islands, and trying to understand the drivers and consequences of gene flow between species.

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