The Tate Lab


Principal Investigator

Tate_AnnThomas_PortraitAnn T. Tate, Ph.D.

I am an Assistant Professor in the Vanderbilt University Department of Biological Sciences (Jan. 2017 – present). My research focuses on understanding reciprocal ecological and evolutionary feedbacks between hosts and parasites, using a combination of theoretical and empirical approaches to zoom back and forth between the molecular details and the population level processes.

Before moving to Vanderbilt I was a USDA NIFA postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Biology and Biochemistry at the University of Houston, mentored by Tim Cooper. I completed my Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University (advised by Andrea L. Graham), and received my B.S. from Rice University.

Contact: a.tate@vanderbilt*dot*edu

CV: Tate_CV (updated Feb 2022)

Research Assistant

MorganPfefferMorgan Pfeffer

I joined the Tate lab as a research assistant in October of 2022. I earned my bachelor’s degree in human physiology from the University of Minnesota in 2020. Thereafter, I received a master’s degree from Lipscomb University in biomolecular science. At Lipscomb I worked with C. elegans to study anthelmintic resistance under the guidance of Brian Ellis. Outside of the lab I enjoy reading, hanging out with my roommate’s cat, and exploring the city of Nashville. Contact: morgan.m.pfeffer@Vanderbilt.Edu

Postdoctoral Fellows

Alissa WilliamsAlissa Williams, Ph.D.

I am a postdoctoral scholar researching the evolution of the insect immune system. Specifically, I am interested in signatures of selection in immune system genes as well as duplication of those genes. I received bachelor’s degrees in biology and computer science from Wofford College in 2015. I completed my Ph.D. in 2021 with Dr. Daniel Sloan at Colorado State University. My graduate work focused on coevolution between the chloroplast and nuclear genomes. I joined the Tate lab in October 2021, where I am continuing to use computational methods to identify and understand evolutionary patterns. In addition to research, I also enjoy teaching and mentoring. Outside of work, I enjoy hiking, biking, visiting national parks sites, reading, and watching football. Contact:

ArunPrakashArun Prakash, Ph.D.

I’m a postdoc in the Tate lab since Apr 2022. My research focus, very broadly – is to understand the evolutionary ecology of infectious diseases. I’m particularly interested in how individuals adaptively evolve with infections or against infections using experimental evolution, immunology, genetics, and genomics as primary tools. I’m currently researching how the development and genetic architecture of innate immune systems could influence host-parasite coevolution in flour beetles. Understanding the coevolutionary trajectories could lead to important insights into variation in disease outcomes. Before moving to Vanderbilt, I completed my doctoral studies in Evolutionary biology, Immunology and Infection research at the University of Edinburgh, UK (2018 – 2021) advised by Pedro Vale. My PhD work was on the innate immune regulation of disease tolerance and priming, mainly focusing on the negative immune regulators. For my Master’s thesis, I worked with Deepa Agashe, NCBS, Bengaluru, India. I’m proud to be a first-generation college graduate and continued my education despite my family, and friends constantly asking me – why I’m still in school. Contact:


Allyson Ray, Ph.D.

I am a postdoctoral scholar since November 2022, broadly interested in the evolutionary interplay between pathogens / parasites and their hosts. In the Tate lab, I am investigating translation dynamics during the innate immune response of the Tribolium flour beetle. Prior to joining the lab, I completed my dual Bachelors in Molecular and Cellular Biology as well as Psychology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, in 2016. There, I worked in Dr. Gene Robinson’s lab studying gene networks and honey bee (Apis mellifera) social behavior, and RNAi efficacy in viral infection. In 2022, I completed my Ph.D. at Penn State University under Dr.s Christina Grozinger and Jason Rasgon, integrating multiple aspects of bee biology, field collections, experimental evolution methods, and genomic approaches to investigate honey bee – deformed wing virus dynamics and evolution after the introduction of the parasitic Varroa destructor mite. Outside of lab, I enjoy coffee, cooking, and video games. Contact:

Graduate Students

JustinJustin Critchlow

I am a Ph.D. candidate investigating the causes behind phenotypic variation in disease symptoms and their impact on onward transmission of parasites. Previously I worked on the population dynamics of the white-footed mouse at Penn State University. Outside of the lab, you’ll find me running around in the sun, listening to podcasts, or behind a good book.
Contact: jtc5120@gmail*dot*com

SadiqMd Sadequr Rahman

I am a Ph.D. student (joined the Tate lab in 2021) and am broadly interested in understanding how biotic and abiotic factors can affect host immune systems and shape host-pathogen coevolutionary dynamics. I got my bachelor’s in Zoology and a master’s degree in Parasitology. I earned a second master’s degree in Ocean, Coastal and Earth Sciences from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) where I studied the impact of rising seawater temperatures on prooxidant-antioxidant homeostasis of the American oyster. Outside of the lab, you will find me hiking, fishing, watching anime, or behind a sketchboard giving shapes to my wild imaginations. Contact:


Reese Martin

I am a PhD candidate using computational methods to investigate the evolution of the immune system, with a special focus on co-evolutionary dynamics between hosts and parasites. Previously I worked on understanding the effects of deep brain stimulation on people with epilepsy at Yale University. Outside of lab I enjoy hiking, playing games with friends, and reading a good book. Contact:


Louise Perrier

I am a Ph.D. student who joined the Tate lab in the spring of 2022 to study the evolution of the immune system using computational methods. I am currently investigating the differential expression of immune system regulators and the consequences of these variations on host fitness and evolution. I have two bachelor’s degrees, one in mathematics and another in biochemistry with a computer science minor. As an undergraduate, I also worked on research projects in population genetics and organic chemistry. Contact:

 Undergraduate Students

  Carly StewartCarly Stewart 

Carly is a sophomore from Cleveland, Ohio majoring in Molecular and Cellular Biology. Her work in the lab focuses on the genetic basis of innate immunity in insects. Carly is interested in a career in genetics, and outside of the lab, she enjoys reading, spending time with friends and family, and is currently learning to play the ukulele.

Katherine Zhong

Katherine Zhong

Katherine is a sophomore at Vanderbilt double majoring in Molecular and Cellular Biology and MHS on the pre-med track. Her work in the lab relates to understanding the evolutionary dynamic between pathogens and the immune systems of their hosts with a broad interest in infectious diseases. Aside from research, Katherine enjoys discovering new restaurants and coffee shops, listening to music, and attempting to finish NYT crossword puzzles.

OscarHeadshot1Oscar Almanza

My name is Oscar Almanza, I’m from Houston Texas, and am a sophomore majoring in both Spanish and Biology. I’m also a first-generation college student, Questbridge Scholar, and proud Mexican-American! I enjoy spending time with my friends, exploring trails, and playing video games with my siblings. I’m also interested in a career in both teaching and research.

Lab Alumni

Siqin Liu (RAII)

Siqin researched the impact of coinfection on within-host dynamics and priority effects for disease transmission in our flour beetle system. She now works as a technician in the Diabetes Center at VUMC.

Stephanie Birnbaum, Ph.D. (Postdoc)

During her time as a postdoc in the lab (2019-2022), Stephanie experimentally evolved resistance against pesticides in the flour beetle system to understand how pesticide resistance and pesticide exposure influenced immune responses against bacterial pathogens. She is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at Occidental College.

Destane Garrett (Graduate Student)

Destane earned her Master’s Degree in 2022. During her time as a graduate student, Destane investigated the physiological and fitness costs of pesticide resistance in the flour beetle system. She is currently the Biological Innovation Program Coordinator at the Vanderbilt Wond’ry.

Nora Schulz, Ph.D. (Postdoc)

During her time as a postdoc in the lab (2019-2021), Nora investigated interactions among coinfecting parasite species and their impact on infection outcomes and host immune responses. She is currently a postdoc in Joachim Kurtz’s lab at the University of Münster.

Jessica Hernandez, Ph.D. (Postdoc)

Jessica enjoyed a short stint as an NSF PRFP Postdoctoral Fellow in the lab, working on the evolution of parasite transmission mode, before landing her dream job as the Director of Grants and Fellowships at Whitman College.

Justin Buchanan (Postdoc)

Justin was a USDA NIFA Postdoctoral Fellow (2019-2021) investigating the role of metabolism in host resistance and tolerance to infection, and the interaction of infection and circadian rhythms. He is currently a Postdoc in Jessica Hite’s lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Thi Ngo (Graduate Student)

Thi earned her Master’s degree in the lab in Summer 2021, employing computational methods to investigate the impact of pleiotropy on immune system evolution. She is currently pursuing her passion for art and opportunities to explore science through art.

Ana Torres (Undergrad)

Ana was an undergraduate Biology major (Class of 2021) who completed her Honors Thesis on characterizing the role of cellular and humoral immune responses against naturally occurring parasites in flour beetles. She is headed to medical school to pursue a career as a physician.

Abby Perry (Undergrad)

Abby was an undergraduate Biology major (Class of 2020) from Mississippi. Her work in the lab focused on differences in immune gene transcription between larval and adult beetles. Outside the lab, her interests include music, running, and Russian language. She is now an Exchange Teacher in Japan (JET Program).

Faith Rovenolt (Undergrad)

Faith was an undergraduate EEOB major (Class of 2020) who completed her Honors Thesis on modeling coinfected host competition and coexistence. Outside of the lab, her interests include sketching, writing, and being out in nature. She is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of Pittsburgh.

Yongjia Deng (Undergrad)

James was an undergraduate Biochemistry major (Class of 2020) from West Virginia. In the lab, he worked to define the contribution of dietary macronutrients to host defense against microbes. He is now pursuing postbaccalaureate research opportunities.

Anna Borchers (Undergrad)

Anna was a Molecular and Cellular Biology major (Class of 2020) from San Francisco, CA. Her work in the lab focused on genotype-specific coinfections in flour beetles and microbial genomics. She is now pursuing a career in global humanitarian research and aid in the health sector.

Derrick Jent (RA-II)

Derrick previously worked on fungal infections in spiders and crickets, and most recently delved into the mysteries of citrus greening disease. As a Tate Lab member, he applied penchant for insect infection systems to study host-microbe interactions during co-infection.

Emma Blackford (Undergrad)

Emma was an undergraduate Environmental Studies and English major at Oberlin College (Class of 2020) originally from Nashville, TN. She is interested in ecology and invertebrate biology, and in the Tate lab primarily researched gregarine parasites and their relationships with Tribolium beetles. She is now pursuing a career in ecology and conservation.

Kelsey Auman (Undergrad)

Kelsey was an undergraduate student (Class of 2018) from Buffalo, NY majoring in Molecular and Cellular Biology.  Her work in the lab focused on transmission methods of the parasite Farinocystis triboli in flour beetles. Outside of the lab, her interests include volunteering, traveling, and music.

Elizabeth Greer

Elizabeth is currently a biology and biomedical science teacher at Ravenwood High School in Brentwood, TN. Her background is organismal biology with a B.S. and a Master in Education from the University of Tennessee at Martin. Elizabeth volunteered in the summer 2017 completing research with Tribolium beetles. In her free time, she is often grading and planning lessons for amazing students… but also loves going to concerts and music festivals, going on adventures with her husband and dogs, and visiting with her family.