Top: Carolin Frank. Middle: Asad Asghar, undergraduate student; James Kupihea, ES PhD candidate; Dana Carper, QSB PhD ; Jackie Shay, QSB PhD candidate. Bottom: Paola Saldierna, former student, and Jorge Montiel, ES PhD candidate.

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Carolin Frank (Principal Investigator) Associate Professor Carolin Frank has a M.S. in Molecular Biotechnology from Uppsala School of Engineering, Uppsala University, Sweden, and a Ph.D. in Molecular Evolution from Uppsala University, where she worked on molecular microbial evolution with Dr. Siv Andersson. Carolin briefly worked on the molecular evolution of yeast genomes as a Swedish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow with Dr. Ken Wolfe at Trinity College, Dublin before joining the UC Merced faculty.

Phone: (209) 617 4641 Email: cfrank3 [at] ucmerced [dot] edu

PhD- and undergraduate students 

Jackie Shay (PhD candidate 2016-present). Jackie has a M.S. in Evolution, Ecology and Conservation Biology from San Francisco State University. She received her B.S. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from UC Merced in 2009 as part of the inaugural class, and is thrilled to join the UC Merced community for her doctoral studies. Jackie uses genetics, ecology and evolution to discover systems of fungal and bacterial microbiomes of plants. She is focused on understanding how these systems contribute to habitat adaption, climate change, and niche breadth. Her goal is to apply these themes towards enhancing our relationship with plants and their microbial communities. 

Email: jshay[at] ucmerced [dot] edu      Website:

shapeimage_10Dr. Dana Carper successfully defended her thesis on November 5, 2018.  She’ll be with us until the end of the year, when she will start her postdoc position at Oak Ridge National Lab. Dana received a B.S. in Biological Sciences, from California State University Sacramento in 2011 and a M.S. Degree in Biological Sciences from California State University, where she focused on the microbial ecology of California vernal pools.  Her PhD thesis investigated the factors that structure  endophytic communities of pines.

Email: dcarper [at] ucmerced [dot] edu


James Kupihea (Ph.D. candidate, August 2015-present). James joins us from Michigan State University, where he did his Master’s Thesis work in biogeochemistry. James holds a B.A. and a B.S. from Evergreen State College. At UC Merced, James has already been involved in our Dimensions of Biodiversity project on nitrogen fixation in conifers. As a Ph.D. candidate in Environmental Systems, James combines acetylene reduction assay, stable isotope analysis, and molecular methods to gain a better understanding of this system.

Email: jkupihea [at] ucmerced [dot] edu


Jorge Montiel (Ph.D. candidate, August 2015-present) Jorge Montiel, joining us from Mexico City, is a PhD candidate in Environmental Systems. He is interested in researching the fungal communities of vernal pools. He obtained his B.S. in Biology from Metropolitan Autonomous University (UAM) and Master’s degree in Life Sciences in Environmental Biology from the Scientific Research and Higher Education Center of Ensenada (CICESE). His interests range from conservation biology, plant ecology, and mycology to small mammal studies with an emphasis in endangered species and habitats.

Email: jmontielmolina [at] ucmerced [dot] edu


Oscar Elias, undergraduate student. Oscar is working with James Kupihea on our Dimensions of Biodiversity project. He and James measure the rate of nitrogen fixation in Sierra lodgepole pine across age groups, from new seedlings to adult trees.





AlyssaDr. Alyssa Carrell  defended her Ph.D. thesis in August 2014 as a student in the Environmental Systems program. Alyssa graduated from UC Merced 2009, where she majored in Intergrative Biology with an emphasis in Ecology and Conservation Biology.  Alyssa pioneered the culture-independent characterization of endophyte communities in pine and discovered a novel, N2 fixing symbiosis in Pinus flexilis (limber pine). Alyssa is currently a postdoc at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Duke University.

shapeimage_9Dr. Emily Wilson defended her Ph.D. thesis in July 2015. She was the first student at UC Merced to receive the NSF Graduate Research Fellow. Emily graduated from UC Merced in 2009, where she majored in Immunology and Microbiology. For her PhD project, Emily used culturing, genome sequencing  and Bacterial Rapid Detection using Optical Scattering Technology (BARDOT) to study endophytes from conifer needle and shoot tissue. During her time at UC Merced, she was  involved in various outreach projects. See her talk about endophytes here.


Michele Conrad, who was a tech in our lab when we first started, and came back for a few months in 2015. Michele holds a M.S. degree from UC Santa Barbara.




paola dog Paola Saldierna was part of our lab from 2015 to 2018, when she got an MS degree. Paola worked on the transmission of nitrogen-fixing endophytes in high-elevation conifers growing in Yosemite National Park.



Undergraduate Alumni
Asad Asghar (2017)
Monica Molina (2017)
Megs Seeley (University of Wisconsin Madison; Yosemite REU program, summer 2015)
Lydia Lichtiger (Earlham College; Yosemite REU program, summer 2015)
Ryan Bruneau (2014)
La Triece Crawford (2014)
Kidist Yohannes (2014)
Mohammad Quasim (UC Merced, 2013-2014)
Christina Celis Pugna (UC Merced, 2013-2014)
Brian Cambra (UC Merced, 2014)
Bridget Schick (UC Merced, 2011-2014)
Arielle Reivant Munthers (University of Uppsala, M.S. thesis project, 2013-2014)
Jenny Pang (UC Merced, 2013)
Jaberpreet Dhaliwal (UC Merced, 2012-2013)
Meghana Shah (UC Merced, 2012)
Weizhou Zhao (University of Uppsala, M.S. thesis project, 2011- 2012)
Daniel Speljak (University of Uppsala, M.S. thesis project, 2011)
Jonna Danielsson (University of Uppsala, M.S. thesis project, 2011)
Robert Castro (UC Merced, 2011)
Sara Bronell (University of Uppsala, 2011)
Caroline Larson (University of Uppsala, 2011)
Ashley Graham (UC Merced, 2010)
April Willams (Merced College,Yosemite REU program, summer 2010)
Michael Urner (UC Merced, 2010)
Olayinka Owoborode (UC Merced, 2009-2010)
Salah Dajani (UC Merced, 2009-2010)
Emily Wilson (UC Merced, 2009)
Charleen Bondoc (UC Merced, 2008)