Fresh Insights into UW Biology: Part 3

Enjoy our third and final installment of getting to know the first years. Thanks to Melissa Steele-Ogus

Joshua Swore is studying the genetic mechanisms underlying regeneration in the phylum Ctenophora (comb jellies) in the lab of Billie Swalla. He is particularly interested in why some species of ctenophores are capable of regenerating the entirety of their body from a half animal while others can only regenerate their combs. Joshua came to UW to study at Friday Harbor laboratories, but has also been enjoying the Seattle campus. He is having a wonderful time in Seattle so far and says that being able to get out to the mountains helps keep him sane.

Zander Fodor is also studying ctenophores in Billie Swalla's lab, but his research tackles a different question: whether or not these ancient animals possess a mesoderm. He hopes to discover the evolution of this tissue layer, which could help give clues to the body plan of the common ancestor of all extant animals. He was impressed with how much UW appeared to care for its graduate students and to ensure their success. Thus far, Zander has been working very hard, but also having a lot of fun. He says "I am very glad that I ended up coming to the UW."

Melissa Steele-Ogus is studying the evolutionarily basal eukaryotic parasite Giardia in the lab of Alex Paredez. She has yet to refine her research interests, but finds herself drawn to the exploration of the mechanism of cytokinesis in this curious organism. With a diverse background, including structural biochemistry, cell biology, and molecular ecology, she found the interdisciplinary nature of the department very appealing, a perfect place for someone to integrate all of her interests. She has found the UW to be extremely welcoming and already feels at home in the Biology department.
Giardia. Photo courtesy of
Alex Paredez
Spotlight on Itzue Caviedes Solis
Itzue, who originally hails from Mexico, is one of the newest herpetologists to join Adam Leaché's lab. She worked with Mexican herpetofauna in her undergrad at La Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, and her main interest is in the evolution and systematics of hylid frogs (tree frogs!). For her master's degree, she performed a multi-locus phylogeny with the Plectrohyla bistincta group and she would like to keep working on hylid frogs from Middle America for her Ph.D.

The strength of UW Biology and the Leaché lab in evolution of amphibians and reptiles led her to this department. Her experience in the first quarter was challenging, having to adjust to the differences in the language, culture, and weather, but she found these difficulties were alleviated by the support from the department. Itzue says "There is always someone whom you can talk to," and notes in particular the great mentorship from her principal advisor, the friendly environment between the labs, and the attitudes of the other grads: "I never saw grad students so happy before." In addition to the connections she has formed within the department, Itzue has also found many opportunities for outreach to the Seattle community, such as greenhouse and Burke museum tours. Itzue feels lucky to be at Biology department in UW.
Plectrohyla bistincta. Courtesy of Itzue Caviedes Solis.

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