Patek Lab Members

Active Lab Members

Sheila Patek's picture

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's picture

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 and mechanisms of super-fast movement in jumping midge larvae, and feeding strategies in mantis shrimp.

Sarah Longo's picture

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.

Crystal Reynaga's picture

Crystal Reynaga

Research Focus: Muscle physiology and biomechanics

Crystal will join as a postdoctoral fellow in the Patek Lab in Fall 2018. 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 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's picture

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.

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:

Ben Wesorick's picture

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.

Riya Dange's picture

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.

Rachel Cohn's picture

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.

Alexis Onsi's picture

Alexis Onsi

Alexis is a Duke undergraduate (Class of 2020) studying biomedical engineering. Her amazement for the mantis shrimp's capabilities led her to the Patek Lab where she will be conducting independent research, subject pending.

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.

Ganesh Pentapalli's picture

Ganesh Pentapalli

Research Focus: Biomechanics of snapping shrimp

Ganesh is an undergraduate at Duke (Class of 2022) interested in studying neuroscience and mathematics. His interests in evolutionary biology and biomechanics led him to pursue research at the Patek Lab where he will work with the impressive claw mechanisms of the mantis shrimp.

Adam Lin's picture

Adam Lin

Research Focus: Biomechanics of snapping shrimp

Adam is a Duke undergraduate (Class of 2022) studying biology. His interests in marine biology and physiology (as well as being forced to watch Finding Nemo fifteen times with his brother) led him to the Patek Lab, where he works with Sarah Longo to study the biomechanics of pistol shrimp strikes.

David Lu's picture

David Lu

Research Focus: Mechanical design

David is an undergraduate at Duke (Class of 2020) studying mechanical engineering and electrical and computer engineering. His interests in mechanical design and physics led him to Patek Lab, where he assists Justin Jorge on witch hazel ballistics research.

Rees Ridout's picture

Rees Ridout

Research Focus: Biomechanics of amphipod claw closure

A lifetime of designing and building my own creations resulted in an interest in mechanical engineering. A specific preference for biomechanics developed after designing an operational, 3-D printed prosthetic hand. Further education in biology, anatomy led to studying animal biomechanics.