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The Bruns lab


May 2023: Rayshaun, Andrea, Sam H, Sam S, Dalia, Mackenzie, Emme, Eirena, Yanelyn

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Emme Bruns, PI

Emme got her start in plant disease ecology at the University of California Santa Cruz.  She did her Ph.D. with Dr. Georgiana May at the University of Minnesota, studying constraints to oat crown rust virulence evolution.  She went on to a post-doc with Dr. Janis Antonovics at the University of Virginia, studying disease dynamics at species range limits in the Alps.  She started as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Maryland in January 2020. 



Sam Slowinski, Postdoc

Sam S. is an evolutionary biologist and disease ecologist.  He is working on the evolution of age-specific susceptibly and pathogen adaptation to temperature.  Check out his website to learn about his cool prior work on experimental host-parasite coevolution in nematodes and impacts of migration on disease in birds:


Sam Hulse, Postdoc

Sam H. is a quantitative evolutionary biologist with a background in sexual selection and applied mathematics from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He is working on resistance correlations grant, developing evolutionary models of general and specific resistance.


Yanelyn Perez,  Graduate student

Yanelyn is a PhD student in the BEES concentration of the BISI program. Her research interests center on pathogen competition and the evolution of host-specialization.  For her PhD she is using the Dianthus-Microbotryum system in the western Italian Alps to investigate the ecological and evolutionary factors shaping pathogen host breadth.  A native of LA, she graduated of the University of California-Santa Barbara, where she majored in biology and spent three years researching different aspects of the frog killing fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis.


Michelle Launi, graduate student

Michelle is first year PhD student in the BEES program. She is interested in the interactions between pollinator-transmitted pathogens and the evolution of separate sexes in flowering plants.

Yang Yang, graduate student

Yang is a first year PhD student in the BEES program.  He is interested in pathogen genetic variation in thermal tolerance.  


Dalia Chen, honors student

Dalia is senior plant sciences major in the Biology honors program.  Her thesis project is focused on the effects of temperature on the growth and infectivity of the smut pathogen Microbotryum lychnidis-dioica. Dalia is approaching this from a combination of in vitro assays of fungal growth under different temperatures, as well as greenhouse and field inoculation studies. 


Ria Bansal, research student

Ria is a junior biology major.  She is working to develop PCR-based methods for distinguishing two closely related species Microbotryum parasitizing Dianthus. 

Lab alumni


Eirena Li, Honors student (2023)

For her senior honors project Eirena used families of Silene latifolia and isolates of its smut pathogen Microbotryum lychnidis-dioica from its native range in Europe to investigate how variation in pathogen infectivity varies with host genotype and age.  


Hailey Papagjika, research student (2023)

Hailey investigated the effect of host sex on the transmission of anther smut disease in Silene latifolia. She is currently working at Azenta. 


Emma Yockman, research student (2023)

Emma investigated the effect of intra-specific density of seedlings on transmission dynamics of the anther-smut fungus Microbotryum lychnidis-dioica. She is currently an NSF graduate research fellow at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Rayshaun Pettit, honors research student (2023)

Rayshaun studied the effect of host species and age on the ability of the anther-smut fungus to recognize and conjugate on the leaf surface.  He is currently and NSF graduate research fellow at Vanderbilt University.


Andrea Shirdon, former lab manager

Andrea joined the lab in June 2022 after graduating in Biology from UMD with a concentration in ecology and evolution. She oversaw several large greenhouse and field projects related to the age project. She is currently a graduate student at Indiana University

Ally Kido, former lab manager

Lab manager extraordinaire for two years.  Ally is now a PhD student at UMBC


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