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Jim Leebens-Mack
Professor of Plant Biology
Contact Jim

Graduate Students



Jason Comer
PhD Candidate
Department of Plant Biology

Jason is a sytematist using phylogenomic approaches to resolve relationships among Arecoid
palm lineages.  The Arecoideae is the most speciose of the five palm (Arecaceae) subfamilies.  
Jason is employing gene capture and Illumina sequencing to analyze whole plastid genomes and
over 100 nuclear genes sampled from exemplars of all major lineages within the subfamily.    

Contact Jason





Lauren Eserman
PhD Candidate
Department of Plant Biology

Lauren is investigaitng the gain and loss of storage roots (tubers) thoughout  the evolutioanry of morning
glories (Ipomoeeae, Convolvulaceae).  Sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) is a nutritionally and economically
important  morning glory species, but tuber formers are distributed across the morning glory phylogeny.  
Lauren is performing comparative transcriptomic analyses to elucidate the molecular basis for tuber formation
in diverse morning glory species.

Contact Lauren


Alex Harkess

Alex Harkess
PhD Candidate
Department of Plant Biology

Alex is investigating the evolution of dioecy and sex chromosomes, using garden asparagus (Asparagus
) as a model system.  Alex is combinig transcriptomic analyses with GBS-based mapping  to
unravel the molecular basis of gender dimorphisms and test evolutionary models for the origin of
non-recombining sex-determination loci.

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Karolina Heyduk

Karolina Heyduk
PhD Candidate
Department of Plant Biology

Karolina studies the evolutionary origins and consequences of the Crassulacean acid metabolism
(CAM) photosynthetic pathway in the Agavoideae (Asparagaceae). Karolina's research focuses on
establishing the origins and frequency of CAM evolution within the Agavoideae, understanding the
evolution of physiological and transcriptomic changes associated with transitions to CAM.

Contact Karolina



Michelle Hwang
Masters Student
Department of Plant Biology

Michelle is a computational biologist working to develop analysis workflows for assessing
expression patterns and interaction networks for protein coding genes and non-coding RNAs. Michelle
is working with data from a number of projects but her masters thesis is focused on an investigation
of genes and gene interactions contributing to powdery mildew resistance in flowering dogwood.

Contact Michelle




None at this time.




Dat Trong Hoang
Dat Trong Hoang
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Raj Ayyampalayam
Raj Ayyampalayam
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Jeremy Ray
Plant Biolgy Major


Former Lab Members


Jamie Estill
Jamie Estill
Former Postdoc, now at the University of Michigan
Contact Jamie


Joel McNeal
Former Postdoc, Assistant Professor at Kennesaw State University
Joel at Kennesaw State


Alexa Telgmann-Rauber
Former Postdoc, Now a geneticist at KWS SAAT AG, Einbeck Germany


Hongyan Shan
Former Postdoc, Associate Professor at State Key Laboratory of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany, Beijing
State Key Laboratory of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany


Ling Dong

 Ling Dong
Former PhD Student, now working with Dennis Stevenson and Barbara Ambrose
at the New York Botanical Garden
Contact Ling



John Kerry
Former Masters Student, Now a software developer at NCR Corp
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Michael McKain
Former PhD Student, Now a Postdoc with Toby Kellogg
Contact Michael


Maryam Panahiazar
Former PhD Student, Now at Ohio Center of Excellence in Knowledge-enabled Computing


Jeremy Rentsch
Former PhD Student, Now a Postdoc with Mike Klymkowsky
Contact Jeremy