I study how muscle powers animal movement by combining muscle physiology and comparative biomechanics. Studying muscle function at one level raises questions at others, so I integrate cellular/molecular, tissue-level, and organismal studies to create a full picture of how muscle’s structure and properties can produce organism-level outcomes. Comparative studies that incorporate under-studied muscle types or animal behaviors can allow us to broaden our understanding of muscle form and function and the evolutionary drivers of muscle diversity.
I earned a B.A. in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA in 2010. During my time at F&M, I spent several years working with Dr. Joseph Thompson looking at muscle physiology and biomechanics in long-finned squid throughout ontogeny. We spent summers at the Darling Marine Center in Walpole, ME. I’m back at F&M as a post-doctoral researcher and am studying the structure & function of obliquely striated muscle from diverse invertebrate phyla to explore why oblique striations repeatedly evolved in soft-bodied organisms.
I received an M.S. in Biology from Northern Arizona University in 2013 under the direction of Dr. Kiisa Nishikawa. I worked with the muscular dystrophy with myositis (mdm) mouse model, which has a deletion in the gene for the giant muscular spring, titin. My thesis project focused on how the mdm mutation affected shivering thermogenesis. Specifically, I found that the mdm mutants had a lower than expected shivering frequency, which could be explained by a decrease in active muscle stiffness.
My Ph.D. work was completed in Dr. Andy Biewener’s lab at Harvard University‘s Department of Organismic & Evolutionary Biology. I had the privilege of working at Harvard’s Concord Field Station to study how ducks perform a range of behaviors both in water and on land. I used high-speed light and X-ray videography to quantify movement combined with in vivo techniques to measure how one important leg muscle (lateral gastrocnemius) functions as the ducks moved. I used in situ techniques to measure muscle properties at the whole muscle-level. My work at the Concord Field Station focused on mallard ducks, but I also explored how duck hindlimb skeletal anatomy and kinematics change across species and with different swimming abilities by measuring hindlimb skeletal anatomy of museum specimens representing 80+ species and compared the mallard kinematics to other species filmed at the Livingston Ripley Waterfowl Conservancy in Litchfield, CT.