Graduate Students

Matthew Barrett in a forest.

Matthew Barrett:

My research is generally focused on plant-insect interactions and chemical ecology using cucurbits and cucurbit pests a model system. For my dissertation, I am trying to understand how one insect’s pheromone may influence the behavior and performance of other non-target organisms.

Rekha Bhandari portrait

Rekha Bhandari:

My goal is to understand the mechanistic and ecological understanding of insect-plant interaction that aid in developing Integrated Pest Management strategies for managing agricultural pests.

Hayden in foreground with background of wooden fence.

Hayden Bock:

I am interested in the basic and applied ecology of arthropods in urban soils. I aim to understand what organisms live in human-altered areas, how they influence urban biogeochemical cycles, and how we can use this information to create healthier and more sustainable urban landscapes in the face of climate change.

Kate in foreground with white background.

Kate Browning:

I am a second year PhD student in the Lazzaro lab. After completing my undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley in Molecular Environmental Biology, I spent five years in biotech working on gene synthesis and single-cell mRNA sequencing technology. I am currently studying translational changes in the fat body of Drosophila melanogaster while mounting an immune response as well as other regulators of protein synthesis including amino acid availability.

Mark in the foreground with background of leafs.

Mark Buckner:

In my research, I use open data to model how the diversity and distributions of solitary bees may change under future climate conditions and in human-altered landscapes. By evaluating how species respond to the changing environment, I aim to provide resources for land management decision-making and biodiversity conservation.

Robin in foreground with gray background.

Robin Chen:

I study how arboviral proteins are trafficked in midgut and salivary gland epithelial cells of the model organism Drosophila melanogaster and the arbovirus vector Aedes aegypti in the laboratories of Pr. Nicolas Buchon and Pr. Gary Blissard. Understanding the mechanism of viral protein trafficking in insects could lead to the development of novel methods to reduce vector competence.

Chloe Cho on a hike.

Chloe Cho:

My research interests as a Ph.D. student in the Poveda Lab include how local and landscape factors impact natural enemies and their potential to provide biological control and other ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes. I’m passionate about science communication and collaborative science that works with growers and the general public to drive useful, inclusive, and accessible science. 

Ray Cotto in the field.

Rey Cotto:

I am a PhD candidate at the Wang Lab studying insect toxicology and biochemistry. My graduate studies are focused on understanding the evolution of insect resistance to Bt-toxins and more specifically the mechanism of insect resistance to Bt-toxins Cry1Ac and Cry1F for the development of novel pest management technologies. 

Andrea Darby

Andrea Darby:

I am a PhD Candidate and Ford Foundation Pre-docotoral Fellow in Dr. Brian Lazzaro's lab. I research the impact of diets, specifically high sugar diets, on metabolism and infection dynamics in the insect model Drosophila melanogaster. Learn more about my work at

Julie Davis in a field.

Julie Davis:

I am interested in the ecology of pollinators and herbivores in natural and agricultural ecosystems. My research explores the basic ecological dynamics between soil, plant, herbivore and pollinator communities; and how land use practices alter these relationships.

Kaitlin in foreground with background of river and mountains.

Kaitlin Deutsch:

I am broadly interested in the ecology and conservation of native pollinators.  At Cornell, I would like to study the potential effects of disease, pesticide exposure, and climate change on the ability of native pollinators to fulfill critical pollination services.

Lilly Elliott

Lilly Elliott:

I'm broadly interested in plant-insect interactions and integrated pest management within the NYS agricultural scene. I'm currently a PhD student in the Poveda Lab and my research includes work with seedcorn maggot (Delia sp.), a major seed consumer of economically important crops

Kara in the foreground with mountains in the background.

Kara Fikrig:

Kara is a Ph.D. student in Dr. Laura Harrington's lab researching the feeding biology of the tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, including blood feeding patterns, host choice, and sugar feeding. You can read more about her research on her website or follow her on Twitter @karafikrig.

Nathalia Florez Gomez holding a net in the field.

Nathalia Florez Gomez:

I'm passionate about bee diversity, and I'm interested in phylogenetics, evolution, and taxonomy. My research, as graduate student in Danforth Lab, is focused on understanding the evolution of host-plant choice of specialist bees. For more info check out my website at:

Leland Graber in the field.

Leland Graber:

My PhD thesis work is on the evolution of granivorous diet in the harvester ant genus Pogonomyrmex. You can read more about my research at my personal website:

Bretta in foreground with background of flowers.

Bretta Hixson:

I am interested in studying major disease vectors, especially Aedes and Anopheles mosquitos, from the standpoint of cell and molecular biology.

Chloe Jelley sits in a tree.

Chloe Jelley:

Through my research I aim to examine how traits have evolved over time across ant lineages via their biotic interactions within their given environments. I am especially interested in the role that various levels of aggression play in biotic interactions and how this behavioral trait may be intertwined with evolution of morphological and other functional traits.

A headshot of Ashley Jernigan

Ashley Jernigan:

My research is focused on how soil microarthropods impact plant growth and development via multiple interconnected microbial mechanisms. I am interested in developing our understanding of soil biological processes to help create more sustainable cropping systems. Website:

A selfie mode image of Britney.

Britny Johnson:

I am interested in understanding how the environment shapes physiological trade-offs between reproduction and immunity within mosquitoes. My goal is to use this knowledge to better predict the dynamics of malaria infection and transmission in the Anopheles-Plasmodium system.

Annette Kang and a moth

Annette Kang:

I am broadly interested in Neotropical ants! With a background in army ant neuroanatomy and how environmental pressures inform development, I am now aiming to understand the genetic population structure and phylogeography of the Neotropical bullet ant, Paraponera clavata.

Naoki Kihata in a lab.

Naoki Kihata:

I am a PhD student in Dr. Ping Wang's lab studying the genetic mechanism of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) resistance in cabbage looper moths. While Bt is a common and  successful biological control agent, these insects are one of the few pests that have shown the potential to develop high resistance to a wide variety of Cry toxins. By looking at the genome of genetically identical CRISPR mutants, and by analyzing the proteomic and fitness data, my research helps outline the specific mechanisms of resistance associated with each type of Cry toxin. 

Phoebe in the foreground with background of forest.

Phoebe Koenig:

Social insects organize through decentralized systems to accomplish colony-level goals. I study the individual behaviors and social communications that allow this organization. I am interested in how individuals in eusocial colonies balance self-interest with effort towards the colony, and how this may change across contexts. 

Lidia Komondy

Lidia Komondy:

My research program focuses on understanding the spatial and temporal dynamics of onion thrips dispersal in onion agroecosystems and the epidemiology of Iris yellow spot virus (IYSV), a viruses transmitted by onion thrips primarily to onion crops. My projects focus on using precision agricultural tools such as GIS, statistical sampling models, and machine learning algorithims to advanced our knowledge and predict pest outbreaks to mitigate the spread of insect-transmitted viruses.

Sandra Lizarraga stands amongst rock formations in a desert.

Sandra Lizarraga:

I am a PhD student in Dr. Rivera's lab and my research interests include chemical ecology, IPM, and insect behavior. More specifically I am interested in understanding how semiochemicals affect insect behavior to ultimately develop push-pull strategies for pest control.  

Timothy in foreground with gray background.

Timothy Luttermoser:

I am broadly interested in insect ecology and natural history, and particularly in community and landscape ecology. I am particularly interested in understanding how diversity and community composition relate to ecosystem services such as pest control by natural enemies.

Laura Martinez holds a small insect in a field.

Laura Martinez:

I am graduate student researching predator-prey interactions in applied systems. I am broadly interested in the non-consumptive effects of predators on their prey.

Alan Mata hikes in a dry climate.

Alan Mata:

I'm interested in Nearctic Bombyliid (Diptera: Bombyliidae) systematics and biogeography, and in curation of insect collections. 

Michael in foreground with background of a brick wall.

Michael Mueller:

Currently I am exploring entomopathogenic nematode aggregation pheromones via bioassay in the Applied Chemical Ecology Technology lab here at Cornell. Interspecific dispersal compounds have already been shown to exist between entomopathogenic nematodes and free living bacteriovorus nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, this current research has the potential to discover an aggregation equivalent.

Tobias Mueller leans on a railing.

Tobias Mueller:

I am a PhD student co-advised by Scott McArt and Bryan Danforth studying native bees, their interactions with microbes, and the impacts of agriculture and pesticides. Check out my website at

Lidane Noronha

Lidane Noronha:

My research interests revolve around understanding ecological and evolutionary mechanisms behind plant-insect-microorganism interactions. I study and compare the Sonoran desert and the Hawaiian islands ecosystems using native Drosophila and their saprophytic host plants.

Kyla O'Hearn in a forest holding a net.

Kyla O'Hearn:

My major research interests broadly pertain to the taxonomic and identifiable characteristics of insects and arthropods. Particularly, I am interested in utilizing classification techniques in the diagnosis and sustainable eradication of invasive insect species. In research, I hope to use my academic experience to educate the public through outreach and addition to conducting relevant volunteering opportunities.

Luke in the foreground with blue shade background.

Luke Pfannenstiel:

I study the physiological effects of insecticide exposure in susceptible insects. This work helps us better understand how insecticides act once inside the insect body and may lead to developing insecticides which are more effective against pests.

Augusto Rampasso talks a photo in front of a waterfall.

Augusto Rampasso:

I have studied Drosophilidae taxonomy, systematics, ecology, and evolution during my undergraduate program as well as in my masters, with both Neotropical and Nearctic species. As a PhD candidate, I have been seeking further specialization in those fields, using Hawaiian Drosophilidae as the model for my studies.

Radhika Ravikumar

Radhika Ravikumar:

I'm broadly interested in the fields of immunology and evolutionary biology. I'm currently focused on studying how the fruit fly immune system responds to infections by different bacterial pathogens and what determines if a host's immune response is robust enough to ensure survival. My project explores transcriptional profiles of various immunity genes to determine if we can detect signatures of a 'better' immune response early in infection, thereby allowing us to predict how effectively hosts will be able to survive infections. 

Sylvana Ross wearing a red Cornell sweatshirt.

Sylvana Ross:

I am interested in understanding how organismal interactions within urban environments influence the dynamics of trait variation, selection, and species diversification. I am aiming to study the genetic variation and ecological differences between urban and natural ant populations to give insight to the role of human driven environmental change on a species’ phenotypes and genotypes.

Leonardo in the foreground with background of trees and grass.

Leonardo Salgado:

My research interests are focused on the ecology and management of insect pests of agricultural crops. Please visit my personal website for more information:

Annika in the foreground with background of trees.

Annika Salzberg:

As an agroecologist, my research centers around landscape ecology and the effect of landscape simplification on insect body size, abundance, and diversity - and subsequently how these factors affect crop damage and yields. I’m passionate about connecting growers and researchers to produce useful science, and love doing educational outreach for the general public!

Hayley in foreground with background of tan siding.

Hayley Schroeder:

I am investigating how global land use change affects insect interactions with wild plants and the resulting consequences on plant evolution. I am also passionate about bringing together art and science to educate the public about the beautiful world of tiny creatures with whom we share this planet. Website:

Juan in the foreground with white background.

Juan Jose Silva Fernandez:

My fields of interest are biochemistry, molecular and cell biology, toxicology, and population genetics. I am fascinated by the life cycle, behavior, and ecology of mosquitoes and other insects. More precisely, I would like to study resistance to insecticides because this is a field where I can evidence evolution happening every day to the mosquito population.

Morgan in the foreground and blurry background of bushes and buildings.

Morgan Swoboda:

I am interested in the ecology of entomopathogenic fungi and how we can use them as more effective biological control agents of root-feeding insects in turfgrass. For more information on my research, please visit the Soil Arthropod Ecology Lab website at