Katie Mika’s research asks questions about the evolution and development of new traits, primarily in fish. The oceans have been a hotbed of biological novelty and innovation since multicellular life originated. Some traits, such as adaptation to depth, are unique among marine organisms. Others, such as appendages, have terrestrial analogs, yet we still find unique and spectacular marine forms. The evolution and development of these traits likely relies on variations within conserved molecular pathways, many of which have yet to be fully defined.
Work in her lab utilizes cutting edge molecular techniques on non-model and model marine organisms to elucidate the molecular underpinnings– both conserved and novel– of phenotypic evolution in the oceans. This includes surveying a breadth of marine appendages–from the model zebrafish pectoral fins to the cartilaginous skate wings, comparing adaptation to depth in saltwater and freshwater ecosystems, and exploring the influence of host gene expression on microbiome community composition in marine vertebrates.
Awards and Honors
2022 National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI) Worldwide Dr. Charlie Brown Memorial Award; 2021 Inaugural University of Chicago Biological Sciences Division Postdoc Trainee Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award; 2020 Women Divers Hall of Fame Instructor Advanced Education Grant; 2019 The Microbiome Center Pilot Award
- Ph.D., University of Chicago
- Dissertation: “Molecular Evolution of Pregnancy”
- B.S., Indiana University
- B.A., Indiana University
Research interests and areas of expertise
- Molecular evolution
- Single cell sequencing
- Non-model organisms
- Marine microbiomes