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PHIL BARDEN - PI

I am an evolutionary biologist interested in social insects and their fossil record. The projects I am involved in are typically centered around understanding patterns of diversity, ecological impact, and the evolution of complex behavior in some of nature’s greatest success stories: ants and termites. More broadly, I use social insects and fossil amber as a system for testing concepts related to the integration of paleontological and genetic data, as well as novel analytical pipelines. [CV] [Webpage]

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Ninon Robin – Postdoctoral Researcher (Fulbright Laureate)

Ninon Robin is an invertebrate palaeontologist and a Fulbright-funded visiting scholar working to understand the evolution of termite microsymbionts. Formerly at the Paris Museum of Natural History, France, Ninon’s research broadly focuses on the understanding of species associations in ancient time, preserved as fossils. In 2014, she received à FWIS (L’Oréal-UNSECO) grant supporting her PhD research on fossil marine symbioses. Since 2016, her post-doctoral research focuses on the analysis of interactions between aquatic or terrestrial invertebrates and different fossil hosts or substrates, attempting to address the evolution of these relationships over time (scavenging, predation, symbiosis, parasitism). [ResearchGate Website] [Fulbright Link]

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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. 

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Ciara Mae Mendoza - Laboratory Technician

A native of New Jersey, Ciara received her bachelor's degree in Biology from Rutgers–Newark in 2015 and is an experienced researcher with a background rooted in curation, morphology, and molecular techniques. While she has spent many hours with insect specimens (including work assisting with the description of a new cockroach species you can read about here), her ultimate research goals relate to molecular biology and genomics of multiple organisms.

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Hala Abbas - UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCHER

Hala recently graduated from the Albert Dorman Honors College at NJIT with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology, minoring in Media & Communications. Hala's longterm goals relate to health care, and she will be attending Touro College School of Health Sciences. To help incoming lab researchers and future ant enthusiasts everywhere, she created an accessible handbook of ant biology that covers topics such as anatomy, systematics, evolution, and ecology.

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Hajar Elalam – Undergraduate Researcher

Hajar is a fourth-year student completing a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with a mathematics minor at Rutgers University – Newark. In the lab, her research interests relate to imaging techniques and the analysis of extinct species morphology. Hajar was born and raised in Brooklyn and plans to pursue a career in biomedical engineering.

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Chloe Jelley - UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCHER

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, 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. 

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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.

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Jonathan Rey A. Trinidad – postbac Researcher

Jonathan recently graduated from Rutgers University–Newark with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with a double minor in Chemistry and Mathematics. He is working on an independent project working to analyze the morphology of endemic and invasive ant species. Jonathan is an active member of the Minority Association for Pre-health Students (MAPS) & National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS) at Rutgers. In addition, he is a tenor in the Rutgers University Chorus and performed with the Montclair Operetta Club in two musicals at Bloomfield College.

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Alan Chen – High School Researcher

Alan is a senior at Livingston High school broadly interested in pursuing a career in biology. Recently, he was awarded a Provost summer internship at NJIT. In the lab, Alan works to understand the relationship between living and fossil ant communities through morphometrics. Alan is also first stand cellist, the president of the Julius C Bernstein chapter of the National Honor Society, and a left tackle on his varsity football team. 


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] njit.edu 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.