Wittkopp Alumni

David Yuan, MCDB Graduate Student
Dave earned his B.A. in genetics and molecular biology from Northwestern University. He then worked as a research technician with Dr. David Jacobs at UCLA, recovering and studying expression of sensory organ genes in basal metazoans (jellyfish and anemone), and subsequently earned a M.S. degree with Dr. Charles Taylor at UCLA examining biostatistical analyses of seasonal incidence of malaria and other infectious diseases in Mali. Dave joined the lab in April 2009, working on several projects. He collected and analyzed mutations that affect the expression of a variety of genes in yeast. He gladly accepted a post-doctoral position at Stanford University in the Petrov Lab starting March 2014.
Tiffany Brooks, Visiting undergraduate researcher (ED2QUEST)
Tiffany Brooks started in the lab in May 2013. Tiffany is an undergraduate at the University of Cincinnati focused on Food and Nutrition with Pre-Medicine concentration. While in the lab, she worked under the guidance of Fabien Duveau. Her project focused on investigating the functional consequences of cis-regulatory variation in the TDH3 gene in yeast.

Laura Sligar, Undergraduate researcher
Laura started working in the lab in June 2011. She worked under the guidance of Joe Coolon. The main project she is currently pursuing investigatesgene expression differences underlying the resistance of D. sechellia and susceptibility of D. simulans to octanoic acid. Laura got her bachelors, concentrating in Evolutionary Anthropology and minoring in Biology in Spring 2013. She is currently applying to graduate schools and pursuing her interests in evolutionary genetics.

Gizem Kalay, Postdoctoral Fellow
Gizem earned her B.S. in Molecular Biology and Genetics in 2005 from Bogazici University (Istanbul, Turkey). She also spent a summer studying evolution and development with Dr. Matthias Gerberding at the Max Planck Institute (Tuebingen, Germany). Gizem officially joined the Wittkopp lab in April 2006, with a primary focus on studying the effects of new mutations on gene expression in yeast. She is also creating transgenic Drosophila to study regulatory divergence in flies. Gizem graduated in Winter 2012, stayed on as a post-doctoral fellow until Fall 2012. She has moved on to a post-doctoral position in the Lott Lab at UCSD.
Lisa (Arnold) Sramkoski, MCDB Graduate Student
Lisa earned her B.A. in Biology from Case Western Reserve university in 2006 and joined the lab officially in April 2007. Lisa had diverse interests that ranged from the physiological effects of pigmentation to the developmental genetic control of pigmentation patterning. She also pursued a Master of Science (M.S.) Degree in Post-Secondary Science Education. After her defense, Lisa moved with her family to Colorado and is pursuing a career in teaching.
Wesley McLaughlin, Undergraduate researcher, Honors Thesis
Wesley began working in the lab as a junior in September 2010. He submitted an honors thesis in Spring 2012 on a project on cis/trans gene regulation throughout developmental time in D. americana and D. novamexicana, and is also contributing to a project looking at the geographic distribution of alleles of the genes tan and ebony, in D. americana across the United States. Wes started medical school at Rosalind Franklin in Chicago in Fall 2012.
Katya Mack, Undergraduate researcher
Katya began working in the lab as a senior in May 2011 with Dr. Jonathan Gruber on mapping a collection of mutations in baker's yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. She was an Anthropology Major and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Minor. Katya started her Ph.D. program in EEB Department at the University of Arizona in Fall 2012.
Brad Lankowsky, Undergraduate researcher
Brad began his career here in the lab July 2011. He worked with Arielle Cooley on creating chimeric alleles of the tan gene to identify the genotypic variation between D. novamenxicana and D. americana that causes the phenotype divergence in the two species. Brad graduated witha degree in Economics and minori in Biochemistry, and started medical school at Case Western in Fall 2012.

Mackenzie Dome, Undergraduate researcher
Mackenzie started working in the lab May 2011. She worked under the guidance of Gizem Kalay, helping to create transgenic Drosophila in order to study regulatory divergence in flies. Mackenzie started a masters program in Public Health at Notre Dame in Fall 2012.

Robert Dikeman, Undergraduate researcher
Robert began working in the lab as a senior during the spring of 2012. He worked with Arielle Cooley on a project investigating the genetic control of pigmentation patterning in D. americana and D. novamexicana. He graduated in 2012 with a degree in biochemistry and is currently applying to medical schools.

Zhixiu Hussein Al-Asadi, Undergraduate researcher
Hussein began working in the lab as of May 2011. Working with several members of the lab, Hussein is attempting to understand the spectrum of mutations that affect the TDH3 gene in yeast. By modeling the regulatory interactions of TDH3 as a directed graph, he hopes to provide further insight into how mutations affecting gene activity are distributed within a regulatory network. Hussein received his B.S. in Math with a minor in computer science. Hussein is pursuing his interest in analyzing evolutionary change at the molecular or population level as a Ph.D. student at the University of Chicago - Illinois.
Arielle Cooley, Postdoctoral Fellow
After completing her Ph.D. research on the evolution of floral color patterning in monkeyflowers, with Dr. John Willis at Duke University, Arielle switched kingdoms to study the evolution of body color in Drosophila americana and D. novamexicana when she joined the Wittkopp lab in March 2009. She used transgenic flies to identify specific nucleotide variants, in the tan gene that contribute to color differences. In Fall 2012, Arielle left the Wittkopp Lab to join the faculty of Biology at Whitman College in Walla, Walla WA. Visit her personal website.
Alejandra Torres Morrero, Visiting undergraduate researcher (ED2QUEST)
Alejandra visited the Wittkopp Lab summer of 2012 from the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez. She worked primarily on the genetic and developmental mechanisms underlying phenotypic evolution in close proximity with Gizem Kalay. She was one of the youngest students we have ever had in the lab and was exceptionally bright and friendly.
Jonathan Gruber, Postdoctoral Fellow
Jonathan earned his Ph.D. in December 2007 from the UC-Irvine, where he worked with Dr. Anthony Long on quantitative genetics in Drosophila. In his postdoctoral work, he explored fundamental characteristics of gene expression evolution and biology using the brewer's yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Jonathan is in the process of finding an industry career and is currently working for the UM Sequencing Core.
Zhixiu Zhixiu Yang, Visiting undergraduate researcher
Zhixiu visited the Wittkopp Lab the summer of 2010 from Tsinghua University, China. She worked with several lab members on expression of Drosophila pigmentation genes.
Emma Stewart, Undergraduate researcher (UROP, REU), Lab manager
Emma joined the lab as a freshman at UM in September 2005. She studies the genetic basis of pigmentation differences between D. americana and D. novamexicana using a combination of genetic, transgenic, and molecular genetic techniques. Although Emma transferred to Oakland University, she continued to work in the lab, serving a year as our Lab manager/Techincan. In Fall 2010, she began an accelerated graduate program in K-12 education at the University of Georgia.
Kevin Abernethy, Lab manager/Technician
Kevin received his B.S. in Public Health from Utah State University in May of 2008. As an undergraduate Kevin spent two years researching ion channel mutations and the role they may play in human disease. Although Kevin was a Masters student in the school of Public Health, he was able to utilize his molecular cloning background in the research being done in our lab.
Laura Shefner, Undergraduate Researcher (Honors thesis)
Laura began working in the lab as a junior in January 2008. She is concentrating in both Biology and Math, and plans to submit an honors thesis in 2009, which will focus on the pupal development of D. americana and D. novamexicana. In Fall 2009, she began medical school at the University of Toledo.
Kara Vogel, Post-Baccalaureate Researcher
Kara began working in the lab in October 2009. She worked closely with Jonathan Gruber to characterize a novel collection of regulatory mutations in yeast. In Fall 2010, she joined the Biology Ph.D. program at Michigan Technological University.
Ulises Rosas, Visiting Postdocotral Researcher
Ulises spent 3 months in the lab investigating Drosophila pigmentation evolution during 2009, funded by a Darwin Award from British Council. He adapted morphometric tools developed during his graduate training for studying pigmentation and characterized tan and ebony expression in D. novamexicana and D. americana. Upon leaving the lab, he began a postdoctoral position with Michael Purugganan at New York University.
Xiaowei Heng, Undergraduate Researcher (UROP, Honors thesis)
Xiaowei joined the lab during her first year at the University of Michigan (Oct 2007). Her first project in the lab examined reproductive isolation between D. novamexicana and D. americana as well as within D. americana. She then contributed to the construction of various transgenes, and in Jan 2009 began studies for her Neurobiology Honors thesis which focuses on the role of the yellow gene in courtship behavior. In Fall 2010, she began medical school at Duke-NUS (Singapore).
Adam Neidert, Technician/Lab manager
With a master's degree from U. Rochester (2003), Adam joined the lab in July 2006 with a strong background in molecular biology. During his time in the lab, Adam played an instrumental role in our studies of pigmentation evolution, constructing introgression lines, orchestrating a large fine-scale mapping project, and constructing transgnes. He left the lab in 2008 to pursue a new career overseeing clininal trials.
Beth Thompson, Undergraduate Researcher
Beth officially joined the lab in January 2007, although she spent much of December 2006 learning her way around the lab. She has contributed to a wide-variety of projects during her first year, becoming a "jack-of-all-trades". Her contributions include cytological tests for chromosomal inversions, the development of genotyping assays, a population survey of candidate gene sequences within D. americana, diverse cloning projects, and measuring desiccation resistance. In Sept 2008, Beth began the Ph.D. program in molecular biology at Duke University.
Yainna Hernaiz-Hernandez, Undergraduate Researcher (SROP)
Yainna worked with us during the summer of 2008 as a visiting student from Universidad Metropolitana in Puerto Rico. She spent her time in the lab analyzing expression of the tan gene in D. americana and D. novamexicana using in situ hybridization. She gave an outstanding oral presentation on her work at the SROP symposium and presented a poster at the CIC SROP meeting at Michigan State University. Yainna was awarded the most outstanding student prize for the 2008 SROP group at U. Michigan.
Elliott Howell, EEB Graduate Student
Elliott earned his B.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Tennessee in 2007, where worked research with Dr. Chris Boake studying the genetics of female sexual receptivity in Nasonia. Elliott began his graduate studies in September 2007, but decided to leave the program in April 2008 to pursue other opportunities.
Gabriel Smith-Winberry, Undergraduate Researcher
Gabe worked in the lab from Janurary 2006 until he left for medical school in Virginia during July 2007. He investigated the molecular evolution of pigmentation genes in D. americana and D. novamexicana, and characterized pigmentation in isofemale lines of these species. Ultimately, he showed that variation in D. americana is consistent with local adaptation.
Marisa Weisel, Undergraduate Researcher
Marisa joined the lab after taking Dr. Wittkopp's course in Evolution and Development. She spent the summer of 2007 working on sequencing the ebony gene from D. novamexicana and D. americana, developing high-throughput protocols, and contributing to a variety of molecular cloning projects.
Saleh Akhras, Undergraduate Researcher (SROP)
Saleh worked with us during the summer of 2007 as a visiting student from Northeastern Illinois University. He contributed greatly to fine-scale genetic mapping of interspecific pigmentation differences between Drosophila species. He also gave an excellent presentation on his work at the SROP symposium and at a the CIC SROP meeting at Purdue University.
Erin Shellman, Biostatistics Masters Student
Erin worked in the lab from July - Sept 2006. She has a diverse background in Evolutionary Biology, Economics, and Mathematics from Case Western Reserve University (B.S. 2006) and spent a summer at the National Institutes of Health, Division of Computational Bioscience. In September 2006, she bagan the biostatistics master's degree program at the University of Michigan and in 2008 continued on to the Ph.D. program.
Belinda Haerum, Technician/Lab Manager
After earning her B.S. in Biology from Cornell, Belinda became the founding member of the Wittkopp Lab (August 2005). She was instrumental in setting up the lab and getting all projects up and running. Her expertise, organization, and personality are sorely missed! In August 2006, Belinda moved to George Washington University to pursue her master's degree in Public Health.
Alekhya Ratnala, Undergraduate Researcher (UROP)
Alekhya worked in the lab during her freshman year (2005-2006) as a participant in the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). She analyzed the genetic basis of pigmentation differences between D. americana and D. novamexicana using interspecific crossses. Currently, Alekhya is focusing on her engineering studies, working toward her bachelor's degree.
Monica Woll, Undergraduate Researcher
Monica joined the lab in September 2005 as a history major with a renewed interest in biology. In December 2005, she left to study abroad in Paris, where she is continuing to do biological research. While in the lab, Monica helped characterize pigmentation in D. americana.