Current lab members

Bianca Ferreira
Research Assistant

bianca.ferreira at

Bianca recently finished her Masters degree at Wits University in the Polyploidy/ Plant Evolution And Speciation (PEAS) lab in South Africa. She helps manage the lab and supports all research activities, in addition to exploring her own research interest in the genetic basis of floral trait variation. In her spare time she enjoys rock climbing, hiking, playing ukulele & flute and botanical illustrations.

Samuel Hilliman

Postbac RaMP Scholar

samuel.hilliman at

Samuel is a recent 2023 graduate from Uconn with a BA in Biological Sciences. Samuel joined the lab as an NSF RaMP Scholar and is conducting research on pigmentation patterns. In his spare time he enjoys baking and sewing.

Kathleen Houlihan
Undergraduate Student

kathleen.houlihan at

Kathleen is an undergraduate double majoring in Biology and Mathematics. She is currently working on the genetic basis of flower color variation between the hummingbird-pollinated Mimulus cardinalis and the self-pollinated M. parishii.

Steven Jarsen
Research Assistant
steven.jarsen at

Steven joined the lab as a Master student in September 2021 after finishing his undergraduate education at UConn. He defended his Master thesis in August 2023, and continues to work in the lab as lab technician. He is interested in the molecular mechanisms of ecologically interesting phenotypes. Outside of the lab, Steven likes cooking and playing video games.

Amy LaFountain
Postdoctoral Fellow
amy.lafountain at
Amy first joined the lab in August 2016 as a Ph.D student. She initiated the project on the genetics, development, and evolution of a novel phenotype in Mimulus verbenaceus, and defended her dissertation in August 2021. She stays in the lab as a postdoc to continue working on the phenotypic novelty project as well as several other projects. Before joining us, Amy worked as a research technician in the UConn Chemistry department and was an expert on chemical analysis of  carotenoids. In her spare time, Amy enjoys running, hiking, and watching sitcoms.
Weijun Liang
Ph.D Student
weijun.liang at
Weijun joined the lab as a PhD student in Fall 2023 after completing his master's degree at the City College of the City University of New York, where he studied insect diversity, biogeography, and evolution. As he was fascinated by insect-plant interaction and coevolution, he became interested in the evolution of floral pollination syndromes. His research now focuses on the molecular genetics of floral trait variation. Outside of the lab, Weijun enjoys reading, board games, watching YouTube, and museum visits.

Rong-Chien Lin
Postdoctoral Fellow

rong-chien.lin at 


Rong-Chien joined the lab in January 2023. She did her Ph.D on genetics and evolution of floral color variation in Clarkia and Erythronium with Dr. Mark Rausher at Duke University. She then worked with Dr. Ko-Hsuan Chen in Biodiversity Research Center, Academia Sinica, Taiwan to understand the relationships between floral microbes and floral traits. At UConn, she works on the regulatory mechanisms of anthocyanin-based pigmentation patterning in Mimulus. In her spare time, she enjoys birdwatching and hiking. 

Chang Liu
Part-time technician

cliu706 at

Chang did her undergraduate studies at Sichuan University, China, and obtained her Master degree in Plant Systematics from Idaho State University. She worked as a research technician at University of Georgia and has been working in the lab as a volunteer or part-time technician since 2013. Outside of the lab, Chang enjoys baking, hiking, and spending time with her kids.
Ya Min
NSF Postdoctoral Fellow
ya.min at
Minya joined the lab in October 2021 after finishing her Ph.D on the developmental mechanism of floral meristem termination in Aquilegia with Dr. Elena Kramer at Harvard University. Now she is taking advantage of the rich genetic resources and functional tools in the Mimulus system to explore the molecular mechanism of symmetry breaking in the floral meristem. In her spare time, Minya enjoys traveling, playing piano, and going to rock concerts.
Reese Nguyen
Undergraduate Student
teresa.2.nguyen at
Reese is an undergraduate majoring in Plant Pathology. She is interested in everything about plants, and is currently working on the genetic control of trichome variation between the bumblebee-pollinated Mimulus lewisii and the self-pollinated M. parishii.
Erin Patterson

Postdoctoral Fellow

erin.patterson at

Erin joined the lab in February 2024 after finishing her Ph.D. on the evolution and development of awns in the grass family with Dr. Madelaine Bartlett at UMass Amherst. Having worked on monkeyflowers during undergrad, she is returning to Mimulus to take advantage of complex and varied floral shapes to understand their evolution and development. When not looking at flowers, she enjoys sewing, reading, and playing D&D with friends.

Sam Pring

Postbac RaMP Scholar

samuelsaradypring at


Sam just finished his BA in Biology and Linguistics in 2023 from Bucknell University where he conducted research on the evolution of firefly signaling modality. He joined the lab as a RaMP Scholar and is studying the functional evolution of CYC-like genes across angiosperms. Outside of the lab, Sam enjoys baking, reading, and learning about languages.
Vijay Veerappan 
Visiting Professor
veerappanv at
Vijay is an Associate Professor at the Department of Biology in Eastern Connecticut State University, and is currently on sabbatical leave in the Yuan Lab. He is fascinated by the beauty and natural variation of Mimulus species and hoping to adapt Mimulus as a genetic model for research and teaching genetics in undergraduate classes. Vijay obtained his Ph.D. in Biology from Texas Tech University, did his post-doctoral training in Oklahoma State University and University of North Texas. Outside of the lab, Vijay loves to spend time with his family, hiking, watching football and gardening.
Yuan_photoYaowu Yuan
Associate Professor
Biology / Pharmacy 305A
Phone: 860-486-4059
yaowu.yuan at
Yaowu obtained his B.S. in Biology (2004) from Sichuan University, China, and Ph.D in Plant Systematics (2008) from University of Washington (Seattle). He then received postdoc training at University of Georgia (2009-2010) on plant genomics and transposable elements, and then at University of Washington (2011-2013) on the genetics of plant adaptation and speciation. He has been fascinated by the diversity of flower color and form since undergraduate days. He moved to UConn and set up the lab in 2013 to study exactly that. Outside of the lab, Yaowu enjoys reading the history of science, watching sitcoms, and hiking and fishing with his kids.

Lab Alumni


Mei Liang (11/2019-12/2022), currently Professor at Huazhong Agricultural University, Wuhan, China.

Baoqing Ding (10/2014-02/2021), currently Professor at Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing, China.

Graduate Students

Sarita Muñoz-Gómez (08/2021-05/2023), Master student (co-advised with Dr. Cindi Jones), currently Ph.D student at Auburn University.

Vandana Gurung (08/2016-03/2023), Ph.D student (co-advised with Dr. Pam Diggle), currently postdoc at Auburn University.

Hongfei Chen (01/2019-08/2022), Ph.D student, currently postdoc at Yale University.

Qiaoshan Lin (08/2016-08/2022), Ph.D student (co-advised with Dr. Jill Wegrzyn), currently bioinformatician at University of Chicago.

Amy LaFountain (08/2016-08/2021), Ph.D student, currently stays in the lab as postdoc.

Hayley McMahon (08/2018-08/2020), Master student (co-advised with Dr. Jeff Seemann), currently Research Scientist at AssayQuant Technologies.

Lauren Stanley (08/2014-05/2020), Ph.D student, currently NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at Michigan State University.


Janelle Sagawa (08/2013-08/2014),  founding member of the lab

Visiting Students/Scholars

Zheng Xiao (03/2019-04/2020), Visiting Professor, Institute of Horticulture, Jiangsu Academy of Agricultural Sciences, China

Chen Feng (09/2017-09/2018), Visiting Graduate Student, South China Botanical Garden, CAS

Jingjian Li (07/2017-07/2018), Visiting Graduate Student, South China Agricultural University, China

Arielle Cooley (02/2017-03/2017), Visiting Professor, Whitman College, WA

Xuemei Sun  (01/2017-06/2017), Visiting Graduate Student, Qinghai University, China

Wenjie Chen (11/2015-11/2016), Visiting Professor, Northwest Institute of Plateau Biology, CAS

Fengjuan Mou (08/2015-08/2016), Visiting Professor, Southwest Forestry University, China

Undergraduate Researchers

Olivia Ritchie (03/2023-12/2023)

Saige Sevigny (10/2022-12/2023)

Nathan Schaumburger (05/2021-08/2022): Ph.D program at Harvard University.

Lisa Olsen (02/2018-05/2020): Genetic Counseling Graduate Program at University of Arizona

Caitlin Foster (01/2018-05/2020): Medical School at University of Connecticut

Maussi Arrunategui (09/2017-05/2019): Ph.D program at the Department of PSLA at UConn

Griffin Struyk (08/2014-05/2017): Medical School at University of Minnesota

Connor Hill (05/2015-06/2016): Ph.D program and then Postdoc at University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

Henry Guo (06/2014-05/2016)

Sean Reilly (01/2014-05/2016): Physician of Internal Medicine in Philadelphia, PA

Alex Dykas (01/2014-12/2014): Software Engineer in Boston, MA

Matthew Strobel (08/2013-05/2015): Ph.D program in Genetics at University of New Hampshire, then Research Fellow at Harvard Medical School

Dominika Bajguz (08/2013-05/2015): Genetic Counselor at Novant Health

High School Students

Matt Nunez (summer of 2022)

Alicia Mazzura (summer of 2019)

Alexandra Kwiecien (summer of 2018)

Kiara Monahan (summers of 2016, 2017, 2018)