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Overview of Research Activities by Lab:

CHUBIZ LAB – Microbial Ecology

Over the past several years, my work has focused on elucidating regulatory and structural mechanisms driving the emergence of phenotypic, multi-drug resistance in bacterial pathogens. More recently, my research has incorporated aspects of microbial ecology, experimental evolution, and genomics to provide a broader understanding of how diverse bacterial species adapt to antibiotics. Specifically, I am interested in i) the common and unique mechanisms bacteria use to survive environmental stress, ii) the emergent properties of microbial communities that allow for drug tolerance, and iii) the underlying principles shaping community recolonization after drug treatment. To meet these aims, my lab utilizes next-generation DNA sequencing and high-throughput cell culturing methods in conjunction with classical microbial genetics and biochemistry. Ultimately, I hope to bridge a gap in understanding between species and community-level antibiotic tolerance and evolution of resistance.

Go to Chubiz Lab page

DUNLAP LAB - Evolutionary ecology of information use in animals

Dunlap_flyWe focus on the role of environmental variability in the evolution and ecological function of cognition (e.g. learning, memory, and decision making). How do animals track change in their environments? When is learning and tracking a good strategy? How should animals weight different sources of information? Even more broadly, we are interested in the interplay between evolution and cognitive mechanisms. To answer these questions we use a mix of theory and experiments, and work on time scales from single foraging bouts in bumblebees to experimental evolution studies in fruit flies across many generations.

Some possible projects:

  1. The integration of individual and social information in decisions in flies or bees.
  2. How social context and spatial scale affects resource choices in flies.
  3. The role of innate preference in learning and memory.

Go to Dunlap Lab page

OLIVAS LAB – Regulation of mRNA Stability by Puf Proteins

The Olivas lab studies how members of the Puf family of eukaryotic RNA-binding proteins stimulate the degradation of specific mRNAs, thus controlling protein production from those mRNAs.  We use both the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae model system as well as human cell lines to perform experiments investigating the mechanisms by which Puf proteins stimulate mRNA degradation and the pathways by which Puf protein activity is altered by varying environmental conditions.

Go to Olivas Lab page


MILLER LAB – Diversification of social wasps


The Social Insect Diversity lab investigates how genomics, behavior, and ecology interact to shape biological diversity. Our primary study systems are the primitively eusocial Polistes paper wasps. What drives speciation and diversification in paper wasps? Does social behavior affect diversification rates in social insects? How does social insect biodiversity compare to that of solitary insects? We explore these questions using a wide range of methods including genome assembly, population genetics, museum collections, behavioral experiments, and more. 

Potential projects could include: 

  1. Character displacement in diet, coloration, or behavior among wasp species 
  2. Comparative genomics or population genetics comparisons of wasps 
  3. Environmental effects on morphology, diet, or community composition 

Go to Miller Lab page

MUCHHALA LAB - Evolutionary ecology of pollination systems

The Muchhala Lab conducts research in evolutionary ecology addressing the role of interspecific interactions, especially mutualism and competition, in structuring communities and driving diversification.  We focus on plants pollinated by bats and hummingbirds, and integrate various approaches including molecular phylogenetics, mathematical modeling, and field experiments. Three specific questions we are particularly interested in include:

  1. What selective pressures favor specialization in pollination systems?
  2. What are the evolutionary and ecological consequences of competition for pollination?
  3. How do pollinators influence plant speciation?

Go to Muchala Lab page

PARKER LAB – Evolutionary ecology of bird hosts and their pathogens

We use samples collected from nature to ask questions about how pathogens interact with their host species.  Using population genetics and phylogeographic approaches, we estimate colonization dates for both hosts and pathogens, and estimate the degree to which genes of hosts and pathogens are moving among populations.  Study sites include the Galapagos Islands and other sites from Madagascar to Missouri. 

Parker_structure_analysisSome possible projects:

  1. Disease ecology of particular species, focusing on those at risk.
  2. Analysis of arrival modes of pathogens, from global scale to between islands.
  3. Does isolation really correlate with susceptibility? 

Go to Parker Lab page


THIEL LAB -Molecular biology and biotechnology, cyanobacteria

My research is in the area of microbiology and molecular biology, specifically on nitrogen fixation, hydrogen production and gene regulation in filamentous cyanobacteria, both in free-living and in symbiotic associations with plants.

Go to Thiel Lab page

WANG LAB – Plant Biochemistry

Wang_lipidsThe research in my laboratory aims at understanding the signaling processes that impact plant
response to environmental challenges and lipid metabolism. The current study is focused on
the role of membrane lipid-mediated signaling and phospholipid turnover in plant water use
efficiency, plant response to nitrogen and phosphorus availability, and lipid accumulation.
Our long-term goals are to advance knowledge that enables improvement of 1) plant drought
tolerance, 2) nutrient use efficiency, and 3) energy-dense compound production. We use
Arabidopsis for knowledge discovery and crop plants, such as soybean, rapeseeds, and camelina,
for translational research. My research program can be divided into five thrust areas:

  • Biochemistry and molecular biology of phospholipases D, C, and A
  • Lipid-mediated signaling in plant responses to hyperosmotic and nutrient stress cues
  • Metabolic profiling, lipidomics, and lipid-protein interactomes
  • Metabolic engineering to enhance oil production
  • Biotechnology for improving crop drought tolerance and N and P use efficiency

Go to Wang Lab page

ZOLMAN LAB – Plant Genetics

The Zolman Lab studies peroxisomes, small organelles found in all eukaryotes, and the reactions that occur within peroxisomes.  Using the model system Arabidopsis thaliana and Zea mays, we incorporate genetics, cell biology, plant physiology, and biochemistry to study peroxisomal reactions that are important for regulating early seedling development and root architecture.

Potential rotation projects include

  1. Characterization of new mutant lines with altered root development.
  2. Microscopic examination of peroxisome number, shape, and size in Arabidopsis wild-type and mutant lines.
  3. Generation of transgenic Arabidopsis plants with alterations in hormone biosynthesis pathways.

Go to Zolman Lab page or email zolmanb<at>