Current Lab Members

Michael D. Purugganan (Principal Investigator)


Michael D. Purugganan is the Dorothy Schiff Professor of Genomics and Professor of Biology at New York University. Since the summer of 2012, he has served as the Dean for Science of NYU. He is also on the affiliated faculty and the co-director of the Center for Genomics and Systems Biology at NYU Abu Dhabi. Given all of this, he has decided to forego sleep and weekend fun just so he can also do research and teach.


Jonathan M. Flowers (Research Scientist)


Jonathan completed his Ph.D. research in population genetics and molecular evolution under the supervision of Dr. Ronald S. Burton at the University of California San Diego in 2005. He then conducted a two-year post-doc in the laboratory of Walter Eanes at Stony Brook University, working on metabolic adaptation and the evolution of core metabolic pathways in Drosophila. Since joining the Purugganan lab at NYU, Jonathan has led or co-led resequencing projects on Dictyostelium, Chlamydomonas, wild and Asian domesticated rice, Arabidopsis and date palm. Each of these studies has had aims related to characterizing the causes of molecular evolution in each species and the discovery of genes controlling important traits such as those of agronomic interest. He is currently continuing to work on problems in the evolution of crop species.

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Rachel Meyer (Postdoctoral Fellow)


Rachel completed her doctorate under the supervision of Dr. Amy Litt in the City University of New York and New York Botanical Garden Joint PhD Program in Biology in 2012, with a thesis on the domestication history and metabolic gene function and genetic, chemical, and ethnobotanical diversity of eggplant and related nightshades. Her undergraduate degrees include a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Visual Art and a B.S. in Plant Biology, both from the University of Washington in Seattle. In her position as an NSF Plant Genome Postdoctoral Fellow in the Purugganan lab she is investigating the evolution of salt tolerance in African rice through genome-wide analyses and documenting West African agricultural practices to better understand selection. She is currently continuing African rice research while pursuing a AAAS Science Policy Fellowship at NSF.


Simon Cornelis "Niels" Groen (Postdoctoral Fellow)


Niels received his BSc and MSc degrees in Biology at Wageningen University, the Netherlands, in 2009. He performed his thesis research on the signaling mechanisms behind three-way plant-microbe-insect interactions with the laboratories of Dr. Naomi Pierce and Dr. Fred Ausubel at Harvard University. He completed his PhD research on the consequences of virus infections for plant interactions with virus vectors and pollinators in Dr. John Carr s laboratory at the University of Cambridge in 2013. Niels then conducted a two-year post-doc in the laboratory of Dr. Noah Whiteman at the University of Arizona (now at UC Berkeley), where he used Drosophila to study the adaptations of insect herbivores to plant-produced dietary toxins at the molecular level.

Niels joined the Purugganan lab in October 2015 as a postdoctoral fellow. His research aims to dissect the multi-genic nature of drought resistance in field-grown rice using a diversity panel of rice landraces, and to identify connections between gene expression patterns and organismal fitness under stress. To this end, he will conduct a large-scale field experiment at IRRI in the Phillippines. He works in collaboration with Dr. Rahul Satija s lab at NYU, with Dr. Steve Franks at Fordham University, and with Dr. Georgina Vergara and Dr. Amelia Henry at IRRI.

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Jae Young Choi (Postdoctoral Fellow)


Jae Young (a.k.a. Jae) has completed his PhD at Cornell University under the guidance of Dr. Charles ("Chip") Aquadro. There he studied the population genomics of Drosophila germline stem cell regulating genes and the evolution occurring between the germline parasite Wolbachia and its host Drosophila. He also had a short postdoctoral position to study the coevolutionary process (Evolutionary Rate Covariation) occurring across complex pathways to learn novel evolutionary interactions between and among genes. As a postdoc in the Purugganan lab he is studying the population and evolutionary genomics of the African rice (Oryza glaberrima).


Khaled Hazzouri (Research Scientist)


Khaled completed his PhD at the University of Toronto in the laboratory of Dr. Stephen Wright studying mating system evolution in Capsella and Collinsia. Khaled joined the Purugganan lab at NYU Abu Dhabi in July 2012 where he is now working on origin and spread of domesticated date palms.


Zoé Joly-Lopez (Postdoctoral Fellow)


Zoe completed her Ph.D. research in May 2015 on investigating the process of TE exaptation in plants by characterizing the origin, evolution and function of a family of angiosperm-specific host genes (MUSTANG) derived from transposable elements in Arabidopsis thaliana, under the supervision of Dr. Thomas E. Bureau at McGill University

Zoé joined the Purugganan lab in September 2015 as a postdoctoral fellow. In collaboration with Dr. Adam Siepel at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, she is working on developing the first "fitness consequence" map of the rice genome associated with environmental stress responses using a method that integrates both evolutionary and various functional genomic date-types. The aim will be to then use this map as a tool for targeting genomic regions with potential function, with an emphasis on non-coding regions.


Adrian Platts (Bioinformatician)


Adrian is a bioinformatician working jointly between NYU and CSHL on applying INSIGHT and fitCons approaches to Rice. A Physics graduate, he initially worked on magnetic materials in the Harris lab before transitioning to a bioinformatics career, working with Stephen Krawetz on gene regulation during human reproduction. In the 6 years prior to joining the Purugganan lab he worked with Mathieu Blanchette at McGill and Stephen Wright at the University of Toronto on blending comparative and population genomics to characterize the non-coding regulatory regions in dicot plants.

Inês Pires (Ph.D. Candidate)


Inês completed, in 2009, her MS in Biological Engineering at Instituto Superior Técnico – Universidade Técnica de Lisboa, Portugal, while collaborating with the Industrial Microbiology group from Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands. During 2010, Inês worked as a molecular biologist at Genomics of Plant Stress Laboratory in Instituto de Tecnologia Química e Biológica – Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal. And in the beginning of 2011, she became a PhD student at the same institute while collaborating with the Purugganan Laboratory at Center for Genomics and Systems Biology at New York University, USA. Since 2010, Inês has been focusing on salt stress tolerance in rice (O. sativa L.) studying it from different perspectives. After analyzing the phylogeny of key salt tolerance genes (NHX and SOS1) in plants, she is now aiming at performing GWAS to identify possibly new genic regions involved in salt stress tolerance and to better characterize this trait in rice.


Wei Yuan (Ph.D. Candidate)


Wei got her B.Sc in Biology from China Agricultural University in 2009. Throughout her years in college, she always found herself fascinated by the complexity of all types of life forms, especially plants. After gaining research experience in plant evo-devo and developmental genetics, she ended up in the legendary city of New York, and the legendary Purugganan Lab. Right now Wei is engaged in a few extremely cool things: first of all her research project of developing a new technique in Arabidopsis thaliana, namely the xQTL mapping technique, to better investigate the chromosomal regions that are related to specific natural variations in plants; secondly Wei is happily pressured to rock climb by Gina, and on weekends she is exploring the cultural richness that NYC offers, including the artistic underground scenes...


Caryn Johansen (Masters Student)


Caryn completed her B.S. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from Humboldt State University in 2012. From 2012 to 2014, she worked as a research assistant at the Carnegie Institute of Science, Dept of Plant Biology in the laboratory of Sue Rhee studying the genetics of salt tolerance in Arabidopsis thaliana natural variants. Caryn is specifically interested in the evolution of traits that confer fitness while plants develop and reproduce under abiotic stress conditions such as drought and ionic stress. Caryn is also interested in the organization and visualization of large genomic datasets and she is excited about the massive increase in available plant data. At NYU, she is completing a MS in bioinformatics (May 2016). In the Purugganan lab, she is building a relational database and web tool to host and query data from two genomic research projects in the Oryza genus. She owns a bonsai named Telemachus.



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