Dr. Phillip Barden, originally from New Mexico and Arizona, is an evolutionary biologist interested in social insects and their fossil record. Dr. Barden received his bachelor's degree from Arizona State University, his PhD from the American Museum of Natural History, and completed his NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship at Rutgers University. He is involved in projects centered around patterns of diversity, ecological impact, and the evolution of complex behavior in some of nature’s greatest success stories: ants and termites. His uses social insects and fossil amber as systems for testing concepts related to the integration of paleontological and genetic data, as well as new analytical pipelines. [CV] [Webpage]


Solomon Chak– Postdoctoral Researcher

My research focuses on the social behavior, evolution, and genomics of snapping shrimps in the genus Synalpheus. Synalpheus shrimps are the only group of marine animals that are known to have evolved eusociality—an advanced social system that is found in social insects like ants and bees. To study the evolution of eusociality in shrimps, I am using a comparative and integrative approach that includes bioinformatics, comparative methods, computed tomography, experiments (behavioral and field), genomics, histology, metagenomics, phylogenetics, and taxonomy. [Website]


Christine Sosiak - PHD Student

Originally from Canada, Christine’s passion for ants has taken her across her home province of Alberta, to Mozambique, California, and most recently, New Jersey. She received bachelor of science degrees in biology and geology from the University of Calgary while working on projects in education, ant ecology, and vertebrate paleontology. Following her undergraduate career, Christine was a visiting curator of ants at the University of California: Riverside and a biodiversity consultant for the Calgary Zoological Society. Christine is interested in the faunal turnover between the earliest ants and their modern relatives, which occurred approximately 65 million years ago. In addition, she is passionate about science education and mentorship. 


Hajar Elalam – Undergraduate Researcher

Hajar graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with a mathematics minor from Rutgers University - Newark. In the lab, she most recently completed a project analyzing amber fragments from various geological time periods to quantify the change in their physical properties over millions of years. Born and raised in Brooklyn, Hajar has plans to continue pursuing a career in material science. 



Chloe grew up in both Nebraska and New Jersey and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Biology at NJIT. She is working on an independent comparative morphology project, and her long-term interests lie in evolutionary biology, ecology, paleontology, and anthropology. In addition to her work in the lab, Chloe is an accomplished student athlete and represents the University in distance events as part of the NJIT Track and Field team. Chloe was recently awarded a Provost Summer Research Fellowship from the NJIT Undergraduate Research and Innovation (URI) Program. You can see Chloe’s digital poster from the 2018 Entomology Society of America Joint Annual Meeting in Vancouver [here].



Andre Pugliese is a third year student at NJIT. He is currently pursuing a degree in Computer Science major as well as minoring in Biology. Andre's work in the lab involves analyzing satellite images and studying the patterns of large social insect colonies within geographical snapshots over time. Outside of the lab Andre enjoys tending to his aquarium collection. 



Xavier is originally from Little Ferry, New Jersey and a sophomore in the Albert Dorman Honors College at NJIT majoring in Biology. Prior to joining the lab, Xavier worked on the pharmaceutical kinetics of drugs targeting macular degeneration and the architectural history of religious shrines in ancient Rome. Currently, he is an Honors Summer Research Institute Fellow focusing on the distribution of ecological niches in an island biogeographic context. Xavier is passionate about the creative arts and poetry and hopes to integrate these elements into his scientific research.



Nitya is a third-year undergraduate at NJIT pursuing a double major in Biology and Mathematical Sciences. She has previously presented on the Modeling of Nanoparticle Movement in the Bloodstream for Targeted Therapy as part of the NJIT Provost Summer Research Program, which was done under Dr. Shahriar Afkhami. Nitya joined the Barden Lab as a volunteer in the Fall of 2018. She is now pursuing an independent study focusing on social parasitism as it is related to morphospace in various species of ants. Nitya also volunteers as a math tutor at the Math Tutoring Center, and as a Peer Learning Assistant for the Foundation of Ecology and Evolution course in the Federated Department of Biology between NJIT and Rutgers University - Newark. She is an active member of the National Biology Fraternity (Beta Psi Omega) and the National Service Fraternity (Alpha Phi Omega), and is also involved in Habitat for Humanity. Nitya is broadly interested in epidemiology and genetics as it relates to evolution, as well as the mathematical aspects of biology. She can be reached at ns726 [at]!


Amina SIraj – Undergraduate Researcher

Amina was born in the United States but grew up in Bangladesh. After completing high school in Bangladesh, Amina attended community college in New Jersey before ultimately attending NJIT. She expects to graduate in 2020 with a Bachelor in Biology and is broadly interested in both evolutionary and molecular biology. Recently, Amina was awarded a McNair summer research fellowship at NJIT and is working to better understand morphological evolution through ants and amber. She is very enthusiastic, dedicated, and hard working. Amina would like to pursue her PhD and dreams of becoming a professor in future.

Current Openings

The lab is currently expanding, with opportunities in the following positions:

  • Graduate Student (PhD/MS)

  • Undergraduate Intern/Researcher

  • Postdoctoral Researcher

If you would like to know more about joining the lab, please email barden [at] with your research interests and previous experience. If you're a student with no previous research experience, that's OK! Students and postdocs who are interested in social insects, paleoentomology, X-ray imaging, or comparative genomics are especially encouraged to apply.


Ninon Robin – Postdoctoral Researcher (Fulbright Laureate) 2018-2019 – currently Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow

Erin McHale – Rotation PhD Student 2019

Ian Hays – Rotation PhD Student 2019

Ciara Mae Mendoza – Lab Technician 2017-2018 – currently PhD student at NYU

Renato Nunes – Lab Technician 2018-2019 – currently PhD student at CUNY

Jonathan Rey A. Trinidad – Undergraduate, PostBac Researcher 2017-2019 – currently PhD student at Rutgers–Newark

Hala Abbas [NJIT] – Undergraduate Researcher 2018

Alan Chen – NJIT Provost High School Researcher 2018 – currently an undergraduate at the University of Washington St. Louis

Annie Chen – NJIT Provost High School Researcher 2019