Lab Photo February 2018! Front (left to right): Uma Desai, Rosanna Chan, Mason Wilkinson, Sarah Mullinax, Maureen Dowell. Back (left to right): Kent Mulkey, Judith Ikerionwu, Rob Unckless, Tom Hill, Jo Chapman.
Jo works on characterizing the activity and evolution of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) in Drosophila species. AMPs are small proteins that can directly kill or impede the growth of microorganisms. As such, they play an important role in innate immune defenses of plants and animals. Jo uses a combination of approaches, including functional assays of AMP activity in-vitro, in-vivo infection models involving RNAi gene silencing and CRISPR mediated gene editing, and bioinformatic analyses of AMP diversity and evolution. This will allow her understand the role AMPs play in negating the negative fitness consequences of pathogenic infection in Drosophila.
TOM HILL (postdoctoral Researcher)
Tom works on understanding the evolution of parasites and their hosts using bioinformatics. He studies the co-evolution of mushroom-feeding D. innubila and their parasites, including a DNA virus and male-killing Wolbachia. He is currently assembling the D. innubila genome and identifying factors related to its ecology, such as genes involved in resistance to toxic mushrooms or immune system evolution. He is also working to understand transposable element host-pathogen co-evolution across different species of Drosophila using next generation sequencing.
Sarah Mullinax (Self Graduate Student)
Sarah works on understanding the effects of antimicrobial peptide gene conversion on the Drosophila immune response. She focusses mainly on the AMP Diptericin. Diptericin is interesting because not only has there been five independent mutations of the same allele in Drosophila species, but there has also been a gene duplication event in D. simulans. Amino acid polymorphism in Diptericin has previously been shown to predict the level of immune response upon infection with Providencia rettgeri.
Andrea Darby (NIH PreP Scholar)
Andrea Darby is a Las Vegas native that recently earned her B.S. in Biology with emphasis in Ecology and Evolution from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She will be applying to Biology PhD. programs in Fall 2018. Andrea plans to investigate the role of immunity and the gut microbiome of Drosophila melanogaster in adaptation to desiccation. In her spare time, she likes to cosplay, play video games, and pet dogs.
Kent Mulkey (Assistant Researcher)
Kent is working to isolate Drosophila innubila Nudivirus (DiNV) in cell culture using both classical and molecular virology techniques.
Mason Wilkinson (Assistant Researcher)
Mason recently graduated from the University of Kansas Honors Program with a degree in biochemistry. He is developing new strategies for producing recombinant antimicrobial peptides for in vitro studies. Mason loves food, animals, the outdoors, and weightlifting.
Jenna Lea (Assistant Researcher)
Jenna recently graduated from the University of Georgia where she obtained a double major in Biology and Ecology. She is working as research assistant to understand the evolutionary genetics of meiotic drive in Drosophila affinis. She will be spending the next year researching the molecular mechanisms, target gene and responder loci responsible for the varying effects on offspring sex ratio. Outside of the lab Jenna likes food, music, hiking and her cat Tuna.
Uma Desai (Undergraduate Researcher)
Uma Desai is a freshman from Overland Park, KS double majoring in human biology and Spanish. Outside the lab, she can be found traveling or rock climbing. Uma is studying the genetic basis of resistance to meiotic drive in Drosophila affinis.
Mariaelena Nabors (Undergraduate Researcher)
Mariaelena is a Junior pursuing a B.S. in Biochemistry at the University of Kansas. She is researching immunity divergence in Drosophila simulans and D. mauritiana.
As an undergraduate in the lab, Maureen studied resistance to infection with Enterococcus faecalis in Drosophila melanogaster. She is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in biology at Brown University.