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Dr. Jacqueline Sztepanacz

Principal Investigator

Jacqueline is an Assistant Professor in the Ecology and Evolution Department at the University of Toronto. Her research systematically investigates the evolution of genetic variation, and in particular why traits might stop evolving. Her research interests are focused on the maintenance of genetic variation, stabilizing selection, sexual dimorphism and conflict, and pleiotropy. She earned her M.Sc at the University of Ottawa with Howard Rundle, and her PhD at the University of Queensland, working with Mark Blows. She then went on to do a postdoc at Florida State University where she worked with David Houle and Thomas F. Hansen (University of Oslo).

Post-Doctoral Fellows

Dr. Mathieu Videlier

Mathieu completed a Master’s in Genetics, followed by a second Master’s in Engineering and Technologies related to Biology. For these master’s degrees, he travelled and worked at various universities and cities, including McGill, UChicago, Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle de Paris, Institut Curie, Institut Pasteur, and Institute Jacques Monod. Mathieu obtained a PhD from the University of Ottawa in 2016, supervised by Dr. Vincent Careau and Dr. Howard D. Rundle. During his PhD, he focused on measuring insect metabolic rates at the individual level, especially in Drosophila. This allowed him to explore evolutionary questions about Drosophila metabolic rates, with a strong emphasis on sexual dimorphism and conflict. After completing his PhD, Mathieu accepted a postdoctoral position at UQAM, collaborating with Dr. Pierre-Olivier Montiglio. Through his PhD and postdoc experiences, Mathieu honed his statistical skills and developed a profound passion for coding, quantitative genetics, and evolutionary equations. This passion led him to collaborate with Dr. Jacqueline Sztepanacz. On her team, he is keen on understanding the evolution of the B (between sex) matrix, as well as multidimensional traits such as wing morphology or CHC’s in Drosophila. He is also interested in decomposing fitness and its sex-specific genetic covariance in relation to the Robertson-Price identity. When not in the lab or his office, he enjoys being sassy around a glass of wine or a beer, eating baguette and cheese as a real Frenchman, as well as cooking and having as much adventures as possible from nerdy video games to exploring cultural spaces.

Graduate Students

Elizabeth Makovec, PhD Student

Elizabeth completed her Bachelor of Science in Genetics and Genomics, and Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2023. She is currently a PhD student in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Program at the University of Toronto under the co-advisement of Ina Anreiter and Jacqueline Sztepanacz. Her research interests are in pleiotropy, sexual selection, sexual conflict, and behavioral genetics. In her free time Elizabeth enjoys reading, playing the piano and clarinet, and being outdoors.

Saher Alvi, MSc Student

Saher received an Honour’s Bachelor of Science in Biology from Toronto Metropolitan University in 2022 (Formerly Ryerson University). Her honour’s thesis research explored the impacts of altered lighting conditions on Crocus sativus (saffron) and Cannabis sativa (cannabis) development. To explore more evolutionary questions, she has switched model systems to Drosophila and is enjoying observing flies’ (sometimes unexpected) behaviour. She is currently hoping to understand the roles of sexual selection and immigration in rapid adaptation to novel environments in an invasive species (Drosophila suzukii) and how this may lead to fitness changes over generations. When she isn’t in the lab, Saher enjoys reading, watching movies, spending time with family and friends, and having many cups of coffee!

Thomas Wildeboer, MSc student

Thomas graduated with an Honour’s Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Toronto in 2023. In his final year of undergraduate studies, he completed an honour’s thesis with the Sztepanacz lab studying the substitution of genetic covariance matrices with phenotypic covariance matrices. Currently, he studies the evolution of genetic covariance with computer simulations as a master’s student, co-supervised by Dr. Parins-Fukuchi. He is broadly interested in evolutionary genetics with a focus in computational methods. Outside of research, Thomas enjoys software development, science fiction novels, and exploring Toronto with friends.

Undergraduate Students

Michaela Riley, 4th year honours’ student

Michaela is a fourth-year undergraduate student at UofT majoring in Fundamental Genetics and Its Applications as well as Genome Biology, with a future goal to go to graduate school. She is a research student studying the effect of sexual selection on behavioural isolation and sexual displays in Drosophila suzukii. When not on campus, she enjoys reading, drawing and photography.

Maggie Li, 3rd year research student

Maggie is a third-year research student studying Health & Disease, Biology, and minoring in Immunology. She is investigating whether the presence or absence of sexual selection leads to behavioural isolation between populations or differences in sexual display traits. When she’s not on campus, Maggie enjoys baking, folding origami, and going to concerts!

You? MSc or PhD Student

See the Prospective Students page for more info

Lab Alumni

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