Graduate Students

Amber Bratcher

Originally from Kansas, Amber received a B.S. is Biology and Marine Biology from Southwestern College in Winfield, KS in 2005. As a graduate student at the University of Maine, her Ph.D. research focuses on RNA detection of dinoflagettes of the genus Alexandrium using peptide nucleic acid probes (PNA) and portable surface plasmon resonance (SPR) biosensor technology.  Overall, she is interested in rapid on-site detection and ecological monitoring of harmful algal blooms. In collaboration with researchers at the University of Washington, they have developed a portable SPR instrument designed for use in the field that uses miniature gold-coated sensor units commercially available from Spreeta. Using species-specific PNA probes this instrument can detect synthethic oligonucleotides designed to mimic each species of interest, and I am currently investigating rapid methods of RNA extraction from algal cultures that are practical to carry out in the field. The ultimate goal of my research is to use this SPR instrument to detect the presence and abundance of the species of Alexandrium present throughout coastal Gulf of Maine. Check out more info on the algal bloom sensors page.


Janice Duy

My research focuses on the development of a field-compatible nucleic acid biosensor for the detection of pathogenic organisms in water and soil samples. We are currently exploring the utility of a colorimetric bioassay based on gold nanoparticle aggregation. In this system, gold nanoparticles functionalized with peptide nucleic acid (PNA) probe sequences are "bridged" by target nucleic acids, forming larger particle assemblies. This bridging changes the nanoparticle solution color from red to purple within a few minutes, indicating the presence of the organism of interest. Check out more info on the potato wart sensors page.


Jenny Phillips

Originally from Litchfield, NH, Jenny received a BS in marine science with honors from the University of Maine in 2008. She is currently pursuing a MS in marine biology, and is involved in the Connell Lab’s clam project. She is expecting to begin a M.S. in Marine Biology this Fall semester. To get more details visit the clam mutations page  



 Alison Sirois

Alison’s research will focus on toxicity composition and profiles of Alexandrium in the Gulf of Maine to gain a better understanding of the relationship between toxic events in shellfish and Alexandrium in the water column. Additional work will include development of tools for Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) management application. This research will combine testing DNA probes for protocol development across different technological platforms for monitoring HABs along the Maine coast.





Andrew Walter

Andrew recently joined the Connell Lab as a graduate student in July 2012. He graduated from the University of Maine in May 2012 with his bachelor's degree in Marine Sciences and is looking forward to developing the scope of his research. Welcome, Andrew!

©  2012, Laurie Connell - University of Maine - A Member of the University of Maine System