Vector Physiology – Symbiosis – Entomology


Primary Investigator – Kevin Vogel, PhD

A native of Michigan, Kevin started as an undergraduate at Michigan State University where he got his Bachelors of Science in Microbiology and developed a love of entomology. Having had enough of midwestern winters, he headed southwest to the University of Arizona and received his PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Longing for real trees again, he traveled to the University of Georgia to do a post doctoral stint in the Department of Entomology. He decided he really liked Athens and joined the faculty as an assistant professor in 2017.

Postdoctoral Researchers

Dr. Sandra Mendiola, NSF Postdoctoral Fellow in Biology

Sandra first became interested in insects while working summers at the Potato Certification Association of Nebraska surveying potato fields for psyllids carrying zebra chip disease.  She ditched Nebraska for Connecticut where she received a bachelor’s degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Yale University. During her studies she became interested in vectorborne disease ecology and the role of insect symbionts on vector competence. After completing a postbac at UGA as part of the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, she went on to get a PhD in Population Biology, Ecology, and Evolution at Emory University. As part of her PhD, she investigated the role of a bacterial symbiont on the ability of squash bugs to harbor and transmit bacterial pathogens to squash. Her work spanned from identifying underlying transcriptomic differences in symbiotic and aposymbiotic bugs to modeling the consequences of those differences on pathogen transmission at the population level. In the Vogel lab, Sandra will be studying the adaptation of diverse bacterial symbionts to various triatomine bug hosts and its consequences on the potential for those hosts to vector trypanosome parasites.

Graduate students

Nia Keyes-Scott – PhD candidate, Entomology

Nia is an alumna of Valdosta State University. At VSU, she was part of a mosquito surveillance program, in which she identified several species of mosquitoes and sent them to be tested for West Nile Virus. After her experience at VSU, she decided she wanted to continue studying entomology and mosquitoes as a graduate student, here at the University of Georgia. Currently, her research in the Vogel lab is how gene expression and hormone receptors affect mosquito reproduction and how kissing bug symbionts influence host lipid metabolism.

Carissa Gilliland – PhD candidate, Entomology

Carissa studied biology at Augustana College, a very small university in Illinois where she developed an interest in insects. When she participated in an REU program at the University of Idaho she was exposed to the world of host-microbe interactions and was hooked. Carissa’s research examines how different bacteria influence kissing bug development and immune responses.

Ashley McCormick – MS student, Entomology

Ashley joined the lab in 2022 after working as an undergraduate in the lab. Ashley is examining the role of symbionts in modulating neuropeptide hormones in Rhodnius prolixus.

Liam Ash, MS Student, Entomology

Liam joined the lab from Ovipost, where he worked on commercial production of insects. Before that, Liam attended Swarthmore college where he studied history, but was called to work on insects. Liam is exploring the transcriptomes of axenic and gnotobiotic R. prolixus.

Interested in getting your PhD or Master’s degree working in vector biology? Students can apply directly through the Entomology program or through the University of Georgia Integrated Life Sciences program.


  • Evan Kraft
  • Avery Bryant

Former lab members

Postdoctoral researchers:

  • Vilas Patel (Postdoctoral researcher, 2018-2019) – Currently a postdoctoral researcher in the Oliver lab at the University of Georgia
  • Yin Wang (Postdoctoral researcher, 2019-2020) – Currently a postdoctoral researcher in the Strand lab at the University of Georgia

Lab Technicians:

  • Betsy Jackson (2021). Currently an aide to Rep. Troy Carter (LA 2nd district)
  • Bradley Mackett (2020-2021). Currently a graduate student in Marine and Environmental Biology at The University of Southern California
  • Logan Harrell (2019-2020)
  • Alejandra Millan (2017-2019)


  • Bren Latorre-Murrin (2017-2020)
  • Anthony Vandeiren (2018-2020). Currently a PhD Student in the lab of Jeff Barrick at UT Austin
  • Kyle Swade (2019-2021). Currently a master’s student at Kennesaw State University
  • Lena Allen (2021-2023)
  • Isabella Defelippi (2022-2023)
  • Ashley Lomax (2022 – 2023)