Messer Lab — People

Philipp W. Messer

Principal Investigator

portrait5Philipp studied Physics and Human Physiology at the University of Cologne. After obtaining his Diploma in Theoretical Physics under the supervision of Michael Lassig, he pursued a doctorate with Martin Vingron and Peter Arndt at the Max-Planck-Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin. He received his PhD in Computational Biology (summa cum laude) from the Department of Mathematics at the Free University Berlin. For his postdoc, Philipp worked in Dmitri Petrov’s lab at Stanford as a Human Frontiers Science Program (HFSP) long-term postdoctoral fellow. In 2014, he joined the Department of Biological Statistics and Computational Biology at Cornell University as an Assistant Professor. Research in Philipp’s lab centers on improving our understanding of the fundamental processes that govern molecular evolution.

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Benjamin C. Haller

Scientific Programmer

photo_benjaminBenjamin C. Haller works in the Messer Lab as a Scientific Programmer/Analyst, primarily on the SLiM forward genetic simulation package. He obtained his Ph.D. in Evolutionary Biology from McGill University in 2013. Prior to his doctoral studies, Ben was as a software engineer and worked for many years at Apple. For more information, including academic publications and detailed CV, visit his website at:

Jackson Champer

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Picture.jpgJackson Champer is creating and modeling gene drive systems, which enable a genetic payload to spread through a population even when imposing a fitness cost on its host organism. Results so far indicate that resistance alleles are the limiting factor in the effectiveness of gene drives. He is interested in novel methods to control vector borne disease and hopes that gene drive will become a cost-effective approach to address this problem. Jackson received a M.S. in physics from UCLA and a Ph.D. from the City of Hope Graduate School of Biological Sciences. He joined the Messer lab at Cornell in May 2016.

Nathan Oakes

Graduate Student

NateNathan is a PhD student in Computational Biology, where he leverages his background in electrical engineering and software development to investigate population genetics questions through modeling and development/support of high performance simulation and analysis software. He is interested in questions about complex and dynamical systems in general, and about fundamental processes involved in evolution and adaptation specifically. Nathan joined the lab in summer 2016.

Ian Caldas

Graduate Student 

IMG_1362.jpgIan is a PhD student in the field of Computational Biology. He is interested in exploring the signatures that past and ongoing evolutionary processes leave in genotypes and phenotypes of species. His goal is leveraging data science, statistics, and computational tools to develop new methods of detecting such signatures. He is currently focused on identifying and classifying selective sweeps in populations relevant to conservation, agriculture, and medicine. Ian joined the lab in fall 2017.

Jingxian “Clara” Liu

Undergraduate Student


Clara is a junior double majoring in biological sciences and computer science. She is interested in building gene drive constructs with reduced resistance and modeling their behavior in populations. On campus, she is involved in Alpha Chi Sigma, a chemistry professional fraternity. She also volunteers at Cayuga Urgent Care Center attending to patients’ needs. Clara joined the lab in September 2016.

Anisha Luthra

Undergraduate Student

unnamed.jpgAnisha is a senior majoring in Biological Sciences with a concentration in Computational Biology. She hopes to use computational biology in genome sequencing to study how one’s DNA can make one prone to diseases, such as cancer, and to fix genetic mutations that lead to disease. She is involved in Alpha Phi Omega, a service fraternity that encourages community service and leadership development. She is also the External Event Chair of the Cornell Vegan Society. Anisha joined the lab in January 2017.

Joanna Zhao

Undergraduate Student

prof headshot.jpegJoanna is a senior majoring in Biometry and Statistics with a concentration in Statistical Genomics. Joanna is interested in the use of statistical modeling and frameworks to analyze the population dynamics of gene drive systems. She is a community group leader for Cru Cornell, and a member of Base Productions, a coed dance crew. She is also involved with the Cancer Resource Center, an organization that provides cancer patients with support and wellness programs. Joanna joined the lab in summer 2017.

Former members:

Andrew Marderstein: Undergraduate Honors Student
Henry Kunerth: Graduate Rotation Student (EEB)
Aaron Sams: Postdoctoral Research Associate
Ying Qiao: Graduate Rotation Student (CB)
Antoine Barthelet: Graduate Rotation Student (CB)
Rebecca Stambler: Undergraduate Student
Andy Ding: Graduate Rotation Student (GGD)
Florencia Schlamp: Graduate Rotation Student (GGD)
Jamal Elkhader: Graduate Rotation Student (Tri-I CBM)
Manisha Munasinghe: Graduate Rotation Student (CB)
Madeline Kwicklis: Undergraduate Student
Lewis Chesebrough: Undergraduate Student
Julian van der Made: Graduate Research Assistant

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