Patek Lab Members

Active Lab Members

Sheila Patek's picture

Sheila Patek

Research Focus: Evolutionary mechanics of movement and communication

Patek is the Hehmeyer 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.

Suzanne Cox's picture

Suzanne Cox

Research Focus: Comparative Neuromechanics

Cox is a Research Scientist at Duke University. Cox received a B.S in Physics and B.A. in Philosophy from the University of New Hampshire, a BFA in Sculpture from Massachusetts College of Art and Design, a masters in Philosophy from Brown University, followed by a Master in Mechanical Engineering and phD in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Cox was a postdoctoral fellow in the Rubenson Muscle Function and Locomotion Lab at Penn State and the Daley Neuromechanics Lab at the University of California, Irvine. Cox was awarded an OpenSim Visiting Scholar position at the National Center for Simulation in Rehabilitation Research at Stanford and is a founding member of the Comparative Neuromuscular Biomechanics working group of the International Society of Biomechanics. Read more on Zanne's website:

Ben Schelling's picture

Ben Schelling

Research Focus: Marine ecology

Ben Schelling is the Lab manager of the Patek Lab and attended Dartmouth College, receiving a B.A. in Biological Sciences and Environmental Studies. While at Dartmouth, he worked as an undergraduate research assistant under the direction of Dr. Anne Kapuscinski. He helped test the implementation of experimental fish food for Nile Tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) using macro-algae supplemented diets, aimed to reduce phosphorus pollution from aquaculture farms. Additionally, he worked in Dr. Celia Chen’s Lab as a part of the Dartmouth Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program, investigating the impact that various environmental factors have on the biomagnification rate of MeHg from contaminated marine sediments through estuarine amphipods (Leptocheirus plumulosus). Most recently, he completed an internship with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations where he calculated the greenhouse gas emissions from the world’s small-scale fisheries. In the Patek Lab, Ben hopes to apply his marine ecology research experience to investigate unknown biomechanical, and ecological stories.

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: Animal Communication

Jason is a Ph.D. candidate in the Patek Lab. He earned a B.S. in Biology from Duke University in 2018. Jason is interested in mechanisms and evolution of animal signals. More specifically, Jason is interested in discovering the physical and physiological rules that dictate signal structure and elaboration. Prior to joining the Patek Lab, Jason researched soundscape ecology to understand how animals respond to marine soundscapes and how anthropogenic noise hinders these processes. Currently, Jason is studying signaling and assessment in snapping shrimp contests. His dissertation research focuses on signal honesty, animal weapons, and sensory biology. Read more on his website:

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.

Michael Buckmire's picture

Michael Buckmire

Research Focus: Biomechanics and physiology

Michael is a Duke undergraduate (Class of 2021) studying Biology with a concentration in biomechanics and physiology. Being a member of the Duke Men's Basketball team, Michael has an focused research interest in the study of movement and the biomechanics of injury. He will be working with Dr. Patek in studying the Biomechanics of movement in jumping physiology and jumping loading forces in the knee/hip joints by using the software OpenSim for his research.

Sophie Hanson's picture

Sophie Hanson

Research Focus: Shrimp biomechanics

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. Sophie conducted research on the effects of varying temperatures on the system of biological springs and latches of snapping shrimp strikes, which centered the spring-driven mechanism theory of their claws. She is currently interested in the locomotion and morphology of mantis shrimp, and the ultra-fast mechanisms that allow for such propulsion and maneuverability in water.

Arianna Buchanan's picture

Arianna Buchanan

Research Focus: Aquarium Care

Arianna is an undergraduate at Duke (class of 2023) studying Sociology and Biology. Her years of fish keeping and interest in marine animal care led her to the Patek lab, as an aquarium care assistant.

Kate Silver's picture

Kate Silver

Research Focus: Aquarium Care

Kate is a first-year, undergraduate student planning to study environmental sciences. Her interests in marine biology, fishkeeping, and environmental health led her to become an aquarium care assistant in the Patek Lab.

Thanh-Nhu Bui's picture

Thanh-Nhu Bui

Research Focus: Aquarium Care

Nhu is a freshman studying Environmental Science and Policy with plans to go into environmental law. She hopes to be able to pursue conservation-related research on marine species. Her interest in biology and ecology, as well as her longstanding love of mantis shrimp has led her to join the Patek Lab as an aquarium assistant.