Current Lab Members

Liz Cooper Asst. Professor & Principal Investigator

Dr. Cooper joined the Department of Bioinformatics and Genomics at UNC Charlotte in 2018. She received her Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the University of Southern California in 2011, then worked as a post-doc at the University of Miami from 2011 to 2014. She subsequently became a research associate at Clemson University, which is where she became interested in applying her background in evolutionary biology and genomics to agricultural systems.

Azita Alasvand Zarasvand Ph.D. Student

Azita Alasvand Zarasvand received her M.Sc in Plant Genomics from North Dakota State University in 2019. Her previous research experience was focused on transcriptomic studies of Arabidopsis thaliana exposed to nanoparticles as an abiotic stress that induced physiological reprogramming of plant innate immunity in order to enhance and compromise resistance to microbial pathogens. After joining Dr. Cooper’s lab as a research assistant at UNC Charlotte in the fall of 2019, she started collaborating on various plant molecular biology experiments looking at processes that drive evolutionary adaptation and diversification in the cereal crop Sorghum.

William Voelker Ph.D. Student

William Voelker graduated from North Carolina State University with a B.S in Plant Biology in 2020. He is now working on earning his PhD in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Under the guidance of Dr. Elizabeth Cooper, he is currently studying structural variant analysis and genome assembly methods in sorghum.

Krittika Krishnan Master's Student

Krittika Krishnan is a Bioinformatics Master's student at UNC Charlotte. She has an undergraduate degree in Life science and Biochemistry from Mumbai University (India). Under the guidance of Dr. Cooper and Dr. Shelvasha Burkes (postdoc), she is currently working on a high-throughput pipeline for Transposable Element Insertion Polymorphism (TIP) analysis in a diverse group of both wild and domesticated sorghum.

Samantha Taylor Master's Student

Samantha Taylor graduated from UNC Charlotte with a B.A. in Biology in 2020, and a graduate certificate in Bioinformatics Applications in 2021. She is now working on earning her M.S. in Bioinformatics at UNC Charlotte. Samantha joined Dr. Cooper’s lab in the fall of 2021 and is currently investigating the adaptation and range expansion of Culex mosquitoes.

Jade Takakuwa Master's Student

Jade Takakuwa graduated from UNC Charlotte with a B.S. in Biology in 2020 after switching careers from graphics design to scientific research. She is currently pursuing her M.S. in Bioinformatics at UNC Charlotte. She joined the lab in spring of 2022 and is working on annotating and finding novel gene copies in Wyeomyia smithii (the pitcher plant mosquito).

Louie Alexander Master's Student

Louie Alexander graduated from Clemson University in 2018 with a B.S in Biochemistry. His subsequent research in biochemical and genetic biomarkers of disease inspired him to pursue an M.S. in Bioinformatics at UNC Charlotte with a focus on genomics. He joined the Cooper Lab during the summer of 2022 and is analyzing and visualizing variation in sorghum genome assemblies.

Former Lab Members

  • Rachel Bartolomeo (MS student, 2018-19)
  • Tuvani Ramnarine (BS student, 2019-20)
  • Cristian Ponce (HS student, 2019-20; now at CalTech)
  • Bailee Ku (Summer research intern, 2020; now at Florida State)
  • Kittikun Songsomboon (Postdoc, 2018-2020; now a postdoctoral researcher at University of Sydney)
  • Touhid Islam (MS student, 2020-21; now a PhD student at the University of Utah)
  • James Heuser (BS,MS student, 2018-21; now working for ASRT,inc. as a contractor for the CDC)
  • Shelvasha Burkes (Postdoc, 2020-21; now a Data Scientist at Syngenta)
  • Krishna Thakor (MS student, 2020-21; now an ORISE fellow at the CDC)
  • Lindsay Shields (Certificate student, 2021-22; now at the EPA in Athens, GA)
  • Sangeetha Vijayam (MS student, spring 2022)

Lab Photos

Cooper Lab in Big Basin Redwoods State Park, during the 2019 ASPB meeting in San Jose, CA

Wishing Lindsay a fond farewell at the Golden Owl in April 2022