I have had the pleasure to mentor a number of undergraduates throughout my tenure as a Ph.D. student.

My first mentee was Colin Prather, now studying to become a neurosurgeon at Vanderbilt Med school. Colin worked with me to get my project up and running designing and testing PCR primers while also working on developing markers for genes that are likely to be involved in seasonal coat color change -  a project that has since been taken up by a masters student in our lab, Zak Clare-Salzler. Photo: Colin pretending to do science (Colin actually did quite a lot of real science, but in this photo he was just pretending).

My second mentee, Sara Keeble, certainly surpassed my lab skills and went on to be our lab tech for a year. Sara is now working on her Ph.D. in the Dean Lab at UCS. Sara and I worked on a project evaluating the metabolic performance of dwarf hamsters and their hybrids which she presented at the Evolution meeting in 2012. 

The third student I mentored was Lindy Henry. Lindy worked on evaluating the gross morphology of placenta tissue in dwarf hamsters and learned to fix, section, mount, and stain placental samples for morphological analysis. She did the analysis as well and found that while some hybrid hamsters have hugely overgrown placentas, the proportion of each cell layer does not seem to differ between parental types and hybrids. Lindy presented her work at the UMCUR conference in 2013 and is a coauthor on a paper in Evolution. Photo: Lindy with her UMCUR poster.

During the spring of 2015, I mentored Erin Nordquist. Erin and I worked on the bioinformatics of a large sequencing dataset with the goal to resolve the chipmunk phylogeny. Erin did the data generation using a divergent exon-capture sequenced with Illumina and then she and I worked together with Brice Sarver to do the bioinformatics and build a phylogeny of chipmunks. She presented her work at the UMCUR conference in 2015. 

Vanessa Stewart worked on a project to design assays to analyze the CpG islands that control the expression of imprinted genes in dwarf hamsters. Vanessa was awarded the Toelle-Bekken Family Memorial Fund for this project, which involves both a serious computational component to identify conserved regulatory sequences across rodents as well as a major wet-lab component to amplify and sequence these regions.

I am always keen to mentor new students, and at the moment I have both bioinformatics projects as well as gerbil biology projects. If you are a student at Bangor University and interested in working with me, please send me an email at t.brekke[at]