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 - Coming soon!'s picture

Crystal Reynaga - Coming soon!

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 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.

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.

Darby Finnegan's picture

Darby Finnegan

Research Focus: Marine Biology

Darby is an undergraduate student at Western Washington University (Class of 2020) majoring in Biology (Marine Emphasis). Most recently, she participated in the Friday Harbor Laboratories Research Experience for Undergraduates Program, where she researched the adaptive evolution and functional morphology of cottoid fishes. She is joining the lab as an intern through the Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program (URAP) through the Army Education Outreach Program (AEOP) and will be conducting a project related to power amplification using high speed videography.

Matthew Huang's picture

Matthew Huang

Matthew Huang is a rising senior at Libertyville High School. He likes to challenge himself through Math Team, Debate Team, and Science Olympiad, specifically the Herpetology event. Outside of school, he has a strong passion for snorkeling, whale watching, and almost anything wildlife related. He plans to pursue the life sciences in college. He is eager and exited about this opportunity to gain first hand research experience, where he will be able to further develop his passion for biology while exploring its interesting crossroad with physics. He is joining the lab as an intern through the High School Apprenticeship Program (HSAP) through the Army Education Outreach Program (AEOP).

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.

Sophia Li's picture

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.

John Xie's picture

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.