Research opportunities...

Students with interests in the research described on this site can apply to work in my lab through the departmental Honors program (limited to rising Seniors) or various Summer Fellowship programs. The Amherst Summer Science Program runs for 10 weeks during the summer and is open to first and second year students from Amherst, Smith, and Mount Holyoke Colleges.  

I also often hire students as semester research assistants in both the laboratory and the greenhouse.  Browse our
research interests page for more information and contact me directly with questions.


Ambika Kamath

The evolution of floral morphology accompanying the transition from cosexuality to gender dimorphism in Lycium californicum (Solanaceae)

Ambika’s thesis investigated the evolution of floral sexual dimorphism in Lycium californicum, a species with polymorphism in sexual strategies.  She traveled to Baja California with JSM/RAL in Spring 2010 and collected materials for her thesis work. Ambika was also involved in the Schupf Scholars Program at Amherst. 

She is pursuing her PhD in the Losos lab in Organismic & Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University.


Thomas R. Beck

Phylogeography of Lycium californicum

Tom’s thesis research involved reconstructing the phylogeographic history of Lycium californicum using a combination of nuclear and chloroplast data.

Joanna L. Rifkin

Evidence for ecological causation of sexual dimorphism in the hermit hummingbirds (Phaethornithinae)

Joanna used phylogenetic comparative methods to investigate the evolution of sexual dimorphism in bill curvature and length in hermit hummingbirds.  She is at Duke University in the genomics graduate program.

Jamie L. Kostyun

Allelic diversity and segregation at the S-RNase locus in wild tomato,Solanum peruvianum (Solanaceae)

Jamie studied the evolutionary genetics of self-incompatibility in Solanum collected from South America.  The summer following graduation, Jamie was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Post-Baccalaureate Fellow.  She is currently a graduate student in the Moyle lab in the Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior graduate program at Indiana University.

Mukta Dhond

Confirmation of a genetic bottleneck at the S-RNase locus in Old World Lycium (Solanaceae)

Mukta used sequence data isolated from the S-RNase mating system gene to investigate the extent of a genetic bottleneck in Old World Lycium.  Mukta is in medical school at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine.

Julian Damashek

Uncovering a tale of worldwide plant dispersal: evolutionary relationships of Chinese Lycium (Solanaceae)

Julian traveled to China with JSM and RAL in Spring 2008 where he collected materials for his research involving evolutionary affinities of eastern Asian Lycium.  Julian is in the graduate program in Environmental Earth System Science at Stanford University.



Caroli de Waal

University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa

Caroli graduated with honors from the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa.  Caroli studied the reproductive biology of two species of South African species of Lycium, L. cinereum and L. hirsutum, during 2006 and 2007.  Caroli received a Master’s degree in Spencer Barrett’s lab at the University of Toronto. and is working towards her PhD at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa.

Andrew P. Whelan

The utility of nuclear conserved orthologous set II (COSII) markers for species-level phylogenetic resolution in Lycium (Solanaceae)

Andrew developed COSII markers as phylogenetic markers in Lycium.  He amplified and sequenced 44 COSII markers, and selected eight for further studies of their phylogenetic utility.  Andrew studied Environmental Management in the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences at Duke University.

Sara Barmettler

Phylogeography of Lycium californicum (Solanaceae) in the southwestern United States and Mexico

Sara contributed to our understanding of the phylogeography of Lycium californicum, a species with variation in both ploidy level and sexual system by exploring the utility of chloroplast microsatellite (cpSSR) markers and several nuclear COSII markers to assess levels of variation (and potential use as phylogeographic markers) in this polymorphic species.  Sara is in medical school at the University of Massachusetts.


Joshua R. Shak

Phylogenetic relationships of old world Lycium (Solanaceae): reticulate evolution in the African taxa

Josh traveled to southern Africa with JSM and RAL during July & August 2005.  He reconstructed evolutionary relationships among Old World species of Lycium, tested hypotheses of hybrid species formation, and dated the dispersal of the genus to the Old World. He presented his work at the at the Botany 2006 meeting in Chico, California.  Josh started a MD/PhD program at Emory University in Fall 2008.  Link to Josh at ResearchGate.

Min Wang

Architectural effects and sexual dimorphism in Sagittaria latifolia and S. lancifolia (Alismataceae)

Min’s thesis investigated the effects of architectural variation on floral morphology and sexual expression in two species of Sagittaria (Alismataceae).  She received her Master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Ellen M. Leffler

Ploidy level and self-incompatibility in five Lycium species (Solanaceae): evidence from the S-RNase locus

Ellen compared allelic diversity and patterns of molecular evolution at the S-RNase locus across several species of Lycium that varied in ploidy level.  Ellen is pursuing her graduate studies at the University of Chicago in the Department of Human Genetics in Molly Preworski’s lab.


T. J. Keyes

Lycium minimum (Solanaceae), an endemic Galapagos shrub... Phylogeography and characterization of its sexual system


Lem Atanga-McCormick

Phylogeography of the widespread species, Lycium carolinianum, and the evolution of mating systems in mainland and island populations

Kayleigh O’Keeffe

Evolution of mating system genes in self-incompatible and self-compatible populations


Josh Haswell

Antoineen White


Anna E. Savage

Molecular characterization of the S-locus in Lycium: breakdown of gametophytic self-incompatibility and the evolution of gender dimorphism

Following graduation, Anna stayed on in the lab as a research assistant and published two papers with JSM (Evolution 2005, Heredity 2006).  She received her PhD in Kelly Zamudio's lab in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at Cornell University, where she studied the role of host immunogenetics for susceptibility to the amphibian fungal disease chytridiomycosis.  Anna is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Institution.

John L. Stanton-Geddes

Breeding systems and reproductive ecology of Lobelia spicata and L. siphilitica (Campanulaceae) in Massachusetts

John's thesis was published in 2007 in the Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society.  Following graduation, John was a Naturalist at the Rancho El Chorro Outdoor School in San Luis Obispo, CA, where it is rumored he learned how to surf!  John received his PhD in the department of Ecology, Evolution & Behavior at the Univ. of Minnesota.  Link to his website.



Alisa Neymark

Characterization of the S-RNase mating gene in polyploid Lycium exsertum

Jessica M. Blanton

Species-level phylogenetics for an American clade of Lycium (Solanaceae): exploring the utility of the genetic marker nitrate reductase

Jessica's thesis investigated evolutionary relationships among a group of ca. 20 species of extremely closely related species of American Lycium.  Jessica developed a new gene region (nitrate reductase, NIA) for use in phylogenetic studies, including the design and optimization of primers and the amplification, cloning and sequencing of this region.  Jessica’s thesis research was published in Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.