Laboratory Members

Patterson labs rooftop

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

Detecting and responding to environmental perturbations is one of the most important distinguishing features of plants. I am interested in how plants integrate the dynamic environmental inputs into developmental issues, such as architecture regulation, phase transition and stress response. During my Ph.D, I worked on a pleiotropic QTL gene Ghd7 which has large effects on heading date and yield potential in rice, under the supervision of Prof. Qifa Zhang, Huazhong Agricultural University.

In May 2014, I joined Prof. Juenger's lab to investigate grass developmental genetics. My research focuses on QTL mapping and GWAS in the C4 grass species Panicum hallii, which is an emerging model system that shares a close evolutionary relationship to the biofuel crop switchgrass. I am also combining genetics, biochemistry and molecule biology approaches to study the molecular mechanisms of how plants perceive and respond to multiple environmental signals in both Panicum hallii and Arabidopsis. The ultimate goal of my project is to better understand the growth of switchgrass and provide avenues for improving biomass yield and stress tolerance for use as a bioenergy crop. 


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





"Rice team" collaborators - University of Dhaka, Bangladesh

Taslima Haque

Taslima has majored in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. She is experienced on next generation genome sequence based technology and bioinformatics tool development process. She is currently associated with Juenger’s lab through NSF-PEER project in collaboration with Plant Biotechnology laboratory, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. The project focuses on identification and validation of salt tolerant determinant genes in Bangladeshi rice landrace using next generation sequencing technology. Her current research area includes bioinformatic analysis of sequence based genotyping (RADseq) and expression analysis (RNAseq).

Samsad Razzaque

Samsad has a Masters in Biotechnology. He is experienced on plant genetic transformation, cloning, gene regulatory network, Protein-protein interaction etc. He is currently associated with Juenger’s lab through NSF-PEER project in collaboration with Plant Biotechnology laboratory, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. The project focuses on identification and validation of salt tolerant determinant genes in Bangladeshi rice landrace using next generation sequencing technology. He is currently focusing on bioinformatic analysis of gene expression analysis (by RNAseq) and sequence based genotyping (RADseq). 

Sabrina Moriom Elias

Sabrina has a major in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology with previous experience on next generation genome sequence based technology and plant genetic diversity analysis. She is currently doing her PhD in University of Dhaka, Bangladesh as a Monsanto's Beachell-Borlaug International Scholar collaborating with University of Nebraska Lincoln, University of Texas, Austin and IRRI. The project focuses on identification and validation of salt tolerant determinant genes in Bangladeshi rice landrace using next generation sequencing technology. Her current research area includes bioinformatic analysis of gene expression (RNAseq) and sequence based genotyping (RADseq).