I currently work in the lab of Greg Wray in the Biology Department at Duke University. Broadly, our lab is interested in the evolution of transcriptional regulation.
My research is driven by an interest in unique human traits. Why did we evolve to be the way we are? What mechanisms controlled our evolution? How does our modern lifestyle interact with past changes? Specifically, I am interested in understanding the evolution of gene expression related to diet. My research focuses on the cells that make up fat, which are very active in metabolism and responsive to changes in diet. To do this, I use cells from humans and chimpanzees grown in the lab. With these cells, I can understand more about how human and chimpanzee fat differs and whether genetic changes, epigenetic changes, or the environment causes these differences. This research is interesting in a historical context, because we know a lot about the major shifts in human diet such as meat eating and crop domestication, but we know very little about how early human bodies responded to these shifts in diet. From a medical perspective, it is important to understand the underlying evolutionary context of human disease and disease risks. This research will help us understand more about the evolutionary history of human diet and metabolism.
One of my rotations was in Dave Sherwood's lab, where I was involved in a project that looked at the role of cell division and cell cycle arrest in the stabilization of basement membrane gaps.
I did my undergraduate work at Michigan State University. I worked in the lab of Tammy Long to understand how student-constructed models help refine their understanding of biological systems.
I also worked with Alex Shingleton to understand how organs coordinate their size during development using Drosophila as a model system.