Principal Investigator: Deren Eaton

Deren bio photo Deren Eaton

( is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology (E3B) at Columbia University. He is an evolutionary biologist and botanist with broad interests in plant biodiversity – from the scale of global patterns and community assembly, to speciation and genetic variation within species. Deren’s research is rooted in organismal biology and fieldwork, with projects focused in the Tibetan plateau and cloud forests of Central and South America. A common theme across his work is the development of new computational or statistical methods for analyzing comparative data, and the implementation and support for reproducible science. Deren completed a postdoc at Yale in 2017; earned his PhD from the University of Chicago in 2014; and his BSc from the University of Minnesota in 2007.

Post-doctoral Researchers

Jianjun bio photo Jianjun Jin ( joined the lab in 2020 as an Postdoctoral Researcher. Jianjun is a computational biologist and plant systematist interested in the development new software tools for phylogenetics and genome assembly. His software tools GetOrganelle has become widely used for plastome and mitogenome assemblies. He is working in the Eaton lab to assemble a reference genome of Pedicularis, perform comparative studies of floral gene expression, and to develop new bioinformatic tools. Jianjun completed his PhD at the Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

David Timerman

joined the lab in 2021 as a Postdoctoral Researcher and Frontiers of Science Teaching Fellow. David works on wind pollination and mating system evolution, and is currently investigatinga apomixis in Amaranthus.

Graduate Students

Patrick bio photo Patrick McKenzie

( joined the lab in 2017 and was a recipient of an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship (GRFP). Patrick’s research involves the development of new methods for inferring phylogenies and networks from SNP data, and for modeling the similarity of linked genealogies along chromosomes. He is also working on a systematic revision of North American Monarda. He completed his Bachelors degree at the University of Tennessee.

Jared bio photo Jared Meek

( joined the lab in 2018 and is interested in plant biodiversity, phylogenetics, and conservation. Jared’s research is focused on developing comparative phylogeographic methods for comparing contemporary and historical plant collections to detect recent human mediated gene flow in the Hengduan Mountains. He completed his Bachelors degree at Brigham Young University.

Elissa bio photo Elissa Sorojsrisom

( joined the lab in 2020 as a joint PhD student in the Eaton Lab and NYBG interested in the evolution and development of ferns. Her research involves developing methods for simulating genome evolution under models with plant-like alternation-of-generations life cycles and exploring the degree and potential evolutionary consequences of differential gene expression between life stages in ferns compared to other land plant lineages. She is also studying the evolutionary development of the TALE superclass of homeodomain proteins in the model fern Ceratopteris richardii. She completed her Bachelors degree at Brown University.

Elissa bio photo Rachel Cohen

( joined the lab in 2020 and is interested in the evolutionary basis and consequences of plant biotic interactions. Her PhD research focuses on pollination and parasitic interactions in North American Pedicularis species, leveraging comparative transcriptomic and experimental methods. She completed her Bachelors degree at Amherst College.

Yue Yang joined the lab in 2021 as an MA student. Yue joined a colleting expedition to the Hengduan Mountains where she collected transcriptome and 3D morphological data for comparative research in Pedicularis. She is working on 3D comparative morphometrics and phylogenetic comparative analyses of gene expression.

Jenni Jones joined the lab in 2022 as an MA student. Jenni is interested in evolutionary ecology and is estimating species distribution models for Pedicularis as well as working on a genus-wide RAD-seq phylogeny.


Scarlet Ming-Sha Au joined the Eaton lab in 2019 as a 1st year undergraduate student. Scarlet is interested in plant phylogenomics. She has worked on methods for estimating dated trees and investigating the effects of generation-time differences in multispecies coalescent methods.

Nathaniel Alper joined the Eaton lab in 2021 as a 3rd year undergraduate student. Nathaniel has contributed to molecular labwork and morphological measurements for Pedicularis biodiversity research, and is interested in evolutionary ecology.

Sydney Wells joined the Eaton lab in 2023 as a senior undergraduate. Sydney is interested in plant reproductive variation and is investigating the occurrence of apomixis in Amaranthus palmeri through greenhouse experiments and simulation modeling.

Nina Kornfeld joined the Eaton lab in 2023 as a first year undergraduate. Nina is investigating the use of 3D scanning methods for measuring flower morphologies.

Former lab members

Sandra bio photo Sandra Hoffberg

( was an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow in the Eaton lab from 2017 - 2022. Sandra worked on the development of genomic methods for massive-scale genotyping, including application of the RADcap method to the USDA Amaranthus germplasm database, and methods for inferring dated phylogenies in the presence of introgression. She is also a co-instructor in the RADCamp workshop series.

Carlos bio photo Carlos Alonso Maya Lastra

( was a Postdoctoral research in the Eaton lab from 2019-2022. Carlos worked on genomic analyses of neotropical Viburnum, including genome assembly and large-scale comparative RAD-seq. He also worked on theoretical speciation modeling and developing software for inferring large dated phylogenies.

Jasmina bio photo Jasmina

( was an MA student in the Eaton lab from 2019-201. She investigated speciation genetics in Amaranthus by quantifying pollen viability in F1 hybrids. She went on to pursue a PhD at Oxford University.

Henry bio photo Henry Landis

( was an MA student in the Eaton lab from 2019-2021. He worked on statistical models for estimating the rate of evolution of reproductive isolation on phylogenies from crossing data. He went on to pursue a PhD at Washington State University.

Guo Cen bio photo Guo Cen (

spent one year in the Eaton lab as a visiting Ph.D. student from the Chinese Academy of Sciences graduate program at the Kunming Institute of Botany where she worked with Dr. De-Zhu Li. Her research uses phylogenomic data to uncover the history of diversification of temperate woody bamboos.

Joining the lab

pedic photo
I’m looking to recruit talented post-docs and student to work on independent projects and/or to join on-going projects in the lab. If interested please contact Deren, especially if you are interested in pursuing fellowship proposals for the coming year. Many opportunities are available, including NSF graduate and postdoctoral fellowships, and internal Columbia fellowships.