Alina Avanesyan
Among the redwoods -- Muir Woods

Mentoring Students

DNA barcoding

In my current postdoctoral work at the University of Maryland I’ve been mentoring several students in DNA barcoding work. This work has been the main parts of three ongoing projects in our lab: (a) wetland-stream connectivity; (b) determining host plants for potato leafhoppers; and (c) tree host suitability for the spotted lanternfly. I train the students in tissue preparation, DNA isolation, PCR, visualization results using gel electrophoresis, as well as sequence analysis.

‘Wetland-stream connectivity’ connectivity is one of the most exciting projects; quite recently, Nina, my mentee, has created a reference library of mitochondrial sequences from stream isopod species - we will then BLAST sequences from wetland isopod individuals against this library to determine the matches and estimate how ‘close’ wetland species are to stream species.

Update - 02/22/19: Nina presented her research project earlier this week at her school’s science fair and got 3rd prize! So exciting!

Developing PCR protocol with a black fly sample (BF) as a control (Oct-Nov, 2018)
Nina's first successful PCR amplification of isopod mitochondrial COI gene (December 10, 2018)

Update - 04/26/19: Nina succesfully presented the final results of her year-long project at her school’s research symposium!

Nina presented her final poster at the ERHS Research Symposium (April 26, 2019; Greenbelt, MD)

Update - 05/25/19: We’ve submitted 5 sequences to GenBank with my other mentees who worked on our ‘Plant DNA detection from sap-feeders’-project. All the submissions have been approved and accession numbers have been assigned. Very exciting!


During my postdoctoral work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison I trained a high school student in tissue dissection and isolation, slide preparation, tissue and cell identification, morphological analysis. Claire did a research project on the spotted wing drosophila through the Biotechnology Youth Apprenticeship program. Claire learned how to use a new protocol I developed for dissecting fly tissues and determining fly mating status. She successfully applied this new technique to different fly specimens; she also created beautiful illustrations for an invited manuscript which we published later in Insects. Here are some of the figures Claire made for our paper:

Scheme of Drosophila suzukii‘s reproductive system and a spermatheca of a mated Drosophila suzukii female under the compound microscope at 20× objective lens; the scale is 50 µm (Avanesyan et al., 2017; Images by Claire Mattmiller)

Additionally, Claire compiled a large dataset for temperature and humidity data we used in another paper on the effect of temperature and humidity on the seasonal phenology of the spotted wing drosophila.

PlantingScience Mentor

As a PlantingScience fellow, during summer/fall 2017 I participated in the PlantingScience program (Botanical Society of America; Digging Deeper project). I was an online scientist mentor and liaison for student research teams (high school and middle school students).

That was my first year with the PlantingScience program. I really enjoyed our summer workshop in Colorado Springs and meeting with biology teachers from around the country, as well as our wonderful trip to the Garden of the Gods. Last Fall, I was a scientist mentor for nine research teams and a liaison for a biology teacher and three research teams in her class. The student teams which I mentored, focused on The Power of Sunlight module and conducted their independent research projects on plant photosynthesis and respiration.

Since then, I stayed with PlantingSceince, and I’ve been serving as a scientist mentor every semester. During Fall 2018, I worked as a member of Master Plant Science Team serving as a liaison for one class and a mentor for three student teams. Great experience! I’m continously looking forward to being a part of this interesting program every semester!

Digging Deeper Summer Professional Development
July 23-27, 2017. Colorado Springs, CO.
A wonderful field trip to the Garden of the Gods. July 26, 2017. Colorado Springs, CO.

Animal Ecology

In 2003, at Herzen State University, I started teaching a course on Animal Ecology. Since then, I’ve supervised the research of several undergraduate students, including short projects (as a part of their independent research), as well as their final theses (a Diploma in Russian academia) …more information

Photo credit: Alexandr Mogilev. Thesis project: Ecological adaptations of the Felidae family: example of the Siberian tiger, Pantera tigris altaica (Leningrad Zoo, St. Petersburg, Russia, 2005)