People
Jacob Russell Drexel Biology Ants

Jacob A. Russell, Ph.D


Assistant Professor
Department of Biology
Drexel University
2007-present

Training and Education:
BS Molecular Genetics, University of Rochester, 1999
Ph.D Ecology and Evolution, University of Arizona, 2004
NSF Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University, 2005-2006
Green Memorial Fund Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University, 2006-2007

Curriculum Vitae

Contact Information:
phone: 215-895-1643
fax: 215-895-1273
e-mail: Jacob.A.Russell@drexel.edu

Karen Sullam

Karen Sullam

Ph.D candidate
Department of Biology
Drexel University
2007-present

Training and Education:
BA Hamilton College, 2006

Curriculum Vitae

Contact Information:
phone: 215-895-4978
fax: 215-895-1273
e-mail: kes64@drexel.edu


Research Interests:

I am broadly interested in the role of symbiosis in shaping trophic dynamics and feeding ecology. For my dissertation research, I am studying the gut microbial communities in the Trinidadian guppy (Poecilia reticulata). I am especially interested in the roles that gut microbes have played in the adaptation of their hosts to different diets, and will focus on the abilities of gut bacteria to facilitate energy extraction in lower trophic level fish.
Piotr Łukasik

Piotr Łukasik

Postdoctoral Researcher
Department of Biology
Drexel University
2011-present

Training and Education:
D.Phil. in Zoology, University of Oxford (UK), 2008-2011
M.Sc. in Biology, Jagiellonian University (Poland), 2001-2006

Curriculum Vitae

Contact Information:
phone: 215-895-4978
fax: 215-895-1273
e-mail: piotr.lukasik@drexel.edu

Research Interests:

I am interested in the role of symbiotic microorganisms in the ecology and evolution of insects. At the Russell group, which I joined as a postdoc in September 2011, I study the diversity, distribution and roles of bacterial gut symbionts of ants. In order to understand the effects gut microbes have on the evolution of herbivory in this evolutionarily successful and ecologically important group of insects, I combine dietary experiments with next generation sequencing of microbial communities in a large collection of ants representing a range of taxa, trophic levels and geographic areas. My Ph.D. research focused on another intriguing symbiotic system. I studied the roles of facultative endosymbiotic bacteria in the ecology and evolution of the grain aphid, Sitobion avenae, and in the horizontal transmission of ecologically important traits between aphid clones and species. My work, which combined experimental and molecular approaches, has focused on the bacteria which confer protection against natural enemies of aphids, such as parasitoid wasps and pathogenic fungi.
Previously, during my M.Sc. studies in Biology at Jagiellonian University (Poland) and fellowships at Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (Panama), Wageningen University (The Netherlands), the University of St. Andrews (Scotland) and during the Tropical Biology Association field course in Madagascar I pursued a range of other projects in the field of invertebrate ecology and evolution.

Drew Smith

Drew Smith

Graduate Student
Department of Biology
Drexel University
2010-present

Training and Education:
Cornell University, BS, 1997
University of Maryland, MS, 2002

Contact Information:
phone: 215-895-4978
fax: 215-895-1273
e-mail: drewsmith@willowcreekorchards.com


Research Interests:

I am interested in the role of symbiosis in shaping insect populations. My current research involves defensive symbionts of the pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum, in populations that reside on two host plants, clover and alfalfa. Specifically, I hope to understand how temperature and natural enemy density impact pea aphid populations and their defensive symbionts under field conditions. This requires a blend of field sampling and laboratory work using molecular techniques and aphid manipulations. I received my Masters in Entomology from University of Maryland in 2002 after returning from Guatemala where I served in the Peace Corps. Prior to beginning the PhD program at Drexel in 2010, I spent eight years farming organically and building a farm market operation that is still open and run by a non-profit organization.
Yi Hu

Yi Hu

Ph.D candidate
Department of Biology
Drexel University
2009-present

Training and Education:
Beijing Normal University, BS, 2006
Beijing Normal University, MS, 2009

Curriculum Vitae

Contact Information:
phone: 215-895-4978
fax: 215-895-1273
e-mail: yh332@drexel.edu


Research Interests:

I am interested in the evolution of symbiosis in insects, especially ants. Ants are extraordinarily abundant in arthropod communities of tropical rain-forest canopies. Studies of the trophic level of ants using stable isotopes have shown that many of these canopy-dwelling ants have herbivorous diets. However, it is not understood how ants can reach this abundance, given their extensive consumption of nitrogen-poor food sources. Recently, several studies have identified symbiotic gut bacteria of "herbivorous ants", which are known or hypothesized to supplement their nitrogen-poor diets. These findings have led to the hypothesis that bacterial symbiosis promoted convergent evolution of herbivory across the ants, enabling them to colonize and dominate nutritionally deficient canopy habitats. By using experimental, and molecular techniques, I aim to investigate the composition, diversity and stability of the bacterial communities in the guts of ants, along with their roles in host nutrition, thereby addressing the roles of symbiotic bacteria in evolution of ant trophic level.
Danielle Rock

Danielle Rock

MS Student
Department of Biology
Drexel University
2013-present

Training and Education:
The Pennsylvania State University, BS, 2009

Contact Information:
phone: 215-895-4978
fax: 215-895-1273
e-mail: dir5007@gmail.com


Research Interests:

I am interested in evolution, specifically the role symbiotic relationships play in evolutionary trends. My current research involves studying the transmission dynamics of symbionts in pea aphids under natural conditions. I am interested in aphids with naturally occurring bacterial infections especially aphids with multiple infections, and am researching these through field sampling, lab rearing, and extensive PCR screening.
Narayan Wong

Narayan Wong

Ph.D Candidate
Department of Biology
Drexel University
2013-present

Training and Education:
University of Rochester, BS, 2012

Contact Information:
phone: 215-895-4978
fax: 215-895-1273


Research Interests:

I am a first year grad student in the Russell Lab. I recently graduated from the University of Rochester with a BS in biology, with a focus on ecology and evolution. At the University of Rochester, I studied how different endosymbiotic bacteria can interact in the same Drosophila host. At the Russell lab, I plan on investigating the dynamics of multiple endosymbiotic infections in aphid hosts, through molecular, experimental, and computational approaches.
Andrea Messina Drexel Biology Ants

Garret Mayo

Undergraduate Researcher
Department of Biology
Drexel University
2011-present

Contact Information:
phone: 215-895-4978
fax: 215-895-1273
e-mail: gsm43@drexel.edu


Research Interests:

I am a sophomore Biology student with intent to concentrate in organismal physiology. For my first of three co-ops, I am assisting Drew Smith with pea aphid research in the Russell Lab. We focus on the evolution of secondary symbionts, and their pea aphid hosts, amidst changes such as season, temperature, and natural predator densities. Aspects of research involve DNA extraction, PCRs and gels for each of the seven secondary symbionts, as well as general tidiness and organization in the lab. I hope to pursue a career in the medical field, hence my quest towards medical school acceptance never ceases.
Coleman Kotzer

Coleman Kotzer

Undergraduate Researcher
Department of Biology
Drexel University
2013-present

Contact Information:
phone: 215-895-4978
fax: 215-895-1273


Research Interests:

I am currently a Pre-Junior Biology major at Drexel University with a Cell/Molecular/Genetics/Biochemistry concentration. I work with Drew Smith on the Aphid Project and also perform general lab maintenance. Our research goals are centered around pea aphids and the functions of their secondary symbionts. Much of our current research involves the secondary symbiont Hamiltonella defensa and its role in protection against the parasitoid wasp, Aphidius ervi. This has involved experiments in the lab and the field. We also explore Regiella insecticola and its potential roles in host plant utilization. My research utilizes several molecular techniques including DNA extractions, polymerase chain reactions, and gel electrophoresis. I also handle some data analysis, such as examining microsatellite data.

Justin Newton

Justin Newton

Undergraduate Researcher
Department of Biology
Drexel University
2013-present

Contact Information:
phone: 215-895-4978
fax: 215-895-1273


Research Interests:

I am a biology major entering my senior year at Drexel University with a concentration in cell/molecular/genetics/ biochemistry. As a volunteer in the Russell Lab, I work with Piotr Łukasik on characterizing the diversity of microbial communities of army ants and their variation among colonies, geographic locations, and species. To do this, we employ molecular techniques such as PCR, DNA sequencing, and phylogenic analysis. My interest in ecology and environmental science has driven my goals of pursing a graduate degree in biotechnology and to help make the world a more sustainable, environmentally conscious place.

Steven Doll

Steven Doll

Undergraduate Researcher
Department of Biology
Drexel University
2011-present

Contact Information:
phone: 215-895-4978
fax: 215-895-1273


Research Interests:

I am an undergraduate pre-Junior majoring in Biological Sciences. My research is focused on the effects of multiple endosymbiont infection upon pea aphid resistance to the parasitioid wasp Aphidius ervi. If we can better understand the dynamics between aphid genotypes, aphid endosymbionts, and the wasp, we might develop more effective strategies to combat aphid infestations. I will be pursuing a Ph.D. in biochemistry after I complete my undergraduate studies at Drexel University.

Andrea Messina


Undergraduate Researcher
2011-2013

Michaela Feeney


Undergraduate Researcher
2012

Kiran Jagtiani


Lab Volunteer
2012

Drew Mcquade


Undergraduate Researcher
2010-2012

Amanda Lee


Undergraduate Researcher
2012

Nicholas Jensen


Undergraduate Researcher
2012

Rachael Disciullo


Undergraduate Researcher
2011-2012
Rachael is now a graduate student working with Alexandra Basolo at University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

Paige Collings


Undergraduate Researcher
2011-2012

Linh Chau


Undergraduate Researcher / Research Technician
2010-2012
Linh is now a graduate student in the Goodisman Lab at Georgia Tech.

Riddhi Amin


Undergraduate Researcher
2011-2012

Julie Keppler


Undergraduate Researcher
2011-2012

Mickey Drott


Undergraduate Researcher / Lab Volunteer
2010-2012
Mickey is now a graduate student at Cornell University

Ioannis Anastopoulos


Undergraduate Researcher
2010-2011

Tyler Maruca


Undergraduate Researcher
2010-2011

Matthew Novin


Undergraduate Researcher
2010-2011

Nick Tuttle


Undergraduate Researcher
2010-2011
Nick is now a Ph.D student with Paul Jensen at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography

Mariya Osipchuk


Undergraduate Researcher
2010-2011

Andrew Nguyen


Lab Volunteer
2009-2010
Andrew is now a Ph.D student with Nick Gottelli and Sara Helms Cahan at the University of Vermont

Colin Funaro


Research Technician
2008-2010
Colin is now a graduate student in the Vargo Lab

Michael Giampapa


Undergraduate Resercher
2008-2010

Rachana Koya


Undergraduate Resercher
2007-2008

Nisha Shah


Undergraduate Resercher
2007-2008

Uma Bandu


Undergraduate Resercher
2007-2008

David Suh


Undergraduate Resercher
2007-2008