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_July2020

Research Assistant

siqinLiu (2)

 Siqin Liu, M.S. (RA-II)

I received a Master’s degree at Tennessee State University where I focused on detecting pathogenic bacteria from foods including fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products and identifying antimicrobial resistance and virulence genes in these bacterial isolates. Now I am particularly interested in understanding the impact of co-infection on host and parasite population stability. Outside the lab, my interests include music, cooking and visiting national parks.

Contact: Siqin.liu@vanderbilt*dot*edu

Postdoctoral Fellows

birnbaum_dissertationStephanie Birnbaum, Ph.D.

I am a USDA NIFA post-doctoral fellow researching the molecular interactions between pesticide resistance and immunity against pathogens in flour beetles. I completed my Ph.D. in 2019 at Vanderbilt where I used a non-model insect species, the milkweed-oleander aphid, to investigate the role of transcriptional plasticity in adaptation to toxic environments. Prior to my Ph.D., I worked at Emory University as a lab manager after completing my B.S. degree from Emory in 2010. I am broadly interested in the evolution of specialization and the molecular mechanisms underlying obligate species interactions. Aside from research, I am passionate about exposing the next generation of students to the wonders of science and continue to seek opportunities to serve in K-12 outreach projects. Contact: stephanie.s.chiang*at*vanderbilt*dot*edu


Justin Buchanan, Ph.D.

I am a USDA NIFA post-doctoral fellow researching the impact of metabolism on disease tolerance and transmission. I completed my Ph.D. in 2019 at University of Nebraska-Lincoln with Dr. Kristi Montooth. During my Ph.D. I investigated how flies with decreased mitochondrial function are able to physiologically compensate during development, and in the mechanisms by which these flies respond to the further costs of infection. My overarching interest is in understanding how organisms respond to infection given that growth and reproduction require energetic investment, and responses to the biotic and abiotic environment during development may divert energy away from these core processes. Contact: justin.l.buchanan*at*gmail*dot*com

Nora SchulzNora Schultz, Ph.D.

I am a postdoctoral research scholar interested in host-parasite interactions and the evolution of the insect immune system. I received my PhD from the University of Muenster, Germany in 2018. During my PhD, I worked in the group of Prof. Joachim Kurtz on the phenomenon of transgenerational immune priming in the red flour beetle and investigated the role of DNA and RNA methylation, as epigenetic candidate mechanisms behind this phenomenon. I joined the Tate Lab in November 2019 continuing working with flour beetles and their naturally occurring bacterial parasite Bacillus thuringiensis. My current work focuses on how co-infections with a second parasite and competition between different flour beetle species can affect host-parasite interactions, i.e. co-evolution, thereby generating a more precise picture of the complex situations encountered in the wild. Additionally, I plan to investigate possible pleiotropic constraints on immune gene evolution across a variety of insect species. Contact: nora.schulz*at*Vanderbilt.Edu

Graduate Students

JustinJustin Critchlow

I am a Ph.D. student 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

DestaneDestane Garrett

*bio coming soon*



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I am from California where I got my bachelor’s degree in Molecular Biology & Biochemistry from the University of California, Irvine. I joined the Tate Lab in January 2020 as a PhD student where I explore the intersection between immunology and molecular evolution. Specifically, I want to investigate how the life histories of an organism shape and constrain evolution of the immune system’s genetic repertoire. Using the flour beetle as a system with potential expansion to non-model insects, I hope to understand why diverse animals have such different levels of investment in immunity, and how that affects their fitness as a whole. Outside of lab, you can find me stealthily taking pictures of wild animals or simply exploring town.

 Undergraduate Students

headshot2Ana Torres

Ana is a rising senior at Vanderbilt University, and is interesting in pursuing a career in immunology. Ana’s research project involves characterizing the role of cellular and humoral immune responses against naturally occurring parasites in flour beetles.

Katherine Zhong *Bio coming soon*


Melissa Numi *Bio coming soon*


Lab Alumni

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 begins a Ph.D. program in Fall 2020 at the University of Pittsburgh.

Yongjia “James” 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.