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 Researchers

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

Saad-Roy_Chadi_PictureChadi Saad-Roy: I am currently a Miller Research Fellow at UC Berkeley. I completed my PhD in Quantitative and Computational Biology at Princeton University, where I was co-advised by Bryan Grenfell, Simon Levin, and Ned Wingreen. Before that, I obtained my BSc at the University of Victoria (in Victoria, British Columbia), where I worked with Pauline van den Driessche. Broadly, I am interested in mathematical models for the epidemiology and evolution of infectious diseases, with a major recent focus on SARS-CoV-2.
Website, Google Scholar, Twitter, ResearchGate

DSC_0939Signe White: My primary research project in the Boots Lab involves understanding the effects of multiple heterogeneities (population structure, transmission, and host-parasite interaction specificity) on pathogen virulence and host defense. I also have side quests in how phoresy (hitchhiking) and migration/dispersal impact host-parasite dynamics. I received my Bachelors degrees at Indiana University and then went on to be a research assistant with Dr. Kristi Montooth, where I learned the fundamentals of evolutionary genetics. I then received a PhD at Emory University in Population Biology, Ecology, and Evolution under the supervision of Drs. Levi Morran and Jaap de Roode.

Outside of lab, I enjoy bird watching, cross-stitching, trail running, cat/dog-petting, cycling, and absorbing the sun’s rays in a healthy way.

Signe’s Website, Twitter, Research Gate, Google Scholar 

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. For my PhD research at UC Berkeley, I am applying epidemiological models to other emerging diseases such as Zika virus.

Laura’s:  ResearchGate  Twitter

mada_headshotSarah Guth: I started my PhD in the Boots lab in 2017, and broadly, am interested in the evolutionary underpinnings of cross-species zoonotic emergence. I apply a combination of field work, genomics, and epidemiological and statistical models to study viral dynamics in animal populations—in particular, Madagascar fruit bats in collaboration with the Brook Lab. My projects include statistical and theoretical models to understand the evolution of zoonotic virulence, as well as working with the Sudmant Lab to develop a high throughput method of aging bats to inform both epidemiological and conservation modeling.


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.

Sara_headshotSara Herrejon Chavez: I joined the Boots lab in the fall of 2021 and plan to study disease ecology as it relates to keystone pollinators, such as bees. My project will focus on furthering our understanding of disease dynamics between pollinator networks, using pollen as an indicator of shared resources between wild and domestic bee populations. As an undergrad at Portland State University, I worked under several faculty members, including: Dr. Todd Rosenstiel, Dr. Sarah Epply, and Dr. Daniel Ballhorn. Working with these faculty members gave me experience within the field of microbial biology and community ecology. I also participated in research via several summer research initiatives (REU programs) both at Portland State and the Cary Institute, where I gained experience in research broadly focusing on urban ecology. As an undergrad, I was also heavily involved in DEI initiatives that allowed me to gain perspectives and experiences in mentoring, teaching, and curriculum development.

BBC63084-BBFD-41F4-A855-9BFEEDD9A3E3Claire Evensen: I started my PhD in the Boots lab in 2021 (co-advised by Britt Koskella), and I’m broadly interested in coevolution in complex communities. My projects utilize both wet-lab and dry-lab tools from community ecology, microbiology, epidemiology, and network theory to explore how community diversity is established and maintained. I previously studied Biochemistry and Mathematics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I worked with Tom Record on transcription kinetics. After graduating, I pursued an MSc in Mathematical Modelling and Scientific Computing at Oxford, where I worked with Renaud Lambiotte on network dynamical systems.

seaJohn Lo: I joined the Boots Lab and the Sudmant Lab in 2022 as a PhD student at the Center for Computational Biology. My interests range from coevolutionary dynamics, evolution of aging, and niche construction to science philosophy and political ecology. I’m specifically fascinated by how coevolutionary dynamics and, more broadly, eco-evolutionary feedbacks can produce and maintain complexity and diversity, particularly in fishes. Previously, I studied the evolution of microsatellites and retrogenes in the Blackmon Lab at Texas A&M while earning BS degrees in Statistics and Molecular Biology.


Priya Pillai: I started my PhD in Computational Biology at UC Berkeley in Fall 2022 and am doing my first rotation in the Boots Lab. I’m interested in studying how the design of the computational tools is affected by and affects biases, especially as applied to infectious disease and genetics. In the Boots Lab, I’ll be working on analyzing viral transfer between honey bees as they pollinate crops. Before coming to Berkeley, I did a MEng in Computer Science and Biology at MIT, then worked as a software engineer at the Broad Institute in the Sabeti Lab on viral diagnostic design.

Lab Manager


Julia Sherman: I joined the Boots lab in 2021 after graduating from UC Berkeley with a degree in Genetics and Plant Biology. During undergrad, I participated in research with Britt Koskella and Kyle Meyer on community evolution and ecology of microbial communities within the leaf biome (phyllosphere). As the new Lab Manager, I am focused on developing a new space for our lab to conduct molecular research and supporting work on our moth and baculovirus model system.

Undergraduate Students

Jonathan Barajas: IMG_20220702_164519_109I joined the Boots lab in the Spring of 2022. I transferred from Rio Hondo Community College in the Fall of 2021 and I am currently studying Molecular and Cell Biology with an emphasis in Biological Chemistry. After UC Berkeley I plan to apply to graduate school and earn a PhD in Biomedical Science. I am specifically interested in pathogen-host interactions and vaccine development.

IMG_7101Ricky Pankratz: I came to UC Berkeley from the shores of Clear Lake to study Environmental Sciences and learn more about the harmful algal blooms affecting my hometown. Here I developed an interest in ecology, evolution, environmental justice, and working with ecological data. I am also a member of the inaugural cohort of the SEED Scholars Honors Program.

Anna Hatzakis, Seva Hatip, Noah Parker, Edwin Ramos, Zucel Yadira Rodriguez, Natalie Walzer

See our Boots Lab Alumni too!