Student and Post Doc Highlights

Biology student collecting water samples from stream
Doug Blackiston, senior scientist in the Allen Discovery Center, was named a National Academy of Sciences Kavli Fellow and presented his work at their Frontiers of Science Symposium.

Ursula Beattie and Rebecca Brown both had successful thesis defenses in March. Congratulations, Dr. Beattie and Dr. Brown!!!

Congratulations to Tokio Sano of the McVey Lab for defending his dissertation!

Gizem Gumuskaya of the Levin lab successfully defended her dissertation, and her primary PhD paper titled Motile Living Biobots Self-Construct from Adult Human Somatic Progenitor Seed Cells, was just published online. Her research has garnered much attention; being featured in Nature, Science, CNN, the Daily Mail, and Reuters

Congratulations to Victoria Brown from Blueprint Medicine for successfully defending her dissertation, in a first-ever Biology department-Biotech industry joint PhD.

Ursula Beattie's latest paper from her PhD research on the intensity of chronic stress in HOSP affects neophobia but not total activity was published

Congratulations to PhD Student, Emilie Jones (McLaughlin Lab), on the new publication!

Sage Levy, a PhD student in the Reed lab, was named a Native Bird Habitat Scholar by the Garden Club of America. Sage will use this scholarship to continue to test behavioral interactions between hemiboreal Setophaga warblers hypothesized to influence species-specific habitat selection. Congrats, Sage!

Nick Dorian (Crone Lab) and Franz Kuchling (Levin Lab) successfully defended their thesis dissertations on August 29th, 2023. Congratulations, Nick and Franz!

From July 25th until August 15th, Sydney Addorisio was at CSHL attending their 3-week intensive Yeast Genetics and Genomics course where all participants were conducting 11 experiments simultaneously (including identifying an unmarked strain - Dr. Evil), attending lectures and seminars and, of course, participating in the annual plate race! 

Ursula Beattie, a Ph.D. student and Romero lab member, just released a new publication on the long-term stability of corticosterone in feathers!

Congratulations to graduate student Jessie Thuma on her recent publication! In addition to this publication, Jessie has been actively involved in outreach this year, serving as the co-president of the Tufts Pollinator Initiative and President of the Cambridge Entomological Club. Through these roles, Jessie has taught lessons at Thompson Elementary School, held a table at Waltham Fields Community Farm Day, participated in Harvard Museum of Natural History’s “I Love Science” outreach day, served as a guest speaker for Piedmont Master Gardner’s members Education Program, and tabled at the Museum of Science Climate Read and Resilient High School Science Series. In addition, Jessie taught EXP-0002: Power on the Plate: Food and Inequity in America at the Tufts ExCollege in the spring of 2023

Ph.D. student, Sage Levy, has been very busy with outreach this year! Sage presented at the Annual Wings, Waves, and Woods Festival on thirty years of change in forest management and boreal bird communities in Northern Maine's commercial forests. Additionally, Sage presented their project to the general public at the Rhode Island Science Symposium, the Acadia Birding Festival, and the Appalachian. Sage also led two bird walks for the Menotomy Rocks Bird Club.

Tufts Bio Ph.D. Alum, Dr. Genevieve Pugesek, and current Ph.D. student Jessie Thuma recently published a paper on bumblebee diapause survival rates.

Isaac Weinberg, a graduate student in the Starks Lab, successfully defended his doctoral thesis on the behavioral ecology of honeybees in a changing landscape. He will continue his work with bees, starting a new role developing vaccines for honeybees. Congrats, Isaac! 

Erica Polleys, a lecturer and postdoc in the Freudenreich lab, and former Tufts undergraduate Isabella Del Priore published a paper in Nature Communications. Congratulations, Erica and Isabella! This research is also highlighted in a Tufts Now article!

PhD Student, Chiara Masnovo, presented her research at the 1st Genome Maintenance Graduate Student Symposium held at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. The organizers of the conference selected Chiara for a travel award, giving her the opportunity to share the work she has completed in the Mirkin lab with a wider audience. 

Tytell Lab member, Michael A. Fath, Jr., successfully defended his thesis on Locomotor stability in the bluegill sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus). Congratulations, Michael!

Mai Xuan Tran, from the McVey lab, completed her final thesis defense on "Genetic Dissection of DNA Damage Tolerance Mechanisms in Drosophila melanogaster." The audience was full of undergraduate students she has mentored over the years. Congratulations and thank you for sharing your knowledge and passion for science with the Tufts community over the past few years!

Ruby Ye successfully defended her thesis titled, "Causes and Consequences of Penicillium-Bacterial Interactions in Microbiomes." Congratulations and thank you for all you have done for the Tufts Biology Department and Wolfe lab!

Grace Lovett, a student in our OC-MS program, spent the semester working on habitat restoration efforts alongside scientists at Mass Audubon at their Drumlin Farm location.

OC-MS student, Karen Dooley, tabled at the Harvard Natural History Museum's "I Heart Science" festival, curated social media posts as social media co-chair, and helped organize/create materials/lead the new Pollinator Ambassadors program. In the fall, she helped plan and run the "Seeds and Cider" event, helped teach a seed planting workshop at Thompson Elementary School, provided guidance for the second-grade teachers to create a pollinator curriculum at the Benjamin Brown School, and did a garden visit for Medford High School to help provide resources for the integration of pollinator conservation in the curriculum.

Rebecca Brown, a Ph.D. student in the Freudenreich lab, co-first authored a paper in PLOS biology. Congrats, Rebecca!

Ursula Beattie (Ph.D. Student) and Emma Rosen (undergraduate) published a paper in JEZ-A titled, "House sparrows prioritize skin repair over constitutive innate immunity during long-term chronic stress."

Congratulations to Ph.D. candidate Michael Fath, of the Tytell lab, on his latest publication!

Ph.D. student Nick Dorian continued his research, funded by the $30,000 fellowship he was awarded by the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation. Similarly, Ph.D. student Jessica Wright-Lichter was awarded a $30,000 grant from Wild Animal Initiative and established a collaboration with a USDA lab in Fort Collins to detect NCZ in blood samples of pigeons.

Congratulations to Julia Hisey for successfully defending her thesis titled, “Mechanisms of Genome Instability caused by Disease-Related Homopurine/Homopyrimidine Mirror Repeats." Julia is a joint MD/PhD student through Tufts Medical School and completed her PhD research in the Mirkin Lab. Fun fact: Julia took two classes with Dr. Mirkin as an undergraduate student here at Tufts before returning to Tufts for her MD/PhD. 

Double Jumbo (BS/MS), Caitlin Ball, spent the academic year working alongside Dr. Ellmore on field identification and taxonomy of flowering plants. Caitlin will take the plant identification skills she has acquired while completing her MS to Southeast Alaska, where she will begin working in the field.

Ph.D. students Jessica Wright-Lichter and Kasturi Lele, postdocs, and staff members have also been actively involved in community outreach this year, volunteering at the Reverse Science Fair at Medford High School and the 2023 Massachusetts Region IV Science and Engineering Fair. 

Dr. Yordano Jimenez, an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow in the Tytell lab, just published a short communication. Congrats, Yordano!

Scientific American released a short documentary on xenobot research completed in the Levin lab by Dr. Levin and Research Associate, Dr. Doug Blackiston. Tufts University undergraduate students Sajani Clerk ('20), Lauren Clore ('20), Melanie Chien ('21), and Longan Su ('23) all contributed to this research alongside former Tufts University research technician, Emma Lederer. 

Gayathri Kondakath, a PhD student in the Trimmer lab, coauthored a preprint titled, "Myomatrix arrays for high-definition muscle recording."

Erica Polleys, a postdoc in the Freudenreich lab and the instructor of both Advanced Genetics & the Molecular Genetics Lab, had a paper provisionally accepted to Nature Communications. The second author on the paper, Isabella Del Priore, is a former Tufts undergrad who took Molecular Genetics Project lab and was recruited to the Freudenreich lab after! Stay tuned for their publication! 

Current PhD student, Rebecca Brown, co-first-authored a paper published in PLOS Biology.

Rebecca Brown, a PhD student in the Freudenreich lab, published a protocol for PLA in Yeast.

Ursula Beattie, a PhD student in the Romero Lab, received the Lynn Riddiford Award for her poster presentation at the SICB (The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology) 2023 Conference.

Undergraduate students Jaelyn Chang and Liam Devlin, along with postdoc Juanita Mathews and Dr. Levin published a preprint

PhD student Chiara Masnovo, along with undergraduate student Ayesha Lobo and Dr. Mirkin, were published in DNA Repair.

Undergraduate students (J.J., Carina, Helen, Xingfeiyang, Massimo, Izaiah, Leah, and Ethan) enrolled in Phage Bioinformatics published an article with Dr. Gavin.

Nick Dorian, a PhD student at Tufts in the Crone Lab was featured in Tufts Now article about insect pollinators.

We congratulate Gabriela Garcia (Orians Lab) on her selection as a Fullbright U.S. scholar for 2022-2023!

Current PhD Biology student, Sage 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.

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!