Principle Investigator

Dr. Senay Yitbarek is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. After obtaining his undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley, Senay completed his PhD in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Senay returned back to UC Berkeley as a NSF Postdoctoral Fellow in Biology followed by a USDA NIFA Fellowship, before joining the Department of Biology at UNC Chapel Hill.

Lab personnel

Susana is a research technician in the lab. She received her B.S. in Agronomic engineering in 2021 from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia in Meddellin (Colombia), where she worked on viruses infecting potato plants. Susana joined the lab in 2022, and works on the ecology and evolution of pathogens and parasites including nematodes, viruses, and bacteria. She enjoys studying the interactions between different organisms at the genetic level; data analysis; bioinformatics; and scientific communication. Outside of lab, she can be found hiking with her dog “lucky” and husband, cooking new recipes, listening to podcasts, and swimming.

Postdoctoral researchers

Dr. Chase Rakowski is a postdoctoral researcher in the lab. Chase obtained his PhD in Biology from UT Austin working with Mathew Leibold (University of Florida) and Caroline Farrior (UT Austin). Chase studies basic and applied community and ecosystem ecology, mostly using freshwater food webs as study systems. For his postdoc, Chase will examine higher-order species interactions using duckweed plants as a model system. His approaches include field and laboratory experiments, modeling, and data analysis. For more information about his work please go here

Graduate students

Steven Mayer is a first year PhD student in the Biology program at UNC and is co-advised with Dr. Christina Burch. Steven works on viral ecology and evolution, with a special interest in phages. Steven enjoys studying these viruses under population bottlenecking, manipulating their environment, and even characterizing phages from nature. When not in the lab he enjoys the outdoors, baking, and spending quality time with friends.

Undergraduate students

Will Parker is a sophmore majoring in Biostatistics and Mathematics. Will is developing host-microbiome feedback models. His academic interests include nonlinear dynamics, machine learning, and study design. In the future, Will plans to pursue graduate studies in biostatistics, mathematics, or medicine with the ultimate goal of applying quantitative methods to improving human health. Outside of school and research, Will enjoys swimming, surfing, and reading.

Ronin Knies is a junior majoring in biology. He is interested in the molecular aspects of host microbe interactions. He is also interested in the manipulation of those molecular components to alter host fitness. After he graduates, he plans on attending graduate school to further his research. Outside of his studies and research, he enjoys working out, playing video games and hiking.

Eiona Engwall is a senior majoring in Quantitative Biology with minors in Environmental Science & Studies and Statistics & Analytics. She is currently researching the spatiotemporal distribution and invasion speed of winter tick populations in the Americas and will also assist in developing a co-infection model for pest control. In her free time, she enjoys reading, hiking, swimming, and spending time with her friends.

Gemma Diaz is a junior majoring in Environmental Science with a minor in GIS assisting with a project regarding duckweed plants as a model system. Her academic interests include behavioral ecology and evolution. In the future, Gemma plans to pursue research of vertebrates and how the changing climate affects adaptive traits. Outside of academia, Gemma likes crosswords and yard and card games.

Jenna Mayfield is a junior majoring in Environmental Science and Information Science and Minor in Sustainability. She is assisting with a project to understand the emergent properties of plant communities by using duckweed as a model system. Her academic interests include plant ecology and hydrology. She plans on going to graduate school to pursue information science. Outside of her studies and research, she likes to read, play games, and hang out with friends and family.

Hoi Polloi Alumni

Undergraduate Researchers
2021-2023: Oliver Cope
2021-2023: Carson Loudermelt
2022-2023: James Brown