Alina Avanesyan
Among the redwoods -- Muir Woods

About Me

I have a very diverse academic background: I have studied and worked at seven different institutions in two countries. My research interests lie in the area of evolution and ecology of species interactions which I’ve been exploring using field and greenhouse experiments, a molecular biology approach, microscopy, and various lab assays. Being broadly trained as a biology researcher, I have worked with various species and explored biological mechanisms including feeding, reproduction, defenses, and adaptations to the environment. I have also taught various biological courses (as both an instructor of record and teaching assistant); I have developed new courses, and I have mentored a variety of students in their independent research projects and a wide range of laboratory methods (microscopy, molecular biology techniques, lab assays, etc.), as well as in data analysis.

I earned my Diploma and, later, my Candidate of Science degree (PhD-equivalent) in Biological Sciences at Herzen State University in St. Petersburg, Russia. I worked on cellular immune responses of pulmonate snails to infection by trematodes using Biomphalaria glabrata snails and Echinostoma caproni trematode as a model. After completing my degree in 2002 I joined the faculty at Herzen State University. As faculty, I taught a variety of lectures and laboratories, and worked with my undergraduate students on their research. In 2008, I spent a semester as a visiting research scholar at the Biology Department at the University of Northern Iowa, where I received training in molecular biology techniques and worked on phylogeography and genetic variation in Uca crab populations. The following academic year (2008/09), while still at Herzen, I became a part-time researcher at The Institute of Cytology in St. Petersburg, where I continued my training in molecular biology and worked on genetic hybridization of littoral snails.

I continued my education as a doctoral student at the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Cincinnati. My research areas included phylogenetic relationships of forensically important flies, plant-insect interactions (which became the focus of my dissertation), as well as aspects of plant population genetics. I earned my Ph.D. in Biological Sciences in 2014, under the direction of Dr. Theresa Culley. In my dissertation, I focused on interactions between native and exotic grasses and generalist insect herbivores, using a grasses-grasshoppers model and combining molecular approach and behavioral experiments. In 2016, I did two short postdocs, at Texas A&M AgriLife Research and at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, focusing on ecology of plant-insect interactions using insect pests and crop plants as my study systems. Then, during 2016/2017 academic year, I was a Genetics Instructor at Grand View University where I taught upper-level Genetics and Molecular Biology laboratory courses for biotechnology majors.

From January 2018 to July 2020, I was a Postdoctoral Associate at the Department of Entomology at the University of Maryland. I was working in Dr. Bill Lamp’s lab, where I continued my research on ecology and evolution of species interactions. I was involved in various projects; I worked on external morphology and host plant usage of the invasive spotted lanternfly using molecular approach, light microscopy, and scanning microscopy; I explored host plant usage of the potato leafhopper using molecular markers for ingested plant DNA; I also used DNA barcoding of isopods as a tool to assess wetland-stream connectivity. I participated in some other lab projects, too, and I also mentored several students in different DNA barcoding projects.

In August 2020, I joined Dr. Paula Shrewsbury’s lab (also at the Department of Entomology at UMD) as an Assistant Research Scientist. In this position, I continue my research on novel species interactions. My current focus is interactions between native and introduced parasitoids of the brown marmorated stink bug with implications for effective biocontrol of this invasive insect pest. This is a fascinating area and I enjoy my research adventures very much!

Outside my work I enjoy spending time with my husband and our little daughter. We enjoy the outdoors whenever we get a chance – hiking, biking, skiing, and simply exploring new places! And if the weather isn’t cooperating, you will find me drawing or exploring the unpredictable worlds of Neil Gaiman, Kim Stanley Robinson, J.R.R. Tolkien, and George Martin, enjoying new adventures with Stephen Hunter, or looking for all those who disappeared and “were said to been seen in San-Francisco” with Armistead Maupin…

Sergey, Alina, and Alice

…because everything is so interesting!