IMG_3794Mónica Medina, mum55 at psu dot edu

  Principal Investigator  

I am interested in a wide range of topics dealing with the ecology and evolution of marine organisms including charismatic invertebrates like corals and molluscs, as well as other less known but equally fun critters like algae, fungi and microbes. My google scholar profile is available here.

Pollock, FJ - Headshot Joseph Pollock, FJPollock at psu dot edu

Postdoctoral researcher

Joe is currently working on describing the microbial diversity across globally-distributed coral taxa, exploring the genetic and metabolic capabilities of key coral bacteria, and testing how microbial community composition influences the susceptibility of different   coral species to stress and disease. Learn more about Joe at

Sofia Roitman, sxr410 at psu dot edu

Ph.D student

I am interested in coral microbiology, microbial ecology, and host-microbe interactions. I am currently pursuing research projects that focus on the coral microbiome and how microbial diversity and community structure affect coral health and vulnerability to disease.

 Ana María González Angel, amg449 at psu dot edu

 Ph.D student

I am interested in coral reproduction, ecology and evolution; and I have focused on reproduction in the Orbicella species complex. I am studying the reproductive isolation mechanisms that prevent these organisms from interbreeding including pre-zygotic temporal isolation and pre-zygotic gamete recognition. 

Viridiana_Medina_website Viridiana Avila Magaña, vxa146 at psu dot edu

Ph.D student

My research is focused on comparative marine genomics of cnidarian-algae symbiosis. I am interested in combining bioinformatics and field research; in particular, the molecular recognition and cell-cell communication during the establishment of symbiosis between cnidarians (Corals and Jellyfish) and Symbiodinium. Thus, understanding how these mechanisms evolved in different species. Ultimately, I aim to describe coral bleaching in terms of the disruption of communication that takes place between the different members in the holobiont.

IMG_20141022_112942 Aki Ohdera, auo140 at psu dot edu

Ph.D student

I am interested in the genetics of symbiosis and am currently researching the role symbiosis plays in the lifecycle of the upside-down jellyfish Cassiopea xamachana. My current projects include a) investigating the microbial interaction required to induce settlement in Cassiopea larvae, and b) investigating the role Symbiodinium plays in triggering strobilation. I use next-generation sequencing to sequence microbial genomes as well as generate transcriptomic profiles of various developmental stages. My ultimate goal is to develop the Cassiopea-Symbiodinium system for researching symbiosis driven development as well as shed light on evolutionary mechanism responsible for establishment of the symbiotic interaction between rhizostomes and Symbiodinium.


Kushboo pic for website Khushboo Attarwala, ksa5154 at psu dot edu

Undergraduate student

I am double majoring in Biology and Veterinary Science and I plan on becoming a veterinarian. I joined this lab because I’ve always been interested in Marine biology and I’ve been able to learn so much since I’ve joined. Mostly, I work with the jellyfish and I feed and clean them to keep them happy. I’ve also been trained in PCR and gel electrophoresis. I’ve used these techniques to analyze the DNA of different species of symbiodinium that infect the jellyfish.

20140724_142705_1 Victoria Wu, vow5033 at psu dot edu

Undergraduate student

I’m majoring in Biochemistry and I plan on going into Ophthalmology. I recently joined the lab and I am specializing on measuring the physiology of different species of Symbiodinium under different environmental conditions, especially in jellyfish.

Daniel Winstead, djw5623 at psu dot edu

Undergraduate student

I am majoring in Biology with minors in Marine Science, and Wildlife and Fisheries.  I am currently studying the process of host-symbiont specificity between multiple Symbiodinium species and Cassiopea xamachana.  Like other Cnidarian organisms, each species usually has one specific symbiont that inhabits its tissues in a natural environment; however, there are many different species of Symbiodinium present in the environment.  I am currently proceeding with competitive experiments between different Symbiodinium species in varying conditions to help determine what causes successful and unsuccessful infections from symbiont to host.

WebsiteProfileJamieProffitt  Jamie Lee Proffitt, jlp5835 at psu dot edu

  Undergraduate Student

I am majoring in biology focusing on vertebrate physiology. My life goal is to attend medical school after graduating from the Pennsylvania State University to become a pediatrician. I joined this lab because I love the ocean and the beautiful coral reefs that live within it. Research that could potentially save coral reefs from being destroyed intrigues me. At this time, I am trained in DNA extraction and working under Joe Pollock on the Global Coral Microbiome Project. I am excited to analyze and learn more about corals and hopefully protect them from damage in the future.

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Andrea (Re) Margarete Gade, amg6346 at psu dot edu

Undergraduate student

I am a freshman majoring in biochemistry on the microbiology path. I joined this lab because I am interested in the relationship between microorganisms and their environment.  My research interests include microbial ecology, virology, and immunology. My career goals include earning a Ph.D. in Microbiology to eventually become a researcher either in academia or at a government agency such as the NIH or the CDC. Currently, I am trained in PCR and gel electrophoresis. I am excited to learn more about coral microbiomes along with new research techniques.

Sarah Duncan, sed5414 at psu dot edu

Undergraduate student

I am a freshman majoring in Biology, focusing on the Vertebrate Physiology track with a minor in Marine Science. I was excited to be able to join this lab because of my interests in marine biology and coral microbiology. My career goals include either attending graduate school to focus on marine biology or attending veterinarian school with hopes of becoming an aquatic veterinarian one day. Currently, I am being trained to perform PCR analysis and Electrophoresis Gel runs as well. I am helping to assist on the Global Coral Microbiome Project, under the supervision of Dr. Joseph Pollock and graduate student, Sofia Roitman. I look forward to learning new information and acquiring new research techniques as I grow throughout the years in this lab.

Former lab members

Graduate students

Bishoy Hanna (Ph.D. student, class of 2016)

Erika Diaz (Ph.D. student, class of 2015)

Collin Closek (Ph.D. student, class of 2014)

Elizabeth Green (Master’s student, class of 2014)

Aubrie O’Rourke (Master’s student, class of 2011). Currently a Ph.D. student at KAUST.

Zer Vue (Master’s student, class of 2010). Currently at Ph.D. student at Baylor College of Medicine.

Shinichi Sunagawa (Ph.D. student, class of 2008). Currently a Research Scientist at EMBO.

Michael DeSalvo (Ph.D. student, class of 2008).


Carlos Prada (postdoc 2014-2016)

Michele Weber (postdoc 2012-2014)

Kristen Marhaver (postdoc 2011-2013), currently NSF postdoc at Carmabi.

Emmanuel Buschiazzo (postdoc 2010-2012)

Kevin Portune (postdoc 2008), currently a postdoc at Universidad de Valencia

Christian Voolstra (postdoc 2006-2008), currently an Assistant professor at KAUST

Alejandro Reyes-Bermudez (postdoc 2007)

Jodi Schwarz (postdoc 2004-2005), currently an Associate Professor at Vassar College.


Shruti Lal (lab technician), currently a postdoc at the University of Pennsylvania.


Tori Takaoka

Marcos Espinoza

Shay Moonsor

Lewis Gotico

Zer Vue

Claudia Velazquez

Angelina Velazquez

Martha Gallegos

Bryan Water

Matthew Kellom

Stephany Escalante

Nicole Masuoka

Andres Estrada

Julia Schnetzer

Taranjeet Dhatt

Yogesh Narayan

Yuriana Aguilar

Andrew Col

Joshua Kan

Miriam Zavalza

Pang Kuo Chang

Julianne Liberto

Siobhan Kelly

Christopher Clark

Kristen Valentine

Heather Moran

Ashley Porter

Caroline Baldwin (2014-2016)

Lyndzy Gazda

Alaina Weinheimer

Maikel Mansour

Morgan Gannon

Gabrielle Swain