Current Lab Members

Michael D. Purugganan (Principal Investigator)


Michael D. Purugganan is Silver 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 Assistant Professor)


Jonathan has worked in the Purugganan laboratory since 2007. During that time he has led or co-led resequencing projects on Dictyostelium, Chlamydomonas, wild and Asian domesticated rice, Arabidopsis and date palm. Each of these studies has involved modelling population history, inferring the molecular causes and consequences of fitness variation, and the discovery of genes controlling plant traits. He presently is working on these and related problems in date palm. Jonathan also has continuing interests in the functional profiling of plant genomes. Jonathan is developing a database of functional mutations for plant species which willa aid in rapid profiling of large numbers of re-sequenced genomes

Google Scholar: click here

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.

Google Scholar: click here

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).


Rafal Gutaker (Postdoctoral Fellow)


Rafal was obsessed with plant genetics since high school, a passion which made him crave more knowledge about the subject throughout the years. A stubborn attitude awarded him with admission for PhD programme at University of Warwick (UK), where under Robin Allaby's supervision he learned about the importance of crop diversity. Within 3 years at Warwick he germinated interests in ancient DNA and computer programming. These two key skills were nurtured during his postdoctoral fellowship at Hernán Burban's lab, Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology (Germany) and allowed him to grow up as a population genomicist. With such foundations Rafal found his way to Purugganan's lab, an ultimate crop evolution research group. In the past, Rafal was working with carrots, flax, maize, potato and Arabidopsis. This time he will try to sort out the natural history of rice. Research system is not important for him, he dreams of generalizing the processes of crop domestication and adaptation.


Muriel Gros-Balthazard (Senior Research Scientist)

Muriel joined the Purugganan lab at NYU Abu Dhabi in January 2018. More soon

Khaled Hazzouri (Visiting Scholar)


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 worked on the origin and spread of domesticated date palms. In 2017, Khaled moved to the Khalifa Center at the United Arab Emirates University where he is continuing to work on date palms and related problems in other plant species.


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.


Cris Zaidem (Post-doctoral Fellow)


Cris' first foray in to the crop world was with rice. She conducted research for her undergrad thesis at the international Rice Research Institute on salinity tolerance at the different growth stages of rice with Dr. Glenn Gregorio. Henceforth she has worked in different institutes with other inspiring and top-notch scientists on several rice research projects including screening hybrid rice,breeding for aromatic rice, allele-mining, generating and evaluating transgenic drought-tolerant and high-iron rice, and studying the transcriptome dynamics of rice drought responses.Cris also took a stab at Arabidopsis research (hybrid incompatibility and defense response) when she did her Ph.D. research at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology with Dr. Detlef Weigel. Her Ph.D. work strengthened her appreciation of basic research for translational science.

Cris joined the Purugganan Lab in October 2017. She is currently focusing on “the other” domesticated rice species, Oyza glaberimma. Ultimately her goal is to explicitly connect regulatory and genetic variation to plant fitness


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.

Zoe Lye

Zoe received her bachelors of arts and sciences from Oberlin College in 2015 where she majored in biology. Before starting her P.h.D. at NYU in 2016 she worked as a research assistant at the USDA national center for genetic resources preservation in Fort Collins Colorado and at the Morton Arboretum center for tree sciences in Lisle Illinois. Her current work in the Purugganan lab is focused on copy number variation in rice populations and their evolutionary significance.


Inês Pires


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.


Sylvie Ferrand (Technician)


Sylvie completed her BSc in biology from French University Paul Sabatier in 2004. She has worked as a Research Assistant on Next Gen Sequencing, QPCR and genotyping at the Bioscience Core Lab at KAUST in Saudi Arabia for 3 years. Sylvie joined the Purugganan lab in Febuary 2015 as Research Technician. She is working with the Date Palm Biodiversity group in Abu Dhabi focusing on the origins and date palm varieties.


Back to the top