Current Group Members

2015-09-04 08.45.38Mike Boots: After a mostly empirical PhD at Liverpool, I held a JSPS Postdoctoral fellowship in the Entomology Department of Kyoto University and a European Union Postdoctoral Fellowship in the mathematical biology group in Kyushu. I then worked in the medical entomology department of the Institute of Tropical Medicine, applying mathematical models to problems in human disease interactions and working on vector ecology in the medical entomology department. I returned to the UK in 2000, on a NERC Advanced Fellowship, and subsequently held Readerships at the Universities of Stirling and Sheffield. I was made Professor of Disease Biology in the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences in Sheffield in 2007, moved to Exeter in 2011 and to UC Berkeley in 2015. My google profile is here.

Postdoctoral Research Associates & Research Fellows

pennyatlarge001Penny Lynch: Having recklessly abandoned undergraduate biology back in 1980, I built a career in finance before finally returning to science via a part-time maths degree and a PhD (co-supervised by Uwe Grimm and Andrew Read) modelling the effects of health interventions on the evolution of life history in disease causing organisms. A large part of my PhD involved modelling the potential disease control benefits and evolutionary consequences of novel interventions targetting malaria vectors. I have maintained my interest in this area, and my current research comprises the development and application of mathematical models which consider vector ecology and life history to explore the potential benefits of new vector control methods. I am also still exploring ways to manage and perhaps even exploit the evolutionary effects of human interventions on vector populations.

Penny’s: Exeter Profile  ResearchGate Profile  Publon Profile

IMG_2146Cara Brook: I joined the Boots lab in September 2017 as a postdoctoral fellow with UC Berkeley’s Miller Institute for Basic Research. My research focuses on understanding the role that bats play as reservoirs for highly virulent emerging zoonotic diseases, including rabies and related lyssaviruses, Ebola and Marburg filoviruses, and Hendra and Nipah henipaviruses. Jointly hosted by Britt Glaunsinger in the Department of Plant and Microbiology, I bridge field ecology, cellular immunology, and quantitative epidemiology to investigate whether bats are uniquely adapted for their roles as viral reservoirs. I spend much of my time tracking viral and immuno-dynamics in Old World Fruit Bat populations in Madagascar, in collaboration with Institut Pasteur de Madagascar. While in Berkeley, I also investigate within-host questions intent on resolving the forces underpinning the evolution of optimal immune responses for bat hosts and the evolution of virulence for their pathogens. Before Berkeley, I earned my B.S. in Earth Systems at Stanford University in 2010 and my PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University in 2017.

Cara’s website.

Graduate Students

LauraPictureLaura Ward Alexander: After graduating from University of Georgia with degrees in microbiology and in ecology, my research has focussed on using mathematical models to better understand emerging infectious diseases, both in humans and in wildlife. I worked on projects with the Park Lab at UGA, including the US response to the 2014 West African ebola outbreak. I’ve now moved to UC Berkeley to undertake my PhD, applying epidemiological models to other emerging diseases such as Zika virus.

Laura’s:  ResearchGate  Twitter

Elisa Picture

Elisa Visher: I joined the lab for my PhD in 2016. Broadly, I’m interested in the conditions that affect the (co)evolution of virulence, niche breadth, diversification, emergence, and trade-offs in host-pathogen systems. I am particurally interested in using experimental evolution techniques to test eco-evolutionary theory and, here at Berkeley, I mostly work in our moth and baculovirus model system to explore how host genetic diversity and population structure shape parasite evolution.

During my undergrad at Yale, I worked with Paul Turner on projects involving experimental evolution of bacteriophage and Brenda Bradley on a number of projects relating to primate genomics. After graduating in 2014, I worked on mutational fitness effects in Influenza A as a research tech with Adam Lauring at University of Michigan.

Elisa’s Google ScholarTwitter, and Website

lab profile photoSarah GuthI joined the Boots lab in 2017, after graduating from Middlebury College with a degree in Conservation Biology and spending two years working for the Planetary Health Alliance. My work focuses on the exchange of pathogens between wildlife and human populations, particularly the drivers of spillover and spillback. I apply a combination of epidemiological models, geospatial analyses, and field-based approaches to understand questions regarding the evolutionary and spatial dynamics of emerging and re-emerging zoonoses. My current projects include modeling the risk of arbovirus spillback in Brazil, characterizing the role of spatial structure in the transmission of bat-borne pathogens in Madagascar, and applying statistical models to understand the evolution of zoonotic virulence.


Nina Sokolov: I joined the Boots’ lab in 2018 where I aim to combine my interests in insect diversity and evolutionary ecology with problems in infectious disease. I am particularly interested in the epidemiology of diseases in wild bees. Broadly I want to look at how fluxes in host population density influence disease dynamics. I plan to look at the impact of honey bee importations to California for crop pollination on the prevalence of pathogens, both within honey bees and spill over into native wild bees.

Prior to starting at UC Berkeley, I had graduated from the University of Toronto in 2016 with a BS in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Afterwards I worked as a research assistant in Dr. Hopi Hoekstra’s lab at Harvard University and had research internships with Dr. Naomi Pierce and Dr. Brian Farrell.


Graham Northrup: I moved to Berkeley in 2018 to begin my PhD in Computational Biology, co-advised by Mike Boots and Joe Lewnard. Previously, I graduated from the University of Chicago with a BS in Computational and Applied Mathematics. There I had the opportunity to work under Sarah Cobey on modeling B Cell selection.

Now at UC Berkeley, my current projects aim to leverage quantitative methods to incorporate ideas and fundamentals from various traditions such as ecology and epidemiology into a more interdisciplinary approach for modeling disease evolution in a community context. I am also interested in using these insights to study recurrent infection processes and build better models of acquired immunity.

Undergraduate Students

Melissa Chao, Marina Norfolk, Annika McBride, Diego Gonzalez Ventura, Tomas Le, Niklas Blanadet


See our Boots Lab Alumni too!