Tim Linksvayer – PI

I joined the Penn Biology faculty in March 2011. Before that I was a EU Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for Social Evolution, University of Copenhagen, DK, and a US National Science Foundation Biological Informatics Postdoctoral Fellow at Arizona State University with Rob Page. I did my PhD in Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior at Indiana University with Mike Wade, and my BA in Biology at Carleton College.



Luigi Pontieri – Postdoctoral researcher

I did my PhD in Biology at the Centre for Social Evolution (CSE) at Copenhagen University with Jes Søe Pedersen as academic advisor. During my studies, I investigated several aspects of the behavior and the chemical ecology of the highly invasive, supercolonial pharaoh ant, Monomorium pharaonis. In particular, how genetic factors such as degree of relatedness between colonies and level of within colony genetic variation affect individual recognition and, ultimately, shape colony interactions and eventually supercolony formation and distribution. I’m generally interested in the effect of the genetic background (individual and social) on the expression of specific phenotypes (recognition cues, aggression, etc.) and by using the pharaoh ant as model system I aim to quantify the differential contribution that nature and nurture exert on these and other relevant individual and social traits.


Justin Walsh – PhD student

I’m interested in the evolution and maintenance of behavioral variation. During my time in the Linksvayer lab, I plan to quantify behavioral variation (i.e. animal personality) between colonies of Monomorium pharaonis and document the fitness consequences of this variation. Furthermore, I hope to elucidate the genetic underpinnings of this behavioral variation, including the identification of important genes and the quantification of indirect genetic effects. I completed my Master’s thesis with Dr. Vik Iyengar at Villanova University, studying how larval relatedness affects competition over food in the rattlebox moth, Utetheisa ornatrix. Outside of the lab, I am active in community outreach especially through volunteering at the Franklin Institute.


Rohini Singh – PhD student

Microbes are found associated with various organisms, from plants to animals to humans. They effect their host’s physiology, fitness and evolution. While the effects of symbionts on infecting individuals are well documented, their social effects are not well studied. I am interested in understanding the fitness consequences and social effects of one such microbial endosymbiont, Wolbachia. Using pharaoh ants and its association with Wolbachia as a model system, I plan to systematically investigate the effect of infection on social behavior, colony fitness, sex ratio and host gene expression.
For my Masters thesis, I constructed a novel pilot tool for genome-wide investigation of allelic variants contributing to trait variation in budding yeast. Apart from research, I am actively involved in outreach initiatives promoting and encouraging young students to pursue basic sciences.


Michael Warner – PhD student


Ben Cushing
– undergraduate research assistant

I’m a second-year undergraduate at Penn interested in influences on decision making. Cognitive neuroscience, ecology, and philosophy of mind are among the fields relevant to my interests.


Adrian Kase – undergraduate research assistant

I’m an undergraduate student at the University of Pennsylvania interested in evolutionary biology, neuroscience, and psychology.


Gina Liu – undergraduate research assistant

I’m a third-year undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania. My research interests include computational biology, epidemiology, and behavioral ecology.


Jessica Lipponen – undergraduate research assistant

I am an undergraduate student at Penn interested in evolution, genetics, and animal behavior/decision-making, and particularly the relationships among these. Evolutionary biology, genetics, anatomy/physiology, and psychology are among my broad areas of interest.


Emily Molloy – undergraduate research assistant.


Maggie Taylor – undergraduate research assistant


Past Members:

Post doctoral researcher

2014-2015 Michael Simone-Finstrom, currently a Research Molecular Biologist at USDA Baton Rouge, LA

2011-2013 Sandra Rehan, currently an assistant professor at the University of New Hampshire

Research Technician / Lab Manager

2015 Taylor Tai

2013-2014 Michael Warner, currently a graduate student in UPenn Biology

2012-2013 Katie Miller, currently a graudate student in the Helms Cahan Lab at the University of Vermont

2011-2012 Nadeesha Perera, currently a graduate student at Duke University

Undergraduate student researchers

2015 Gene Limb

2015 Xinyi Cai

2015 Chad Nachiappan

2014-2015 Ryan Mayers

summer 2015, Dimitri Diagne

2014-2015 Danica Fine

2014 Hannah Cabot

2014 Kwaku Quansah

2012-2015 Aisling Zhao

2014-2015 Alexandra Sepulveda

2014 Christina Nelson

2012-2013 Benjamin Martinez

2012-2014 Kristie Bauman

2012-2014 Pryia Patel

2012-2014 Michael Wong, currently a graduate student at the University of Illinois

2013 Franklin Brown

2013 Run Ze Cao

2012-2013 Karmi Oxman, currently a lab technician in the Shafir lab at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

High school student researchers

2014 Colby Saxton

2013 Benjamin Wagner

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