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Meet our international team

Christine Merlin with Butterfly
Christine Merlin, Ph.D
Assistant Professor of Biology

Christine received her PhD in Insect Physiology from the French University of Pierre and Marie Curie in 2006, where she worked on the circadian control of olfactory rhythms in moths in the laboratory of Emmanuelle Jacquin-Joly and Martine Maibeche-Coisne in Versailles. She then moved to the US to do her postdoctoral training in Steve Reppert's lab, working on the long-distance migration of monarch butterflies and its control by circadian clocks. In her own lab, she continues this fantastic journey with the hope to unveil some of the secrets behind the monarch spectacular migration and its circadian clock.

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Profile Photo of Ying Zhang
Ying Zhang, Ph.D
Postdoctoral Research Associate


Ying obtained her Ph.D in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the Oregon Health and Science University in 2007. She then moved to Texas A&M University as a postdoctoral research associate in the laboratory of Matthew Sachs to study the mechanisms by which upstream open reading frames in mRNA transcripts control gene expression in Neurospora crassa. Ying joined the Merlin lab in January 2015, bringing her talent in molecular biology to contribute to our understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying long-distance migration.

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Profile photo of Sam Iiams
Profile Photo of Aldrin Lugena
Profil Photo of Guijun Wan
Samantha Iiams
Graduate Student, Genetics


Sam obtained her B.S in Biology from Texas A&M in 2015 and is a graduate student in the Interdisciplinary Genetics Program. She joined the lab in January 2016 and is working on the clock control of photoperiodic responses in the context of monarch migration.

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Aldrin Lugena
Graduate Student, Biology


Aldrin obtained his M.S in Biology from Texas A&M in 2013 and joined the lab as a Research Assistant in February 2016 before entering the Graduate Program in Biology. Aldrin is interested in epigenetic regulation of gene expression and will develop related projects in the context of the circadian clock control of monarch migration.

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GuiJun Wan, Ph.D
Postdoctoral Researcher,
Visiting Scholar


Guijun obtained his Ph.D in Insect Ecology from Nanjing Agricultural University, China in 2015, working on the effects of viruses and the magnetic field on the development, reproduction and behavior of the migratory rice planthopper. Since 2016, he is a postdoctoral faculty candidate at Nanjing Agricultural University, focusing on insect orientation mechanisms in the context of magneto and circadian biology. Guijun joined the lab in August 2017 as a Visiting Scholar to further his training in circadian biology and study navigational mechanisms of migratory monarch butterflies.

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Profile Photo of Ashley Hayden
Ashley Hayden
Undergraduate Research Assistant,
Biology Honors

Ashley is a senior majoring in Biology, and pursuing a double minor in Bioinformatics and Psychology. She is a 2018-2019 Astronaut Fellow and a student in the Biology Honors Program, the University Honors Program, the University Scholars Program, the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program, and an Undergraduate Research Ambassador. She joined the lab in June 2017 to gain research training as she aspires to go to graduate school and become a professor. She is developing projects related to magnetoreception in monarchs.

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Profile Photo of Caterie Bogdan
Catherine Bogdan
Undergraduate Research Assistant,
Genetics and Biology

Catherine is a double major in Genetics and Biology in her senior year, and pursuing a minor in Spanish. She is currently receiving the President's Endowed Scholarship, the Billy G. Bethea '52 Scholarship, the Joe and Billy Manion Endowed Scholarship, and the PACE Scholarship. She joined the lab in June 2017 to gain research experience before applying to graduate school in cancer biology. In the lab, she works with Sam on projects related to the neuronal clock control of seasonal behaviors.

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Profile Photo of Anna Subonj
Anna Subonj
Undergraduate Research Assistant,

Anna is a junior pursuing a Biology major who transferred from the University of Houston where she performed research since her senior year of high school. She joined the lab in May 2018 to contribute to our efforts to develop CRISPR-assisted

knock-in approaches in monarchs.

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