Principal Investigator

Vaughn Cooper, Ph.D

Principal Investigator

Vaughn Cooper is an evolutionary microbiologist and Professor at the University of Pittsburgh. He is co-Founder and Scientific Advisor of both SeqCoast Genomics and Middle Author Bioinformatics, which work together to provide advanced genome-scale sequencing and analyses using intuitive and accessible processes. He also founded EvolvingSTEM, an innovative education program for high school biology students, as well as the Center for Evolutionary Biology and Medicine at Pitt. Previously, he co-founded the Microbial Genome Sequencing Center (MiGS) and was a professor at the University of New Hampshire. He has an AB in Biology with honors from Amherst College, a PhD in Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Behavior from Michigan State University, and was a Fellow of the Michigan Society of Fellows at the University of Michigan in evolutionary biology and pediatrics. Dr. Cooper is a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and his research on microbial and genomic evolution has appeared in >100 publications. He believes that there has never been a better time to be a microbiologist or geneticist thanks to unprecedented advances in technology, and he is committed to democratizing access to these exciting tools.

Postdoctoral Researcher

Abigail Matela

Postdoctoral Associate

Abigail graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a BS in Biological Sciences and BA in Anthropology. She received her PhD in Botany from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she worked under the mentorship of David Baum to study genes involved in the evolution of plant leaf hair shape in the Mustard family. She was actively involved in teaching introductory and upper level science courses and was awarded the Eldon H. Newcomb Award for Excellence as a Teaching Assistant.

Abigail is passionate about promoting community engagement with science and has over 10 years of experience in developing science outreach materials for audiences of all ages, with a focus on women and other populations traditionally underrepresented in the sciences. She is currently working to build and expand EvolvingSTEM, an outreach program that engages middle and high school students in an authentic research experiment to explore how bacteria adapt when grown under strong selection for biofilm formation. As a native Pittsburgher, Abigail is excited to share this exceptional learning opportunity with schools across Pittsburgh.

Glenn Rapsinski

Postdoctoral Associate

To be updated.

Graduate Researcher

Alecia Rokes

PhD Student

Alecia is a graduate student in the Program in Microbiology and Immunology at Pitt. She received her Bachelor of Science in Biology from Lehigh University in 2019. At Lehigh, she was first introduced to microbiology through the SEA-PHAGES program. Her budding interest in microbial evolution led her to join the Lang Lab and work on a project studying non-transitivity of fitness evolution in yeast populations. Specifically, she investigated intracellular viral competitions and the host/virus coevolution of the Killer virus in yeast. Alecia joined the Cooper Lab in 2020 where her thesis work revolves around understanding resistance evolvability in Acinetobacter baumannii. She is interested in studying how different strains of A. baumannii, including clinical isolates, adapt and evolve in response to antibiotic pressures. In addition to general strain background differences, she is studying interactions between resistance mutations and how specific mutations affect downstream evolvability to different stresses. Her work should help to resolve the genotype-phenotype-fitness map of this high priority pathogen. Alecia is also the point person for the Cooper Lab’s in-house sequencing efforts. Outside of the lab, Alecia likes to spend time outside with her two dogs, frequenting local lakes and ponds in the summers. She is equally excited for the winters and the skiing that comes with the snow.

Anna Li

MD PhD Student

Hi! I’m an MD PhD student at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon studying bacteriophage research

Nanami Kubota

PhD Student

Nanami is a PhD student in the Program of Microbiology and Immunology (PMI) at the University of Pittsburgh. She received her bachelor’s degree in 2020 from Macaulay Honors College at Queens College, City University of New York (CUNY).

Nanami is doing her thesis work on understanding how phage genomes integrated in the bacterial chromosome (i.e., prophages) can influence bacterial fitness and community composition. To answer these questions, she works with Pseudomonas aeruginosa and its Pf phage, and dabbles a little bit in evolutionary game theory. Her training goal is to sharpen both her computational and experimental skills for applications in microbial evolution research.

Changhua Yan

Exchange Scholar

Changhua Yan is an exchange scholar from Tsinghua University in China, where he was a undergraduate student and majored in medicine. He is interested in biofilms, and currently researching on how different membrane stressors such as glycerol and ethanol affect biofilm formation of Pseudomonas fluorescens.

Undergraduate Researcher

Naomi Bastiampillai

Undergraduate Researcher

Naomi Bastiampillai is an undergraduate researcher who is a junior at the University of Pittsburgh. She is is completing her bachelors in microbiology, and is researching the role of efflux pumps in the evolution of ciprofloxacin resistance in Acinetobacter baumannii isolates. Post-graduation, Naomi would like to pursue an MD-PhD in order to satisfy her interest in research and the medical field.

Simran Randhawa

Undergraduate Researcher

I am interested in host-microbe interaction and microbial pathogenesis. Currently working under Dr. Matela on her project of how membrane sensors affect biofilm formation in Pseudomonas fluorescens. Also interested in biofilms!!

Talia Grossman

Undergraduate Researcher

To be updated.