Laboratory Members

Lab outing at Salt Lick.

Thomas Juenger | Principal Investigator

Tom Juenger is a Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Texas at Austin. He is a member of the Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology and the Center for Computation Biology and Bioinformatics.







Tierney Logan | Lab Technician

I joined the Juenger lab in the fall of 2004, with a background primarily in genotyping human cancer genes at the Stanford Genome Technology Center.  I also had experience in the field of horticulture before I received my B.S. in Molecular Biology.  Current work includes several projects involving characterization of genetic variation in Arabidopsis, Ipomopsis and Panicum.  I am also interested in the fast-paced development of sequencing technologies and high-throughput methods.


Scott Schwartz | Research Associate

After completing a PhD in a Bayesian oriented statistics program, Scott spent a year in a cancer nutrition lab working with genomic data. From there he spent two years working in a next generation sequencing core where he analyzed RAD-Seq mapping population data, genomic bulk segregation data, and RNA-seq experiment data.  Scott has joined the Juenger lab to bring his bioinformatics and statistics expertise to bear on eQTL and bisulfite sequencing efforts in the lab.


John Lovell | Post-doctoral Researcher

The evolutionary fate of species rests entirely on their potential to adapt to novel or stressful environmental conditions. While a small minority of lineages have experienced little morphological evolution over long evolutionary timescales, the vast majority of taxonomic groups have undergone recurrent events of niche diversification, speciation and extinction- processes all driven by the relative capability of populations to adapt. My research program addresses this foundational question in evolutionary biology, namely, what factors affect the adaptive potential of populations? Using vascular plant systems and population genomic, physiological, and ecological tools, my research program empirically assesses the evolutionary causes and ecological consequences of adaptive constraint.

In the Juenger lab, I am utilizing the developing model system, Panicum hallii and its close relative, switchgrass (P. virgatum) to determine the physiological affect of deleterious mutation accumulation and the benefits of concealing this genetic load through crossing. Understanding these processes, which lead to heterosis, may improve the agronomic utility of hybrid breeding in switchgrass.

Eugene Shakirov | Research Associate

Because of its superior biological and genomic resources, Arabidopsis offers a unique opportunity for the analysis of natural variation. There is now an explosion of Arabidopsis natural variation studies, fueled by the availability of hundreds of accessions (natural genetically diverse populations) collected from geographically distinct locations. Because Arabidopsis is self-pollinating, these accessions are inbred and mostly homozygous, greatly facilitating genetic analysis and mapping. Significant natural variation in Arabidopsis was reported for every phenotypic trait investigated.

My research interests focus on the role of natural variation in three major aspects of plant biology: drought tolerance, phosphorus metabolism and telomere biology. Better understanding of genetic differences underlying these biological processes may provide important insights into the molecular basis for the observed variation in plant responses to abiotic stress and shed additional light on conservation of physiological pathways between various plants and other eukaryotes.

Xiaoyu Weng | Post-doctoral Researcher






Brandon Campitelli | Post-doctoral Researcher & Research Educator

My research interests broadly center around understanding the impacts of the abiotic and biotic environment on plant function, growth/yield, physiology and reproduction. More specifically, in the Juenger lab my research focuses on how abiotic stress affects various fitness components of naturally occurring genetic variants of plants, while subjected to typical biotic challenges such as competition, herbivory and pathogen infection. I carry out my research in a several plant systems including the candidate bioenergy crop Panicum virgatum (Swichgrass) and its closely related genetic model P. hallii, as well as the model species Arabidopsis thaliana.

After finishing my PhD, I spent a year working at University of Toronto to develop and teach undergraduate lab courses. Currently, as a Research Educator at University of Texas, I am the primary instructor of a research-based course called Biology of Biofuels that is part of the Freshmen Research Initiative, where I train students broadly in plant biological research, and supervise/manage the independent projects they eventually carry out.

Elizabeth Milano | Graduate Student

I am involved in two projects in the Juenger lab. My dissertation research focuses on floral variation and population divergence in two subspecies of I. aggregata that occur on the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies. As a member of the Panicum group, I have been involved in resolving the phylogenetic relationship between P. hallii var. hallii and var. filipes. 



Juan Diego Palacio-Mejía | Graduate Student

My main research interest is focused on the knowledge and use of the agobiodiversity, using biotechnology techniques for the improvement of crops. In that sense I am interested in being a bridge between the basic research on model organisms such as Arabidopsis and the application of such research to the development of agriculture production. Currently I am part of the project focused on the physiological genomics of swichtgrass to use it in biofuel production in a global warming context.

Albina Khasanova | Graduate Student

My research interests are to understand how environmental factors, such as water and nutrient availability, can impact plant physiological and ecological processes. With the Juenger laboratory, I have been involved in projects that investigate the physiology and genomics of switchgrass (Panicum Virgatum) under varied precipitation regimes ranging from extreme drought to abundant rainfall. Specifically, I have been focusing on how abiotic and biotic factors impact soil respiration, nutrient resorption and nutrient storage, physiology and growth.  My upcoming thesis research will focus on night-time physiological processes and root level dynamics.

Jacob Soule | Graduate Student