About the Department
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Graduate Students and Post-docs
For Prospective Grad Students
3 Year Course Plan
3 Year Course Plan
Schedule of Courses
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Timeline for PhD Program
Schedule of Courses
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Whitney R. Harris World Ecology Center
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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.
DUNLAP LAB - Evolutionary ecology of information use in animals
We 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:
- The integration of individual and social information in decisions in flies or bees.
- How social context and spatial scale affects resource choices in flies.
- The role of innate preference in learning and memory.
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.
MARCHANT LAB – Development and Evolution of Plant Reproduction
The Marchant Lab is an innovative and collaborative research group at the forefront of both applied and basic plant sciences. We are particularly interested in the biology and evolution of anthers. As the source of pollen, anthers are essential for plant sexual reproduction and are highly conserved in function; however, considerable natural variation exists in their development, physiology, and architecture. In addition, plant breeders’ ability to control pollen production underpins hybrid seed production of most crops making anther biology essential for agricultural improvement. To address our questions, we use single-cell RNA-sequencing (scRNA-seq), comparative genetics/genomics, microscopy, and digitized herbarium specimens using both model and non-model plant systems.
In the Marchant Lab you will pursue a primary project plus there are ample opportunities for collaborative projects within the lab and with diverse cooperators. The lab atmosphere is supportive, inquisitive, and committed to providing each student with the most effective training cognizant with individual goals.
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:
- Character displacement in diet, coloration, or behavior among wasp species
- Comparative genomics or population genetics comparisons of wasps
- Environmental effects on morphology, diet, or community composition
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:
- What selective pressures favor specialization in pollination systems?
- What are the evolutionary and ecological consequences of competition for pollination?
- How do pollinators influence plant speciation?
TOBLER LAB – Evolutionary Ecology of Livebearing and Extremophile Fishes
Our lab seeks to understand patterns of and mechanisms underlying biological diversification. We try to address two key questions: (1) How and why do organisms diversify phenotypically, and (2) how and why do reproductive barriers evolve between populations; i.e., under what circumstances can we observe speciation? Our research emphasizes analyses across levels of biological organization to understand how genomic variation translates to phenotypes and fitness of organisms in their natural environment. We also integrate analyses among evolutionarily independent lineages exposed to similar selective regimes to quantify the relative importance of convergent and non-convergent evolution. To achieve our goals, we leverage collaborations with researchers from diverse backgrounds, and we combine concepts and methods from various disciplines, including geochemistry, ecology, evolution, physiology, animal behavior, genetics, and genomics. While we study a variety of systems, the core research in the lab focuses on fishes, including livebearers of the family Poeciliidae and extremophiles that have colonized caves and toxic springs rich in hydrogen sulfide.
WANG LAB – Plant Biochemistry
The 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
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
- Characterization of new mutant lines with altered root development.
- Microscopic examination of peroxisome number, shape, and size in Arabidopsis wild-type and mutant lines.
- Generation of transgenic Arabidopsis plants with alterations in hormone biosynthesis pathways.
Go to Zolman Lab page or email zolmanb<at>umsl.edu