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We are looking for independent, motivated scientists to join our group. Please contact Dr. Fierst for more information (jfierst at fiu dot edu). Include a brief description of your previous research experience as well as current and future research interests.

Our research covers a wide variety of topics but our successful trainees usually:
1) Love evolution and genetics
2) Are eager to learn computing and bioinformatics
3) Are interested in reading and discussing scientific literature
4) Are responsible and self-motivated
5) Are excited about collaborating with other students
6) Are committed to contributing to our lab community

Janna Fierst

Associate Professor

I grew up in Seattle, Washington and completed my BA at Pomona College in Claremont, California. After teaching high school for a couple of years I pursued an MS in Marine Ecology at California State University, Northridge and discovered a love of theoretical biology. I finished my PhD at Florida State focusing on evolutionary theory and computational modeling and started studying genomics and bioinformatics during my postdoctoral training at the University of Oregon. I was at the University of Alabama from 2015-2021 and moved my group to FIU in 2022.


Postdoctoral researchers

Juan Pablo Aguilar Cabeza

Juan finished his PhD at Ohio University in 2022 and started as a postdoc in the Fierst lab in 2023. His dissertation research was conducted with Don Miles and Joe Johnson and focused around using genomics to understand bat susceptibility to white nose fungus. He's interested in using his experimental molecular expertise to understand patterns of biodiversity in organisms ranging from bumblebees to tardigrades.

New World

Rohit Kapila

Rohit became an expert in Drosophila experimental evolution during his PhD at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research under the direction of NG Prasad. He joined the Fierst lab in 2022 and he's currently using his experimental evolution expertise to examine mutational patterns in Caenorhabditis. His personal website is here:

Sayran Saber

Sayran finished her PhD in 2022 in the lab of Charlie Baer at the University of Florida and joined the Fierst lab as a postdoctoral researcher in 2023. She became an expert in experimental biology and quantitative evolutionary genetics of C. elegans and is now studying mutational patterns in Caenorhabditis, extending her previous training to encompass bioinformatic and computational approaches.

New World

Rahul Verma

I have developed skills in Network Science during my PhD from India Institute of Technology Indore, India. Specifically, I have worked on mitochondrial genomic networks in context to co-mutation. Earlier in my academic career during my Master's at JNU, India, I have worked on cancer cell lines to study the effect of hypoxia on tumor progression. I joined Dr. Fierst's lab in Feb 2023 where most of my work revolves around computational analysis of structural variants/mutations in context to evolution. 

Additionally, I love getting involved in outdoor activities be it sports, tracking or just a field trip.


Graduate researchers

Tori Eggers

Tori completed an NSF-funded postbaccalaureate research year in the Fierst lab and started her MS at FIU in 2022. She's interested in the evolution of worm genomes, studying the Oscheius group to understand the influence of reproductive mode reversals on genome evolution.

Johnathan Spaulding

Johnathan started his PhD at FIU in 2023, funded by an NSF Bridges to the Doctorate fellowship. He is interested in developing bioinformatic analyses to identify horizontally transferred bits of genome sequence.

Image by Kobby Mendez
Image by Kobby Mendez

Lab Mission and Member Expectations

Our lab mission is to produce exciting scientific discoveries in an interactive, supportive intellectual community.

My mission as the lab head is to: 1) produce high-quality research; and 2) provide excellent training and intellectual development for early career researchers in scientific research, computation and evolutionary genetics.

I expect lab members will:

1) Respect one another! Treat other people's time, space, energy and stuff as though they were yours.

2) Participate in lab meetings, seminars, discussions and social events. We build and create our community and we can only do that by showing up. Don't worry if you feel like you don't have anything to say. It takes a while to get comfortable and process scientific communication.

3) Help each other. Similarly, don't be afraid to ask for help. We can often clear up problems and misunderstandings quickly by addressing them directly.

4) Establish goals and keep written records of daily activities. Progress in science and graduate school is often incremental. Written records help you keep track of your progress towards small and large goals.

5) Practice empathy. Some days everything is going great, other times you feel stuck. Being kind to each other helps a lot during the stuck times. 

6) Take responsibility. Graduate school and postdoctoral research are periods of intense personal and professional development. Where you end up and how you get there is up to you.

7) Communicate. Open and consistent communication is key to maintaining a smoothly running, happy lab environment.

Lab alumni

Louis Bubrig - MS 2020. Currently: PhD candidate at the University of Virginia

John Sutton - PhD 2021. Currently: Sequencing scientist at AbSci Bio

Paula Adams - PhD 2022. Currently: Postdoctoral researcher at Auburn University

Alekhya Kandoor. Currently: PhD student at the University of Virginia

Josh Millwood. Currently: PhD candidate at the University of Alabama

Sarah Oladeyo. Currently: PhD student at Carnegie Mellon University

Mahsa Tanha. Currently: PhD student at the University of Alabama

Julie Jarnigan - lab manager extraordinaire! Currently: Microbiology lab coordinator at the University of Alabama

Duncan Murdock - computational technician. Currently: freelance developer

Ashlyn Anderson - BS 2020. Currently: Computational biologist at HudsonAlpha

Houston Wingo - BS 2020. Currently: Senior AI/ML developer at Camgian Microsystems

Nilsamarie Rodriguez - BS 2020

Chris Youssef - BS 2022. Currently: MA student at the University of Alabama

Kaylee Covan - BS 2018. Currently: PA student at the University of South Alabama

Obie Moultrie - BS 2018. Currently: MD student at UAB

Danielle Kem - BS 2018. Currently: MD student at Ohio State

Mackenzie Valentin - BS 2017. Currently: Medical resident at UAB

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