Lab Members

Joel Meyer

I received a B.S. from Juniata College in 1992 (dual “Programs of Emphasis” in Environmental Studies and Peace and Conflict Studies), and then moved to Guatemala where I worked for five years in a number of fields including appropriate technology and high school teaching. Building cookstoves and latrines (with the small, great NGO and language school El Centro Pop Wuj) and observing air and water pollution led me to study environmental health and obtain a Ph.D. in Environmental Toxicology from Duke University (2003, with Dr. Richard Di Giulio). My PhD research triggered an interest in toxic effects of pollutants on mitochondria and DNA, which I pursued in postdoctoral research with Dr. Bennett Van Houten at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (2003 to 2006).

I joined the faculty of the Nicholas School of the Environment in 2007, where I am currently the Truman and Nellie Semans/Alex Brown & Sons Associate Professor of Molecular Environmental Toxicology. I am also a faculty member and Director of Graduate Studies for the Integrated Toxicology and Environmental Health Program, member of the Duke Cancer Institute, affiliate of the Duke Global Health Institute, faculty member of the Pharmacological Sciences program, and have a secondary appointment in Civil and Environmental Engineering. A current CV and additional work details are here. If you contact me, use he/him/his, and call me whatever you are comfortable with (Joel, Dr. Meyer, hey you, etc.).


Laura Benzing

Shefali Bijwadia

Shefali (Class of 2021) joined the Meyer Lab in the fall of 2018. She graduated with a B.S Biology degree with minors in Chemistry and Psychology. Her undergraduate work experience included a year as a research technician with Duke’s Infectious Disease Clinic and a summer as an intern with Sports and Orthopaedic Specialists in Saint Paul, MN, where she grew up. At the Meyer Lab, she investigates the effects of preconception and later life chemical exposures on dopaminergic neuronal loss in C. elegans. Outside of environmental toxicology, her interests include staying active (you can spot her biking or running in and around campus!), playing and listening to music, and spending time outdoors.

Nathan Heffernan

Nathan is an undergraduate senior majoring in public policy and minoring in chemistry. He is passionate about environmental health, and the intersection of policy and science. At the Meyer lab, he has worked on projects involving ozone exposure and dopaminergic neurodegeneration.  After graduation, he hopes to attend medical school.

Nathan Heffernan

Riccardo Romersi

Ricky is a member of the class of 2021 who will receive a B.S. for an interdisciplinary major in chemistry and environmental sciences. He joined the Meyer Lab in the fall of 2018 and has worked on elucidating the role of mesencephalic astrocyte derived neurotrophic factor (MANF) in protecting dopaminergic neurons from degeneration associated with toxicant exposure. He was able to continue this project in the summer of 2019 as an intern in the Duke Superfund Research Program.


Tymofi Sokolskyi

Tym, a Biology major and Philosophy minor from the Class of 2021, joined the Meyer lab in the fall of 2018. Prior to working with C. elegans, he did research on mTOR cell signaling pathway in his home country – Institute of Molecular Biology and Genetics in Ukraine and on 100-million-year-old fossil sharks and dinosaurs in Ukraine and the U.S. Since joining the lab, he studies impact of aflatoxin exposure on mitochondrial DNA and the microbiome of C. elegans and how it affects its host. His current research includes exploring how nematode microbiomes from their native environments impact host fitness and resistance to toxins.

Pooja Lalwani

Pooja Lalwani is a sophomore (Trinity ‘23) pursuing a biology major alongside a music minor and a Sustainability Engagement certificate on the premedical track.  She has been with the Meyer lab since the fall of 2020, where she is passionate about studying how environmental conditions influence human health and biology.  At Duke, she is heavily involved as a Green Devil intern and volunteers through the Nasher Museum of Art’s Reflections program.  When she is not studying, she loves to play the piano and serve her community. She hopes to use her research to inform solutions aimed at improving public health outcomes.

PhD Students

christina bergemann

Christina Bergemann

Christina joined the lab in Fall 2020 after previously being a technician in the lab for the past 3 years. She received her B.S. degree in Environmental Science from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. After graduating with her B.S. degree, she made her way to Duke University where she joined a biogeochemistry lab studying saltwater intrusion along the coast of NC and the impact of engineered nanomaterials in the environment. She is currently looking at how preconception exposure to toxicants change mitochondrial function in offspring. When not in the lab she enjoys biking, gardening, and spending time with her dog.

Dillon King

Dillon King

Dillon joined both the Meyer and Murphy labs in 2019. Dillon earned a B.S. in Biochemistry and a B.S. in Marine Science at Coastal Carolina University in 2017. As an undergraduate she conducted research on microplastic pollution, organic synthetic chemistry, and plant cell biology. Her research focuses on understanding how biologic sex influences mitochondrial function, if sex-specific susceptibility to mitochondrial toxicants exists, and how sex differences in epigenetic patterning of mitochondrial genes coded in the nuclear genome influence expression. When not in the lab, she enjoys spending time with her dog, trying new restaurants around Durham, and going to the beach. 

Tess Leuthner

Tess Leuthner

Tess joined the Meyer lab in 2016. After receiving her B.S. in Environmental Science from Indiana University, she worked at the UW-Milwaukee School of Public Health under Drs. Ava Udvadia and Michael Laiosa. There she studied the effects of embryonic exposures in zebrafish and mice to common pollutants, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and dioxin, and their effects on the nervous and immune systems. Currently, she is interested in understanding the effects of environmental toxicants on DNA, specifically those that can cause mitochondrial DNA damage. Using C. elegans as a model, she is investigating the potential for these stressors to cause mutations that can be passed on across generations.

Kate Morton

Kate Morton

Kate joined the Meyer Lab in 2020 after graduating from Virginia Tech with a B.S. in Biochemistry and a B.A. in Political Science (Go Hokies!). During undergrad she worked for Dr. Jake Tu in the Fralin Life Sciences Institute studying mosquito genomics and sex determination and Dr. Mauro Caraccioli studying literature regarding colonizer-indigenous interactions during the colonization of South America. She became interested in toxicology through her volunteer research on Mediterranean Loggerhead Sea Turtles with Wildlife Sense. Her research will focus on the nexus between anthropogenic chemicals, mitochondrial dysfunction, and dopaminergic neurodegeneration. When outside the lab you’ll find her travelling, baking, trying new foods, or somewhere by the water.


ian ryde

Ian Ryde

Sarah Seay

Sarah Seay

Postdoctoral Researchers

Lu Wang

Lu Wang

After receiving her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from SINAP, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lu joined the Meyer lab at the end of 2018. Currently, her work mainly focuses on the effects of silver nanoparticles on mitochondria. She wants to test the hypothesis that mitochondria are a critical target of AgNPs toxicity in mammalian cells.

Lingfeng Meng

Lingfeng joined the Meyer lab in 2020. He completed his PHD in Biology in Huazhong University of Science and Technology in 2013. Then he worked with Dong Yan at the Duke University Medical Center to study neural development in C. elegans. Lingfeng is interested in exploring the effects of exposures to environmental chemicals on neurodevelopmental disorders. His research takes advantage of the invariant cell lineage, simple nervous system, and powerful genetics of the model organism, C. elegans, to uncover the molecular genetic mechanisms of how gene-environment interactions affect the development of the nervous system.

Lab Alums

Undergrads: Emily Barefoot; Kiersten Bell (Worm Whisperer); Avery Berkowitz (Speed Demon); Kelsey Behrens (FUDR girl); Ashley Blawas (Aquagirl); Meryl Colton (Photoxia); Audrey Dinyari (Mitolassie); Lauren Donoghue (Teenage Mutant Tarheel Turtle); Sam Hall (Fluoresca); Alessandria Greco; Sarah Gustafson (Staticia); Victoria Harms; Jamie Harris (Detoxifier); Jina Kim (DNA Djinni); Sean Lee (Pickstar); Katie Margillo (Ultraviolet Spectre); Zachary Markovich; Anne Martin (GreenGirl) Maddie McKeever (Wildcat); Luiza Perez; Caroline Reed; Caroline Schechinger (Sacaga-enviro-wea); Michael Saporito; Alex Simon; Matt Strumph (MacroLeader); Lila Thornton (Shadowcrosser); Tanner Waters (The Blender); Dan Wood (Sonic Boom); Zhirui (Ray) Zhu (SYBRman)

Master’s students: Sharon Luong (Firebird); Krithika Umakanth (Mekanika); Alex Kliminsky (Master Strange)

PhD students: Amanda Smith Bess (Black Fusion); Claudia González-Hunt (MitoMaga); Rashmi Joglekar (Epi-Girl); Maxwell C.K. Leung (Toxic Knight); Jess Lewis (Smoke Slayer); Tony Luz (Snarf); John Rooney (Worm Hunter); Latasha Smith (Toxic Rogue); Lauren Wyatt (Silver Storm); Xinyu “Candy” Yang (Nano Ninja)

Researchers: Charu Anbalagan (Supertoxgirl); Tracey Crocker (Wonder Worm Woman); Maggie Gustafson (Maggie the White); Alex Ji (Terror Byte); Chris Lord (Green Machine); Paige Meier (Metamorphenom); Victoria Tettehnaa; Elena Turner (Metalhawk)

Postdocs: Rakesh Bodhicharla (The Hulk); Jessica Hartman (The Catalyst); Kirsten Helmcke (Mercuria); Kathleen Hershberger; Senyene Hunter (Electrophoresa); Laura Maurer (Invisible Woman); Danielle Mello Trevisan (Power-Immunotox Girl)

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