Current Lab Members

Post Docs


Jose Luis Herrera Diestra

Currently, I am a Research Associate affiliated to the UT Austin in the Lauren Meyers’ Lab, working with a joint project with the Department of Biology at PSU, actively collaborating with Matthew Ferrari and Katriona Shea. My research is focused on complex networks (dynamics on and of networks), disease spreading on networks and applications to surveillance, control and immunization of epidemic diseases. I obtained my PhD in Fundamental Physics from Universidad de Los Andes in Venezuela, where I worked as a professor for 10 years. I was a postdoctoral researcher and research scholar in the Meyers Lab in two previous occasions (2013 and 2015). I worked for two and a half years (2017 – 2019) as a postdoctoral researcher at ICTP – SAIFR, located in Sao Paulo – Brazil. At the moment, I am working on the characterization and analysis of the network of cattle exchanges in Turkey (aggregated and temporal) to propose potentially optimal surveillance strategies for the control of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). In addition, I am developing computational and mathematical models to help us understand how different network features might affect the fate of diseases spreading in populations.

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Hidetoshi Inamine

Hidetoshi InamineI am a theoretical ecologist interested in how population processes at various scales generate and maintain biodiversity. Currently I am studying the effects of disturbance on the structure of ecological communities. Disturbances are ubiquitous in nature, and how different species in a community react ecologically and evolutionarily to disturbances affects the interactions between species and the overall community. I have a penchant for experiments, and collaborate with Angus Buckling at U Exeter (UK) to test theoretical predictions in bacterial microcosm. Before starting my postdoc at Penn State, I obtained my BA (Biological Sciences with specialization in Neuroscience) from U. Chicago, and my PhD (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Minor in Applied Mathematics) from Cornell with Steve Ellner.

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Rebecca Borchering

1Rebecca is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Biology and joined the Shea lab in June 2020. She earned a PhD in Mathematics from the University of Florida in May 2017, focusing on stochastic processes of invasion and extinction, with particular applications for seasonal rabies virus dynamics. She previously held postdoctoral positions at the Emerging Pathogens Institute and Department of Biology at the University of Florida and at the Odum School of Ecology at the University of Georgia. Her research interests center around infectious disease modeling and public health applications. She is interested in the dynamics of co-circulating pathogens and her previous work includes investigating the effects of the 2015/2016 Zika epidemic in Latin America on endemic dengue dynamics and the emergence of novel influenza B viruses in the United States. In the Shea lab, she helps lead multiple modeling efforts to inform decision support in the face of uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic. She works on both the Multiple Models for Outbreak Decision Support (MMODS) and COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub projects.

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Graduate Students

Emily Howerton


I am a Ph.D student in the Department of Biology studying the management of infectious diseases and invasive species. My research focuses on how we can combine biotic and abiotic forces, varying in space and time, to design more efficient and effective control strategies. For example, I study the interaction between diagnostic testing and non-pharmaceutical interventions in COVID-19 management, as well as the combined effects of pesticide application and native competition on fire ant invasion success. Further, my research includes the effects of scientific uncertainty on our ability to design such effective control strategies and explores how we might design robust control strategies in the face of this uncertainty.

Trevor Dress


I am an ecology PhD candidate in the Department of Biology and have a wide variety of interests at the intersection of ecology, statistics, and data science. My work primarily involves quantifying movement, namely plant dispersal, in ecological systems and seeking answers to questions regarding (a) modelling dispersal processes, (b) the probabilistic nature of dispersal, (c) relative contributions of multiple dispersal vectors in series and parallel, and (d) how current dispersal patterns may be affected by climate change. Dispersal and movement in ecological systems can be quite challenging to understand, and I use a variety of mechanistic and statistical models to help unravel the mysteries behind these processes. I am also interested in applications of machine learning to problems of classification and prediction, especially in the realms of science, engineering, medicine, and business.

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Undergraduate Researchers

Elyse Johnson


I am a senior undergrad majoring in General Science with minors in Astrobiology, Biology, and Wildlife/Fisheries Sciences. My empirical research studies the ramifications of early life stress timing and duration on plant life history traits.  Currently, I manage Shea Lab administration and oversee our research field in Rock Springs, PA. Beyond the lab, I design AI/ML technology to reduce negative behavior on social media. 

I joined the Shea lab in 2018 as a Women in STEM and Engineering Research (WISER) PA NASA Space Grant Intern studying how early life drought stress and resource competition interracts for microgreens (L. sativum). As a 2020 NSF REU, I simulated flash flooding and hail on thistle seedlings (C.acanthoides & C.nutans) to explore local extreme precipitation events as a source of uncertainty for agricultural management practices. I have also collaborated with Multi-Model for Outbreak Decision Support (MMODS) and designed affordable, home experiments for students K-12 to study early life stress using our microgreen system.  

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LaKeisha Wade

1I am an undergraduate student majoring in Human Development and Family Studies and triple minoring in African American Studies, Biology and Woman Studies. I am a new member of the Shea lab joining in the summer of 2021 under REU. I have done previous work at the University of the Virgin Islands, researching environmental health issues such as food waste, waste disposal and disaster preparedness specifically for at risk groups like mothers, children and the homeless. I have a passion for researching women’s health especially in inner-city and low income neighborhoods. This will lead me to gaining a dual MPH/MD with a speciality in obstetrics and gynecology.