Tom Williams is the Principal Investigator for this research group and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Dayton (UD). His research interest in determining the roles of genes in animal development dates back to his PhD research in the lab of Dr. Jeffrey W. Innis at the University of Michigan. Tom’s thesis research focused on the molecular mechanisms of HOX transcription factor function. His interests then expanded to address evolutionary questions and he pursued these as a post-doctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. Sean B. Carroll at the University of Wisconsin. In the Carroll lab he studied the genetic and molecular bases underlying the evolution of various fruit fly traits. His current research interests and the direction of the lab are geared towards revealing how genes, gene clusters, and gene networks function and how existing functions can be modified or altogether new functions evolve.
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
M. Luke Weinstein (August 2018-present) graduated from Ohio University in 2018. As a PhD student in the Williams Lab, Luke is investing the function and evolution of cis-regulatory elements (CREs). This includes ways to identify novel CREs through the use of bioinformatics, and understanding how pleiotropy, promoter interactions, and mutations shape CRE function and evolution. In addition to research, Luke is an instructor for Genetics Laboratory (BIO 312L).
Dr. Melissa Williams (January 2017-) received her PhD from the University of Michigan, where she studied the role of Hox genes in the development of the mouse limb bud. In the Williams Lab, Dr. Williams is using in situ hybridization and immunohistochemical approaches to study the role of gene expression evolution in the repeated origin of a sexually dimorphic fruit fly pigmentation trait. Dr. Williams also teaches General Genetics (BIO 312), Microbiology (BIO 411), and Biology Seminar (BIO 299) at the University of Dayton.
Gavin Christy (September 2021-) is an undergraduate student and Pre-medicine major at UD. His research uses various genetic and microscopic approaches to identify genes involved in the making of a fruit fly pigmentation phenotype.
Ashley Williams (June 2021-) is a student at West Carrollton High School. She helps maintain the lab’s fruit fly stocks, and contributes to projects studying gene expression among various fruit fly species.
Jada Brown (May 2021-) is an undergraduate student at UD, majoring in Biology and Psychology. Jada’s research uses RNA-interference and CRISPER/Cas9 approaches to identify and characterize key transcriptional regulatory genes that shape the development of a fruit fly body plan trait.
Corinne Stone (March 2021-) is an undergraduate student and Biology major at UD. Corinne’s research uses in situ hybridization and immunohistochemical approaches to study gene expression evolution for fruit flies of the Drosophila genus.
Matthew Spangler (October 2019-) is an undergraduate student and Biochemistry major at UD, and a member of the universities’ honors program. Matthew’s research combines bioinformatic and molecular genetic approaches to identify novel cis-regulatory elements that control gene expression for the fruit fly species Drosophila melanogaster.
Katherine Kohnen (September 20189-) is an undergraduate student and Pre-Medicine major at UD, and a member of the honors program. Katie was accepted into and completed the Berry Summer Thesis Institute during the 2021 summer. During this time she pursued her honors thesis research project that sought to find and characterize cis-regulatory elements with multiple gene regulatory activities. She also received an Honors Thesis Research Proposal award to support the completion of her honors thesis.
Jenna Rock (December 2018-) is an undergraduate student and Biology major at UD, and a member of the honors program. After excelling in genetics as a first year student, Jenna decided to try her hands in genetics research. Her research is utilizing a combination of approaches to further the understanding of a gene regulatory network for a rapidly evolving pigmentation trait. Jenna was accepted into and completed the Berry Summer Thesis Institute during the 2021 summer. During this time she pursued her honors thesis research project that sought to identify the key transcriptional regulators and their target gene interactions for a rapidly evolving fruit fly pigmentation trait. Jenna also received an Honors Thesis Research Proposal award to support the completion of her honors thesis.
Lab Alumni (Gone but not forgotten!)
Dr. Jesse Hughes (August 2014 -September 2021) was an undergraduate student at the University of Dayton and earned his B.S in Biology. His research project was to characterize cis-regulatory elements conserved across the Drosophila genus and utilize them as drivers of GAL4 in order to implement the GAL4/UAS conditional expression system in non-model Drosophila species. He received a prestigious REU award from the NSF to support an intensive summer research experience focused on the evolution of pigmentation patterns among species of the obscura species group of fruit flies. He received the 2016 John E. Dlugos, Jr. Memorial Award of Excellence to the Outstanding Senior Majoring in Biology. Dr. Hughes completed his doctoral research between 2016-2021, with an emphasis on understanding of how cis- and trans-regulatory evolution has shaped fruit fly pigmentation diversity. He received a GRFP from the National Science Foundation, and was awarded the Comer Graduate Research Award of Excellence to the Biology Graduate Student who best demonstrates research excellence in Biomedical Science. Dr. Hughes moved on to Knox College as the Associate Director of the McNair Scholars Program.
Rachel Johnson (February 2019-May 2021) was an undergraduate student and Pre-medicine major at UD. She was a member of the UD EMS that provides pre-hospital care and transportation for all medical and trauma emergencies on campus, honors program, and the recipient of the Dean’s Summer Fellowship to support her research in the Williams Lab during the 2019 summer, and an Honors Thesis Research Proposal award to support her thesis research during 2020 and 2021. Rachel’s research used immunohistochemistry to elucidate the expression conservation and diversification that has taken place for key transcription factors during the origination and diversification of fruit fly pigmentation patterns. After graduating from UD, Rachel moved on to medical school.
Sarah Adams (March 2019- December 2020) was an undergraduate student and Biology major at UD. She was a member of the universities’ honors program. Sarah’s research used confocal microscopy to study the gene expression regulating function of cis-regulatory elements for genes that play key roles in gene regulatory network for a rapidly-evolving fruit fly trait. After UD, Sarah moved on to medical school.
Chad Jaenke (August 2017-May 2020) was an undergraduate student and Biology major at UD. He was a member of the UD EMS that provides pre-hospital care and transportation for all medical and trauma emergencies on campus, honors program, and Berry Summer Thesis Institute. In 2020. he received the Robert Kearns Scholarship that supports summer research. Chad honors thesis research used a combination of bioinformatics and in vivo reporter transgene assays to identify novel cis-regulatory elements and genes that shape the Drosophila melanogaster abdomen pigmentation phenotype. Chad’s research excellence was recognized with the John E. Dlugos, Jr. Memorial Award of Excellence to the Outstanding Senior major in Biology. After graduating from UD, Chad moved on to attend medical school.
Abigail Groszkiewicz (September 2016-2018) majored in Pre-medicine and was an honors program student at the University of Dayton. She completed an honors thesis project that investigated the regulatory genes involved in the development of a sexually dimorphic fruit fly pigmentation trait. Abigail will soon enter medical school.
Gifty Antwi (January 2018-Septermber 2018) was a Pre-medicine major at the University of Dayton, graduating in May 2019. She received the Dean’s Summer Fellowship to support her research in the Williams Lab during the 2018 summer. Her research used an RNA-interference approach to identify novel transcription factor genes involved in making the Drosophila melanogaster pigmentation phenotype.
Addie McManimon (September 2016-2018) is a biology major at the University of Dayton. She was interested in tracking the evolutionary history of the wing element cis-regulatory element that controls the expression of the yellow gene and thereby shapes the diverse pigmentation patterns of Sophophora subgenus of fruit flies.
Rebecca Kaiser (January 2017-2018) was a biology major at the University of Dayton. Her research investigates how the Dopa Decarboxylase gene operates in a gene regulatory network controlling Drosophila melanogaster pigmentation and how this operation has evolved during the diversification of pigmentation among Sophophora subgenus species. Following graduation, she will continue her education, focusing on public health.
Dr. Sumant Grover, PhD Student (Fall 2012 -Summer 2018 ) received his BS degree in Biotechnology from Kurukshetra University in 2007 and a MS degree in Biochemistry from Kurukshetra University in 2009. His research background included a molecular characterization of seed dormancy genes in a recombinant inbred line of rice. Sumant’s PhD thesis research included a search for genes involved making in fruit fly pigmentation patterns, and characterizing their expression patterns. Dr. Grover moved on to industry following the completion of his PhD work.
Emily Wey (September 2014 -May 2018) was an undergraduate student at the University of Dayton majoring in Biochemistry and she was also a member of the universities’ Honors Program. Emily started her thesis project as a freshman, a project that initiated an investigation of the molecular effects for function-altering mutations in a cis-regulatory element and to see whether the effects of these mutations are subjected to the tyranny of other epistatically interacting sequences. She moved on to a post-baccalaureate program at the NIH, and she will begin medical school in the 2019 fall semester.
Alexandra Hallagan (August 2014 -May 2017) was an undergraduate student at the University of Dayton majoring in Biology. She was a member of both the universities’ student run Rescue Squad and the Honors Program. Alex’s research project aimed to resolve whether redundant, or shadow, cis-regulatory elements shape the gene expression patterns responsible for rapidly evolving fruit fly traits. Alex was selected to be a part of the Berry Summer Thesis Institute at UD during the 2015 summer to work on her research and to perform community service. She moved on to medical school at Ohio State University, starting in the 2017 fall semester.
Victoria Spradling (October 2014-May 2017) was an undergraduate Biology major at the University of Dayton. In addition to research, she stayed busy as a member of the honors program and the student run Rescue Squad. Victoria pursued a research project that aimed to identify genes with evolved expression patterns through the use of an in situ hybridization protocol. She moved on to a post-baccalaureate program at the NIH, and will enter PA school in the 2019 fall semester.
Lauren Gresham (January 2016-May 2017) was an undergraduate Pre-Medicine major at the University of Dayton. Lauren worked with Sumant Grover to investigate a potential connection between Drosophila melanogaster pigmentation and this species’ wound repair pathway. She moved on to Medical School at the University of Missouri, Kansas City.
Julie Sfiligoj (September 2016-December 2016) was a Pre-medicine major at the University of Dayton. Julie investigated the developmental time points at which the chromatin modifying Trithorax and Polycomb Group genes shaped the formation of fruit fly body pigmentation patterns. She moved on to medical school following her graduation from UD.
Dr. Eric Camino, PhD Student (Fall 2009 – May 2016) received his BS and PhD degrees in Biology from the University of Dayton in 2011 and 2016. His undergraduate research in the Williams lab studied how separate cis-regulatory elements (CREs) specify composite gene expression patterns. As a graduate student in the Williams lab, Eric’s research studied: how synergistic interactions between CREs are encoded and how these encodings evolved, long distance gene regulation and its evolution, and the gene network basis for novel traits. He moved on to be a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Dr. Mark Rebeiz at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Camino has since spent time in education and as a research project coordinator.
Maxwell Roeske (September 2013 – May 2016) was an undergraduate student at the University of Dayton majoring in Biology and Psychology. He was a member of the varsity cross country team and the Honors program and a member of the UD President Emissaries. In 2014, Maxwell was selected as a member of the prestigious Berry Summer Thesis Institute. His research project studied how gene duplication and divergence (cis-regulatory and protein coding sequences) has contributed to the evolution of a novel male-specific trait. Maxwell will start the MD/PhD program at Vanderbilt University in the Fall of 2016. Maxwell received the John J. Comer Biomedical Undergraduate Research Award to the Undergraduate Student Who Best Demonstrated Research Excellence in Biomedical Sciences as Biology major.
Claire Konys (September 2013 – May 2016) was an undergraduate student at the University of Dayton majoring in Biology. She was a member of the honors program and served the university community as a member of the student run Rescue Squad. In 2014, Claire was selected as a member of the prestigious Berry Summer Thesis Institute. Claire’s research project investigated the genetic and developmental roles for polycomb and trithorax genes in specifying the male-specific pattern of abdomen pigmentation in Drosophila melanogaster. Claire received the 2016 Learn, Lead, and Serve Award from the Biology Department for the experiential learning project she completed. She moved on to PA school, and ultimately will work in health care.
Lauren Schimmoeller (September 2013 – May 2016) was an undergraduate student at the University of Dayton majoring in Biology. She was a member of the Beta Beta Beta National Biological Honor Society. Lauren investigated how a fruit fly cis-regulatory element (CRE) directs a spatially-restricted pattern of gene expression. This involved the identification of the transcription factors proteins that act as direct regulators of this CRE and the binding site sequences to which they bind.
Jesse Grilliot (August 2014 – August 2015) is an undergraduate student at the University of Dayton majoring in Biology and with a keen interest in molecular genetics research and teaching. She is a member of the Honors Program and was part of a project to identify an characterize the cis-regulatory element sequences responsible for convergent patterns of gene expression and pigmentation. Jessica was selected to be a part of the Berry Summer Thesis Institute at UD during the 2015 summer to work on her research and to perform community service.
Mary List (December 2012 – May 2015) was an undergraduate student at the University of Dayton. She majored in Biology, was a member of the honors program, and member of the varsity Cross Country team. Mary joined the Williams lab in 2012 and she contributed to a project that customized fluorescent proteins for use in studying long-distance gene regulation between cis-regulatory elements and promoters. She won many awards at UD, including the 2015 John E. Dlugos Jr. Memorial Award to the Outstanding Senior major in Biology. In the Fall of 2015 she entered the University of Louisville School of Medicine. She has now completed medical school, and Dr. List has moved onto to a prestigious residency.
Dr. Will Rogers, PhD Student (Fall 2009 -2014) received his BS degree in Biology from the University of Dayton in 2007. Prior to graduate school, he studied the evolution of fruit fly Beta-tubulins, propagating cancer stem cells, and developing a DNA-fingerprinting assay for staphylococcus. After a year of research on pancreas development in Dr. Jan Jensen’s lab at the Cleveland Clinic, Will returned to UD as a graduate student in 2009. His PhD research studied the mutational and molecular mechanistic bases for cis-regulatory element functional variation and he developed some tools to study gene expression evolution. Parts of his thesis research have been published in PLoS Genetics, JoVE, Evolution and Development and Developmental Biology. Will moved on to become a post-doc in the lab of Dr. Mike Levine at Princeton University in 2015. From there, Dr. Rogers moved on to a career in the biotech industry.
Lisa Laurenzana (October 2013 – January 2014) is an undergraduate student at the University of Dayton majoring in pre-medicine. She joined the likes of Joe Salomone and Paul Berning as Williams lab members who started in the lab as a first year student. Lisa was using morphological features of fruit flies to determine the identity of a local caught fruit fly species. This species possesses a male-specific pattern of pigmentation that may be homologous or convergent to patterns possessed by other well studied species.
Kaitlyn Francis (September 2011 – 2014) was an Exercise Physiology major and Biology minor at University of Dayton and a Williams lab member since 2011. Her research project sought to identify the DNA sequences within a cis-regulatory element (CRE) that are necessary for synergistically activating a second neighboring CRE to specify a composite gene expression pattern. Kaitlyn was also a member of the University of Dayton honors program and the Berry Summer Thesis Institute. She started medical school in 2014 in the Boonshoft School of Medicine at Wright State University.
Jordan Vellky (September 2011 – 2014) was a Biology major at the University of Dayton and a Williams lab member since 2011. She was a member of the UD honors program and on top of this, she was a member of the Varsity Rowing team (the first athlete in the Williams Lab – this was arrived at by not counting Beer Pong and Cornhole as sports). Jordan’s research was directed towards identifying whether and how cis-regulatory elements interact with their target gene promoter(s). For this research she won a research grant from the honors program. She will enter the Cancer Biology PhD program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Fall 2014 semester.
Samantha Stringer (March 2012 – 2014) was a premedicine major at the University of Dayton who joined the Williams lab in 2012. She was a member of the Beta Beta Beta National Biological Honor Society, and a member of both the UD rescue squad and honors program. Her research utilized RNA interference to identify novel regulatory genes that operate within the fruit fly pigmentation gene network. She received a research grant from the honors program to support her thesis research and an REU from NSF. She began Medical School in the Fall 2014 semester. Upon completion, Dr. Stringer moved on to a prestigious residency at the University of Michigan.
Molly Cremons (October 2012 – 2013) is a Biology major at the University of Dayton who joined the Williams lab in 2012. Her research project investigated an incident of cis-regulatory element introgression among sympatric fruit fly species.
Joe Salomone (2009 – 2013) was a biology major who joined the Williams lab in 2009, his first year as an undergraduate student at UD. Joe’s research sought to identify gene expression differences between related fruit fly species and to pinpoint the cis-regulatory element changes that produce these expression differences. Outside of the lab, Joe was a member of the UD rescue squad, a service group that did not view his beard favorably. As a member of the Williams lab, Joe presented his research at the 2012 meeting of the Society for Developmental Biology and he has a few manuscripts in the lab’s pipeline. He also won many awards, including the 2012 Lancaster-McDougall Award that recognizes students that display excellence in scholarship and research and the 2013 John E. Dlugos Jr. Memorial Award to the Outstanding Senior major in Biology. Joe began the MD/PhD at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in the Summer of 2013.
Connor McNamee (2010 – 2013) was a Berry Scholar and premedical student at the University of Dayton and a member of the Williams Lab since 2010. His research explored the antiquity of a CRE in a Drosophila pigmentation gene and whether functionally-relevant variation can be found in this CRE among individuals from divers populations of the Drosophila melanogaster species. As a historical note, Connor as well as Joe Salomone, Eric Camino, John Butts, Kelly Gartland, and Kristen Davis were all survivors of Dr. Williams’ first time ever teaching (Fall 2009 BIO 312: General Genetics). Connor completed an undergraduate thesis research project, for which he won a research grant from the honors program in 2012.
John Butts, BS/MS Student (2009 – 2012) completed both BS and MS degrees from the Biology Department at the University of Dayton. He was a member of the Williams lab since 2009. His research sought to identify sequences within target gene CREs that mediate interactions with transcription factors and to approximate the evolutionary origins for these sequences and regulatory interactions. As a member of the Williams lab, John presented his research at the 2011 meeting of the Society for Developmental Biology and he has a few manuscripts in the lab’s pipeline. John currently works as a research technician in the lab of Victoria Meller at Wayne State University.
David Tacy (2010 -2012) was double major in Biology and Psychology at the University of Dayton and Williams lab member since 2010. He developed protocols for in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry that he used to identify differences in RNA and protein expression of key genes in the development of Drosophila melanogaster pigmentation. David was in the honors program and a member of the UD rescue squad. He was a 2011 recipient of the Lancaster-McDougall Award that recognizes students that display excellence in scholarship and research and received the 2012 John E. Dlugos Jr. Memorial Award to the Outstanding Senior major in Biology. David moved on to the Masters of Science in Nursing program at Xavier University. Since graduating, David has been employed as nurse for St. Elizabeth Health Care.
Paul Berning (2011 – 2012) was a Biology major at the University of Dayton. He joined the lab within a month of arriving at UD with a general interest in animal adaptations. Paul worked on a project to study how transcription factors regulate Drosophila pigmentation genes.
Kristen Davis (2009-2011) was a premedical student at UD between 2007-2011. Her research identified genetic associations between between gene loci and phenotypic variation among fruit fly populations. Kristen moved on to the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine after graduating from UD. As a historical note, she was the first undergraduate student to join the Williams lab.
Kelly Gartland (2010) was an Exercise Physiology student at the University of Dayton between 2007-2011. Her research in the Williams lab compared the coding sequences of genes suspected to underlie phenotypic variation among fruit fly populations. Following graduation from UD in 2011, Kelly entered medical school.
High School Teachers and Students
Jennifer Parks (2010 -) is a Biology Teacher at West Carrollton High School and a graduate of Wright State University. She has collaborated with the Williams Lab to develop materials for her courses since 2010. During the 2012 summer she directly participated in the research aims of the lab as RET fellow sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Her work identified other transcription factor genes participating in a fruit fly pigmentation gene network.
Nisha Nanavaty (2014) is a graduate of Centerville High School and generally interested in molecular biology. Her project is to test several Drosophila metabolic genes for a role in the development of tergite pigmentation and to screen for cis-regulatory elements controlling patterns of expression in the cells underlying the developing tergites. She will take her talents and skills to the University of Pittsburgh in the 2014 fall semester.
Brandon Hampshire (Fall 2012) was a High School student at the Dayton Early College Academy (DECA). He is broadly interested in Science and Engineering which he will pursue in college. In the Williams lab he is investigating the species identity and cis-regulatory element activity for a local caught fruit fly population. Brandon decided to attend the University of Dayton back in the Fall of 2013. He graduated with a degree in engineering.