Talia Karasov 

Assistant professor

email: t.karasov[at]

Born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin, Talia first became interested in genetics as an undergraduate at Stanford University working on the rapid evolution of insecticide resistance in Drosophila populations in the laboratory of Dmitri Petrov. As a graduate student at the University of Chicago with Joy Bergelson, she transitioned to working on the genetics of host-microbe interactions, work that she continued as a postdoc at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology working with Detlef Weigel.  She started as an Assistant Professor at the University of Utah in Fall 2020.

In her free time she loves running, hiking, climbing and reading.

Efthymia Symeonidi


email: esymeonidi1[at]

Effie grew up in a town situated at the foot of Mount Olympus in Greece. She started her studies in Thessaloniki in the Biology department of the Aristotle University and received a Master's degree from the University of Glasgow. She did her PhD in the lab of Detlef Weigel in Tuebingen working on salicylic acid production in natural accessions of A. thaliana and a postdoc in the lab of Marja Timmermans in Tuebingen on understanding cell differentiation at a single cell level.

In her free time Effie likes reading, watching movies/shows and spending time outdoors.

Aubrey Hawks

Graduate Student

email: aubreymarie37[at]

Aubrey Hawks earned her BS in Biology at the University of Utah. As an undergraduate she worked in Nitin Phadnis’s lab using Hi-C sequencing to measure reduced homologous chromosome pairing in Drosophila interspecies hybrids. More recently, she worked in Richard Clark’s lab studying plant resistance to mites. 

Outside the lab, she enjoys cooking, weightlifting, reading and spending time outdoors. Prior to studying Biology, Aubrey received an MA in Art History. She occasionally reads, writes or teaches about art. 

Talia Backman 

Graduate Student

email: talia.backman[at]

Talia received her BS in Biology at Utah Valley University.  She worked in Heath Ogden's lab to resolve the evolutionary history of Ephemeroptera, also known as mayflies.  She then joined Eric Domyan's lab and aimed to resolve the genetic mechanisms of how organisms evolve new traits in domesticated rock pigeons.  Towards the end of her undergraduate career she investigated whether microbes could break down complex carbon molecules.  


When she's not in the lab she enjoys spending time outdoors with her dogs, running, and skiing.  She also extends her love of microbes to her home life by growing gourmet mushrooms and foraging for them when she has the chance.

Lauren Eads

Graduate Student

email: lauren.eads[at]

Lauren was born and raised in Indiana. She graduated from Indiana University with a BS in Biology. As an undergraduate student, she worked in Leonie Moyle’s lab using the tomato species S. pimpinellifolium as a model to study adaptation. Before starting graduate school, she worked as a research technician in Dan Tracey’s lab. Her project there focused on Wolbachia-induced parthenogenesis in parasitoid wasps.

In her free time, she enjoys reading, painting, cooking, and spending time outdoors with her dog.

Madelyn Allen

Master's Student

email: madelyn.allen[at]

Madelyn grew up in Farmington, Utah. She graduated from the University of Utah with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology with an emphasis in Biological Chemistry and a minor in Chemistry. She has always had a passion for biology. During her undergraduate degree she had a desire to be part of the research process and decided to pursue her Master’s to begin fulfilling this desire.

 When outside of the lab, she enjoys reading, skiing, hiking, and playing the occasional video game.

Cannon Fehrenbach

Undergraduate Student

email: u1243735[at]

Cannon was born and raised in Draper Utah. Growing up he was fascinated with all things biology, and now he is a seasoned veteran of molecular biology research. This is his third year at the University of Utah as he works to a BS degree in biology. 

In his free time he enjoys basketball, video games, and reading fantasy books.

Ella Bleak

Undergraduate Student

email: ellableak[at]

Ella is an undergraduate at the University of Utah pursuing a HBS in Biochemistry and a BS in Mathematics. She was born and raised in Lehi, Utah, where she graduated from Skyridge High School. She is very excited to do research during her undergraduate years, and after graduating, she plans to go to graduate school to earn a PhD. When not in the lab, Ella loves to read fantasy, play video games, try new foods, and travel. 

Allie Perkins

Undergraduate Student

email: allison.perkins[at]

Allie was born and raised in Chanhassen, Minnesota and moved to Salt Lake in 2021 to attend the University of Utah, studying Plant Biology and Spanish. Her passion for research, ecology, and culture stem from a field project in Costa Rica directed by Dr. Adrian Pinto in the Seeds of Change Program, exploring the deterrence of Atta cephalotes ants on local farms. At the University of Utah, she studied pollen metagenomics under Josh Stephen in the Science Research Initiative before joining the Karasov lab in 2023. 

In her free time, Allie likes to explore new places, drink coffee, and water her plants.

Annika Kloepper

Undergraduate Student

email: u1324086[at]

Annika is currently in her final year of her undergraduate degree before getting a BS in Biology and a minor in photography from the University of Utah. She grew up in Moab, UT and in Oregon where she graduated from Roseburg High School before coming to Salt Lake City. Previously, Annika worked in one of the Science Research Initiative labs at the U of U that does research on pollination metagenomics. This has further fueled her passion for biology. 

Outside of the lab, Annika enjoys photography, painting, spending time outdoors, playing flute, and unicycling. 


Lab mascot

Born in Chicago, raised in Chicago and Germany he is excited to help keep the lab running in Salt Lake City.

Lab Alumni

Brad Nelson

Undergraduate Student

email: u1200766[at]

Brad Nelson was an undergraduate student at the University of Utah. He grew up in Oregon and graduated from West Linn High School. He is studying biology with an emphasis in microbiology and is minoring in history. He is passionate about science and plans to attend graduate school. He is considering pursuing a PhD in immunology. 

In his free time he enjoys aquascaping, hiking, camping, and anything to do with cars. 

Olivia Pratt

Undergraduate Student

email: u0447662[at]

Olivia worked in the lab as a Senior at the University of Utah majoring in biology with an emphasis in microbiology, and minoring in chemistry.  She loves to learn about plant and animal pathogens, and is excited to attend graduate school in a field related to her studies.  In her free time she enjoys hiking, backpacking, reading mysteries, and spending time at her family cabin in the Uintas.

Yunus Ashtijou

Undergraduate Student

email: u1199061[at]

Yunus worked in the lab during his 5th year seeking a B.S. in biology. He was raised in Cerritos, CA & moved to La Crescenta, CA where he graduated from Crescenta Valley High School in 2018. Yunus is passionate about creating change. As a member of the Coordinated Community Response Team for the Office of Violence Against Women, ASUU Campus Safety Committee, & as former president of It's On Us Utah, his college career has been centered around starting new initiatives that facilitate community improvement & engagement. In an ongoing project, he has been working with faculty & students to bring a student-led Emergency Medical Services organization to our campus.  

During his free time, Yunus likes to work on cars, raise tropical fish, collect botanical specimens, & read about social psychology!

Sarita Som

Undergraduate Student

email: u1263424[at]

Sarita is an undergraduate student at the University of Utah working toward an HBS in Biology with an emphasis in anatomy and physiology and minoring in chemistry and pediatric clinical research. She was born and raised in Annapolis, Maryland and graduated from Severn School in 2019. When not studying or doing research, she enjoys reading books, listening to podcasts, solving logic puzzles, skiing, hiking, and drawing or painting. After graduation, she hopes to go to graduate school and is still deciding between a PhD in evolutionary biology or an MD-PhD program.