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Brian Wray

Research Assistant III

Integrative Research Center

I started as an intern in the Pritzker Lab for Molecular Systematics back in the summer of 2008 while I was still finishing my undergraduate work in biology at Northeastern Illinois University. My internship in the Pritzker Lab was under curator Dr. Rick Ree and it involved extracting, amplifying and sequencing DNA from the flowering plant genus Corydalis. I ultimately helped build a phylogeny using the data that I and other researchers had gathered from different Corydalis species and presented it as a poster at the Botany and Mycology meeting in 2009.

That first summer internship in 2008 was an eye-opener for me. I had not even taken a genetics class yet, however through my internship I ended up learning many of the molecular techniques I would use in the lab components of not only my genetics class but other biology and chemistry classes as well. Further, I learned a lot about plant biology and evolution, not to mention the biology of the myriad other organisms that have scientists studying them in this wonderful museum.

After my internship and my undergraduate studies were completed I managed to stick around in the lab doing further molecular work for Dr. Ree with the plant genus Pedicularis (part of a larger project looking at the biodiversity of the Hengduan Mountains). I was also able to work on some projects with ant curator Dr. Corrie Moreau, including work on the ants of the Florida Keys, on the invasive bigheaded ant Pheidole megacephala, and on the effectiveness of different chemicals in preserving DNA in ants.

Starting in the summer of 2012 I've been a permanent member of the Pritzker lab, still doing molecular work on plants and ants, as well as some work on birds (for curator John Bates) and lichens (under curator Thorsten Lumbsch). I love the research that I am privileged enough to participate in, and it feels great being able to actually stare at genetic data and to have a deep understanding of this fundamental aspect of the biology of ALL living things. I'm heavily involved in helping run the lab and in training the interns and visiting scientists who come here to collect data. You can usually catch me answering questions on weekdays from 11-12 during the lab's 'Talk to the Scientist' hour, so stop on by and say hi!