People

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Duane McKenna Ph.D.

RioPalenque

with Heliconia aemygdiana, Rio Palenque, Ecuador

DuaneMcKenna

Principal Investigator
Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences
Program in Bioinformatics
Feinstone Center for Genomic Research
Center for Research and Innovation in STEM Teaching and Learning

Ecological Research Center
Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology, Research Associate in Entomology
email: dmckenna(at)memphis.edu

I am an insect systematist and evolutionary biologist. My taxonomic specialty is beetles (Coleoptera), particularly the Phytophaga, an enormous clade of tremendous ecological and economic importance containing the weevils, leaf beetles, and longhorned beetles, most of which feed on plants. Specific areas of interest include beetle classification, phylogeny and evolution, timing and patterns of beetle diversification, the genomic basis and evolution of plant feeding in beetles, biodiversity surveys and inventories involving beetles, and geographic patterns of beetle diversity and endemism, with a focus on the tropics. I am also interested in biodiversity conservation and education.


David (Dave) Clarke Ph.D.P0002038
Postdoctoral Researcher
Department of Biological Sciences
email: djclarke(at)memphis.edu

Dave came to the University of Memphis in late 2014 from Chicago, IL, where he was a Research Associate and Collections Assistant at The Field Museum of Natural History, and an adjunct instructor at several universities in the Chicago area. He was raised in New Zealand and received B.S. and M.S. degrees from the Univ. of Auckland, during which time he developed a strong interest in the ecology and natural history of plants and insects, especially beetles. He earned his Ph.D. from the Univ. of Illinois at Chicago under the supervision of Roberta Mason-Gamer and Margaret Thayer. His dissertation was focused on the comparative morphology, systematics, and biogeography of southern temperate Staphylinidae (rove beetles). His ongoing phylogenetic and evolutionary research on staphylinids (mainly the subfamily Euaesthetinae) involves both molecular and morphological data sets, but remains strongly grounded in monography. He has strong interests in promoting morphological systematics and cybertaxonomy.


Seunggwan Shin Ph.D.SeunggwanShin
Postdoctoral Researcher
Department of Biological Sciences
email: sshin4(at)memphis.edu

Seunggwan is interested in insect systematics and evolution, with a focus on Coleoptera and Diptera. He is a specialist on black fungus gnats (Diptera: Sciairdae), but also has a longstanding interest in beetles. He has M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Seoul National University, South Korea. His Ph.D. dissertation was focused on the evolution of habitat transitions between saprophagy or fungivory and phytophagy in sciarid flies. After completing his Ph.D., he joined the Wiegmann lab at North Carolina State University (2014-2015). He is currently studying beetle molecular phylogenetics and evolution, and developing analytical pipelines in the McKenna lab as part of the 1KITE, 1K Weevils, and i5K projects. In addition to insect systematics and evolution (especially Coleoptera and Diptera), he has a strong interest and background in bioinformatics.


Asela Wijeratne Ph.D.AselaWijeratne_2016
Postdoctoral Researcher
Department of Biological Sciences
email: jwjratne(at)memphis.edu

Asela received his PhD from Pennsylvania State University. His doctoral work was on transcriptomic and functional genomics studies of genes involved in anther development in Arabidopsis.  He moved to Dr. Erich Grotewold’s lab at Ohio State University to complete his postdoctoral studies on regulation of gene expression. Recently, he has overseen the activities of the bioinformatics core at the Ohio State University. He has hands-on experience with a wide range of techniques, including molecular biology and high-throughput data analysis techniques, and programming skills in python and R. He has several years of teaching experience, and has taught two full credit courses and several workshops on high-throughput data analysis. In the McKenna lab, Asela is working on longhorned beetle phylogenomics and evolution.

 


Stephanie HaddadStephanieHaddad
Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Biological Sciences
email: shaddad(at)memphis.edu

Stephanie’s research interests include insect systematics, phylogenetics, evolution, and insect-plant interactions. She is interested in how advances in high-throughput genomics, bioinformatics, and computational biology can be utilized to address controversies in beetle phylogeny and evolution. She is also interested in current issues in biological conservation and the gravity of sustaining biodiversity. Her doctoral dissertation research involves reconstructing the phylogeny and evolution of family Cerambycidae (longhorned beetles) and its largest subfamily Lamiinae (flat-faced longhorned beetles). Stephanie has a M.S. degree in Biology from the American University of Beirut (Beirut, Lebanon).


Cristian Beza69A2967E-9C8E-4F9D-A50F-7948C9A92895AA0BCE1B-7A3F-4E92-8499-E6FA9C39EE93
Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Biological Sciences
email: cfbeza(at)memphis.edu

Cristian is studying the diversification of Neotropical montane forest bess beetles in the tribe Proculini (family Passalidae) using molecular phylogenetic and morphological data. He is broadly interested in phylogenetics and timing and patterns of diversification in tropical insects. He has extensive field experience in the Neotropics, and his work has significant implications both for our understanding of Neotropical phylogeography and evolution, and the conservation of Neotropical montane forest biodiversity. He has a M.S. degree in Biology from Wichita State University (where he worked with Dr. Mary-Liz Jameson), and a licenciate degree from the Universidad del Valle in Guatemala (where he worked with Dr. Jack Schuster).


Matt KrullIMG_1049 Krull
Laboratory Manager
Department of Biological Sciences
email: mrkrull(at)memphis.edu

Matt has a B.S. in Biological Sciences from the University of Memphis. He is responsible for all aspects laboratory management, and is contributing to molecular phylogenetic studies of several large groups of beetles.


Alex AitkenAlex.Aitken
Recent Graduate: M.S.
Department of Biological Sciences

Alex earned a B.S. in Biological Sciences from the University of Memphis in 2012, and graduated with a M.S. in Biological Sciences in 2015. His research involved establishing a robust phylogenetic backbone for the weevil superfamily Curculionoidea using anchored phylogenomic data.


Olivia FreemanOliviaFreeman
Laboratory Assistant
Department of Biological Sciences

Olivia has a B.S. in Biological Sciences from the University of Memphis. She assists with specimen imaging and databasing, and with the longhorned beetle phylogeny and evolution project.

 


Martina Rodriguez-SalaIMG_1055 Martina
Undergraduate Researcher
Department of Biological Sciences

Martina is a Biological Sciences Major at the University of Memphis. She is a native of Spain, and competes on the University of Memphis track and cross country teams. She assists with specimen imaging and databasing, the NSF-funded 1K Weevils Project, and is involved with ongoing molecular phylogenetic studies of several groups of beetles.


Bridget ShanerIMG_1042 Shaner
Laboratory Assistant
Department of Biological Sciences

Bridget has a B.S. in Biological Sciences from the University of Memphis. She assists with specimen imaging and databasing, including literature mining for host-plant associations, and with the longhorned beetle phylogeny and evolution project.


Kayla SomervilleIMG_2966
Undergraduate Researcher
Department of Biological Sciences

Kayla is a Biological Sciences Major at the University of Memphis. She assists with specimen imaging and databasing for the 1K Weevils Project, and is involved with ongoing molecular phylogenetic studies of several groups of beetles.

 


Former Lab Members

Abbas Allauddin (Laboratory Assistant)

Kiara Atkins (Undergraduate Researcher)

Blake Bell (Undergraduate Researcher): Undergraduate student in Biological Sciences, University of Memphis.

Rob Coleman (Undergraduate Researcher, Laboratory Assistant): Currently working in the laboratory of Dr. Mandel at the University of Memphis (Dept. of Biological Sciences).

Andrew Donahue (Undergraduate Researcher, Laboratory Assistant): Currently pursuing a degree in medicine at the University of TN.

Elena Gheorghiu-Polk (Undergraduate Researcher): University of Mississippi Medical Center, Poison Control Center

Natalie Jacewicz (Visiting Undergraduate Researcher)

David Jones (Undergraduate Researcher): Medical School, University of TN, Health Science Center.

Ben Nguyen (Undergraduate Researcher, Laboratory Assistant): Pharmacy Student, University of TN Health Science Center, College of Pharmacy.

Jordan Riddle (Undergraduate Researcher, Laboratory Assistant): Seattle, WA Audubon Society.

Mellie Riddle (Undergraduate Researcher): M.S. in Biomedical Anthropology, Binghamton University.

Kelcey Rose (Undergraduate Researcher, Laboratory Assistant): Pharmacy Student, University of TN Health Science Center, College of Pharmacy.

Supriya Pati (M.S. in Bioinformatics)

Ashley Whitehead (Undergraduate Researcher): Student, LMU-DCOM Physician Assistant Class of 2015.

Melody Williams (Undergraduate Researcher): Ph.D. student, University of Memphis Dept. of Chemistry.