College of Science and Health > Academics > Biological Sciences > Student Resources > Current Graduate Students

Current Biology Master's Students

Sara Mohammad Alharbi

King Abdul-Aziz University, Saudi Arabia
BS, Biology (Genomics and Biotechnology)

I am interested in understanding how evolution and phenotypic plasticity interact to increase the morphological variability that we see among vertebrates. Currently, I am studying how temperature variation impacts the early stages of the development of the body axis in the Mexican tetra Astyanax mexicanus (Teleostei: Characidae) by looking at two marker genes, msgn1 and hoxd12. msgn1 is expressed in the tail bud and is involved in body axis elongation, while hoxd12 marks the transition boundary between the precaudal and caudal vertebrae. (Advisor: Dr. Aguirre )

Uriel Adolfo Baray

DePaul University
BS, Biological Sciences

My research interests are in cellular and molecular biology. As an undergraduate student at DePaul, I studied open reading frames (ORFs) in the mitochondrial DNA of the Myxomycete Didymium iridis. I used PCR to detect their presence across strains and used RT-PCR to determine their expression in both the haploid and diploid stages. As a graduate student, I am currently developing a transfection method for D. iridis that would aid in the study of genetic and molecular function by means of knocking down or overexpressing genes in this slime mold. (Advisor: Dr. Silliker)

Roberto Cucalon

Escuela Superior Politecnica del Litoral, Ecuador

My research interests are in the area of phylogeography, the study of the evolutionary relationships of populations of species within a geographic context. Phylogeography integrates several fields of study including population genetics, ecology, molecular biology, historical geography, among others. My thesis research is focused on investigating the divergence patterns and evolutionary relationship of the populations of the Neotropical freshwater fish genus Rhoadsia (Teleostei: Characidae) in western Ecuador. The analysis will be based on molecular markers with high rates of evolution such as the mitochondrial Cytochrome b gene and nuclear microsatellite loci. (Advisor: Dr. Aguirre)

Joe Forberg

University of Wisconsin Eau Claire

I am interested in the evolutionary patterns of organisms and how evolution can impact the interaction between species and their environment. I am studying how changes in envioronmental temperature affect the development of bone in the axial skeleton of the Mexican tetra Astyanax mexicanus. (Advisor: Dr. Aguirre)

Joseph Aaron Frumkin

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
BS, Integrative Biology

My study entails the ecomorphology of the caudal fin in three known species of thresher sharks (genus Alopias). Ecomorphology is a field of biology that connects the form of an organism to its function within its natural habitat. Thresher sharks use their tail to slap schools of fish, stunning them, making it easier for them to consume prey. I am specifically studying scale morphology in order to better understand this unique hunting behavior and its relation to their swimming efficiency. (Advisor: Dr. Shimada)

Shannon Gallagher

UNC Wilmington

My research is focused on herpesvirus entry. Viruses have to get into host cells in order to replicate. They use proteins that are present on the surface of the virus particle to enter cells. One of these proteins, glycoprotein B, is responsible for fusing the HSV viral envelope with the host cell membrane. I am looking at a panel of small molecules that are designed to disrupt the function of this protein. My project also examines the structure of glycoprotein B by studying how mutations affect function. (Advisor: Dr. Connolly)

Mark Gudger

DePaul University
Biological Sciences

Cancer Biology (Advisor: Dr. Rajah)

Jesse G Hacker

Aurora University

Urban ecology is especially important in today's rapidly urbanizing world. My research explores how urbanization and human-induced landscape changes might influence avian behavior and cognition. My thesis project focuses on American crows ( Corvus brachyrhynchos) in urban versus rural environments, using puzzle boxes around the city of Chicago to analyze differences in problem-solving performance and neophobia. (Advisor: Dr. LaMontagne)

Jordan Christopher Johnson

Eastern Illinois Uninversity
Environmental Biology

I am interested in conservation biology, specifically work with sensitive species. I am currently examining parasite-host relationship that occurs between the acanthocephalan parasite Acanthocephalus dirus (thorny-headed worm), its intermediate host the aquatic isopod ( Caecidotea intermedius) and its final host the green sunfish ( Lepomis cyanellus). (Advisor: Dr. Sparkes)

Zach Langston

University of South Carolina Upstate
BS, Biology

Research interests include neuroinflammation and neurodegenerative disease pathogenesis. Research project examines the effect of genotype on neuroinflammatory responses related to multiple sclerosis. Transgenic murine models and isolated astrocytes and microglia in primary cell cultures are used to assess genotype-dependent inflammatory cytokine and chemokine production. (Advisor: Dr. Cudaback)

Maxwell London

University of Maryland
Environmental Science and Policy: Wildlife Ecology and Management

My thesis project entails the examination of a 95-million-year-old fossil, nearly complete skeleton of a large (ca. 1 m) bony fish collected from the Tarrant Member of the Upper Cretaceous Eagle Ford Group in Tarrant County, Texas. The goals of my study include its anatomical description, determination of its taxonomic identity and phylogenetic position, and making inferences about its paleobiology, such as its growth pattern and diet. My study is anticipated to add new information about the paleoecology and evolution of the Late Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway of North America where the fish inhabited. (Advisor: Dr. Shimada)

Heidi Luczynski

DePaul University

Research interests include looking at how teleost fish survive different environmental stressors. Research project takes a multi factor approach to better understand the combined effect of naturally occurring fluctuations in temperature on osmoregulation. My project focuses specifically on physiological effects of cold temperature on seawater acclimation of Atlantic salmon. (Advisor: Dr. Bystriansky)

Ahmed Majekodunmi


NA (Advisor: Dr. Gilliland)

Annie P. McIntosh

Northern Arizona University
BS, Biology

My research interests are in the fields of paleontology and evolutionary biology. I am specifically interested in the evolutionary relationships between theropod dinosaurs and modern birds. My thesis focuses on the descriptive and functional morphology of the foot of an extinct primitive bird (Confuciusornis sanctus) from the Late Jurassic-Early Cretaceous of China. The purpose of this study is to determine the behavioral context and evolutionary significance of this morphology. (Advisor: Dr. Shimada)

Taylor Ann Mitchell

Loyola University Chicago
Biology with and emphasis in Molecular Biology

My research seeks to look at the role of the actin bundling protein, L-plastin, and its importance in cell motility of the immune system and cancer in zebrafish. (Advisor: Dr. LeClair)

Tom Moran

DePauw University, Greencastle, IN
BA, Biochemistry and Biology

My research focus is on multi-drug resistant organisms. Our lab is specifically conducting research on the Gram-negative, opportunistic pathogen, Stenotrophomonas maltophilia. I am studying environmental factors that effect the growth and biofilm forming capabilities of this microbe. The research I am doing is relevant for the development of new, alternative therapies for infections. Currently, this bacterium is difficult to treat in immunocompromised patients, with a crude mortality rate as high as 69%. (Advisor: Dr. Brooke)

Kattie Morris

Elmhurst College
BS, Biology

I am broadly interested in conservation biology. My research focuses on the Red-headed Woodpecker ( Melanerpes erythrocephalus), a near-threatened species in continued decline. I am examining the winter cavity use of the Red-headed Woodpecker in Cook County, IL. In particular, I am interested in the interactions between Red-headed Woodpeckers and European Starlings ( Sturnus vulgaris) during this time period and the cost of these interactions on the nesting success of the woodpecker. (Advisor: Dr. LaMontagne)

Leah Ashley Morris

The Ohio State University
BS, Biology

I am currently investigating the mechanism of retinoic acid (RA), a physiologically active derivative of vitamin A, and its role in the regulation of healthy ovarian follicle development in females by focusing on the role of its receptors, known as retinoic acid receptors (RARs) in vitro. The findings of this study will contribute to the overall knowledge of folliculogenesis (the development and maturation of ovarian follicles), ovarian disease prevention for those suffering from diseases such as polycystic ovary syndrome and premature ovarian failure, as well as infertility and cancer treatments. (Advisor: Dr. Kipp)

Alaina Pfenning

St. Ambrose University

My future interests are understanding the effects of ecological and evolutionary diversity in endangered species. Currently, I am studying the ecological and evolutionary diversity of acanthocephalan parasite egg morphology. I am also interested in understanding how differences in egg morphology contribute to successful transmission of the eggs to their intermediate host. Specifically, I am determining what is the function of Acanthocephalus dirus egg fibrils in transmission to Caecidotea intermedius. (Advisor: Dr. Sparkes)

Robin Redline

Albion College
BA, Biology

Research interests include Stenotrophomonas maltophilia biofilm formation and antibiotic resistance. This research involves a combination of an antibiotic and a surfactant to inhibit bacterial growth and biofilm formation. Growth and biofilm assays are performed in order to measure this inhibition. (Advisor: Dr. Brooke)

Michelle Sener


NA (Advisor: Dr. Bystriansky)

Rebecca Wilson


NA (Advisor: Dr. Kozlowski)

Duane Yu

DePaul University
Biological Sciences

My research interest focuses on long-term effects of repeat concussion on neurogenesis within the region of hippocampal dentate gyrus. This includes observing protein expression due to concussion on the stages of neurogenesis: proliferation, migration, differentiation and maturation of neural stem cells into mature, functional neurons. (Advisor: Dr. Kozlowski)

Shawna Yu

DePaul University
Biological Sciences

My thesis project focuses on the interaction between retinoic acid (RA) and activin signaling pathways in the ovary. RA is an active derivative of vitamin A, found in many food sources such as carrot, sweet potatoes and fish. I will be studying the effect of metallothionein-I promoter (MT-alpha) transgenic mice on enriched vitamin A diet. MT-alpha transgenic mice has been developed to overexpress inhibin levels, which results in a decrease in activin. This study will provide a greater understanding of the activin and RA signaling pathways, and it will contribute in finding potential treatments for infertility, polycystic ovarian syndrome, ovarian cancer, and other diseases. (Advisor: Dr. Kipp)