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. For more information, including academic publications and detailed CV, visit his website at:

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.

Anna Maria Langmüller

Visiting Graduate Student

portrait (1).jpgAnna is a PhD student in Christian Schlötterer’s lab at the Institute of Population Genetics of the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna. In her PhD project, she investigates the genomic response and dynamics of experimental Drosophila populations evolving to new temperature regimes. During her stay in the Messer lab, Anna wants to assess the potential fitness costs of CRISPR gene drive constructs in Drosophila, using cage evolution experiments and computational analyses. Anna joined the lab in August 2018.

Runxi Chen

Graduate Student

IMG_1519Runxi is a PhD student studying Computational Biology at Cornell. As an undergraduate, he studied Applied Mathematics at UCLA, where he started to gradually switch his interest towards applying mathematics in the biological field. His current research focuses on detecting and localizing pesticide resistance alleles in mosquitoes through a novel QTL mapping method called bulk segregant analysis, and more generally to build up computational and mathematical models for exploring population genetics. He also has broad interests in different kinds of sports, including basketball, badminton, swimming, hiking, paddle board, etc. Runxi joined the lab in summer 2018.

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.

Andrew Vaughn

Undergraduate Student

Vaughn.pngAndrew is a senior majoring in mathematics with minors in biology, computer science, and history. He is studying how expected coalescence times in populations can depend on unobserved geographic subdivisions in addition to demography. At Cornell, Andrew keeps active as a member of both Cornell Running Club and Cornell Nordic. He has also worked as a TA for CS 2800: Discrete Structures and BTRY 4840: Computational Genetics and Genomics. Andrew joined the lab in summer 2018.

Isabel Kim

Undergraduate Student

IMG_0978.jpgIsabel is a sophomore majoring in Biometry and Statistics with a concentration in Statistical Genomics and a minor in Applied Economics. She is interested in modeling gene drive scenarios using SLiM. On campus, Isabel is a member of the Korean American Student Association and Alpha Phi Omega, a coed service fraternity. Isabel joined the lab in September 2018.

Former members:

Joanna Zhao: Undergraduate Student
Runyang Nicolas Lou: Graduate Rotation Student (NR)
Andrew Marderstein: Undergraduate Honors Student
Henry Kunerth: Graduate Rotation Student (EEB)
Aaron Sams: Postdoctoral Research Associate
Lucas Ducrot: Undergraduate Student
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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