Patek Lab Members

Active Lab Members

Sheila Patek's picture

Sheila Patek

Research Focus: Evolutionary mechanics of movement and communication

Patek is the Heymeyer Professor of Biology and a Bass Fellow at Duke University. Patek received an 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. Patek leads a five-university basic research team funded by a Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI). She serves as Associate Chair of Duke's Biology Department (Chair of the EEOB division). She is the Deputy-Editor-in-Chief for the Journal of Experimental Biology. She is the Director of Muser, which is both a program at Duke and an open source software application that she and others developed to facilitate equitable and transparent access to research experience for students. 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 is past 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 evolutionary analysis. Patek 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.

William Ray's picture

William Ray

Research Focus: Marine biology and biomechanics

William Ray is the Lab Manager of the Patek Lab and graduated with a B.S. in Marine Biology and a minor in Scientific/Leadership Diving from Humboldt State University. While at Humboldt, William conducted sub-tidal field research concerning keystone species of fish, invertebrates and algae for the ecosystems in marine protected areas along the northern coast of California and southern Oregon. He was also a member of the Hart Lab at the University of Hawaii at Hilo where he analyzed bioaccoustic data regarding cicadas impact on endemic bird communication in Las Cruces Costa Rica as well as conducted field research on native Hawaiian trees and birds. He most recently finished his Peace Corps Service in the Philippines where he worked with rural Filipino government units and universities on coastal resource management, environmental education and alternative livelihood projects. While at the Patek Lab, William utilizes his background in marine biology and ecology to build research questions regarding the kinematics and mechanisms of ultra-fast movements.

Sarah Longo's picture

Sarah Longo

Research Focus: Evolution and biomechanics

Sarah is a postdoctoral fellow in the Patek lab. 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.

Crystal Reynaga's picture

Crystal Reynaga

Research Focus: Muscle physiology and biomechanics

Crystal is a postdoctoral fellow in the Patek Lab. She received her B.S. in Marine Biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz in the lab of Dr. Rita Mehta. Under the advisement of Dr. Manny Azizi, she received her PhD at the University of California, Irvine in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. The broad aim of her research focuses on how organisms overcome constraints by studying the motor control strategies, muscle properties, and kinematic basis of movement. For her dissertation she investigated how the mechanical properties of the environment may shape musculoskeletal function and the development of novel locomotor modes in frogs. In the Patek Lab, Crystal will be working with Dr. Gregory Sutton and the rest of the MURI team to investigate the scaling principals of fast animal movement using experimental and musculoskeletal modeling approaches. For more information, visit her personal website:

Jacob Harrison's picture

Jacob Harrison

Research Focus: Evolution and Biomechanics of Defensive Morphology

Jacob is a PhD student in the biology program at Duke University and member of 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's picture

Justin Jorge

Research Focus: Trap-jaw ant biomechanics

Justin is pursuing his interests in biomechanics as a PhD student in the Patek Lab. He finished his undergraduate degree with a B.A. in integrative biology from the University of California, Berkeley in 2017 where he worked in Dr. Mimi Koehl's lab to investigate the biomechanics of single cell predators feeding on choanoflagellates. Justin is currently interested in ultra-fast movements in nature, specifically those of trap-jaw ants and seed shooting plants such as the witch hazel. Specifically, he is interested in developing new techniques to track the flow of energy throughout these motions as well as uncovering how, mechanistically, these motions are produced. Justin hopes to develop new ways of thinking about the generation of fast motions through his research that can potentially be used to improve technology.
Photo credit: Clarence Burke Photography

Jason Dinh's picture

Jason Dinh

Research Focus: Marine bioacoustics

Jason is a Ph.D. student in the Patek Lab. He earned a B.S. in Biology from Duke University in 2018. Jason is broadly interested in the ecology, evolution, and biomechanics of acoustic communication. He is particularly excited about questions surrounding arthropod communication. Jason’s background in bioacoustics includes signal processing, the biomechanics of sound production, and soundscape ecology. He has researched larval recruitment in oyster larvae and coral reef fishes, sound production in snapping shrimps, and vocal performance in swamp sparrows. Jason is currently developing research questions to understand the behavioral function of the ubiquitous yet enigmatic snapping behavior in snapping shrimp. He is also interested in developing metrics that use snapping shrimp and other biogenic sounds to inform ecosystem health in local oyster reefs. Read more on his website:

Candler Cusato's picture

Candler Cusato

Research Focus: Animal behavior

Candler is a Duke undergraduate (Class of 2022) studying biology and global health. After spending much of her childhood at her local aquarium, she developed a passion for marine science that led her to the Patek Lab, where she works with Grace Farley studying mantis shrimp feeding behaviors.

Christina Holloway's picture

Christina Holloway

Research Focus: Aquarium care and mechanical assistant

Christina is a Duke undergraduate (Class of 2021) studying Electrical & Computer Engineering. Passionate about the natural world and drawn to marine biology, Christina works as an aquarium care assistant at the Patek Lab. She hopes to explore and help in further developing the intersection of ecology and engineering, as well as how the latter could be used in research and conservation.

Sophie Hanson's picture

Sophie Hanson

Research Focus: Aquarium care

Sophie is a Duke undergraduate student (Class of 2022) studying biology and environmental science and policy. After taking environment classes at Duke and a summer abroad in Australia studying marine ecosystems, her new passion for marine science and research brought her to the Patek lab to get more hands-on experience, where she works as an aquarium care assistant.

Christina Pipkin's picture

Christina Pipkin

Research Focus: Physiological ecology of marine invertebrates

Christina is an undergraduate student at Duke (Class of 2020) pursuing a B.S. in Biology with marine science concentration and a minor in Psychology. She has researched the effects of climate change such as hypoxia, ocean acidification, elevated temperatures, and harmful algal blooms on the reproduction and development of stone crabs at Mote Marine Laboratory and hopes to pursue a PhD further exploring interactions between marine invertebrate physiology and the ever-changing environment. She is currently researching functional sharpness and performance of biological puncture tools such as sea urchin spines as a member of the Patek Lab.

Nicholas Peoples's picture

Nicholas Peoples

Research Focus: Aquarium Care

Nick is an undergraduate studying Environmental Science. His 7 years of fish keeping and breeding experience led him to work in the Patek lab as an aquarium care assistant. His research interests lie in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and range from East African freshwater lakes to Caribbean coral reefs.

Abhijay Suhag's picture

Abhijay Suhag

Research Focus: Animal and plant biomechanics

Abhijay is a Duke undergraduate (Class of 2022) studying Biology and Computer Science. With a passion for learning and the natural world, he currently works in the Patek Lab with Justin Jorge researching ballistic seed dispersal biomechanics. He hopes to be able to integrate techniques in computer science with biology in order to find or improve ways to view phenomena we take for granted in nature and eventually contribute to animal and plant conservation.