Student Research and Internship
"I spent my summer at Yale University's Center of Bioethics. They say it's an internship, but that's really so "interns" don't have to pay Yale tuition; it's really more of a program.
I got to attend some amazing lectures by some absurdly intelligent, successful, and helpful people. I also got to attend seminars (Bioethics and Media, Bioethics and Literature, Bioethics and the Law, and Critical Issues in Medical Ethics) in which we essentially chatted it up about lucrative cases, their application, and what we felt about it all.
My favorite part of the program was undoubtedly the debates. We were all in teams of three and served as the pro or con side of an assigned topic; mine was about compensation for egg donation. The completion of the program involved writing and presenting research. The presentations were amazing! Getting to watch all of my friends present research they worked so hard on . . . phenomenal.
The most rewarding part of the experience was truly the people. I met some of the most wonderful people from around the world. Between hanging out around New Haven we would just get into debates about the things we had learned that day.
All of you biology majors should really consider this; it really adds another facet of depth to the study (without all the bench lab work!) that I think is crucial to any biologist's knowledge base. Please feel free to ask me any questions about the experience!"
"I study invasive plant species and their interactions with and impacts on native ecosystems. I hypothesize that successful plant invaders: 1) find local soil microbial mutualists that improve their growth and competitive ability, 2) alter local microbial communities to their benefit, and 3) the alteration of microbial communities results in changes in decomposition rates and nutrient availabilities. All of these actions may positively feedback on plant invasion to the detriment of native plant and animal species.
Currently, I am collaborating with Dr. Mary Arthur, University of Kentucky, and Dr. Ryan McEwan, University of Dayton, on a project examining the decomposition of Amur honeysuckle (Lonerica maackii), ash (Fraxinus spp.), and hickory (Carya spp.) leaf litter. In this study we are examining the decomposition rates of these species under the native tree canopy and under the canopy of the invasive honeysuckle. My focus in this study is to examine the microbes that colonize the different litters over the course of decomposition using Phospholipid Fatty Acids (PLFAs) as biomarkers."
"I am interested in molecular microbiology, bacterial genetics, and bacterial pathogenesis. My research focuses on understanding the molecular process of natural transformation in the obligate human pathogen Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the sole etiologic agent of the sexually transmitted infection gonorrhea. Natural transformation is a mechanism of horizontal genetic transfer that is a major driver of evolution and can result in transfer of virulence factors and antibiotic resistance determinants. The current focus of my laboratory is to investigate fundamental questions regarding the process of natural transformation and DNA repair/recombination in commensal Neisseria species and previously unappreciated questions in pathogenic Neisseria species."
"My research focuses on the development, underlying physiology, and fitness consequences of stable individual differences in behavior (personality) in birds. I have examined the factors underlying the development of neophobia in Amazon parrots, the relationship among personality, pair compatibility, and reproductive success in cockatiels, and behavioral traits as a predictor of social dominance in mountain chickadees. Currently I am collaborating with Dr. David Westneat (UK) on a project exploring the hormonal basis and phenotypic correlates of personality traits and behavioral plasticity in house sparrows."
"My research interests are in the field of animal evolution and development. Despite a tremendous amount of variation in form, all animals develop via a similar genetic toolkit. I am interested in discovering what modifications of this genetic toolkit have resulted in major changes in body form. For example, much of my research has focused on how animals belonging to Phylum Echinodermata, which all have pentameral symmetry, evolved from bilateral ancestors. More recently, I worked with students on a project that examined DNA from different breeds of dogs for genetic changes in a gene important for bone development."
"I study the ecology and evolution of cannibalism in spiders and insects. My interest includes the role of cannibalism in influencing the abundance of generalist predators in forest and old field habitats. In the past I collaborated with Dr. Rosemary Gillespie, University of California Berkeley, and Mark Stowe to determine the habitat requirements and foraging behavior of a unique tetragnathid spider (Doryonychus raptor) that is only found in Kauai, Hawaii. This spider appears not to use a spider web to capture prey but instead appears to impale flying insects with its greatly elongated and modified tarsal claw. My recent work involves old field management practices and how they influence the diversity and abundance of arthropods. I am working at Floracliff Nature Sanctuary."