Sophia Parks Honored as Stanford Propel Scholar

Graduate student Sophia Parks has accepted a position as a postdoctoral scholar in Dr. Manuel Amieva’s lab at Stanford University. In addition, she was selected to be one of the inaugural Propel Scholars, a newly formed Postdoctoral Scholar program at Stanford University’s School of Medicine ( Sophia begins her postdoctoral appointment in January. 

Jumping, Effectors, and Gastropods

S. carpocapsae jumping. From Dillman et al., 2021.

Like many labs, we were effectively shutdown for 3 full months in 2020 and have gradually been resuming full research activity as restrictions have decreased. So far this year, we published our first study of nematode effectors, where Sophia Parks and colleagues have illustrated the immunosuppressive potential of nematode FAR proteins. Jake Schurkman published an excellent review of EPN-Gastropod interactions. And Adler Dillman managed to publish data obtained in his graduate studies showing that EPNs jump with greater velocity and acceleration than previously reported. The high-speed videos of nematode jumping have finally been published.

We look forward to the characterization of many more nematode effectors, with studies of sPLA2 and ShKT-domain-containing proteins in the pipeline.

Outstanding Investigator Award

Dr. Dillman has been awarded an Outstanding Investigator Award (R35) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This represents the first five-year award granted to the Dillman lab and will allow the lab increased flexibility in pursuing health-related research. The $1.8 million was awarded in support of the overall research program of the lab rather than a specific project. With the support the lab will move forward in studying host-parasite interactions and how nematode venom influences host biology.

Genes and Neurons Involved in C. elegans’ Response to Prenol

Dr. Tiffany Baiocchi, a former graduate student that is now an assistant professor at Lassen County Community College, just published the final chapter of her doctoral thesis in GENETICS. The new paper represents a Herculean effort by Tiffany and many of the undergraduates she trained. Six of her trainees share authorship on the paper. Paul Sternberg and members of his lab at Caltech were also instrumental in completing essential experiments for this project. This project was a follow-up on Tiffany’s previous work identifying prenol as an odor associated with EPN-infected insects. Her latest paper explores the neurons and genetic pathways involved in the detection and response to prenol by C. elegans. Congratulations Tiffany and all those involved!

EPN Behavior in Pluronic Gel

Efforts in studying EPN behavior over the last 60 years have primarily relied on assays done in sand, soil or agar. Pluronic gel (PF127) media, which has been used to study other nematodes, has only recently been employed to study EPN behavior. In collaboration with Chunjie Li from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, we explored the value of using pluronic gel as a means of studying EPN behavior.
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Collaborative NIH Grant Awarded

From a recent UCR news article (

Congratulations to Dr. Meera Nair and her lab on their recent NIH grant focused on how RELM-α-expressing macrophages mediate host disease tolerance in mucosal infection. The proposed work will be done in collaboration with the Nordgren and Dillman labs at UCR. We’re excited to be spending more time working with the rat parasite Nippostrongylus brasiliensis. We’re also pleased to be extending our collaborative work with Dr. Nair and her lab; this is the third NIH-funded study that we will be working on with Dr. Nair. 

EPN host-seeking behavior affected by physical contact with hosts

A collaborative study performed by graduate student Tiffany Baiocchi and honors undergraduate student Lauren Braun was recently published in the Journal of Nematology. Previous research had shown that the proportion of Steinernema carpocapsae IJs participating in host-seeking behavior is significantly increased after stimulation by physical contact with host cues. In this follow-up work we found that such physical stimulation results in a three-fold increase in participation by IJs. This effect seems influence the response of nematodes to host-specific odors rather than being a general increase in chemotaxis. Congratulations to Tiffany & Lauren!

Differentiating between scavengers and entomopathogenic nematodes

Entomopathogenic nematodes (EPNs) are a special guild of insect-parasitic nematodes. What sets them apart from other insect-parasitic nematodes are their ability to rapidly kill their host, and their use of bacteria to facilitate their lifestyle. There are an increasing number of species descriptions that include new species of EPNs, even when the newly described species is not in fact an EPN.  A recent study on how to differentiate between EPNs and scavengers was recently published. This work was done by Tiffany Baiocchi, Dennis Chang, and Dihong Lu, in collaboration with visiting scholar Keyun Zhang. Congratulations to the authors, this is a nice study that should prove useful to researchers describing new insect-associated nematodes.