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Zachary Drum, Ph.D.

Cell Biology & Physiology


Wesleyan University, Biology


Doug Phanstiel, Ph.D.


I completed my PhD in Biology at Wesleyan University in August 2022. At Wesleyan, I worked to better understand the genetic mechanisms of pesticide resistance in insects. I focused on Drosophila sechellia, a species of fruit fly that is a dietary specialist on its host plant Morinda citrifolia, also known as noni fruit. Noni defends itself from insect predation using volatile fatty acids that are toxic to most fruit fly species, but D. sechellia has acquired resistance to these compounds. My work examined the gene expression responses of D. sechellia to the toxic volatiles of its host plant and compared these to gene expression responses of closely related sister species to better understand the upstream genetic mechanisms responsible for these responses. While at Wesleyan I was lucky to work with and mentor many talented undergraduate students, which fostered my enthusiasm for teaching and mentoring. At UNC Chapel Hill, I am working with Doug Phanstiel to better understand the role of phase separation in regulating gene expression in healthy cells and in cancer. I am excited to use my interdisciplinary training in genetics, cell biology, animal biology, and evolutionary biology to teach and train the next generation of aspiring biologists through the SPIRE program.