Current Students

Graduate Students

Berenice Jiménez-Marín


  • MSc, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
  • BS, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

Berenice is a PhD student in the Interdepartmental Genetics Program. She is interested in major evolutionary transitions and learning strategies to link research on evolution and molecular biology.  Her projects are currently centered on understanding the role of cell-cell adhesion structures and molecules in the evolution of multicellularity using Chlamydomonas reinhardtiiand Goniumpectorale as models.

Bere is prone to science puns and lab shenanigans, as well as doodling.

Ruben Lerma-Reyes

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Ruben is a 2nd year Master’s student from the KSU Interdepartmental Genetics program. Ruben received his Bachelor’s of Science in Biochemistry from Newman University. His research focuses on studying an expanded family of proteins important for cell cycle regulation and its suspected co-option for multicellularity. Part of his project is the use of electroporation for transforming Gonium pectorale and the use of artificial microRNAs for downregulating his genes of interest. Ruben enjoys spending time with his cat, watching horror movies, and the occasional book.

Undergraduate Students

John Tumberger


John is an undergraduate student studying Biology and Leadership and is on the Pre-Med track. John joined the lab in 2019 as a Freshman and works closely with Berenice.  John’s current research focuses on predation as a trigger for aggregation in Chlamydomonas. Following graduation, John will attend medical school at the University of Kansas.

Gabi Shipman


Gabi is a senior undergraduate student in the K-State Microbiology program. At the Olson Lab, she works on projects investigating genes important to the evolution of multicellularity using Chlamydomonas reinhardtii and Gonium pectorale as models. Her future endeavors include obtaining a PhD in microbiology to research host-pathogen interactions and pathogenicity of microorganisms. Gabi enjoys reading and playing DND with her friends.

Ryan Pope


Ryan is an undergraduate studying biology and is on the pre-med track. Ryan joined the Olson lab in 2021 and is in the evolution of multicellularity and its potential relevance to cancer and human health. Ryan’s long-term goal is to become a bilingual physician

Hope Jeffers


Hope is an undergraduate student studying Microbiology. Hope joined the Olson Lab in 2022 and is interested in learning more about the basics of research. Hope’s long term goals are to work as a vaccinologist in the pharmaceutical industry or earn a Masters in Epidemiology and work in a hospital setting

Owen Versluis

Past Trainees

Antariksh Tyagi

During his time at the Olson lab, Antariksh’s research focused on comparing the genome and transcriptome of various volvocine algae species. Antariksh now works as am Associate Research Scientist at Yale School of Medicine.

Jessica Rakijas


  • PhD, The Ohio State University, 2017
  • BA, University of California, Berkeley, 2011

Jessica’s research interests were centered around transcriptional control of gene expression, with a particular interest in the Rb/E2F pathway.  Her other projects involved working on deciphering the role of the retinoblastoma protein (Rb) in multicellularity and transcriptional differences in Chlamydomonas and Gonium.

Chris Berger

Chris earned his MS degree in 2017 working on the evolution of cooperation. He is currently an Associate Scientist at Merck in Kansas City. He won numerous awards for his work in the and has a patent pending for advances he made in the laboratory.

Tara Marriage

Tara was a post-doc in the laboratory that made major advances in our understanding of how development evolves in undifferentiated Gonium pectorale compared to unicellular Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Tara earned her PhD from the University of Kansas in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Tara also worked collaboratively on Porphyra umbicalis cell cycle gene analysis to understand how cell cycle control is conserved in red algae. Tara earned numerous awards for her work, including two KINBRE post-doctoral fellowships, as well as an invitation to the NIH for career training. Tara is currently of Professor of Biology at Haskell University.

Yi Li

Yi Li earned her PhD from Purdue University in Plant Biology. She initiated the sequencing of several important volvocales genomes. She is currently a scientist at Calyxt in St. Paul, MN where she is involved in high throughput phenotyping.

Jessica Garcia

Jessica is a microbiology major at KSU that graduated from Rancho High School in Las Vegas, NV. She is interested a career in clinical applications of microbiology. She has interest in understanding how evolutionary principles affect clinical outcomes in patients. She is not so secretly a “cat lady”.

Courtney Hill

Courtney graduated with a bachelors degree in biology in 2020. major Courtney  graduated from Central High School in St. Joseph, MO. She is interested in how cellular adhesion evolved in multicellular organisms. Courtney is currently working towards obtaining her Ph.D from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Courtney is our resident classical music expert.

Sarah Millard

Sarah is a biology major at KSU on a pre-vet track. Her long-term goal is to enter the KSU Vet school. Sarah comes to KSU from Adams Central in Hastings, NE. Sarah does parkour and is a photographer for the KSU Collegian.

Sarah Cossey

Sarah earned her BS in Biology in 2016 and was supported as a NSF REU student and by the Johnson Cancer Center, and by the College of Arts and Sciences. She earned numerous awards and honors for her work in the laboratory and is currently a PhD student at ETH Zurich working with Greg Velicer.

Katherine Johnson

Kate earned her BS is microbiology in 2017. She established a forward genetic screen for unicellular mutants of Gonium pectorale and re-sequenced the genomes of several of these lines after back-crossing. She is currently a PhD student at NYU studying the evolution of influenza and its virulence.

Jaden Anderson

Jaden earned his BS in Biology in 2017. Jaden established the key parameters for the transformation of Gonium pectorale. In addition, he worked with Erik Hanschen in analyzing the Gonium genome. He is currently a PhD student at the University of Kansas in their Computational Biology program.

Halle Sparks

Nallely Baron-Garcia


Nallely earned her BS in Biology in 2014. Nallely established the predator project in the laboratory with summer support for the Biology REU and KINBRE. Nallely earned her MD degree from the University of Kansas Medical School and is current working on her residency at the University of South Florida in Family Medicine.

Past Summer Trainees

Kendall Olde

Kendall is currently finishing her BS in Biology at Langston University and spent a summer in the laboratory with support from SUROP and KINBRE. Kendall worked on developing a new project in the lab with post-doc Jessica Rakijas. Kendall earned second place for her talk at KINBRE 2019.

Rashid Troupe

Tina Ding

Joseph Micheal-Fields

Marissa Martin

Dayton Raines

Nicole Richardson


Nicole spent a summer in the Olson lab characterizing unicellular mutants of Gonium pectorale. She was supported by the Biology REU program and KINBRE. Prior to participating in the summer REU program, Nicole had never held a lizard or snake. Nicole went on to earn her MPH at Emory University. She now works for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.