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: crystalreynaga.weebly.com.

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: https://sites.duke.edu/jasonpdinh/

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.

Rachel Mundaden's picture

Rachel Mundaden

Rachel is a Duke undergraduate (Class of 2022) studying biology and global health. Her interest in biology led her to the Patek Lab, where she works as the primary aquarium care assistant.

Misha Khan

Research Focus: AEOP Undergrauate Apprentice

Vennila Thillaivanan

Research Focus: AEOP High School Apprentice
Aiden Lamar's picture

Aiden Lamar

Research Focus: AEOP High School Apprentice