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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).

Graduate Students

Saher Alvi, MSc Student

Saher received a 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 development. To explore more evolutionary questions, she has switched model systems to Drosophila and is enjoying observing flies’ (sometimes unexpected) behavior. She is now hoping to understand the intersection of sexual selection, local adaptation, and migration of flies 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.

Undergraduate Students

Thomas Wildeboer, 4th year Honour’s student

I am interested in all things evolutionary genetics with a focus in computational methods. My interests in biostatistics, computing, and genetics lead me to pursue research in the Sztepanacz lab where I study the estimation of genetic covariance. I love all kinds of animals and wildlife, especially my pet dog and leopard gecko. Outside of research I enjoy reading science fiction novels and writing software side-projects.

Michaela Riley, ROP student

Michaela is a third-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 an ROP student studying the effect of social environment on sexually selected traits in Drosophila Suzukii. When not on campus, she enjoys reading, drawing and photography.

Lily Peters, work study student

Lily is a second-year student, currently pursuing a Specialist in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and planning to pursue graduate school in the future. They are currently doing a work-study in the Sztepanacz lab. Their scientific interests are broad; however, they are particularly interested in entomology and speciation. When Lily is not on campus working or studying, they enjoy reading, cross stitch, and exploring new hiking trails. 

Jahin Kabir, work study student

Jahin is a second-year undergraduate student enrolled in the Bioinformatics and Computational Biology specialist and the Quantitative Biology major. He is interested in the study of evolutionary biology and genetics through a quantitative lens and aims to pursue graduate studies at the interface of these fields. His interest in quantitative genetics led him to take up a work-study position at the lab, where he’s currently helping with Drosophila stock maintenance. When not geeking out about math or genetics, he can be found reading poetry, watching movies, and going on walks with friends.

ChengYue (Emily) Zhang, volunteer

ChengYue is a fourth-year undergraduate at UofT in the Bioinformatics Specialist program. Her interest incomputational biology led her to pursue research in the Sztepanacz lab, where she wrote programs for image processing of Drosophila wings. She is currently working on RNA 3D structure prediction to screen potential small molecule binding, and transcript quantification to analyze the impact of mutation on expression level. In her free time, ChengYue enjoys playing the piano, watching animations, reading fiction, and playing video games (Zelda & Genshin).

Paul Rhamey

Paul is completing his BSc in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Molecular Biology, and Immunology. He is especially interested in the use of empirical systems and methods to study questions in evolutionary genetics. Namely, the effect of pleiotropy on the evolution of the genetic architecture underlying phenotypes, and the dimensionality of the phenome more broadly. He hopes to eventually pursue graduate studies. In his free time Paul likes to play piano and chess, and travel.

You? MSc or PhD Student

See the Prospective Students page for more info

Lab Alumni


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