The Biology Department at Western Washington University has openings for graduate students starting Fall 2022. Faculty members in the department offer a wide range of expertise, from molecular biology to ecology. Graduate students are eligible for teaching assistantships, which fund the majority of tuition and provide a stipend of $14,856 per 9-month academic year. WWU is located in Bellingham, WA, a coastal city north of Seattle at the base of Mt. Baker in the northwestern part of the state. We strongly advise interested students to contact potential advisors in their area of specialty to get more details about individual labs.
APPLICATION DUE DATE: Feb. 1, 2022
More information can be found with the following resources:
• The Biology Dept: ;
• For applications, the WWU Graduate School: http://www.wwu.edu/gradschool/App_Reqs_Deadlines.shtml;
• Dr. David Hooper, Biology Graduate Program Advisor, hooper at wwu.edu;
• By contacting the individual faculty, below.
Alejandro Acevedo-Gutiérrez: The Marine Mammal Ecology Lab aims to understand the role of marine mammals in their environment and their interactions with humans. For academic year 2022-2023, Dr. Dietmar Schwarz and I are looking for a student interested in examining relatedness of harbor seals in the Salish Sea. To learn more about this position and about the lab, please visit Do notice that I ask interested students to informally apply with me by December 17th of 2021.
Shawn Arellano: Marine invertebrate larval ecology and deep-sea ecology. The Arellano lab has opportunities to study larval biology and larval ecology in deep-sea, hydrothermal-vent organisms as part of an NSF-funded project. Research training opportunities may include larval culturing and embryology, larval physiology and behavior techniques, use of oceanographic equipment, microscopy, and/or molecular ecology approaches.
Marion Brodhagen: Microbiology, molecular biology, and chemical ecology. We are studying the interaction of the fungus Aspergillus with plants. Specifically, we are interested in the ability of plant natural products to alter fungal development, including the production of the potent toxin, aflatoxin. We also are interested in how growth on agriculturally-used biodegradable plastics alters development and toxin production by this ubiquitous soil fungus.
Jim Cooper: The Cooper Evo-Devo lab focuses on aspects of development that have shaped long-term evolutionary patterns. We are particularly interested in how changes in skull morphogenesis alter the cranial mechanics of fishes in ways that allow them to invade new feeding niches. To do this we combine several different approaches that include studies of wild-caught marine fish larvae from the Salish Sea, experimental work with genetically modified zebrafish, using high-speed video to collect biomechanical data, transcriptomic studies of fish skull development, genetic mapping, and evolutionary studies of cranial form and function. Because our work is highly integrative, our lab group can accommodate students with a diverse range of interests.
Lina Dalberg: The Dahlberg Lab uses the model organism C. elegans to probe the neurobiological, cellular, and behavioral role for proteins involved in a ubiquitin-dependent processes called Endoplasmic Reticulum Associated Degradation (ERAD). Student projects will use a variety of techniques, including fluorescence microscopy, behavioral assays, and biochemical characterization to investigate how ERAD targets neural receptors for degradation. A second, NSF-funded project focuses on teaching and learning in undergraduate science laboratory courses; students interested in this project should have experience (via coursework or research) in education and pedagogy research.
Deb Donovan: Research in the Donovan lab is focused on restoration aquaculture of our native pinto abalone, Haliotis kamtschatkana. Pinto abalone populations have declined precipitously in the last few decades and we collaborate with the Puget Sound Restoration Fund and with government agencies to restore populations in the Salish Sea. Student projects could focus on any aspect restoration, including optimizing rearing of juveniles at the hatchery, outplanting larval or juvenile abalone, or monitoring abalone at outplant sites. Students work closely with hatchery personnel to identify projects that align with student interest and that contribute meaningfully to abalone restoration.
Nick Galati: Cilia are evolutionarily ancient, hair-like projections that generate hydrodynamic force and process extracellular information. The goal of our lab is to understand how cells build cilia, with a specific focus on how individual proteins traffic to and from a structure at the base of cilia, called the basal body. Much like traffic cameras and GPS illuminate vehicular traffic patterns, we aim to create a spatial map of protein movement to and from cilia as they assemble and sense the environment. To do this, we combine high-resolution fluorescence microscopy with digital image analysis to detect and quantify ciliary protein trafficking in space and over time. Our analyses are primarily conducted in mammalian cells and in the protist Tetrahymena.
David Hooper: Plant Community and Ecosystem Ecology: effects of riparian restoration on nutrient retention in mixed use watersheds. I am looking for one new graduate student in fall 2022 to work on a modeling project to assess the impacts of riparian restoration on upland nutrient retention in the Nooksack River watershed. Student work would combine GIS analyses and modeling of riparian buffers with field work assessing nutrient runoff to validate modeling results. This project is linked to the Nooksack Fraser Transboundary Nitrogen Project and the International Nitrogen Management System. Please see a full description of the project and desired grad student characteristics at my web site below. I strongly recommend contacting me prior to applying if you are interested in working in my lab.
Suzanne Lee: Current research in the Lee Lab is focused on understanding the biological impacts of mysterious non-protein coding RNAs, with the broad goal of elucidating the underlying molecular mechanisms that govern RNA production, function, and degradation to maintain optimal cellular health. A major focus of Lee Lab research at the moment is on elucidating the molecular mechanisms by which endogenous RNA interference pathways protect genomes from accumulated DNA damage. We are also interested in how proteins involved in RNA interference pathways are regulated and how long non-coding RNAs are recognized for small RNA production through RNA interference pathways. To address these and other questions, we employ the tools of biochemistry, molecular biology, bioinformatics, microscopy, cell biology, and reverse genetics, using the ciliate Tetrahymena thermophila as our model eukaryotic system.
Craig Moyer: My interests are marine microbiology and geomicrobiology focusing on molecular approaches for exploring microbial diversity, community structure and ecological interactions. Presently, my lab and I are focused on the study of iron-oxidizing Zetaproteobacteria acting as the ecosystem engineers in microbial mats found at strong redox boundaries, including seep, spring and vent habitats. We are also examining the evolutionary divergence of surface and deep subsurface Zetaproteobacteria in hydrothermal systems.
Brady Olson: Microzooplankton consume approximately 70% of marine phytoplankton primary production, making them the most significant grazers in the ocean and drivers of globally-important biogeochemical cycles. My interests are gaining understanding of the mechanisms that govern the ecology of these important zooplankton, primarily the factors that regulate their feeding behavior.
Merrill Peterson: Insect Ecology, Evolution, and Diversity. The primary focus of our research is on Lepidoptera (butterfly and moth) diversity in the Pacific Northwest. Included in this research is field surveys examining landscape-scale factors affecting community composition, as well as efforts to develop web-based biodiversity resources to facilitate the work of professional entomologists and citizen scientists.
Lynn Pillitteri: Plant Molecular and Developmental Biology. A potential graduate project in my lab would be aimed at understanding the molecular mechanisms driving cell type differentiation in the model organism, Arabidopsis thaliana.
Dan Pollard: We study the causes of cellular trait variation. Our primary system is mating pheromone induced cell differentiation in baker’s yeast. We use a broad array of techniques from genome editing to fluorescence microscopy to computer modeling. Much of our work focuses on RNA and protein metabolism. Current student projects include: (1) Molecular mechanisms of natural variation in protein production and degradation, (2) Genomic analysis of RNA interference pathway proteins (collaboration with Suzanne Lee in the department), (3) Inhibition of CRISPR Cas-9 by nucleosomes, (4) Influences of genetic and environmental variables on the kinetics of cell differentiation, and (5) Diversity and substrate specialization of yeast species in Whatcom county (outreach project w/ local middle schools). Graduate and undergraduate students typically work collaboratively in teams on projects and there are opportunities to develop new research directions. Please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you are interested in joining our team.
Dietmar Schwarz: Ecological and Evolutionary Genetics and Genomics, Evolutionary Ecology. Schwarz's lab offers opportunities to study speciation, hybridization, and adaptation in host specific insects (apple maggot flies and relatives). The Schwarz lab also collaborates with Alejandro Acevedo on the molecular ecology of foraging in harbor seals.
Anu Singh-Cundy: Plant Cell Biology and Biochemistry. We study cell-cell interactions at the physiological, cellular, and molecular levels. Current projects are focused on understanding the role of HD-AGPs, which are extracellular glycoproteins that are expressed in the transmitting tissue of the pistil and in the vasculature of roots and shoots. We also study pectins and pectin-modifying enzymes found in the pistil of solanaceous species.
Suzanne Strom: Plankton Ecology and Biological Oceanography. My lab studies the protists at the base of the ocean’s food web, including phytoplankton (single-celled algae) and their protist consumers. Areas of interest include the regulation of primary production at high latitudes and the effect of climate change on planktonic food web structure and function. Most of my current research takes place at sea in the northern Gulf of Alaska, as part of the national network of Long-Term Ecological Research sites (). For Fall 2022 we are seeking a graduate student to participate in a new project focused on the smallest phytoplankton in the Gulf of Alaska food web. Please see .
Adrienne Wang: Molecular mechanisms of aging and neurodegeneration. The Wang lab is interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms of neurodegenerative disease and in identifying genetic modifiers that confer susceptibility or resistance to disease. We are especially interested in understanding how conserved signaling pathways that affect aging may interact with and mediate disease onset and progression. Current projects use fruit fly models of Alzheimer’s disease and mitochondrial disease to investigate these questions using a range of genetic, pharmacologic, and molecular techniques.
Matthew Zinkgraf: Research in the Zinkgraf lab is focused on the ecological and evolutionary genetics of undomesticated forest trees. To accomplish this research, we apply an interdisciplinary approach that utilizes methods from computational biology, genetics/genomics, molecular biology and forest ecology. Ongoing research in the lab is concentrated around two main projects. First, creating genomic resources for Pacific Madrone (Arbutus menziesii), and apply these resources to understand patterns of genetic variation and selection. Second, investigating the genetic regulation of wood formation in Populus by understand how epigenetic modifications at specific genes can alter gene expression and regulatory networks.
Please discuss your academic and research background, and your goals and project interests with potential advisors with whom you would like to work.
David Hooper, Graduate Program Advisor, or individual faculty