Patek Lab Members

Active Lab Members

Sheila Patek

Research Focus: Evolutionary mechanics of movement and communication
Patek received her A.B. with honors in Biology from Harvard University followed by a Ph.D. in Biology from Duke University. She was then awarded a Miller Postdoctoral Fellowship at UC Berkeley. She has received several honors, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the George A. Bartholomew Award for distinguished contributions to comparative physiology, a Radcliffe Fellowship, a NSF CAREER award, and the Brilliant 10 award from Popular Science magazine. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, National Geographic Society, Hellman Family Foundation, Armstrong Fund for Science, Department of Defense, and others. She serves as Monitoring Editor for the Journal of Experimental Biology and Associate Editor for the journal Evolution. She is Director of the Physical Biology of Organisms consortium as well as for the program Matching Undergraduates to Science and Engineering Research (MUSER). Patek is Chair of the Biomechanics Division at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. She currently leads a Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) funded by the Army Research Office. In addition to training scientists in the Patek Lab, she also teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in animal physiology, biomechanics, introductory biology, invertebrate biology and comparative analysis. Patek has run a Research Experience for Teachers program in her lab for five years; with NSF-funded summer fellowships, teachers perform research and integrate their research experience in their curriculum development. The Patek Lab involves high school students and undergraduate summer researchers from around the country through fellowship programs, such as the Army Educational Outreach Program. Patek regularly presents her research internationally, through both academic and public lectureships - including a mainstage TED talk. The lab's research has been featured in hundreds of media outlets, including the New York Times, National Public Radio (NPR), Canadian Broadcasting Corp (CBC), British Broadcasting Corp (BBC), National Geographic and others.

Grace Farley

Research Focus: Animal behavior and ecology
Grace Farley graduated with a B.A. in Biology and a B.A. in Studio Art from Swarthmore College in 2017. While at Swarthmore, Grace researched the mate choice preferences of female grey treefrogs (Hyla versicolor) in relation to their readiness to oviposit, as well as the acoustic parameters of male mating calls. Her most recent research was conducted at the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Laboratories, where she studied the impact of two different photosynthetic symbionts (Symbiodinium and Elliptochloris marina) on the light response behavior of their host, the clonal anemone Anthopleura elegantissima. Grace has also spent a semester in Costa Rica, where she hiked, camped, and snorkeled, while studying tropical ecology, diversity, and conservation. At the Patek lab, Grace is excited to integrate her background in animal behavior and ecology with biomechanics to study the behavior, mechanisms and scaling of super-fast movement in mantis shrimp.

Chi-Yun Kuo

Research Focus: Ecology, whole-organism performance, biomechanics
Chi-Yun received his BA and MS from National Taiwan University and his PhD from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. His PhD research investigated the cost-benefit dynamics of autotomy (the voluntary shedding of appendages) in lizards. His main interest lies in understanding how ecology drives adaptive trait variation. At the interface of ecology and evolution, he is also interested in the role of whole-organism performance in determining fitness. Chi-Yun’s research has incorporated controlled lab experiments, field work and theoretical modeling. In the Patek Lab, he will integrate ecology, life-history and biomechanics to study power-amplified, ultra-fast movements in animals. You can check out his website here:

Martha Muñoz

Research Focus: Animal Behavior, Evolutionary Ecology
Martha earned her BA in Biology from Boston University and her PhD in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology from Harvard. Before coming to Duke, Martha worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Australian National University, where she studied the evolutionary physiology of tropical skinks. She works at the interface between ecology and evolution. Martha studies how organisms interact with their environments, and how such interactions guide the evolutionary process. Her work with the Patek lab will focus on the evolution of striking behavior and morphology in stomatopods.

Sarah Longo

Research Focus: Evolution and biomechanics
Sarah will be starting a postdoctoral fellowship in the Patek lab Fall 2017. She earned her BA in Biology from Cornell University and her PhD in Population Biology from the University of California, Davis. Sarah uses morphological, functional, phylogenomic, and comparative approaches to understand the patterns underlying and processes shaping biodiversity on macroevolutionary timescales. A common theme that runs throughout is how novel and extreme functional morphologies work, evolve, and subsequently influence morphological diversification. For instance, Sarah’s doctoral research focused on the study of innovations in suction feeding in syngnathiform fishes (seahorses, pipefish, trumpetfish, and relatives). In the Patek lab, Sarah will be working on the evolution and mechanics of extreme movements in biology.

Patrick Green

Research Focus: Animal behavior, biomechanics
I'm interested in connections between animal behavior and biomechanics, using animal weapons as a study system. I'm currently studying how mantis shrimp resolve aggressive contests. Since mantis shrimp have weapons that can easily crack open prey items, how do they resolve contests without killing each other? So far, I've found that size-matched competitors use the ritualized exchange of strikes on the tailplate (telson) to resolve contests, and that winners strike a greater number of times, not with greater force (Green & Patek 2015). I'm currently using biomechanical analyses to investigate energy transfer during this "telson sparring", and further behavioral analyses to study the transitions between sparring and other contest behaviors. See more info at my personal website:

Jacob Harrison

Research Focus: Evolution and Biomechanics of Defensive Morphology
Jacob is a first year PhD student in the biology program at Duke University and a new addition to the Patek Lab. He attended the University of California Santa Cruz where he received a B.S. in Marine Biology and a B.S. in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. While at UCSC, Jacob worked as an undergraduate researcher in Dr. Rita Mehta’s lab researching the scaling of dentition and diet in the California Moray, Gymnothorax mordax. His interest in defensive morphology was sparked during a class at the University of Washington at Friday Harbor Labs, where he worked on the ontogeny and performance of cranial spines in the Great Sculpin, Myoxocephalus polyacanthocephalus. While at Duke, Jacob hopes to build his research questions around the evolution and biomechanics of defensive morphology.

Alex Guo

Research Focus: Interfacial flows, biomechanics
Hongtao (Alex) Guo received his B.S. from Beihang University majoring in mechanical engineering. He joined Duke’s department of mechanical engineering and material science as a PhD student in 2015. His PhD research focuses on phase-change heat transfer and other interfacial phenomena at the micro- and nanoscale. Starting in the spring 2017 semester, he became a visiting research assistant in the Patek Lab where he is investigating impulsive biological systems. He hopes to study them from an engineering standpoint and be inspired by intricate systems in nature.

Brooke Sauer

Research Focus: Evolutionary biomechanics
Brooke Sauer is a biology and AP Biology instructor at Durham School of the Arts (DSA) in Durham, NC. In addition to her teaching duties, Brooke also serves as department chairperson and independent study advisor for DSA seniors completing medical research at Duke Molecular Physiology Institute. For the past two summers, she has completed both clinical and laboratory research at Duke Clinical Research Institute and UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine, respectively. Brooke has a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and is currently pursuing a Master’s of Biological Sciences from Clemson University. Outside of academia, Brooke enjoys making music, cooking, and exploring the Triangle.

Justin Jorge

Research Focus: Trap-jaw ant biomechanics
Justin has recently graduated from the University of California Berkeley with a B.A. in Integrative Biology (Class of 2017). There, he conducted research on microorganism predator-prey interactions in the Koehl Biomechanics Lab. His research is to be a piece of a larger investigation on the single cellular predators that interact with choanoflagellates. Unicellular choanoflagellates have the ability to form multicellular colonies making them a possible ancestor for multicellular life. Justin's research on the paramecium predator Blepharisma hopes to provide further insight into whether avoiding predation is one of the determining factors that leads to colony formation in choanoflagellates. Justin is excited to pursue his passion for discovering and unraveling the mechanics behind complex organism adaptations in the Patek Lab.

Maddie Go

Research Focus: Mantis shrimp spine morphology and puncture mechanics
Maddie is a rising sophomore (Class of 2020) at Duke, and is planning to major in Biology with a concentration in either marine biology or animal behavior. Growing up in—and getting to SCUBA dive around—the Philippines caused her to fall in love with marine life at an early age. As a B-SURF fellow this summer, she is excited to study the morphology and function of spearing mantis shrimp spines.

Rachel Cohn

Research Focus: Aquarium animal husbandry
Rachel is currently a second-year undergraduate student at Duke (class of 2019), planning to major in biology and environmental science. Her interests in ecological research and marine science led her to the Patek lab, where she takes care of the mantis shrimp and maintains the aquarium system.

Achintya Kumar

Research Focus: Trap-jaw ant biomechanics and ultrafast motion
Achintya Kumar is a rising senior at Panther Creek High School. He is very excited to be working with Dr. Kuo in researching trap-jaw ant biomechanics and ultrafast motion. He is very interested in robotics and plans to pursue mechanical engineering in college. Additionally, Achintya has sustained interests in neuroscience and space exploration. He believes this opportunity in the Patek Lab will allow him fully engage his natural-born curiosity through performing scientific research.

John Xie

Research Focus: Aquarium animal care
John is currently a second-year undergraduate at Duke (class of 2019), planning to major in mechanical engineering. His passion for marine life and curiosity of mantis shrimp led him to the Patek lab, where he takes care of mantis shrimp and maintains the aquarium system.

Riya Dange

Research Focus: Neurocircuitry, Vision, and Coordinated Strike Mechanisms
Riya Dange is a second-year undergraduate at Duke (Class of 2019), intending to major in Neuroscience and attend Medical School. Marine Biology first piqued her interest when she was nine. After an afternoon spent snorkeling at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, she developed a lifelong fascination with marine creatures and their way of life. In the lab, Riya is working on neurocircuitry research connecting stomatopods’ unique visual systems to their remarkable physiological capabilities.