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Current Lab Members

Val Sawiccy

Ph.D Candidate

Currently, I am a doctoral candidate in the Weis Lab at Oregon State University (OSU) and will be graduating in 2023. Broadly, I am interested in the cellular, molecular, and metabolic mechanisms in corals and how these mechanisms influence their partnership with algae. More specifically, I am interested in the cellular pathways that may eliminate symbionts from host tissues (i.e., cnidarian bleaching). For my dissertation, I am investigating the role of NADPH oxidase in the maintenance and breakdown of this partnership. In addition, I am using volatilomics to reveal volatile metabolites specific to symbiotic state in Aiptasia. Also, I am examining how the volatilome changes during heat stress and the subsequent loss of partnership.

Personal website: 

I am a fourth year PhD Candidate in the Weis Lab studying the impacts of nutrition on asexual reproduction in corals. I graduated from Swarthmore College in 2015 with a double Bachelor's in Biology and Ancient History. After graduating, I worked in a cryptic genetic variation lab at Georgia Institute of Technology where we examined the genes essential for development in C. elegans. Then I worked at Emory University on various HIV/SIV pathogenesis projects that looked at the role of CD8 T cells in long-term viral incubation and reactivation. From here, I became interested in how we use model systems to answer cellular and physiological questions, and combined that with my interest in marine sciences to begin study on the cnidarian-algal symbiosis. For my projects, I will use the model system Exaiptasia diaphana (Aiptasia) to examine the nutritional underpinnings of symbiosis at different life stages. For one of my projects, I will measure how nutritional provisioning in pedal lacerates is affected by the environmental and feeding conditions undergone by the parents. In another one of my projects, I will look to characterize the metabolome of pedal lacerates and examine which molecules are present and/or essential for development in pedal lacerates

Erick White

Ph.D Candidate

Jun Cai

I am a second year PhD student in the Weis Lab and studying thermal stress on cnidarian-algal symbiosis. In 2016, I graduated from Emory University with a B.S. in Environmental Science and a secondary major in History. There I studied the transmission of West Nile virus from Culex mosquitoes in Atlanta, Georgia at Gonzalo Vazquez-Prokopec's lab. After undergraduate studies, I joined Teach for America and taught high school biology and middle school integrative science for four years in Stockton and Oakland, California. I became interested in cnidarian-algal symbiosis when I worked for a summer at John Pringle's lab in Stanford University. There I worked with Phillip Cleves on projects related to acclimation of Aiptasia to thermal stress and the genetic response of Aiptasia to light and dark treatments. For my research, I am interested in the effects of thermal stress on the breakdown of cnidarian-algal symbiosis (i.e., cnidarian bleaching) and the molecular and cellular mechanisms essential for heat tolerance and recovery. Two of my current projects look at the growth and development of pedal lacerate under heat stress and wound-healing and regeneration of tissues.

Ph.D Student

Olivia Burleigh

Ph.D Student

I am an incoming first year PhD student in the Weis Lab and will be studying cnidarian-algal symbiosis. In 2021, I graduated from Creighton University with a B.S. in Biology and minors in Environmental Sciences and Studio Art. During my undergraduate career and during my gap year, I studied the role of long non-coding RNAs in regulating inflammatory responses in mice.

Dr. Samuel Bedgood


I am a postdoc in the Weis Lab studying the nutritional exchanges between cnidarians and their algal partners. I am especially interested in symbiosis establishment and maintenance during cnidarian development. Aiptasia, a model organism for cnidarian-algae symbiosis, allows us to study how algal symbiont presence or identity affects the growth and development of asexual offspring produced through pedal laceration. I completed my Ph.D. at UC Irvine with Dr. Matthew Bracken where I studied the physiology and ecology of intertidal sea anemones in the genus Anthopleura. I enjoy designing aquariums for research, imaging on microscopes, and working in the field. My research background has been broad and includes ecological surveys, isotopic diet studies, behavioral studies, physiological measures, and cellular biology.


Former Lab Members

Keyla Plichon

Visiting graduate student 2022


Ph.D Student, Université Côte d’Azur

Ph.D Awarded 2022


Postdoc, Carnegie Institution for Science with Phillip Cleves

Dr. Jack Koch

Ph.D Awarded 2021


Postdoc, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center

Dr. Jason Presnell

Postdoc 2018-2020


Senior Lab Specialist, University of Utah

Dr. Holland Elder

Ph.D Awarded 2020


Postdoc, USC, California

Dr. Trevor Tivey

Ph.D Awarded 2019


Postdoc, Cornell University

Postdoc 2016-2018


Assistant Professor, University of South Florida, Florida

Ph.D Awarded 2016


Assistant Professor, University of Birmingham at Alabama, Alabama

Dr. Sheila Kitchen

Ph.D Awarded 2016


Assistant professor, Texas A&M Galveston

Dr. Angela Poole

Ph.D Awarded 2015


Assistant Professor, Berry College

Dr. Jeremie Vidal-Dupiol

Postdoc 2013


Research Associate, Institut Français de Recherche pour l'Exploitation de la Mer

Dr. Camille Paxton

Postdoc 2010-2012


 Instructor, A-B Tech Community College, Asheville, NC

Ph.D Awarded 2010


Associate Professor, Whitney Labs, University of Florida

Dr. Wendy Phillips

Faculty Research Assistant 96-05,

Graduate Student 2009-2012


Senior Bioinformatician - Diversigen, Inc.

Dr. Emilie Neubauer

Visiting graduate student 08-11


Teacher, Carterton, New Zealand

Dr. Elisha Wood-Charlson

Ph.D awarded 2008


User Engagement Lead at KBase, UC Berkeley, CA

Dr. Olivier Detournay

Postdoc 2007-2009


Chief Scientific Officer, Coral Biome, France

Dr. Laura Hauck

Ph.D Awarded 2007


Research Scientist, US Forest Service

Dr. Santiago Perez

Ph.D Awarded 2007

Santi 2007.JPG

Instructor, Portland Community College, OR

Dr. Sophie Richier

Postdoc 2005-2006


Department Manager, Centre Etudes et de Valorisation des Algues

Dr. Melissa deBoer

Ph.D Awarded 2004

Dr. Simon Dunn

Postdoc 2002-2007


Laboratory Manager, Queensland Brain Institute, Australia

Postdoc 2002-2005


Associate Professor, Florida International University

Ph.D awarded 2002


Associate Professor, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY

Visiting graduate student 01-03


Marine Biologist Consultant

Postdoc 1999-2002


Professor, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, U. of Maryland

Dr. Alan Verde

Postdoc 1998-2002

Alan 2004.JPG

Professor, Marine Maritime Academy

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