Neil H. Shubin, PhD
Robert R. Bensley Distinguished Service Professor of Organismal Biology and Anatomy
Committee on Genetics, Genomics and Systems Biology
I seek to understand the mechanisms behind the evolutionary origin of new anatomical features and faunas. The philosophy that underlies all of my empirical work is derived from the conviction that progress in the study of evolutionary biology results from linking research across diverse temporal, phylogenetic, and structural scales. The Origin of Novel Faunas and Anatomical Systems: Much of today’s vertebrate diversity was defined by ecological and evolutionary shifts that happened during two critical intervals in the history of the Earth: the Devonian and the Triassic. These periods serve as the focal point for my research because they witness the origin of both new ecosystems and new anatomical designs. My expeditionary research supplies new fossils and a paleoenvironmental context to understand the origin of faunas, whereas our morphological, functional, and developmental studies yield hypotheses on anatomical transformations.
Thomas A. Stewart, Ph.D.
I am an evolutionary and developmental biologist. My research aims to explain how new body parts originate and how they diversify. My interests are broad, and ongoing projects are focused the developmental and genetic basis of skeletal patterning in fins and limbs, the evolution of mammae, and the origin of blinking.
Justin Lemberg, Ph.D.
I am a paleontologist and functional morphologist seeking to understand how aquatic vertebrates adapted their feeding mechanisms during the water-to-land transition.
Evolution of the earliest tetrapods involved not only a shift from finned appendages to limbs with digits but also major morphological changes to the skull and head-trunk interface. Using modern analogs, such as alligator gar and polypterids, as well detailed anatomical reconstructions based on computed tomography (μCT) data, my research attempts to illuminate the functional implications of tetrapodomorph cranial evolution, particularly as it relates to prey-capture strategies, feeding kinematics, and expansive linkage-systems.
Katie Mika, Ph.D.
As an evolutionary geneticist, my work utilizes cutting edge molecular techniques on non-model and model marine organisms to elucidate the molecular underpinnings of marine phenotype evolution. I am currently exploring the fin-to-limb transition using single cell sequencing under the guidance of Dr. Neil Shubin and Dr. Anindita Basu. Additionally, I am working to establish the little skate (Leucoraja erinacea) as a model for oviparous marine vertebrate microbiome studies.
Mirna Marinić, Ph.D.
I am trained as a developmental biologist and have special interest in gene expression regulation and mechanisms of evolutionary innovations. I’ve earned my PhD degree at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany, where I studied regulation of the Fgf8 gene during mouse embryonic development. At the University of Chicago I investigated the molecular basis of the evolution of mammalian pregnancy, whereas my current work in the Shubin lab involves studying differences and similarities between developmental and regenerative processes in axolotl appendages. Additionally, I have a long-standing interest in combining science with arts and work on sci-art collaborative projects.
Shiri Kult, Ph.D.
I am a developmental biologist. My research focuses on respiratory system regeneration. I am interested in exploring how evolutionary processes have shaped the mechanisms that regulate tissue renewal. My PhD dissertation focused on elucidating the molecular identity of the cells that attach between tendon and bone during mouse limb development.
Shahid Ali, Ph.D.
I did my BS in Bioinformatics from COMSATS University Islamabad Pakistan, where I worked on the evolution of BBTV of family Nanoviridae. I joined the National Center of Bioinformatics Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad for my PhD. My research focused on transcriptional regulation of vertebrate developmental genes. Employing comparative genomics approaches and transgenic reporter assays in zebrafish and mouse, we identified the ancestral gnathostome set of enhancers regulating GLI2 and GLI3 transcription in different developing tissues, including the pectoral fins, CNS and heart. I worked as a postdoc in McMenamin Lab where I researched the postembryonic development of zebrafish paired fins in different thyroid hormone background. In Shubin Lab I am working on the development and evolution of medline fins.
I am an evolutionary developmental biologist. I work to gain a mechanistic understanding of large-scale skeletal transitions in vertebrate lineages. This includes research on the positioning and patterning of pelvic fins, and the fin-to-limb transition. I draw on a range of models and techniques from analysis of fossils and modern specimens, inferring morphological history, to molecular biology, determining developmental pathways in modern species. I plan to synthesise this information into a better understanding of how evolution acts to adapt body plans.
My dissertation work focuses on studying the evolutionary and developmental aspects of a structural novelty: the anuran urostyle. I use a combination of molecular, morphological, and functional approaches to understand how and why the frog urostyle evolved.
Igor Schneider, Ph.D.
Visiting Associate Professor,
I obtained a B.S degree at the Federal University of Para (Brazil), a Ph.D in Genetics at the University of Iowa and had my postdoctoral training at the University of Chicago. I am currently an Assistant Professor at the Federal University of Para and a Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago.
Why can some species regenerate body parts while others cannot? Is there a genetic and gene regulatory toolkit for regeneration? My long-term research aims at exploiting the diversity of animal life to understand how regeneration evolves and to identify conserved and derived mechanisms of regeneration. I have been developing the West African lungfish and the Senegal bichir as research systems to study fin and tail/spinal chord regeneration.
Melvin M. Bonilla, Ph.D.
Lab Manager/Staff Scientist
My research interests are in the underlying genetic and epigenetic variation that contribute to evolutionary innovation. How both intrinsic and extrinsic factors play a role in the development of these innovations?
Currently, I am using CT scan technology and histological data to look at a developmental series of the endoderm and its derivatives in the little skate (Leucoraja erinacea). In tandem, I am also using In situ experiments to look at the expression of genes known to be involved in mammalian gut regionalization to test the hypotheses of their conserved function across jawed vertebrates.
I am a Biology major in the Class of 2025 at the College and have been working with the Shubin Lab since June of 2022.
My academic interests are in developmental biology and anthropology.
I am a Biology and Egyptology double major in the Class of 2022 at the College. I am most interested in animal behavior and its genetic basis. Previously, I have worked on temperature preference and metabolism in Astyanax mexicanus, the Mexican Tetra. Outside of the lab, I currently research the morphology of hieratic (cursive hieroglyph) characters in the Egyptian Middle Kingdom.
In the lab, my main work is assisting Katie with the investigation into the diversity of fish fin development through single-cell analysis. I use a combination of computational and wet lab methods across multiple species (zebrafish, little skate, chain catshark, and spotted gar) to address this fascinating question. Additionally, I am working on exploring possible connections between hoxa13 mutations and zebrafish anxiety behavior.
I am an Anthropology major and Classical Studies and Biology double minor in the Class of 2022 at the College. I have been working with the Shubin Lab since January 2020.
My primary academic interests are centered around paleoanthropology, bioarchaeology, osteology, and human evolution.