Néva P. Meyer
Néva earned a Ph.D. from the University of Washington by examining how different types of neurons develop in the chick spinal cord, which was funded by an HHMI predoctoral fellowship.  She also was involved in the Science Education Partnership, which integrates science into the community through outreach activities.   As a result of her graduate studies, Néva became interested in the broader question of how nervous systems evolved.  She began to address this question as a postdoctoral researcher in Dr. Elaine Seaver’s lab at Kewalo Marine Lab, University of Hawaii and is continuing this research at Clark University.

Dr. Meyer received a B.S. in Molecular Biology from Purdue University in 1998 and a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Washington in 2005.
* photo by Tricia Murata

Current Lab Members

Nicole Webster – Postdoc
I am broadly interested in how phenotypes evolve and what patterns and processes have produced the broad diversity of extant organisms. More specifically, I’m working with Néva Meyer to master Evo-Devo techniques in a up-and-coming model organism, Capitella teleta. I hope to further our understanding of nervous system development, specifically what role the BMP pathway plays in dorsal-ventral patterning and the arrangement of the nervous system. It is only by understanding how all the diverse complex nervous systems of animals develop that we can start to reconstruct evolutionary and developmental generalities about how nervous system evolve.

I hope to take the knowledge I learn here as the basis to establish my own research lab in spiralian Evo-Devo.


JohnnyJohnny Davila-Sandoval – PhD student
Born and raised in Peru, I completed my undergraduate studies at San Marcos University (Lima, Peru), majoring in Biology. During more than two years, I have been involved in systematics and population genetics research in aquatic organisms. My first encounter with Evo-Devo was during my first internship abroad at Harvard, where I could attend Invertebrate Zoology classes and was introduced to the use of embryology to understand evolution. More than two years after that, I am now starting my Ph.D. in Dr. Meyer’s lab, moved by my curiosity in understanding how nervous system evolved within spiralians using Capitella teleta as a model system and the use of marine invertebrates for Evo-Devo research. Overall, I am interested in:

  • Molecular mechanisms underlying neural fate specification in invertebrates
  • Emerging model systems in spiralians for Evo-Devo research
  • Body plan formation and axis specification in annelids

I am also passionate about science outreach and communication, and the inclusion of underrepresented minorities in STEM.

Matthew BrandtPhD Student

I completed my Bachelor’s and my Master’s degree at the University of Connecticut where I majored in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Conservation Biology, respectively.I am broadly interested in the evolution of the central nervous system because there is still so much that we do not know about how one of the most important body systems is formed and how it functions in less-researched species.


Undergraduate researchers, volunteers, and technicians
Conor Milson, Deanna Scahill, Christina Oliver, Vanessa Tischofer, Nik Kapoor, Tessa Allan, Ryan Swanke, Saúl Grijalva

Past Lab Members

Skyler DudaMaster’s student (summer 2020)
I am a master’s student here in the Meyer Lab at Clark, where I also completed my undergraduate education. I took a Developmental Biology class in my junior year, and quickly became fascinated with the diverse world of Evo-Devo. Currently, I am working on isolation experiments at early cleavage stages to test autonomous versus conditional specification of neural fates in the marine annelid Capitella teleta.

Ashley Renfro – Master’s student (summer 2020)

Abhinav Sur – PhD student (spring 2020)Abhinav_sm
I am a 5th year PhD student in the Meyer lab investigating comparative neurogenesis across spiralians using the annelid Capitella teleta. I am interested in the developmental basis of morphological diversity and evolutionary change. I finished my MSc. from NISER, Bhubaneswar, India in 2014 with a specialization in Biophysics and Immunology. During this time, my hobby as a wildlife conservationist sparked my interest in the evolution of diversity in life forms and their ecological relevance. My current projects include: 
– Using DropSeq to decipher transcriptomes of single neural precursor cells to understand their regulatory states along their gradual transition towards restriction in potency, and
– Developing CRISPR-Cas9 mutagenesis assays to decipher the role of SoxB1 homologs in C. teleta neural development. In future, I wish to use comparative genomics to understand how developmental trajectories can regulate ecological adaptation and behavior.

Allan Carrillo-Baltodano – PhD student (spring 2019)Allan2
Not too long ago, I sorted my first bowl of marine zooplankton. I was impressed by the many forms, sizes, colors, and number of animal phyla all clumped together in that small space. Since then, I have devoted myself to understanding marine invertebrates by studying their larvae. I am broadly interested in:
– Evolution and development of marine invertebrates
– Larval development, morphology and behavior
– Life history of marine invertebrates.

Allan is now doing a post doc in at Queen Mary University of London with Chema Martin-Duran (

Simona_smSimona TolchinMaster’s student (fall 2018)
I am very interested in understanding how stem cells make the transition from being undifferentiated precursor cells to differentiated neural cells.  I am studying the role of Notch/Delta lateral inhibition and a soxB1 homolog (Ct-soxB1) during this process in Capitella teleta.  I am using the gamma-secretase inhibitor DAPT to block Notch signaling and examine the effect on neural development.  I am ultimately interested in studying central nervous system regeneration in humans and the effects of this on mental illness.  My current work has the potential to strongly connect to human health and development, especially in the realm of mental illness, because C. teleta has the ability to regenerate the majority of its central nervous system.

Christie Joyce – Master’s student (fall 2017)
Christie examined the effect of BMP signaling on neural development in C. teleta using the pharmacological inhibitor dorsomorphin. She is currently working in industry.

Michele CorbetMaster’s student (fall 2016)Michele2
Recent research has shown that BMP signaling may act as a short range signal during dorsal-ventral patterning in annelids (Kuo and Weisblat, Curr Biol. 2011).  Interestingly, this study demonstrated that Gremlin is the likely BMP antagonist during this process (no chordin homologs have been found in annelids).  However, evidence from annelids and enteropneusts also suggests that, BMP signaling does not determine the dorsal-ventral boundary of neural ectoderm.  I used exogenous recombinant BMP4 protein to study the effect of BMP signaling on neural fate specification in Capitella teleta.

Meyer Lab Aug2014_3edit

Previous Undergraduate Researchers

Sophia Kaplan, Isabella Teixeira, Anson O’Connor (9/18-4/19), Eric Tillotson (1/12 – 5/13), Stephanie Aldrich (1/12 – 5/13), Simona Tolchin (1/12 – 5/13), Michele Corbet (1/12 – 5/14), Thomas Spaulding (9/12 – 12/12), Beatriz Kaippert (9/12 – 5/13), Maria Paredes (1/13 – 5/13), Bonghinkosi “Petros” Vilakati (1/13 – 5/13, 8/14 – 10/14), Rebecca Friedman (6/13 – 5/14), Lauren Koppel (6/13 – 5/14), Nicholas Rovnak (9/13 – 5/14), Sarah Dys (9/13 – present), Christie Joyce (6/14 – 5/16), Sarah Clay (8/14 – 5/14), Justin Woods (1/14 – 5/14), Iva Hoxha (5/15 – 5/17), Kristi Sarro (6/15 – 8/15), Samuel Peluso (9/15 – 5/16), Amiel Jaggernauth (1/16 – 5/18), Ann Kim (5/17 – 5/18), Jenna Libera (5/17 – 5/18)

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