Former Lab Members


Kendra Abts, MS student

  • Kendra worked on immune genes and mate choice in captive koala. After completing her M.S., she went on to complete her DVM at U. Wisconsin.

Jenny Antonides, PhD

  • Jenny worked on the genomics and immunogenetics of the bananquit, a small passerine Neotropical bird.  She then went on to complete a postdoc position with the U.S. Forest Service in tree genomics.

Natalia Belfiore, Postdoc

  • Tasha is a former postdoc who worked on single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in voles.

David Bos, Postdoc

  • David B. was a postdoc in the lab from 2003-2007, and his interests include molecular evolution of MHC genes and historical demography. David transitioned to a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Biological Sciences at Purdue.

Anna Brüniche-Olsen, Postdoc

  • Anna was a postdoc in the lab for about 4 years, and she worked primarily on gray whale population genetics/genomics (Biological Bulletin, Biology Letters, BMC Genomics, Journal of Mammalogy), but also published papers in Molecular Ecology (Darwin’s finches), Conservation Genetics (runs of homozygosity), and the Proceedings of the Royal Society (avian demographies inferred from whole genome sequences). Anna transitioned to a position as a Carlsberg Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Copenhagen in 2020.
    Anna’s Google Scholar Profile

Zafer Bulut, Visiting Research Scholar

  • In about 2005-2006, Dr. Bulut was a visiting scientist from Turkey who studied MHC expression and alternative splicing in salamanders. He is on the faculty at Selcuk University in Konya.  Dr. Bulut returned to Purdue to conduct eagle population genetic work in 2014.

Joe Busch, PhD

  • Joe (PhD, 2008) was interested in population genetics, and studied historic bottlenecks in kangaroo rats and their MHC genes. He is now at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

Rian Bylsma, MS

  • Rian finished his MS (2020) in FNR on the genetic validity of subspecies of Western Massasauga. His thesis was published in Conservation Genetics.

Johel Chaves-Campos, PhD

  • Johel was a PhD student (2008) with Kerry Rabenold in the Biology department, but conducted his molecular research on ocellated antbirds in our lab. Johel went on to a postdoc position at the University of New Orleans in Louisiana.

Jenny Cooper, PhD

  • Jenny was a PhD student (2009) with Peter Waser, but conducted her molecular research in our lab on collared peccaries (better known around here as javelina). Jenny was a Welder Wildlife Foundation Fellow.

Jackie Doyle, Postdoc

  • Jackie was a former postdoc who is now on the faculty at Towson University in Baltimore.

Sarah Eddy, Undergraduate Researcher

  • Sarah is a former student who worked on medaka sperm competition experiments. She went on to pursue PhD studies at Oregon State University.

Anna Fahey, PhD

  • Anna finished her PhD in 2013, co-advised with Robert Ricklefs (U Missouri St. Louis).  She studied the avifauna from Hispaniola, using DNA sequences to infer evolutionary and demographic histories.  Anna is now on the faculty at Assistant Professor at Missouri Southern State Univ., near her hometown!

Dave Glista, MS

  • Dave finished his MS degree in December 2006. He studied wildlife and conservation biology, specifically the impact of roadkill on amphibians as published in Herpetological Conservation and Biology (2008). Also, see his review paper on roadkill mitigation in Landscape and Urban Planning(2009). Dave is now an environmental scientist with DJ Case and Associates.

David Gopurenko, Postdoc

  • David Gopurenko did his graduate work on the phylogeography of Australian mud crabs. A native Aussie, David G. worked on parentage and relatedness in smallmouth salamanders and in tiger salamanders through 2007. David is now a Research Officer with New South Wales Dept. of Science and Research in Australia.

Matt Hale, Postdoc

  • From England, Matt crossed the pond to work on lake sturgeon from 2007-2009.  He performed transcriptome sequencing in an attempt to identify sex-determining genes in this polyploid species (not an easy task).  Matt is now on the faculty at Texas Christian University.

Erangi Heenkenda, PhD

Ashlyn Heniff, Undergraduate Researcher

  • Ashlyn is a Biology undergraduate who is headed to Vet School.  She is currently working on a project using DNA to identify prey items in the stomachs of river otters.

Soo Hyung Eo, Postdoc

  • Soo Hyung published an influential paper on rates of molecular evolution (PRS, 2010) and on the transcriptomes of salamanders (in Gene).  He is now on the faculty at Kongju National Univ. in S. Korea.

Yanzhu Ji, PhD

  • From China, Yanzhu (aka Bamboo) came to Purdue in 2010 via funding from the Chinese Scholarship Council.  She studied transposable elements (TEs) and their activity as determined by transcriptome sequencing, as well as the evolution of avian genomes in light of TE complements.  She graduated in 2016 and went on to a postdoc at the University of Chicago/Field Museum.

Ruby Liu, Undergraduate Researcher

  • Ruby worked in the lab from 2011-2013, then went on to obtain an M.S. in cytogenetics from the University of Texas’ M.D. Anderson Medical School.

Nick Marra, PhD

  • Nick was a PhD student who worked on kangaroo rats; he used transcriptomic approaches to study their immunobiology and osmoregulatory pathways with a focus on natural selection. Nick published papers in several top journals (e.g., Molecular Ecology and BMC Genomics).  He obtained an NSF DDIG and was awarded the 2014 Kirkpatrick Award for Outstanding Graduate Student in Forestry & Natural Resources at Purdue.  Nick is now a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University.

Samarth Mathur, PhD

  • Samarth was a PhD student in BIOL who studied genetic/genomic load in Montezuma quail. Samarth won many awards during his tenure at Purdue, including the Clarence Cottam Award and the Best Interdisciplinary Project Award. His dissertation (2020) was published in Conservation Genetics, Evolutionary Applications, and (hopefully; still pending final revisions) Molecular Ecology. Samarth transitioned to a postdoc with Prof. Lisle Gibbs at Ohio State University in early 2021.

Cory McCormick, Lab Technician

  • Cory McCormick was a technician working on kangaroo rat microsatellites, lake sturgeon, and salamanders. Cory also pursued a PhD studying the Philosophy of Science, and started his own biotech company!

Jennifer McCreight, Undergraduate Researcher

  • Jennifer studied sperm competition in kangaroo rats.  She published part of her research in the lab in a book (see and was senior author on a paper in the Journal of Zoology.  While in the lab, Jennifer received funding from the Indiana Academy of Sciences and the American Society of Mammalogists.  She went on to obtain an NSF GRFP award and conduct her PhD studies at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Jamie Nogle, MS

  • Jamie studied the impact of roadkill on vertebrates near Purdue.  She also used DNA approaches to identify carcasses.  She now has a position with the state wildlife agency in Colorado.

Justin Nowakowski, PhD

  • Justin did his PhD work at Florida International University with Mo Donnelly, but spent many months in our lab conducting his genetic analysis of tropical frogs and habitat fragmentation (e.g., see his 2015 paper in Molecular Ecology).  Justin went on to a postdoc at UC Davis.

Jamie Rudnick (now Jamie Ivy), PhD

  • Jamie is interested in conservation genetics and zoo biology. She is a 2006 PhD graduate who used noninvasively collected feather samples to monitor an threatened Imperial Eagle population. Jamie is now an accomplished Population Biologist with the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park.

Gregor Seigmund, High School Student/Undergraduate

  • Originally from West Lafayette, Gregor came to our lab while an undergraduate at the University of Chicago.  He spent a summer working surveying vertebrate transcriptomes for microsatellites and was coauthor on a paper published in Genome in 2013.

Deb Triant, PhD

  • Deb was another 2006 PhD graduate. She studied the translocation of genes from the mitochondrial genome to the nuclear genome of voles (Microtus). Deb sequenced the entire mtDNA genome of M. rossiaemeridionalis in an effort to gauge rates of molecular evolution in that genus–which evolves 3X as rapidly as most other mammalian genera! Deb now works in bioinformatics at the University of Virginia.

Sara Turner, PhD

  • Sara finished her PhD in the summer of 2007. She conducted experiments on the hatching success of salmonids and how mortality was related to genotype. Sara is now on the faculty at Mercyhurst University in Erie, PA.

Bhagya Wijayawardena, PhD

  • Bhagya completed her dissertation in 2015, studying parasites and horizontal gene transfer. Our resident parasitologist, Bhagya published an influential Trends in Parasitology paper that was chosen by the editors as one of the 10 best in 2013. She was also the Umbarger Oustanding Student in Biology for 2014-2015.  Bhagya is now a postdoc at the IUPUI medical school in Indianapolis.

Brooke Williams, Undergraduate Researcher

  • Brooke was a former student who did field-work on migration patterns in Ambystomid salamanders. She was a co-author on a 2009 paper in the Journal of Herpetology.

Rod Williams, PhD

  • Rod completed his dissertation in 2007, studying salamander mating systems and malformations. Our resident herpetologist, Rod developed a powerful suite of microsatellite markers for use in Ambystomid salamanders. Rod is now a Professor (and Vice-Provost!) at Purdue.

Janna Willoughby, PhD

  • Janna completed her dissertation in 2015, studying the maintenance of genetic variation in both wild and captive populations. Janna was a very accomplished student in terms of papers (Molecular Ecology, Biological Conservation, etc.) and in grantsmanship (NSF DDIG, Sigma Xi, etc.).  She was a finalist for the Hamilton Award from the Society for the Study of Evolution (2014) and received the Anna M. Jackson Award from the American Society of Mammalogists (2015).  Janna is now a professor at Auburn University.


Drs. Wijayawardena and Willoughby, August 2015

Drs. Wijayawardena and Willoughby, August 2015