Barrick Lab :: Team

Lab Photo

Principal Investigator

Prof. Jeffrey E. Barrick 🐋

Associate Professor of Molecular Biosciences (01/2011–present)
B.S. Chemistry, Caltech
Ph.D. Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University
Postdoc, Michigan State University
Twitter: @barricklab

Prof. Barrick has a longstanding interest in fundamental and applied studies of molecular and microbial evolution. He is currently interested in intersections between those topics, synthetic biology, and entomology. He is an avid if plodding swimmer and enjoys the "classics" of literature, including a certain 19th century American novel involving a monomaniacal fascination with an albino cetacean.

Lab Manager

Alexa Morton 🐿

Lab Manager (07/2024–present)
B.S. Biochemistry, University of Texas at Austin

Prior to becoming lab manager, Alexa completed her undergraduate honors thesis in the Barrick Lab and served as a student leader for the 2023 UT iGEM synthetic biology team. She oversees day-to-day operations in the Barrick Lab, including the upkeep of the E. coli Long-Term Evolution Experiment (LTEE). Her research involves utilizing the tools of synthetic biology to engineer bacteria to secrete antimicrobial peptides, primarily in the context of agricultural pathogen control. When not hovering over a Bunsen burner or making constructs in Benchling, Alexa enjoys hiking, listening to audiobooks, going to the gym, and staring at random animals in nature.

Senior Researchers

Prof. Dennis Mishler ⚔

Assistant Professor of Practice and Research Educator for the Freshman Research Initiative (04/2013–present)
B.S. Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California at San Diego
Ph.D. Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University
Postdoc Emory University

Dr. Mishler leads the "Microbe Hackers" undergraduate research lab and co-advises the UT Austin iGEM team with Professor Barrick. The Microbe Hackers most recent research has focused on "Caffeinated Coli", including a 2019 publication in AEM, among other projects. He is super proud of all of his students, but wants to give a shout out to the 2019 iGEM team members who were recognized with a Best Measurement award this past fall. Prior to coming to UT Austin, he worked in the fields of pre-mRNA splicing and synthetic riboswitches. He is an avid gamer and can be found regularly playing games throughout Austin. He annually attends the World Boardgaming Championships, where his main games include Here I Stand and Sekigahara

Dr. Lucio Navarro 🪲

Research Fellow (08/2023–present) Jointly advised with Nancy Moran
BS Biology, Universidad Industrial de Santander, Colombia.
PhD Entomology, Purdue University, Indiana.

Lucio is a Molecular Entomologist with broad research interests in arthropod genomics, insect-microbial symbiosis and insect-plant molecular interactions. He currently works on developing symbiont-mediated RNAi to be used on various applications, including functional genomics and future insect pest management methods. In his free time, Lucio enjoys stargazing and playing on little projects with Raspberry Pi microcomputers.

Postdoctoral Fellows

Dr. Isaac Gifford 🐴

Postdoctoral Fellow (01/2020–present)
B.S. Microbiology, University of Texas at Austin
Ph.D. Microbiology, University of California Davis

Isaac’s primary research interests are the mechanisms of horizontal gene transfer and its role in genome evolution. He currently works with Acinetobacter baylyi ADP1 while his graduate work focused on molecular genetics of Frankia nitrogen-fixing symbioses. Isaac’s personal interests include game design and 21st century sequential art.

Dr. Patrick (PJ) Lariviere 🦉

Postdoctoral Fellow (08/2021–present) Jointly advised with Nancy Moran
B.A. Biochemistry, Bowdoin College
Ph.D. Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

As a molecular microbiologist with industry experience, PJ is broadly interested in both studying and engineering biological systems involving bacteria. He is currently developing molecular tools for use in engineering symbionts of honey bees. Ultimately, PJ hopes these tools would be beneficial both in basic science research and real world applications, allowing for more robust study of bee genetics and protection against pathogens. PJ is also interested in studying the interaction between honey bees and their bacterial symbionts at a molecular scale. Outside of lab, PJ enjoys running, biking, playing/listening to music, and playing with his dog Duncan.

Graduate Students

Cameron Roots 🦊

Biochemistry Graduate Student (05/2020–present)
B.S. Biochemistry; Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, University of Washington
Post-baccalaureate Certificate, National Institutes of Health
Twitter: @_croots

Cameron work seeks to improve our ability to predict burden and consequential behavior of small systems, such as bacteriophages or engineered plasmids. His past work was in mitochondria systems genetics and cell-machine interfacing. Ultimately, Cameron would like to work towards synthetic biology as a system to solve human-derived problems like diabetes and pollution through contributing research, policy, or outreach. He has too many hobbies, but some highlights include Dungeons and Dragons, playing guitar, and running.

A H M Zuberi Ashraf 🐼

Microbiology Graduate Student (05/2022–present)
B.S. Biology (Biotechnology Concentration), Minor in Chemistry, Texas A&M University-Central Texas
Email: ashraf.ahmz95ATutexasDOTedu

Zuberi is interested in evolution in symbionts and the different forces that drives it. He is currently working with the honeybee gut symbiont, Snodgrassella alvi. In the past, Zuberi worked as a MLS in a microbiology lab from Baylor Scott & White. During his undergraduate years, Zuberi studied the crop microbiome community in honeybees and how that affected honey composition. Outside of work, Zuberi loves to travel, go on hikes, and try the different types of food all over Austin

Anthony VanDieren 🦂

Microbiology Graduate Student (04/2023–present)
B.S.E.S. Entomology, University of Georgia
B.S.A. Biological Science, University of Georgia
B.S.A. Chemistry, University of Georgia
Email: avandierenATutexasDOTedu

Anthony is interested in insects and their corresponding symbionts which affect many aspects of their physiology. Currently, Anthony works with aphids and is attempting to engineer their vertically inherited symbionts. Before coming to UT, Anthony worked as an analytical chemistry lab technician for Henkel and served as a staff entomologist for the Cranbrook Institute of Science in Michigan. Anthony was also an undergraduate reasearcher working on kissing bugs and their gut symbionts. Anthony is a serious entomologist and enjoys finding, rearing, and preserving various exotic insects and arachnids when not in lab.

Tyler de Jong 🎹

Cell and Molecular Biology Graduate Student (01/24–present)
B.S. Biochemistry, University of Texas at Austin
Email: tylerdejongATaustinDOTutexasDOTedu

Tyler is interested in gene accordions: adaptation systems used by microbes to rapidly diversify and evolve genes via recombination-driven expansions and contractions.To characterize these systems, he is replicating the process through the directed evolution of fluorescent proteins in the naturally competent bacterium ADP1. Before starting graduate school, Tyler worked at a clinical reference lab processing COVID-19 tests and then as a research associate in Nancy Moran’s lab studying the honeybee gut microbiome. Outside of the lab, Tyler enjoys taking walks in Austin's different Greenbelts and hanging out with his cat.

Pranesh Rao 🐧

Cell and Molecular Biology Graduate Student (02/24–present)
B.E. Biotechnology, Mumbai University
M.S. Biotechnology, Texas A&M University - College Station

Pranesh is interested in studying the omics of microbial evolution dynamics and developing computational/deep learning genomics research tools. He is currently working on studying evolution dynamics of LTEE E. coli populations using DNA barcoding and high-throughput sequencing techniques. He is also working on supplementing the breseq computational pipeline. Pranesh has experience working in the R&D of molecular diagnostics and carrier screening assays for genetic disorders at Asuragen (Bio-techne), Austin, TX. He is an avid soccer fan and spends a lot of his free time playing, watching or thinking about soccer (or football as he prefers to call it). He also enjoys hiking, biking, and occasionally painting/sketching.

Undergraduate Researchers

Kadena Cope 🌸

B.S. Biochemistry (01/2023–present)
I am currently researching underneath the BEE EDGE project, studying the endosymbionts native to the honeybee gut and applying synthetic biology practices to learn more about this insect. I’m interested in learning more about how things work on a molecular level, and enjoy learning about biochemistry both in the classroom and in the lab. Outside of my academics, I enjoy trying new recipes in the kitchen, exploring the outdoors, and working with a local non-profit organization to provide STEM programming to young girls.

Meghna Vergis 🐰

B.S. Biology (01/2024–present)
I'm investigating how Acinetobacter baylyi strains interact with oil and evolving strains of A. baylyi BD4rev to be more efficient at consuming oil. I have been involved in the Microbe Hackers FRI stream for the past year, where I engineer the bacteria that live on blue-green algae to glow in the presence of water contaminants. I like listening to music, cooking, and doing crafts in my free time.
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Contributors to this topic Edit topic JeffreyBarrick, SarahBialik, KateElston, AustinMeyer, MichaelHammerling, JackDwenger, CraigBarnhart, CameronRoots, PraneshRao, JuliePerreau, AurkoDasgupta, AlexaMorton, SeanLeonard, IsaacGifford, SimonDAlton, ElizabethRobinson, DennisMishler, ElizabethManriquez, GabrielSuarez, ZuberiAshraf, AlvaroRodriguez, ColinBrown, TylerDeJong, AnthonyVandieren, GeoffColburn, JordanMonk, DanielDeatherage, PengGeng, KadenaCope, VictorLi, MeghnaVergis, LindseyWolf, DaciaLeon
Topic revision: r270 - 2024-07-22 - 18:01:41 - Main.AlexaMorton
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