Current Postdoctoral Researchers

Lauren Alpert Sugden (Ramachandran Lab)

I study the patterns left behind by natural selection on human genomes, focusing on adaptive events that influence such phenotypes as lactase persistence and light skin pigmentation in European populations, and defense against malarial infection in West African populations. Drawing from the broad fields of probability and statistics, I am developing methods for predicting new phenotypes (and underlying genomic loci) that have undergone strong positive selection in the human lineage in a way that is robust and interpretable. I am also interested in models of human population expansion over the last 100 thousand years, and the global and local genomic patterns that result from migration, population bottlenecks, and admixture with archaic hominins.

Ariel Camp (Brainerd Lab)

I study how the muscles of the head and body are used together to generate powerful feeding behaviors. Just an athlete can use back and core muscles to power a throw, it is reasonable that animals could use body or neck muscles to power feeding. However, we know very little about how or if body muscles contribute to cranial motions and feeding. To address these questions, I study the powerful suction feeding of fishes. My doctoral research showed that the “swimming” muscles of the body—rather than the muscles of the head—can generate nearly all the power for feeding. Currently, I am working in the Brainerd Lab to study how the role of these body muscles in suction feeding varies across fish species and body shapes. Beyond fishes, this research provides a new framework for understanding head-body interactions during feeding, the diversity of muscle function, and the evolution of feeding modes and body shapes.

Carolyn Eng (Roberts Lab)

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I am interested in the influence of elastic connective tissues on the energetics and mechanics of muscle function. In my previous work, I explored the role of fascia in movement by studying its biaxial material properties and in vivo strain patterns. I used these data to incorporate the iliotibial band into a musculoskeletal model of the human lower limb to understand its role in human locomotion. With my postdoctoral research in the Roberts lab, I am exploring the role of aponeurosis in modulating muscle function. By modifying aponeurosis properties, I will directly examine the role of aponeurosis in modulating muscle shape changes and test how similar alterations occurring after surgical intervention or with injury, age, or disease influence the mechanics of muscle contraction.

Eric Goolsby (Edwards Lab)

I study macroevolution at both the phenotypic and molecular levels in a variety of frameworks, including phylogenetic comparative methods development for complex multivariate traits, plant ecophysiology, and phylogenomics approaches. I'm currently investigating the complex evolutionary history of C4 and CAM photosynthesis evolution in the genus Portulaca. I'm also studying the evolutionary dynamics of heavy metal tolerance and hyperaccumulation in the a function-valued framework, using the sunflower genus (Helianthus) as a study system.

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Zachary Lewis (Dunn & Edwards Lab)

Juan Losada (Leslie Lab)

Sabine Moritz (Brainerd Lab)


I have always been interested in the interplay between skeleton and musculature. Right now I am using XROMM to explore the relationship between musculo-skeletal morphology and function in several non-mammalian amniotes.

Jim Mossman (Rand Lab)

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I am interested in how mitochondrial and nuclear genomes interact to mediate organismal fitness. Central foci of my research include: (i) mitochondrial genetic variation and male-specific traits (Frank and Hurst Hypothesis), (ii) G x G interactions (mtDNA-nDNA epistases), and (iii) G x G x E effects on phenotypic variation and gene expression. I currently use Drosophila to investigate these phenomena.

Aaron Olsen (Brainerd Lab)

My research focuses on the biomechanical principles governing how organisms produce motion, force, and power and how these principles have influenced the evolution and diversification of vertebrate musculoskeletal systems. I address these questions by integrating in vivo experimentation, morphological surveys of natural history specimens, and biomechanical modeling. For my PhD I studied the evolution of feeding in the bird order Anseriformes (waterfowl), including the origins of geese and the relationship between beak shape and diet. Currently, I’m working as a postdoctoral fellow with Prof. Beth Brainerd to combine in vivo kinematics collected using X-ray Analysis of Moving Morphology with biomechanical modeling and collections-based approaches. The objective of my current research is to understand how the biomechanics of suction feeding has influenced the diversification of body forms in ray-finned fishes.


Yevgeniy "Eugene" Raynes (Weinreich Lab)


I use experimental evolution and computer simulations to study evolution of the genomic mutation rate. During my PhD I studied the evolutionary dynamics of mutator alleles in experimental microbial populations, focusing on indirect selection experienced by mutators due to their associations with beneficial mutations. Currently, I am using computer simulations to examine the evolutionary dynamics of chromosomal instability during cancer progression.

Michael Rosario (Roberts Lab)


Across the tree of life, the storage and release of elastic energy aids organismal movement. In some cases, elastic elements are used to amplify power (e.g., tendon storing energy and releasing quickly while jumping) and in others, they can attenuate impacts (by releasing energy to muscle over a relatively long period of time). In these examples, the function of elastic elements depends on 1) the relative speed of loading to unloading and 2) the nature of the connected structures. In my research, I combine mechanical testing with computer simulation to study the dynamic interaction between springs and their connected structures. Recently, I developed dynamic muscle-spring simulations of bullfrogs and grasshoppers to investigate the effects of time constraint on tendon stiffness. Currently, I am characterizing the effects of stress-rate on energy storage and dissipation in the tendon fascicles of rat tails.

Henry Tsai (Gatesy Lab)

Wenjing Zheng (Tatar Lab)