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 Profile  Publon Profile

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. 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

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.


Claire 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.

Sara_headshotSara 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.

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.

Post-Baccalaureate Researchers

ZhangPriscillaPriscilla Zhang: I joined the Boots Lab shortly after taking Professor Boot’s course at UC Berkeley, IB 114. I graduated from UC Berkeley in 2021 where I studied Chemistry and Data Science. During my undergraduate career I participated in toxicology, environmental health and chemical biology research. I am currently advised by Mike Boots and Sarah Guth studying pathogen characteristics predictive of virulence and transmissibility.

Undergraduate Students

Anisha Ali, Jonathan Barajas, Seva Hatip, Anna Hatzakis, Sehar Masud, Annika McBride, Edwin Ramos, Katia Renault, Cristina Villalobos, Natalie Walzer

See our Boots Lab Alumni too!