I am interested in understanding how nematode infections influence nestmate recognition and social behavior in ants. I am also interested in understanding the chemical basis for the changes in these behaviors. I completed my Masters at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. My Masters project was to understand the influence of community coalescence in the evolution of predatory abilities and social traits in lab-evolved strains of a bacterial predaor Myxococcus xanthus.
My interest lies in the study of the innate immune system of insects. During my undergraduate project, I conducted research to detect the immune responses of Procambarus clarkii when challenged by peptidoglycan. This experience ignited my fascination with immune-related research. After completing my Master's degree at Northwestern Polytechnical University, I joined the Ulrich lab to investigate immunity in the clonal raider ant.
I am interested in the interplay between information flow, social dynamics, and disease transmission in groups. I received my Master’s degree in Evolutionary Biology from the University of Groningen and the University of Munich through the MEME Erasmus program, during which I studied the breeding ecology of thorn-tailed rayadito and inbreeding avoidance strategies in spotted hyenas.
LAI KA LO
My fascination with different host strategies to overcome the spread of disease led me to join the Ulrich lab in 2023 to study the link between viral disease dynamics in ant colonies and their social network structure. My PhD studies with Professor Joachim Kurtz at the University of Muenster, focused on the impacts of individual immunological experience of Tribolium castaneum on their chemical profiles, microbiome and niche choice. I also utilised experimental evolution to study the role of niche construction for host adaptation to a bacterial pathogen.
Postdoctoral researcher (personal website)
Interested in the behaviour of ants and how they use their refined sense of smell, I joined the Ulrich lab in 2022 to study brood care in the clonal ants. During my PhD, I studied the learning and memory of ants, and tested if they could be used as bio-detectors of human cancer. More specifically, I trained ants to associate the volatile compounds emitted by cancer cells to a reward, and see that ants were able to discriminate cancer samples from cancer-free ones based on olfaction. I also used chemistry tools to identify the compounds.
Before joining the group I obtained my Masters in Physics at the University of Cologne working on network analysis based on the morphology of sclerits and muscles in the head capsule of insects with Prof. Blanke (University Bonn) and Prof. Berg (University Cologne). Switching from a static to a dynamic network system, I am interested in further resolving the colony interactions of the clonal raider ant. For this I am working with tracking of color-marked O. biroi workers and translating their behavior into proximity/ behavioral colony interaction networks to investigate colony dynamics and pathogen spread.
I have been working as a technician at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology for 20 years and I am very happy to support the Ulrich group since 2023. Our goal is developing a method to track nematode transmission between ants via live staining and thus get a better understanding of the behavior of the clonal raider ants.
Since my undergraduate studies, I have been fascinated by ants, examining their chemical communication and behavior. I then continued working with ants and studied the brain regions responsible for processing olfactory information via micro CT scans. I received both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degree at the University of Münster in Jürgen Gadau’s group. During my Master’s program, I began working with immunity in beetles, deepening my interest in the insect immune system. Now, as a Ph.D. student in the Ulrich lab, I can combine my research interests in sociality, the immune system, and chemical communication by studying the clonal raider ant.
I am interested in the interplay between social organization and disease resistance in animal societies. I received my PhD from ETH Zurich, where I investigated the evolutionary ecology of disease transmission in a trypanosome-bumblebee system under the supervision of Paul Schmid-Hempel. During my postdoc in the group of Daniel Kronauer at the Rockefeller University, I helped establish the clonal raider ant as a model for the study of social and collective behavior. I then started an independent research group at the University Lausanne, which moved to ETH Zurich, and finally, to the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology.
Giacomo Alciatore, PhD student, Aug 2017 – Apr 2022
Jérémie Bidaux, MSc student, Sep 2017 – Feb 2019
Thalita Oliveira Honorato, MSc student, Mar 2018 – Feb 2019
Stephanie Jud, MSc student, Apr 2021 – Oct 2021
Daniel Knebel, Postdoctoral researcher, May 2021 – Feb 2023
Qi Wang, MSc student, 2022 – 2023
- Luis Wirsching, MSc student, 2022 – 2023