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. Patek currently leads a Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) funded by the Army Research Office. 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. In addition to training graduate and postdoctoral scientists, Patek teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in animal physiology, biomechanics, introductory biology, invertebrate biology and comparative analysis. Patek has led an NSF-funded Research Experience for Teachers program for five years which enables teachers to integrate their research experience with 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 integrates her background in animal behavior and ecology with biomechanics to study the behavior, mechanisms and scaling of super-fast movement in larval mantis shrimp and jumping midge larvae.

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.

Justin Jorge

Research Focus: Trap-jaw ant biomechanics

Justin graduated from the University of California Berkeley with a B.A. in Integrative Biology (Class of 2017 where he worked on predator-prey interactions of microorganisms. As an undergraduate, he conducted his research in Mimi Koehl's Biomechanics Lab. He is now a research assistant in the Patek Lab working on trap-jaw ant biomechanics.

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.

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.

Riya Dange

Research Focus: Neurocircuitry, Vision, and Coordinated Strike Mechanisms

Riya Dange is a Duke undergraduate (Class of 2019), majoring in Neuroscience. 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.

Ben Wesorick

Research Focus: Aquarium animal biomechanics

Ben is a Duke undergraduate (Class of 2020) studying biomedical engineering. His research interests in 3D modeling and biomechanics led him to the Patek Lab where he will conduct independent research studying the mechanics of the ultrafast powerful motion of the mantis shrimp.

Jason Dinh

Research Focus: Marine bioacoustics

Jason is an undergraduate (Class of 2018) majoring in Biology. His primary research interests are in marine invertebrate bioacoustics, and he hopes to address bioacoustic questions from biomechanical, physiological, and ecological approaches. His joint interests in bioacoustics and biomechanics led him to the Patek Lab, where he works with Dr. Longo to characterize the kinematics and power amplification mechanisms in snapping shrimp snaps.

Casey Martinez

Research Focus: Biomechanics of Predation

Casey is an undergraduate student who will graduate in 2018 with a B.S. in biology. Although she plans to someday attend medical school, she always wanted to be a marine biologist growing up and her class with Dr. Patek sparked her interest in organismal movement. She is working with Jacob Harrison to explore the morphology and material properties of mantis shrimp spines.

Samuel Chin

Research Focus: Morphology and behavior

Samuel is a senior (Class of 2018) majoring in Biology. He has always been interested in working with animals and is excited to be joining the Patek lab. His current research project is with Jacob Harrison investigating the effects of current speeds on sea urchin spine morphology and behavior.

Rachel Cohn

Research Focus: Aquarium animal husbandry

Rachel is a Duke undergrad (class of 2019), majoring in biology and environmental science. Her interests in ecological research and marine science led her to the Patek lab, where she conducts her own independent research on sensory physiology of mantis shrimp as well as helps to take care of the aquarium system.

Sophia Li

Research Focus: Aquarium animal husbandry

Sophia Li is a Duke undergraduate (Class of 2021) in the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences. Though she has not yet declared a major, she is extremely interested in the biological mechanisms behind behavior. Growing up near the coasts of Massachusetts, she developed a fascination with marine life at an early age, which has led her to the Patek Lab where she currently takes care of mantis shrimp and the aquarium system.

Maya Iskandarani

Research Focus: Marine Science

Maya is a sophomore in Trinity from Miami, Florida. Though she's undeclared (for now), marine science is one of the many fields that interests her, and she's excited to get hands-on experience with mantis shrimp in the Patek Lab.

John Xie

Research Focus: Aquarium animal care

John is a Duke undergraduate (class of 2019) majoring 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.