People

Principal Investigator


Dr. Lillian Fritz-Laylin

Contact

Email: lfritz-laylin@bio.umass.edu

Office: 330 Morrill II South

About

I am an evolutionary cell biologist, coupling comparative genomics with modern cell biology to discover core molecules and mechanisms required for cell motility. I work with a number of eukaryotic organisms, from free living amoebae to flagellated fungi, as well as human neutrophils. Fun stuff!

Education

B.A. Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley

Ph.D. Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley

Postdoc Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology, University of California San Francisco

Research Fellows


Dr. Karen Fisher

Contact

Phone: Twitter: @fisher_ke

Email: karenfisher@umass.edu

About

I am a research fellow in the Fritz-Laylin lab with a background in cell biology and microscopy. I'm interested in understanding various cellular processes at the ultrastructural level, such as the mechanics of zoospore encystment of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. To do so, I am developing and refining electron microscopy techniques for sample preparation and imaging.

Education

Ph.D. Biology, Arizona State University
M.S. Botany, Arizona State University
B.A. Biology, The College of Wooster



Erik Kalinka

Contact

Phone: Twitter @Zschiese

Email: ekalinka@umass.edu

About

I am a molecular biologist and a research fellow in the Fritz-Laylin lab. Chytrid fungi are promising systems for studying fungal and animal evolution, but molecular genetic studies in chytrids are currently limited by the lack of genetically tractable model organisms and molecular tools for their genetic modification. To overcome these constraints, my work focuses on developing and adapting methods for genetic manipulation of chytrids.

Education

M.Sc. Biophysics, Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany

B.Sc. Biophysics, Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany

Postdocs


Dr. Andrew Kennard

Contact

Phone: Twitter: @askennard

Email: akennard@umass.edu

About

I am a postdoc in the Fritz-Laylin lab, interested in the self-organization of cytoskeletal structures. I am investigating the mechanisms giving rise to the distinct architecture of the mitotic spindle in the amoeboflagellate Naegleria gruberi, which may also shed light on its pathogenic relative, Naegleria fowleri. I am also interested in the ecological niche of amoebae, and how amoebae navigate through complex environments. I received an Honorable Mention for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program in 2015.

Education

A.B. Chemical and Physical Biology, Harvard College
M.Phil. Physics, University of Cambridge
Ph.D. Biophysics, Stanford University



Dr. Katrina Velle

Contact

Phone: Twitter @KatrinaVelle

Email: kvelle@umass.edu

About

I am a postdoc in the Fritz-Laylin lab, and I'm interested in cytoskeletal dynamics and mechanisms of microbial pathogenesis. I am currently investigating the contributions of the actin cytoskeleton to cell migration, cell division, and osmoregulation in Naegleria gruberi—a non-pathogenic model system for the "brain-eating amoeba". My work is supported by an NIH F32 fellowship.

Education

B.A. Biology, University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth

Ph.D. Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Connecticut



Dr. Andrew Swafford

Contact

Phone: Twitter @Swafford_AJ

Email: aswafford@umass.edu

About

I am a postdoc in the Fritz-Laylin lab and I’m interested in the origins and evolution of behavior as an emergent property of motor and sensory systems. I am investigating how the molecular mechanisms of cell movement have evolved and subsequently integrated with sensory systems in chytrid fungi, influencing their ecology and pathogenicity. My work is supported by a 2020 NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship.

Education

B.A. Biology, Bowdoin College.
M.A. Bioinformatics and Phylogenetics, University of California Santa Barbara.
Ph.D. Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology, University of California Santa Barbara.



Dr. Edgar Medina

Contact

Phone: Twitter @mycozoa

Email: emedinatovar@umass.edu

About

I am a 2020 HHMI Hanna Gray Postdoctoral Fellow in the Fritz-Laylin Lab. I am interested in understanding the evolutionary changes that fueled the rise of the Fungal kingdom. Chytrids are within the deepest lineages of Fungi and combine ancestral animal-like ciliated “zoospore” cells that swim and crawl with fungal traits like hyphae. During zoospore formation, chytrids undergo morphogenetic transformations akin to animal embryonic development. My research will determine if early fungal morphogenesis exploited the same molecular pathways as animals or represent an evolutionary innovation.  

Education

Ph.D. Genetics and Genomics, Duke University, USA
M.Sc. Microbiology, Universidad de Los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia
B.Sc. Biology, Universidad de Los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia
B.Sc. Microbiology, Universidad de Los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia

Graduate Students


Kristyn Robinson

Contact

Phone: Twitter @K_aRobinson

Email: kristynrobin@umass.edu

About

I'm a graduate student with the Molecular and Cellular Biology PhD program. I'm interested in the diversity and evolution of developmental programs. I am currently investigating the intersection of development and pathogenicity using the parasitic chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. I received an Honorable Mention for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program, two travel grants to attend international conferences and was one of the winners of the MCB Program Fellowship competition.

Education

B.S. Biochemistry, Clemson University

Undergraduate Students


Gabriella Reynolds

Contact

Email: greynolds@umass.edu

About

I am a senior Biology major with a certificate in Culture, Health, and Science. I am on the pre-med track with hopes to focus on health inequity in medicine. I am working with Dr. Andrew Swafford to determine the mechanisms behind chemotaxis in the pathogenic fungi Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. I was awarded the 2021 Gerald F. Scanlon Student Employee of the year for my work at the Provost's Office of Faculty Development and I'm on the Dean's List Honors for all four years of my undergraduate study.


Tati Beckford

About

I am an undergraduate student and intern in the Fritz-Laylin lab. I am a Pre-Med Biology Major here at the university. I hope to continue my education with a focus in Forensics and Virology.


Lab Alumni

About

Where are they now? Mallory Kakley - High school science teacher Jose Alfredo Guzman Lopez - Postdoc at UC Berkley Alena Naritsin - Medical student at St. George's University Shane Hussey - Bioinformatician