Fellow: Awarded 2009
Field of Study: Molecular and Cellular Biology
Competition: US & Canada
I am an evolutionary geneticist at the Department of Evolution and Ecology, University of California, Davis, where I am pursuing my lifelong goal to understand the mechanisms of evolutionary change. As an undergraduate student at St. Petersburg State University, I focused on zoology, genetics, and population biology before moving to Washington University for Ph.D. research in developmental biology. I then did my postdoctoral work as a Life Sciences Research Foundation fellow at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where I began applying developmental-genetic approaches to reconstruct the evolution of new phenotypes. In 2002, I moved to UC Davis to continue this research.
My work spans the boundary between animal development and evolution. My goal is to identify the molecular changes responsible for the evolution of morphological, physiological, and behavioral traits, to understand how changes in DNA sequences affect development and cell differentiation to produce novel phenotypes; and to elucidate the roles of natural selection and demographic forces in shaping the evolution of gene networks. To address these questions, I integrate developmental biology and genomics with phylogenetic analysis and quantitative genetics, using Drosophila fruit flies as models. This group of insects provides an almost unlimited amount of morphological, ecological, and behavioral diversity for me and my lab to explore. In addition to my research, I teach evolution, genetics, and developmental biology at UC Davis and help students develop their own interests and ideas. Outside of science and books, my greatest passions are backpacking, kayaking, skiing, classical music, and other things that California is so good for.