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Principal Investigator

Ana Caicedo

Ana L. Caicedo

Ana obtained her B.S. in Biology in 1996 at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia. She left the lofty peaks of the Andes for the (flatter) environment of the Midwest U.S. to attend graduate school at Washington University in St. Louis; there she studied the population genetics of disease resistance genes in wild tomatoes and received her Ph.D. in 2003. During a postdoc at NC State, she carried out research on the evolutionary genomics of rice domestication and the population genetics of floral timing genes in Arabidopsis thaliana. Ana joined the UMass Biology faculty in 2006. Her current research interests include the genetic basis of adaptation, the genomics of plant domestication, and the population genetics of diversification within and between species (CV).


Postdoctoral Researchers

Hamid Razifard

Hamid Razifard

Hamid is a postdoctoral researcher with a PhD in evolutionary biology from University of Connecticut. Currently, he studies the genomics of tomatoes to provide insights on the traits that were artificially selected as well as the traits that probably were lost or diminished through domestication. To understand the genomic basis of such traits, Hamid explores the tomato genome using a Genome-wide Association Study (GWAS). Check out Hamid's webpage.


Graduate Students


Xiang Li

Xiang is a PhD candidate in the Plant Biology Graduate Program. He rotated in the Caicedo lab in 2017 Fall and joined the lab in summer 2018. Plant and evolution are his favorite topics. He is interested in understanding phenotypic outcomes from diverse perspectives: evolutionary, developmental, genetic, and genomic. His current work focus on the genetic and morphological basis of seed dispersal in three independently evolved weedy rice lineages to understand the mechanisms of convergent evolution. You can follow his work on twitter @xiang68698752.

Jake Barnett

Jake is a PhD candidate in the Organismic and Evolutionary Biology program and has been a member of the Caicedo Lab since Fall 2018. He received a B.S. in Biology from Cornell University in 2007 and a M.Ed. in Science Education from Lesley University in 2011. Before coming to UMass, he worked as middle and high school biology teacher in the Boston suburbs for 6 years. He currently is studying tomato wild relatives from South America, using genetic and genomic tools as well as greenhouse and farm planting trials to investigate the ecological and evolutionary drivers of fruit trait divergence in this remarkable clade of plants. His broad interests in evolution, agriculture, and science education drew him to this charismatic system - not to mention he really enjoys eating tomatoes! You can follow his adventures with #jakestomatoes on Instagram at




None currently! But we love visitors!







Jacob Scott

Jacob is a senior undergraduate student in the Caicedo lab, majoring in Biology. He has been in the Caicedo lab since 2017 and studies genetic diversity and population structure in a group of parasitic plants called dodders. Dodders are strange plants that have no roots or leaves, and must obtain all of their nutrients from a host. The parasitic nature of dodder makes certain species major agricultural pests. In Massachusetts, dodder infestations are a serious problem in cranberry bogs. Dodder is also severely understudied, which means we have a lot that we can learn from it!

Carter Hissam

Carter is a sophomore microbiology major from Charlotte, NC. He joined the Caicedo Lab his
first semester at UMass to assist a Ph.D. candidate in determining a genomic sequence that
codes for seed-dispersal traits in weedy rice. During the summer of 2019, he became a summer scholar for the Center of the Agriculture, Food, and the Environment and aimed to elucidate microbial associations that improve plant growth in a model grass species, Brachypodium distachyon.



Jessica Lessard


Gianna McNally


Daniel Lowey

Daniel is a freshman Biology major from Foxborough Massachusetts. The fall of his freshman year, he joined the Caicedo lab to assist Xiang Li with his research regarding weedy rice. His work includes collecting seed shattering data, plant care, changing/making various solutions, and his personal favorite, RNA extractions with liquid nitrogen! Although Daniel has a lot to learn, he’s excited to continue his work and learn new techniques.


Fabbiha Hossain




Sherin Kanthi Perera

Sherin received her B.S. in Biology in 1987 at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. She has a Post Graduate Diploma in education too. For many years Sherin was a high school biology teacher in Sri Lanka. After immigrating to the U.S., Sherin volunteeered for a summer in the lab and got some hands on experience in rice phenotyping, DNA extraction, and challenging PCRs. Since then, she has been working in the lab as a techinician. Sherin's knowledge of rice growth and agriculture has proved to be a great resource for all, and her tasty Sri Lankan dishes are addictive.



Hall of Fame


Katie Hyma

Katie receieved her B.S. and M.S. in microbiology and molecular genetics from Michigan State University in 2004, where she spent time researching the population genetics of pathogenic E. coli. She received her PhD in Evolution, Ecology and Population Bology from Washington University in 2010, where she studied the domestication of the winemaking yeast S. cerevisiae. Katie was a postdoc in Ana Caicedo's lab 2011-2012 and investigated the evolution of adaptation and divergence in weedy rice using comparative genomics. She is now a postdoc at the Computational Biology Service Unit, Cornell University.

Mike Reagon

Michael Reagon

Mike received a B.S. in Biology from Antioch College in 1995 and worked in the exciting field of hazardous waste removal for several years before returning to graduate school. He received his Ph.D. from Ohio State University in 2006 where he studied evolutionary consequences of crop–wild hybridization in sunflowers and rice.  As a postdoc in the Caicedo lab (2007-2010), Mike worked on adaptive evolution using weedy rice as a model system. He is now an assistant professor in the Department of Evolution Ecology and Organismal Biology at the Ohio State University in Lima.

Ned Young

Ned Young

Ned is a science teacher at the Amherst Regional High School. Ned still occassionally programs for the Caicedo lab.  He has a BA in Biology from University of Oregon.  He wrote his PhD on speciation and hybridization in Pacific Coast Iris while a student of Richard Harrison at Cornell. He did a postdoctoral fellowship with Claude dePamphilis on the molecular evolution of non-photosynthetic and parasitic plants.  He has taught in TX, PA and MA.  He has also worked with Derek Lovley on the genomes, physiology and evolution of the electricogenic bacterium Geobacter.  He loves writing computer programs to study the evolution of genes and genomes.

Ian Gillis

Ian Gillis

Ian is a Plant Biology grad student with a BS in plant biology from the University of Washington Seattle. As an undergraduate he studied and wrote a paper on a Camellia colonial fungus, Seuratia Millardetii. He then rested on these laurels for many seasons before returning to the exciting world of higher education. Hitching a trailer on his car, with his cat sitting shotgun, he set off into the sunrise to find out what New England had to offer. Ian’s westcoast charm and caffeine fueled intellect secured him a place at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and his interest in the processes driving evolution has brought him to the Caicedo lab. Ian’s specific interest is in how interactions between disparate organisms work and how they evolved.


Altynay Zhanayeva

Altynay is a Fulbright student from Kazakhstan, who carreid out her PB masters on comparative transcriptomics of fruit riepenign in wild tomatoes.


Zhongyun Huang

Zhongyun received her B.S. in biology from Fudan University in China in 2011, She worked on rice for two years when she was an undergraduate student. She left her crowded hometown, Shanghai, to study her beloved field of plant biology in the beautiful town of Amherst. Zhongyun rcarried out her dissertation research oh the eovlution of weedy rice in South Asia.  Zhongyun is now a Principle Scientist for bioinformatics at Roche.

Colby Witherup

Colby Witherup

Colby Witherup was a first year PhD student in Plant Biology. She has a B.A. in Conservation from Northwestern University and an M.S. in Plant Biology and Conservation from Northwestern University and the Chicago Botanic Garden. Her previous research focused on the genetic diversity of jackfruit in Bangladesh, where she completed her fieldwork. She is broadly interested in the domestication process. Her rotation in the Caicedo lab focused on flowering-time genes in weedy rice. In her free time, she enjoys playing music, traveling, and throwing the frisbee for her dog, Quiz. Colby is now a graduate student at Northwestern University.

Carrie Thurber

Carrie Thurber

Carrie received her B.S. in biology from Framingham State College in 2005 and her M.S. in biology from SUNY Buffalo in 2007. Her master’s thesis was based on the molecular genetics of Rubisco small subunit genes in Flaveria bidentis. Carrie graduated from the PB Graduate Program at UMass summer 2012, and her dissertation focused on the evolution of various weedy traits, including shattering, in weedy rice. After pursuing a postdoc in Patrick Brown's lab at the University of Illinois, Carrie joined the faculty at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Georgia. She is now working as a Quality Control Editor at Research Square in Durham, NC.

Stephanie Craig

Stephanie Craig

Stephanie originally came to the Caicedo lab as an undergraduate to further explore her passion for genetics, and studied the effect of weed evolution on R gene diversity.  As an undergraduate, she received two Commonwealth College Honors Research Grants and was selected to be a part of the prestigious Junior Fellows Program her senior year. Stephanie then joined the lab as a PB Masters student, where she carried out some neat work on hybrid incompatibility genes in U.S. weedy rice. She defended her thesis in January 2013, and is now back on campus as a technician in Elizabeth Vierling's lab.

Guido Plaza

Guido Plaza

Guido is a visitng professor from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia in Bogotá, Colombia. He is a weed scientist, who is collaborating with the lab on the evolution of weedy rice in Colombia. For his sabbatical, Guido thought it would be a good idea to attempt to survive a Massachusetts winter, and he is hanging out in the lab for the first half of 2016.


Shulin Zhang

Shulin is a visiting professor from the Anyang Insitute of Technology in China. He is interested in learning how to apply GBS methods to the study of weeds, and he is helping out with various weedy rice projects in the lab.


Verónica Hoyos

Verónica is a PhD student from the Universidad Nacional in Bogotá, Colombia. She will be joining the lab for a year from summer of 2015-2016, to characterize Colombian populations of weedy rice.


Jorge Rodriguez

Jorge Rodriguez

Jorge is a last semester student in Agricultural Science at the Universidad Nacional in Bogotá, Colombia. In Colombia he has carried out research on herbicide physiology, and in summer and fall of 2013, Jorge joined our lab to carry out his professional practice. During his stay in the lab he has helped Zhongyun with her research on weedy rice and has tried to get used to the decreasing temperatures in Massachusetts. Jorge enjoys playing drums and ‘congas’ for a salsa orchestra in his free time.


Shannon Kelly

Shannon is a senior Biology major from Ashland, MA and a member of the UMass Quidditch team. She joined the Caicedo lab after her interest in genetics was sparked by Professor Caicedo's population genetics class, and works on the analysis and evolutionary genetics of several weed-associated traits, mainly focusing on the red pericarp trait with Zhongyun. In her free time she enjoys making tea, learning about herbs, and taking Zumba classes at the UMass Rec Center. 

MAddie Klein

Madeleine Klein

Maddie is a senior biology major and biochemistry minor. She joined the lab in the fall of 2014 for the opportunity to sample tomatoes, a favorite food of hers. Unfortunately, she just missed the harvest. She has enjoyed learning about genetics from the evolutionary perspective and is studying how the tomato fruit has changed during the process of domestication. She is interested in how this information can be used to create even better tomatoes. After graduation, she hopes to pursue her goals of becoming a physician scientist so she can use her research to better help the patients she meets in clinic.

Angelina McKenna

Angelina McKenna

Angelina is an undergraduate student from Saratoga, New York and is studying Biology and Public Health at UMass. In the spring of 2016 she joined the lab because of her interest in evolution and genetics. Currently, she is working on designing CAPs assays to ultimately determine the shattering locus in weedy rice. After graduating in 2017, Angelina hopes to pursue a career in medicine by attending medical school.


Rika Matsuo

Rika is an undergraduate biology major who joined the lab in Spring 2015 to learn more about genetics and evolution. She studies genes that play roles in some of the "weedy traits"--namely hull color and male hybrid sterility--in weedy rice and is interested to see if weedy rice groups evolved these traits independently or were able to hybridize with cultivated rice plants. While working in the lab, she has developed a love for bioinformatics and is also currently helping Zhongyun with her RNA-Seq experiment. Outside of the lab, she enjoys teaching others about biology and making illustrations explaining basic biological concepts and techniques.

Maddie Boyle

Madeleine Boyle

Madeleine helped out with developing markers to distinguish Brachypoium distachyon, stacei and hybridum. She also managed and processed data for our brachy endobiome project.


Lauren Bishop

Lauren is a recent graduate of UMass with a degree in Biology and a Psychology Minor. She joined the Caicedo lab in Spring 2010 because of her interests in plant biology and genetics research, and studied hybrid incompatibility in weedy rice plants. Lauren has now joined the Peace Corps and is setting off for new adventures in Bulgaria.

Katherine Day

Katherine Day

Katherine graduated from Bethlehem Central High School in Delmar, NY in 2010. She is now a senior studying Biology with an Anthropology minor. In the fall of 2012, she began working in the Caicedo lab to help Ian study the evolution of tomatoes. She is lucky to be a part of such a friendly and intelligent group. In her free time she enjoys baking and when she gets the chance, sneaking back to New York to play with her two dogs, Cooper and Cody. Katherine graduated in Spring 2014 and is now a grad student at MCPHS University.


Rafaela Dos Santos

Rafaela was a Biology/Spanish major and Portuguese minor. She joined the Caicedo lab in summer of 2010 to further explore her interest for genetics. She ventured into the world of research by phenotyping and genotyping a set of mapping populations to identify loci underlying weedy traits in red rice. When not working at the lab, Rafaela volunteered at a dental office and worked as a Resident Assistant. Rafaela graduated in May 2012.

Sara Goodwin

Sara Goodwin

Sara was a Biology and Psychology major. She graduated from Shenendehowa High School in Clifton Park, NY and moved west to MA to study. Her accomplishments include earning a Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do and her Gold Award in Girl Scouts. She joined the research lab in the Fall of 2011 to help Ian with his research on tomato evolution. Sara graduated from UMass in spring 2015 and will now be at Albany Medical College in the neuroscience and neurpharmacology department.

Nicole Eckart

Nicole Eckart

Nicole graduated in 2010 with departmental honors in Biology and a Spanish minor.  After a year researching animal behavior in spiders, Nicole joined the Caicedo lab her junior year to explore the diversity present in Brachypodium distachyon, a new model species for grasses.  She took a hiatus for one semester to study abroad in Accra, Ghana, but came back to the lab first as an HHMI summer intern, and then for her honor’s thesis.  Nicole is now attending Human Genetics doctoral program at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Neal Kalra

Neal Kalra

Neal majored in Biology and Anthropology at UMass. He spent a little over a year studying the effects of dam removal at various sites in New England at the "Northeast Instream Habitat Program" under Piotr Parasiewicz. During his year in the Caicedo lab, 2007-2008, he investigated tomato fruit evolution and wrangled with exciting PCR and seed germination issues.


Colette Kramer

Colette graduated from high school in 2012 and is now a senior studying Biology and Art History. Colette joined the Caicedo lab in the spring of 2014 to research weedy rice with Zhogyun.She hten left us for a semester abroad in Rome. Colette loves art, puns, sleeping, and making lists. She looks forward to moving to Boston after graduation and pursuing a job in the sciences.

Alberto Montano

Alberto Montano



Mario Moreira

After braving Ana’s Population Genetics course his senior year, Mario decided he couldn’t get enough of the subject and joined the lab for a semester of research. During his stint in the Caicedo lab in Spring of 2008 he learned about the joys and challenges of DNA sequence alignment and data management, while exploring the molecular basis of plant height variation in weedy and domesticated rice.


Justin Nicholatos

Justin was a Biology major and Japanese minor graduate of 2010. His great interest in evolution and genetics led him to join the Caicedo lab as a junior, where he explored relationships among colored-fruited tomato groups and dealt with troubleshooting PCRs. He enjoys science greatly, but is also an active musician. He spent the summer after graduation as an intern in the Biology Research and Development group at Iquum, a molecular diagnostics company, and is now a research assistant in the Manning lab at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Lauren Resnick

Lauren Resnick

Lauren graduated as Biology major with several honors in 2012. She joined the Caicedo lab in the fall of 2010 in hopes of learning more about population genetics and performing some hands-on analysis of evolution. She studied hybrid incompatibility in weedy rice plants using two characterized incompatibility loci. When not in Ana's lab, Lauren volunteered in an animal behavior lab, was an active member of several Biology-based and service learning-based clubs, and made sushi for money. Not at the same time, though. Lauren is now in a Masters Program for Urban Education at UMass Boston.


Claudia Rullman

Claudia obtained her B.S. in Natural Resources in 1986 from the School of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University. Following extensive research-related and work experience in plant biology, organic agriculture, integrated pest management, marine ecology and aquaponics, she completed an M.S. in Plant Stress Physiology at the University of Vermont in 2003. Claudia worked as a technician in the Caicedo lab during much of 2007. Her career interests include phytoremediation, effects of anthropogenic pollutants on habitat quality, environmental restoration, marine and estuarine ecology.

Mona Salameh

Mona Salameh

Mona graduated with Latin, Commonwealth College, and departmental honors in Biology as an undergraduate in 2009. She played in the concert band at UMass and was a member of the university ski club. In her junior year, Mona received two HHMI Academic Year internships and one summer internship to carry out research on aromatic rice evolution in the Caicedo lab. In her senior year, Mona was selected to be a part of the prestigious Junior Fellows Program of the Life Sciences program for undergraduate researchers to continue her research in the lab. Mona is now be attending Tufts University School of Dental Medicine where she hopes to attain a DMD/PhD.


Daniela Schmieder

Daniela is a native of Germany, who spent a chock-full year as an exchange student at UMass. Her research experience has ranged from subjects such as plant physiology to animal behavior, and organisms such as rats and A. thaliana, to turtles and (virtually) rice. During her stint in the lab in 2007, Daniela aligned and edited sequences of rice resistance genes. Now Daniela is working towards her PhD at the Max-Planck Institute in Seewiesen, Germany, studying how European horseshoe bats cope with vegetation.


Debbie Tschong

Debbie Tschong

Debbie was born in Dallas, Texas but mostly grew up in Seoul, South Korea. She moved around a lot but ended up in Massachusetts. Debbie pursued a major in Biology and minors in Psychology and Spanish. She joined the research lab in the spring of 2013 to help Zhongyun in her research on weedy red rice. Debbie hope to become a pediatrician because she loves children, and in her free time, she likes to cook, dance, and read. She graduated in Spring of 2015 and is now

Sara Weil

Sara Weil