Principle Investigator

Daniel Promislow PhD began his career in biology as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago. He completed his doctoral work in evolutionary biology with Paul Harvey at Oxford University. After post-doctoral work in Paris, at Queen’s University in Ontario, and at the University of Minnesota, in 1995 he joined the faculty in the Department of Genetics at the University of Georgia. Daniel moved to the University of Washington in July 2013, where he is professor in the Departments of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology and Biology. Daniel is broadly interested in evolutionary genetics, with a particular focus on projects related to aging, as well as studies on sexual selection, natural genetic variation, networks, and metabolomics. Daniel is the Principal Investigator of the Dog Aging Project , an NIH-funded long-term longitudinal study of the biological and environmental determinants of healthy aging in companion dogs. In his spare time, Daniel enjoys hiking, cooking, and skiing.


Ming Yang, PhD grew up in Northern China and then moved to Southern China to attend university. She received her BS and PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Sun Yat-sen University. Her PhD work focused on speciation and adaptive evolution using both model (Drosophila) and non-model species (Mangroves). With a background of population genetics, she is good at quantitative thinking, coding and analyzing multi-omics data. In the Promislow lab, Ming is working on Alzheimer’s Disease using Drosophila as a model, combining genetics, single-cell sequencing and network analysis to look deep into fly brains. Outside the lab, she loves reading, watching movies, hiking and eating. Her favorite genre is fiction and she is a huge fan of “Three Bodies”.

Junior Faculty Silvan Urfer is a veterinarian with a background in population genetics and survival analysis and is currently working on the Dog Aging Project for the Promislow and Kaeberlein Labs. He earned his veterinary degree and his doctorate from the University of Bern in his native Switzerland and did postdoctoral work in the Ostrander Lab at NIH/NHGRI in Bethesda, Maryland, and the Wolf Lab at UW Medicine Pathology, where he worked on population genetics and biomarkers of aging in dogs. Following Norm Wolf’s retirement at the end of 2011, he worked on analyzing large veterinary databases in cooperation with the private sector, investigating preventive veterinary interventions that could have beneficial effects on overall life expectancy in dogs. In 2016, Silvan came back to the UW as a Senior Fellow to work on the Dog Aging Project, and was promoted to Acting Instructor in Spring of 2019. In his spare time, he also investigates the effects of aging on yeast-fermented Vitis vinifera lysates using organoleptic bioassays.

Avani Mital started exploring her interest in biology during her undergrad at Delhi University studying zoology and moved on to pursue an MS-PhD in evolutionary biology with Prof. Amitabh Joshi at JNCASR, Bangalore. Her work focused on understanding the consequences of long-term selection for rapid development in fruit-flies on sexual conflict and life-history evolution. She then did her first post-doctoral fellowship at Linköping University, Sweden with Urban Friberg working on the genetics of ageing, specifically exploring how mutational effects vary with their age of onset. At the Promislow lab, she’s now investigating how social behavior of fruit-flies may be linked to ageing. Having spent many summer vacations in the Himalayas, she has a love of mountains and is excited at the prospect of hiking near Seattle. She also enjoys cooking a variety of Indian food, baking cakes, sketching and running.

Graduate Students

Graduate student Ashley Paynter grew up in New York City and studied evolutionary and cell biology at Binghamton University in upstate New York. As an undergraduate,she worked on the disease ecology and genomics of Lyme disease. She also worked at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan where she studied the natural history of contagious cancers. Ashley moved to Seattle to pursue her PhD in Biology in 2017 and is working on the Dog Aging Project to better understand canine cancer genetics, hereditary disease, and breed specific polymorphisms in precancerous mutations. In her free time, Ashley enjoys hiking, swimming, and playing with her dog, Honey.

Rene Coig is a graduate student in the Molecular Medicine and Mechanisms of Disease PhD program and a Trainee with the T32 Biological Mechanisms of Healthy Aging Training Program. He earned his B.S. in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology from the University of Washington. His research focus in the lab is on variation in sexual dimorphism and its influence on the aging process. He also holds an undergraduate degree in Sociology from Louisiana State University. Previous to his time in Promislow lab, Rene worked in the LGBT community mental health field for seven years, and as an animator in the game industry for an additional 7 years before realizing life wasn’t hard enough which prompted him to pursue a career change and enroll in a PhD program. Thankfully, he has had the unwavering support of his cat Purrbot over the last 14 years in all of his life’s pursuits. Rene enjoys sleeping, resting and staring off into space in his free time.

Graduate Student Diane Xue was born and raised in Germantown, Wisconsin and studied applied economics and genetics at University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is currently a doctoral student at the University of Washington Institute for Public Health Genetics and predoctoral fellow in the Neurobehavior, Neuropathology, and Risk Factors in Alzheimer’s Disease Training Program. Diane is interested in integrating methods from genetic and social epidemiology to find solutions for preventing dementia and promoting healthy aging. In the Promislow lab, Diane is working on the Dog Aging Project  to understand risk factors for canine cognitive dysfunction. If you see Diane out in the wild, she is always happy to talk about Taylor Swift, The Lord of the Rings, or her most recent purchase from Uwajimaya.

Abbey Marye is a graduate student in the Institute of Public Health Genetics MPH program and is also working on a certificate in Statistical Genetics. She earned her B.A. in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology from the University of Colorado Boulder. Her undergraduate research focused on the impact of physiological stress on liver tissue in mice that had spent time on the International Space Station. She currently works on the Dog Aging Project to explore DNA methylation changes that are associated with wildfire smoke and the possible long-term health impacts of those changes. When she is not in the lab, you can find her fiercely cheering on the UW softball team or on the field pitching for her own fastpitch team on the weekends. Her downtime includes reading, crocheting, or watching TV with her rambunctious orange cat, Custard.

Visiting SCientists

Harini Shankar is an undergraduate student at Barnard College of Columbia University studying biology. She hopes to continue research in graduate school, ideally pursuing a PhD or MD. Her interests span from toxicology and physiological systems to bioengineering for environmental efforts. While she isn’t busy hosting her WBAR radio show or performing in jazz concerts around New York, she is learning new languages, trying out new recipes, or collecting useless fun facts.

Tom Evans(They/Them) is an international student from Wales visiting from Bennington College in Vermont. They are a junior with a concentration in cellular biology and pathology, currently deciding between pursuing a PhD or medical school (or both!) upon graduation. Tom is interested broadly in translational research and how we can use model organisms to learn more about human biology, and is currently driven by issues surrounding body image and body weight discriminnation within medicine. They believe that not enough is being done to educate people about fat, destigmatising its existence and exploring the relationship between body fat and how much we eat. As a result, they are currently studying the relationship between the eating habits of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster and body fat levels across the natural genetic variation within the Drosophila Genetic Reference Panel. This experiment is part of a larger study of  sexual dimorphism in body fat in flies undertaken to better understand the wide ranging variation in body fat between the sexes. Fundamentally Tom is asking if flies that eat more food have more fat, and if there is a difference in this relationship between males and females. This may seem simple, but measuring the feeding of an organism so small is not that easy! We usually assume that more food means more fat which is what makes this work even more exciting, because most assumptions we make in research turn out to be wrong! The main reason that fruit flies are studied is that they are genetically comparable to humans, and so with enough time put into research like this, Tom hopes to be able to make connections to the human genome to help add an important perspective to research concerning body fat. This is Tom’s first research opportunity as an undergraduate. They hope to return to UW and their research to learn more about what makes us tick through the eyes of a fruitfly. Outside of the lab they can be found either at the gym lifting weights whilst contemplating the reasons behind their endless R error messages and avoiding the smell of yeast at all times.

Lab Technicians

Maria Partida-Aguilar grew up in the Kirkland, Washington and has spent her life around around the Puget sound area. Maria developed a love for life sciences while in high school and attended the University of Washington to pursue a degree in biology. She worked as an undergraduate in the Lukehart lab studying syphilis infection and vaccine development. She graduated in 2019 and joined the Promislow Lab in 2020. In the Promislow Lab she works on the Dog Aging project studying the metabolomics of dogs as they age. In her free time she likes to spend time baking, crafting, and watching movies with her cats.

Lily Hamlin was born and raised in Corvallis Oregon and has spent her life in the pacific northwest. Lily became interested in biology during high school and attended Gonzaga University where she graduated with a BS in Biology, a minor in chemistry and a concentration in research. During her time at Gonzaga, she did undergraduate research looking at the presence of Modified Granular Glands in Plethodontid Salamander Aneides flaviounctatus. She joined the Promislow lab in the fall of 2022 in shortly after graduating where she works with the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. In her free time she enjoys reading, cooking, running and looking at pictures of her corgi!

Tom Nonacs grew up in Los Angeles, California, and graduated from Willamette University in 2022 with a BA in Biology. As an undergraduate, Tom dedicated his time to studying the hybridization and fitness of Joshua trees, along with different species of hymenopteran parasitoids in the Oregon white oak ecosystem. Joining the Promislow lab in the summer of 2022, Tom now focuses his research on investigating resilience in Drosophila melanogaster as well as exploring the evolutionary trade-offs between lifespan and reproduction. During his leisure time, Tom enjoys thrifting vintage clothes, seeing live music, and doing anything outdoors.

Reasearch Assistants

Bill Young is a third year undergraduate at the University of Washington studying Molecular Biology and Psychology. Bill is interested in researching disease genetics and learning more about the applications of biology in research. Born and raised in Washington, Bill enjoys outdoor activities like hiking, swimming, and running.

Bill Young is a 2021-22 Levinson Scholar

Anastasia Costanza is an undergraduate at the University of Washington studying biochemistry and molecular, cellular, and developmental biology. She is interested in the fields of aging and genetic research. After graduating, Anastasia hopes to pursue a PhD program with focus in research pertaining to the molecular and cellular mechanisms of aging and age-related diseases. In her free time, she loves spending time with her family including her four dogs: Bandi, Scout, Bailey, and Princess. She also enjoys reading, cooking, and hiking!

Lakshin Kumar is an undergraduate student majoring in biochemistry. He is currently interested in neurological and metabolism if modeling as well as other applications of computational biology. In his free time, he enjoys hiking, playing tennis, trying to build trinkets and high stakes (not really) poker.

Lakshin is also pretty good at chess.

Lydia Lee is an undergraduate pursuing a degree in Biology with a concentration in Physiology at the University of Washington. Lydia is dedicated to better understanding the biological mechanisms of aging and its practical implications in improving longevity and quality of life in the geriatric population. In her free time, she enjoys playing tennis, reading, and devouring Popeyes chicken sandwiches.

Danielle Vahdat is an undergraduate at the University of Washington double majoring in Biology with a focus on Conservation and Environmental Studies with a minor in Data Science. She is particularly interested in learning about the research process in biological contexts, so, in the future, Danielle hopes to continue her research by pursuing a PhD in ecological and conservation Biology. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, playing the viola, and jumping her horse over oversized sticks around the country.

Senior ScientistS

Ben Harrison grew up in Vancouver, Washington and studied biology at Clark College in Vancouver and at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. He earned a PhD in genetics at the University of Wisconsin in 2007 and joined the faculty at the University of Alaska where he taught courses in genetics, molecular biology and evolution. Ben joined the Promislow lab to pursue his interests in the architecture of complex traits. Outside of the lab Ben enjoys spending time with family, fixing cars, exploring the outdoors and eating wildlife.

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