Fresh Insights Into UW Biology: Volume 3 (Issue 2)

Introducing our cohort of first-year grad students! In this series of three posts, we'll be featuring several of the students from the entering cohort of 2015. The department has such a wide range of research, it's impossible to fit it all into one post. Congrats to the First Years on making it through your first quarter in the program! Read Volume 3 (Issue 1)



Having spent most of her life scampering around tide pools, Molly Phillips has always been amazed by the incredible array of creatures found within the marine world. She is broadly interested in how, at a genetic level, animals acquire diverse features. She's rotating during her first year in UW Biology, so the specifics of her thesis project are still in development, but Molly reports that she is overwhelmed by the wealth of interesting research being conducted in the Biology department. She spent the fall term in Billie Swalla’s lab where she had the opportunity to think about how some species of marine invertebrate chordates, known as tunicates, have evolved the ability to form colonies, whereas other species live a solitary lifestyle. She is now looking forward to working in Chris Amemiya’s lab in the winter term.


Claire Rusch is interested in understanding the neural basis of learning and memory. Insects, particularly honeybees, Apis mellifera, offer a unique opportunity to investigate the interplay between neuronal structures and behaviors. Claire chose UW because she wanted to work under the supervision of Jeff Riffell and learned how to perform electrophysiological studies. She is pleased to have found such an amazing place for interdisciplinary and collaborative work. She also enjoys exploring Seattle and the state of Washington and is convinced it is the perfect place for her to “live the American dream.” 


Will Brightly is currently in Caroline Strömberg’s lab studying paleobotany, and is primarily interested in how past plant communities interacted with their environment. Currently this is taking the form of a project that seeks to gain a new perspective on how grasses and herbivores co-evolved during the Cenozoic. Will has been interested in paleontology ever since he was very young, and a switch in focus from vertebrates to plants during undergrad led him to the UW Biology. He reports he is enjoying his studies so far and appreciates the fantastic support and guidance that the biology department has provided. He looks forward to further exploring his research interests over the coming years.



Eleanor Lutz is interested in the neurobiology and ecological significance of insect learning. She graduated from UW Biology as an undergrad, and liked the department so much that she decided to stay for graduate school. She thinks the UW biology department has an awesome collaborative atmosphere, and really appreciates how welcoming all of the grad students and professors have been. Eleanor is rotating in Jay Parrish’s lab in fall quarter, and Jeff Riffell’s lab starting in January. (Photo: Muhammad Mahdi Karim)



Mo Turner is broadly interested in trophic interactions in marine systems of the Pacific Northwest. She has had the opportunity to conduct research at the Friday Harbor Labs for the past two summers, and says that the level of support and strong sense of community that she experienced there was a major driver in my decision to apply to UW Biology. Although much of her recent work has focused on marine invertebrates in the rocky intertidal, she is currently shifting gears to examine how different functional groups of waterbirds utilize coastal tidal flat habitats. Mo is excited for the challenge of a new study system and looks forward to my continued work in Jennifer Ruesink’s lab.





Tune in next time for mussels, computational biology, and stinky things!

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