Cytonuclear Lab @ NMT

I am currently looking for PhD students to start in 2023 and/or 2024.

Please reach out if you are interested and see this link for application details!

Joel Sharbrough

I am an evolutionary biologist interested in the (co)evolution of genomes and their emergent cellular and organismal phenotypes, especially in the context of eukaryotic energy production. I am originally from Lake Tahoe, CA, but moved to the Midwest to attend the University of Notre Dame for my undergraduate degree. Next, I moved to Iowa City, IA for graduate school at the University of Iowa, where I was mentored by Dr. Maurine Neiman while studying the evolutionary maintenance of sexual reproduction. After graduate school, I moved to Fort Collins to work as a postdoc with Dr. Dan Sloan. There, I studied cytonuclear interactions of allopolyploids. I am currently an Assistant Professor of Biology at New Mexico Tech, where I've been since 2021. My lab at NMT investigates the genetic and evolutionary forces that affect mitochondrial and chloroplast function in both plants and animals. I am an avid skier and hiker, and especially enjoy spending time in the outdoors with my family.

Current Lab Members

Cameron Steffensen, B.S.

Accelerated Master's Student

I am an accelerated Master's student in the Biology Department at NMT, where and I received my undergraduate degree in Biology in 2021. In the Cytonuclear Lab, I study mitochondrial function in sexual and asexual lineages of freshwater snails to determine the impact of reproductive mode and ploidy level on mitochondria. Outside of the lab, I enjoy reading, relaxing, and spending time with my cat Ziva.

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Raymond Castillo, B.S.

Accelerated Master's Student, NM Alliance for Minority Participation Summer Scholar

I'm an Accelerated MS student working with Dr. Sharbrough in the Cytonuclear Lab at NMT. My interests lie in evolutionary biology and how the effects of redundant genomes contribute to adaptation. I do the majority of my work on my computer where I handle large datasets for analysis using coding languages like R. When I'm not working on research or school I like to play volleyball, piano, and frequent the gym!

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Damilola Odumade

Master's Student

I am a Master’s student in the Biology Department in New Mexico Tech. In the Cytonuclear Lab, my research project will be on how polyploidy affects wheat phenotype (chloroplast and photosynthesis). Outside the Lab, I enjoy reading and watch medical series.

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Aaron Ortiz

NMT Sophomore Research Scholar

I am an undergraduate student in the NMT Cytonuclear Lab, where I study the effects of ploidy on mitochondrial function and performance in P. antipodarum. My interests in biology range from the evolution of tumor heterogeneity promoting cancer metastasis and drug resistance to the dynamics of symbiotic and host-pathogen relationships. Outside of science, I enjoy being outdoors, playing basketball, and watching movies.

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Andre Ortiz

Undergraduate Researcher, NM Alliance for Minority Participation Summer Scholar

Hello, I’m Andre. I’ve been an undergrad at NM Tech since Fall 2019, and I have been working as an Undergraduate Researcher in the Cytonuclear Lab since February 2022. I am getting my B.S. in Psychology, with a minor in Biology. My research project will characterize patterns of chromosomal recombination in Coffea arabica (coffee). Coffee, like many sexually reproducing plants, is a hybrid tetraploid, which may allow for more rapid adaptation than can happen in diploids like humans. Outside the lab, I like to enjoy the New Mexico outdoors, especially hiking, running, and biking.

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Sinaí Grijalva

Undergraduate Researcher, NM Alliance for Minority Participation Summer Scholar

Hi! I am Sinai. Life in all shapes and forms is fascinating; it’s what drew me to biology. In the Cytonuclear Lab at NMT, I study mitochondrial function under heat stress in diploid vs. polyploid wheat. Other than doing science I love to dance, bake and traveling to new places.

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Breana Silvis

NMT Sophomore Research Scholar

I am an undergraduate student in the lab, where I started in summer 2022. My main interests in biology are pathology and pharmacology, and eventually, I would like to work on medical countermeasures for diseases. My work in the lab investigates whether there is any relationship between gene expression and endopolyploidy in diploid and tetraploid leaves. Outside of science I loves to read, hang out with friends, and watch movies.

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Emma Piercey

Undergraduate Researcher

Hi! My name is Emma Piercey. I am an undergraduate student studying environmental engineering. When I am not in school or studying, I like to hang out with my dog and make tie-dye t-shirts. I am interested in either doing water resources engineering or sustainable agriculture as career paths.

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Lab Alumni

Bridie Alexander-Lawrie, M.S.

Master's Student

Bridie was the inaugural Master's student in the Cytonuclear Lab from 2020-2022. Her primary interests lie in molecular genomics, mitochondrial bioinformatics, and nutritional biochemistry. For her Master's research, Bridie investigated mitochondrial DNA inheritance in potamopyrgus antipodarum, a freshwater snail, by isolating and analyzing mitochondrial DNA from over 100 snails in a breeding experiment that she designed. Outside of the lab, you'll find her playing music, swordfighting, and building functionality out of fabric, wood, and metal.

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Catherine Batchelder, M.S.

Accelerated Master's Student

Catherine was a former Accelerated Master's Student in the lab (2021-2022). Her research focused on identifying patterns of maternally biased homoeologous conversion in the small subunit of Rubisco in allotetraploid Coffea arabica. She also worked to determine the effects of ploidy on photosynthetic rates in polyploid Arabidopsis thaliana. Catherine is currently pursuing her PhD in plant pathology at Iowa State University. She enjoys painting, spending time with her cats, and swing dancing.

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Emily Cook, B.S.

Undergraduate Researcher

Emily was a former undergraduate student in the lab (2021-2022), working on describing the mitochondrial genome architecture of Potamopyrgus antipodarum. After graduating, Emily moved to Austin, TX, where she'll begin work in the lab of Justin Havird. Emily enjoys chai lattes, cats, writing and travel.

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Mae-Ling Kao, B.S.

Lab Manager

Anna Hunt, B.S.

Research Technician

Following graduation from NMT with her B.S. in Biology, Anna joined the lab as a Research Technician. She worked on testing for effects of ploidy on photosynthetic and respiratory function in diploid vs. polyploid wheat, as well as helping to develop an eDNA method for detecting invasive P. antipodarum populations in New Mexico. Anna is now working as a technician in a forensic science lab in Hobbs, NM.

Contact Anna

If you are interested in working together, please contact me!

Contact Information

313 Jones Annex

New Mexico Tech

Socorro, NM 87801

joel.sharbrough [at]