Current undergraduate students

Jefrin Thomas (REU)

I am a 3rd year Biological Sciences Major who has been working in the Simon lab since the spring 2018. My research focuses on investigating the gut microbiomes of cicadas and the role of bacterial symbionts within them. I am specifically interested how bacterial symbionts change across hybrid zones and different habitats. Currently I am working Kikihia species originating from New Zealand and examining their gut microbiomes.

Alexandra Porczak

I am interested in the field of bioinformatics and its applications in phylogenetic research. By combining computer science, engineering, and systematic biology, I am using mitochondrial DNA from the New Zealand Cicada species Maoricicada, along with recombinant DNA, to assemble, analyze, and compare cicada genomes.

Allegra Bargnesi

My research focuses on the species Kikihia angusta and K. murihikua. My goal is to create a phylogeographical genealogy to study their relatedness and their geographical distribution throughout the South island of New Zealand and how this relates to past climate and geological changes.

Spencer Bennett

I am a third-year Environmental Science Major and I am interested in the intersectionality of science and policy, specifically climate policy. In 2021 I will be helping to map the emergence of Brood X periodical cicadas in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and helping with educational outreach along the way. I am interested in Magicicada species because they can be bioindicators of changing climates. Their juvenile growth cycle depends on, but not limited to, growing season length, which we hypothesize can trigger an earlier emergence given significant climate warming.

Jason Vallionis (REU)

I am investigating the gut microbiomes of closely related cicada species and their hybrids. Specifically, I am interested in using metagenomic methods to characterize differences in gut microbiomes and to see if these differences correlate with habitat shifts in the hybrids.

Former undergraduate students

Diane Hassanieh

Diane Hassanieh is a May 2018 graduate with a degree in Biological Sciences. She aided in DNA extraction and amplification as well as sequence editing for a samples discussed in "The periodical cicada four-year acceleration hypothesis revisited: Evidence for life cycle decelerations and an updated map for Brood V" by John Cooley et. al. She recently presented this research at a student competition for the CT Entomological Soceity as well as UConn's annual Frontiers Undergraduate Research Poster Exhibition. She further aided in work such DNA extraction and PCR for the continuation of a previous undergraduate's thesis as well as other projects under the mentorship of Diler Haji.

Fajar Alam

I am a Molecular and Cell Biology student and have been working in The Simon Lab throughout the Spring 2018 semester. In collaboration with other Simon Lab researchers, I am assisting in the extraction, sequencing and mounting of cicada species from Argentina. My interests revolve around the health applications of insects and many of the techniques I have learned in the Simon Lab will greatly benefit my future research endeavors.

You can view all other former undergraduate students on our old website.