Student and Post Doc Highlights

Biology student collecting water samples from stream

Current PhD Biology student, Jonah Levy, was featured in the following article from Portland Press Herald: “In northern Maine, forestry practices create shifting habitat for migrating songbirds.” 

In June of 2021, Genevieve Pugesek (Crone Lab) successfully defended her PhD thesis, "The cryptic life cycle stages of bumble bees: using natural history to guide conservation."

On Tuesday, May 11th, the Biology Department announced the winners of the 1st Annual Harry Bernheim Service Awards. This award recognizes graduate students or senior undergraduates who have shown an exceptional commitment to service within the Biology Department. Dr. Harry Bernheim (Associate Professor Emeritus) has been an integral member of the Tufts Biology department since 1979, acting as a department representative and liaison for numerous University committees and supporting undergraduates both in student life, pre-health applications, and advising. While much of his service was related to undergraduate curriculum and advising, he also served as the chair of the department for 10 years (1997-2007), persistently advocating for the well-being of our department and research programs.

  • Undergraduates: Manan Krishnamurthy and Jason Getzler
  • Graduate Students: Avalon Owens, Justin Blanch, and Nick Dorian

In Spring of 2021, Terrence Hanscom (McVey Lab) successfully defended his PhD thesis, “Characterizing Signatures of CRISPR/Cas9-Induced Inaccurate DNA Double-Strand Break Repair.”

In Spring of 2021, Elizabeth Landis (Wolfe Lab) successfully defended her PhD thesis, “Deconstructing and reconstructing fermented food microbiomes: revealing microbial interactions and developing new educational models.”

In Winter of 2021, Taylor Stewart successfully defended her PhD thesis, "The Function and Evolution of Variable Repetitive Protein Domains."

The GSC has honored Daria Clark with the award, Outstanding Graduate Contribution to Mentoring or Teaching Undergraduates.

The Tufts Pollinator Initiative (TPI) was honored with the GSC award for Outstanding Graduate Student Organization.

Congratulations to postdoc Kris Sabbi for his paper "Sex differences in early experience and the development of aggression in wild chimpanzees", another important contribution to biology research!

Doug Blackiston's Xenobot paper, "A scalable pipeline for designing reconfigurable organisms" in PNAS won the Cozzarelli Prize from the National Academy; congratulations, Doug!

PhD graduate, Gina Mantica, was featured on the American Physiological Society Blog with an article: How the AAAS Mass Media Fellowship Helped Me Move On

Congratulations to Daniel P. Caron and Martha Rimniceanu on their paper, Nociceptive neurons respond to multimodal stimuli in Manduca sexta (written with professors Anthony Scibelli and Barry Trimmer), being short listed for the Journal of Experimental Biology’s Outstanding Paper Prize!  We are very proud to see Caron and Rimniceanu recognized by the foremost journal in this field of research.

Jenna Whalen (Freudenreich Lab) recently published a paper on the Cell Reports home page. Relocation of Collapsed Forks to the Nuclear Pore Complex Depends on Sumoylation of DNA Repair Proteins and Permits Rad51 Assocation.

Congratulations to Gabriela Garcia (Orians Lab) who has won the Graduate Student Council Award for Outstanding Graduate Contribution to Diversity and Inclusion Award.

Congratulations to graduating OCMS student, Vincent Pham, for recently being awarded a Fulbright fellowship to do research in Vienna, Austria.

In March 2020, Ritwika Mukherjee (Trimmer Lab Group) successfully defended her PhD thesis, "Neuromechanics of proleg grip-release and strike behavior in caterpillar Manduca sexta."

In March 2020, Alexandra Khristich (Mirkin Lab Group) successfully defended her PhD thesis, "Investigating mechanisms of large-scale GAA repeat contraction."

In November 2019, Brenna Gormally (Romero Lab Group) successfully defended her PhD thesis, "Expanding the stress phenotype: a multimodal assessment of acute and chronic stress."

In the Fall of 2019, Avalon Owens (Lewis Lab Group) was awarded a Switzer Environmental Fellowship, and published a perspective piece in Biological Conservation that was picked up by a few media outlets:

Ritwika Mukherjee (Trimmer Lab Group) co-authored an article published in the Journal of Comparative Neurology in October 2019:
"Mukherjee, R., & Trimmer, B. A. (2019). Local and generalized sensitization of thermally evoked defensive behavior in caterpillars." Journal of Comparative Neurology.

Eric Scott (Orians Lab Group) won first place for his talk in the chemical ecology section at the Entomological Society of America annual meeting.

Jessica Rozek Canizares (Reed Lab Group) collaborated on an article and co-authored a book chapter examining the ways biodiversity integrates into Water Diplomacy. 2019.

  • Article:
    van Rees, C. B., Cañizares, J. R., Garcia, G. M., & Reed, J. M. (2019). Ecological stakeholder analogs as intermediaries between freshwater biodiversity conservation and sustainable water management. Environmental Policy and Governance, 29(4), 303-312.
  • Book Chapter:
    van Rees, C.B., G.M. Garcia and J.R. Cañizares. "Confronting the natural domain: strategies for addressing ecosystems and biodiversity in complex water management challenges." Interdisciplinary Collaboration for Water Diplomacy: A Principled and Pragmatic Approach, 1st Edition (eds. Islam, S. and Smith, K.). 187-207. Routeldge.

Simran Kaushal, who obtained her Tufts PhD in August 2018, published a paper in the April 2019 issue of Cell Reports, entitled "Sequence and nuclease requirements for breakage and healing of a structure-forming (AT)n sequence within fragile site FRA16D."
The paper also contained many other Tufts-affiliated authors: Charles Wollmuth, Tufts undergraduate and Beckman fellow (A18); Kohal Das, post-doctoral fellow; Nealia House (AG14); and undergraduates Samantha Regan (A18), Alice Haouzi (A15), Soo-Mi Lee (A11), and Michael Guyumdzhayan (A20), as well as Prof. Catherine Freudenreich. Read more in the Tufts Now feature: Mapping the Kinks in Faulty DNA.

Congratulations to Eric Scott, Ph.D. student in The Orians Lab, who won 1st place in section talk competition at the Entomological Society meeting in November 2018. The title of his talk was "The importance of insect herbivore density to induced metabolite blends in tea plants (Camellia sinensis) and implications for tea quality." Abstract | More info

New Weapon to Fight Dangerous Infections
Tufts researchers find drugs already approved for other uses in people help frogs survive deadly E. coli by changing their cells' electrical charge. This paper was written by Jean-Francois Pare, Ph.D., and Dr. Michael Levin joined by Christopher J. Martyniuk of the Center for Environmental and Human Toxicology and Department of Physiological Sciences, University of Florida Genetics Institute, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville.

New research led by Tufts University shows that the invasive European paper wasp, Polistes dominulus, plays a role in facilitating sour rot disease in the absence of other insects.
Wasps and wine: paper wasps found to contribute to sour rot grape disease, a scourge of wine industry USA Science and Engineering Festival 2016
This year, the Tufts BUGS (Biology Union of Graduate Students) were lucky enough to participate in the USA Science and Engineering Festival which is held in Washington, D.C. The mission of the USA Science and Engineering Festival is "to stimulate and sustain the interest of our nation's youth in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) by producing and presenting the most compelling, exciting, and educational Festival in the world." With over 3,000 interactive activities, 50 stage shows, and 350,000+ visitors over the course of the weekend, I'd say the Festival has achieved its mission! Being able to take action and participate in such an admirable mission was truly a transformative experience.

Spear-headed by Emily Pitcarin and Kyle Jewhurst, BUGS started planning for the event about a year ago. In one short year, we formed committees to come up with–and solidify–three interactive activities all with the same theme: communication. In total, 12 graduate students attended the event: Rachael Bonoan, Rory Fuller, Brenna Gormally, Kyle Jewhurst, Varandt Khodaverdian, Elizabeth Landis, Marcus Lehr, Clare Parker, Kaylinnette Pinet, Emily Pitcairn, Taylor Sands-Marcinkowski, and Ishtiaque Quasem.

Jennifer Mortensen, Reed Lab Group, successfully defended her Ph.D. thesis, "Multifaceted characterization of extinction risk in the endangered, cooperatively breeding White-breasted Thrasher (Ramphocinclus brachyurus)".

Jennifer Nguyen, Freudenreich Lab, successfully defended her Ph.D. thesis, "Roles of the Srs2 helicase and the Ctf18 clamp loader in replication of structure-forming CAG repeats in S. cerevisiae".

Biology seniors, Jennifer Hammelman and Maya Emmons-Bell, are featured in an article, "Research That's Fit to Print". The article is also in rotation on the A&S homepage.

Daniel Lobo, postdoctoral fellow in the Levin Lab, accepted a position as Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County to start his own lab.

Rachael Bonoan, Ph.D. candidate in the Starks lab, attended two conferences: Protecting Pollinators in Ornamental Landscapes in Hendersonville, NC and Social Insects in the North-East Regions 5 at Boston University. Rachael was also awarded the Tufts Institute of the Environment Travel Grant, and Nooria Al-Wathiqui and Rachael published a paper in Physiological Entomology (Bonoan RE, Al-Wathiqui N, Lewis S. 2015. Linking larval nutrition to adult reproductive traits in the European corn borer Ostrinia nubilalis. Physiological Entomology 40: 309-316).

Crista Wadsworth, Dopman Laboratory, successfully defended her Ph.D. thesis, "The Mechanisms and Consequences of Evolution in Phenology". Congratulations Crista!

Charles van Rees, Ph.D. candidate in the Michael Reed Lab, was featured on 2 local Hawaiian TV shows that featured his research. They can be seen here.

Simran Kaushal, Ph.D. candidate in the Freudenreich Laboratory, was awarded second place in the Tufts Ignite competition. Every Fall students from AS&E have the opportunity to present their research in a five-minute presentation format to an audience and judges. Congratulations Sim!

Recent publications

Local and Long-range Endogenous Resting Potential Gradients Antagonistically Regulate Apoptosis and Proliferation in Embryonic CNS. Pai VP, Lemire JM, LinG, Chen Y, Levin M. In Press @ International Journal of Developmental Biology

Endogenous Gradients of Resting Potential Instructively Pattern Embryonic Neural Tissue via Notch Signaling and Regulation of Proliferation. Pai VP, Lemire JM, Pare JF, Lin G, Chen Y, Levin M. J Neurosci. 2015 Mar 11;35(10):4355-85.

Type 7 serotonin receptor, 5-HT7, is essential in the mammary gland for regulation of mammary epithelial structure and function. Pai VP, Hernandez LL, Stull MA, Horseman ND. Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:364746

Jewhurst, K., Levin, M., and McLaughlin, K.A., (2014) Optogenetic Control of Apoptosis in Targeted Tissues of Xenopus laevis Embryos. Journal of Cell Death 2014:7 25-31.

Grunst, M., Grunst, A., Parker, C.E., Romero, L.M., Rotenberry, J. 2015. Pigment-specific relationships between feather corticosterone concentrations and sexual coloration. Behav. Ecol. In Press.

Flower, J.E., Norton, T.M., Andrews, K.M., Nelson, S.E., Parker, C.E., Romero, L.M., Mitchell, M.A. 2015. Baseline plasma corticosterone, hematalogic, and biochemistry results in nesting and rehabilitating loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta). Conserv. Physiol. 3 (1): cov003 doi: 10.1093/conphys/cov003.

Ishtiaque Quasem and Stephen Fuchs coauthored a paper in Drug Discovery Today: Disease Models called Budding yeast as a model to study epigenetics in July 2014.

Submitted Paper

Musgrove, A.B., Wiebe, K.L., Parker, C.E., Romero, L.M. Relationships between measures of physiological performance, body condition, and plumage color: what indicates "quality" in nestlings? Submitted.