Welcome to the Sekelsky lab website. In our lab in the Department of Biology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, diverse trainees do great science investigating mechanisms and control of recombination in meiosis and mitosis, in an interactive and fun atmosphere. Please use the links below to learn more.

Nila gives talk at Gordon Research Seminar
Colleen Bereda Honors Nila Pazhayam talk at Gordon Research Seminar June 7, 2022    Nila was invited to give a talk at the Gordon Research Seminar (GRS) on Meiosis, held at Colby-Sawyer College. This conference is a prelude to the Gordon Research Conference (GRC) held immediately after. The GRS showcases resaerch by trainees. Nila and Carolyn both presented posters at the GRS and the GRC.
Colleen awarded Highest Honors in Biology
Colleen Bereda Honors Colleen Bereda Honors April 4, 2022    Colleen Bereda delivered a spectacular talk in the John J. Koeppe Honors Symposium. On the basis of her talk and her Senior Honors Thesis, Colleen was awarded Highest Honors in Biology.
Susan selected for Science Mentoring Award
Susan Cheek, mentor Susan Cheek, mentor February 11, 2022    The BBSP graduate program selected our lab manager, Susan Cheek, to receive a 2021-22 Science Mentoring Award. This is the first year the award was opened to allow nominations of staff. Susan has contributed to the professional and personal development of essentially every former lab member, from undergraduates to postdoctoral fellows.
Mohamed and Priscila begin rotations
New rotation students New rotation students January 21, 2022    Two 1st-year BBSP students, Mohamed Nasr and Priscila Santa Rosa, have elected to do their third rotations in the lab. Mohamed will conduct genetic analysis of possible separation-of-function alleles of the Bloom syndrome helicase gene. Priscila will investigate the roles of RING finger proteins in crossover patterning.
Nila passes oral exam
Nila passes oral exam Nila passes oral exam November 12, 2021    Nila passed her oral exam on her proposed project on centromeric suppression of meiotic crossovers. This is the last program requirement except for publication and dissertation + defense.
Paper on Blm helicase in embryos accepted to GENETICS
Embryos lacking Blm helicase Embryos lacking Blm helicase October 21, 2021    A paper titled "Blm Helicase Facilitates Rapid Replication of Repetitive DNA Sequences in early Drosophila Development" was accepted at GENETICS. This research was started by Dr. Eric Stoffregen when he was a postdoc in the lab, with contributions by two other lab members, and completed in Eric's lab at Lewis-Clark State College, headed up by two undergraduates. We show that lack of maternal Blm helicase results in massive failure of genome replication, and that the frequency of failure is related to repetitive sequence load. The preprint is here.
Colleen receives honors thesis award
Colleen thesis award Colleen thesis award October 20, 2021    Colleen was selected to receive the Honors Carolina Excellence Senior Thesis Research Award. Colleen has been conducting a structure-function study of the Bloom Syndrome helicase in Drosophila. She is mentored by Evan Dewey, PhD.
Evan wins best poster award
Evan Dewey best poster Evan Dewey best poster October 8, 2021    Evan's poster was judged to be the best at the 46th Annual UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center Postdoctoral/Faculty Research Day organized and held by the Integrated Training in Cancer Model Systems postdoctoral training program.
Carolyn Awarded NRSA F31 fellowship
Carolyn Turcotte Carolyn Turcotte August 9, 2021    Carolyn's NRSA F31 fellowship proposal was funded by the National Institute on Aging. Carolyn's project is titled Mechanisms and regulation of meiotic recombination. This is her first application so it will be funded for up to three years, which should cover the rest of her graduate training period.
David presents poster as SURE/SOLAR Symposium
David Pecina poster David Pecina poster July 26, 2021    David Pecina completed his Summer Undergraduate Research Experience, an NSF REU program, and presented his results on a poster. David found that mutants that prevent or mimic phosphorylation of the recombination protein Mei-218, which we have found to alter crossover interference, do alter the centromeric suppression of crossing over, providing support for the hypothesis that these two processes are controlled independently.
Nila and Carolyn publish review of crossover patterning
Crossover patterning review Crossover patterning July 10, 2021    Nila and Carolyn co-authored a review of meiotic crossover patterning, covering crossover interference, assurance, and centromeric suppression. Their discussion spanned discovery of each phenomenon to modern models for how they work (which is mostly unknown). The article is open access and is available at Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology.
Juan wins Graduate Fellow Awards in Basic Science
Juan LCCC Juan LCCC June 14, 2021    Juan Carvajal-Garcia, PhD, was selected for the Graduate Fellow Awards in Basic Science from the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center! Juan was honored for the excellence and cancer relevance of his reserach on DNA polymerase theta-mediated end joining of DNA breaks, a critical pathway in cells that are defecitve in homology-directed repair, particularly breast cancer cells with BRCA1/2 mutations.
Colette presents research in Honors Symposium
Colette Honors Colette Honors April 14, 2021    Colette presented her research in the John J. Koeppe Undergradaute Honors Symposium. She turned in her honors thesis the week before and will graduate with a B.S. with Honors in Biology!
Juan defends his PhD dissertation
Juan defense Juan defense March 18, 2021    Juan successfully defended his PhD dissertation, titled "Mechanisms and Genetics of Polymerase Theta- Mediated End Joining. Congratulations Dr. Carvajal Garcia!
Juan's paper accepted at PLOS Genetics
Juan PLOS Genetics Juan PLOS Genetics March 12, 2021    Juan's paper titled "DNA polymerase theta suppresses mitotic crossing over" was accepted for publication in PLOS Genetics. Juan showed the DNA Polymerase theta is essential when Holliday junction resolvases are missing and that loss of Pol theta results in elevated crossovers during double-strand break repair.
Talia's paper published in NAR
Talia NAR Talia NAR Jan 24, 2021    Talia's paper titled "A pathway for error-free non-homologous end joining of resected meiotic double-strand breaks" was accepted for publication Nucleic Acids Research. Talia and co-authors Danny Miller, Carolyn Turcotte, and Maggie Miller describe a novel pathway in which NHEJ can be used in a an error-free way to repair resected meiotic DSBs when a homolog is not available as a repair template.
Carolyn passes her oral exam
Carolyn Turcotte Carolyn Turcotte Oct 16, 2020    Carolyn passed her oral examination! This consists of writing a research proposal on her project and defending it to her dissertation committee. A pass means she is now a candidate for the PhD.
Two undergraduate researchers join the lab
Colette and Anna Colette and Anna Aug 10, 2020    Colette Anikwue is a senior from Rochester,NY. She will study the role of Mei-218 in meiotic crossover interference. Anna Synder is a freshman from Charlotte, NC. She is conducting computational research on satellite sequences this year.
Nila Pazhayam joins the lab
Nila Pazhayam Nila Pazhayam April 20, 2020    Nila, after completing her spring rotation in the lab, has decided to join us for her dissertation research! Nila will be investigating how promimity to the centromere negatively impacts probabilities of meiotic crossing over.
Juan and Evan's paper accepted at G3
Not HR Not HR Oct 15, 2019    Juan and Evan cloned mus302 and showed that it encodes the Drosophila ortholog of RFWD3. The human protein is believed to function during homologous recombination, but the fly protein does not. We suggest there is another important function that the fly protein has and that may be the ancestral function of RFWD3. DOI: 10.1534/g3.119.400903
Talia published paper in PLOS Genetics
Chromosomes unpaired Chromosomes unpaired Oct 15, 2019    Talia published a paper showing that centomeric SMC1 is required to achieve meiotic centromere clustering and to maintain chromosome pairing during synapsis. In the mutant she studied, a separation-of-function mutation in Mcm5, synaptonemal complex forms between heterologous sequences. Due to the paring/synapsis defect, crossovers are not generated at normal numbers so chromosomes nondisjoin. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1008412
Evan visits Boys and Girls Club
Evan at Boys and Girls Club Evan at Boys and Girls Club Evan at Boys and Girls Club Evan at Boys and Girls Club Evan at Boys and Girls Club Evan at Boys and Girls Club Oct 15, 2019    Evan Dewey visited our local Boys and Girls Club to talk to them about genetics and fruit flies. The kids were engaged and inquisitive.
Brandy Curtis joins the lab for fall rotation
Brandy Curtis Brandy Curtis Aug 19, 2019    Brandy is a 1st year BBSP student. She did her undergraduate studies at Grand Valley State University in Michigan, where she did research on structure/function relationship of bacterial defense enzymes using X-ray crystallography. Now she'll try something completely different: genetic approaches to improving CRISPR/Cas9 gene drive efficiency.
Dr. Talia Hatkevich
Dr. Hatkevich Dr. Hatkevich Aug 12, 2019    Talia defended her dissertation, titled "Meiotic Prophase I: From Homolog Pairing to Crossover Regulation." It weighs in at 7 chapters in 192 pages, 46,290 words, 305,363 characters.
Kale's paper on the centromere effects accepted at GENETICS
Centromere Effect Centromere Effect July 25, 2019    Kale's paper investigating the suppression of crossovers near the centromere was accepted at Genetics. Kale's research on this 90-year old problem demonstrates that there are two components. First, double-strand breaks are excluded from the pericentromeric satellite DNA. Second, DSBs in the less-repetitive heterochromatin and the flanking euchromatin are suppresed by a crossover patterning mechanism that functions in meiosis and that is dependent on distace from the centromere. See the paper at Genetics.
Hapi and Kiarash give poster presentations
Kiarash and Hapi Kiarash and Hapi July 24, 2019    Kiarash and Hapi both presented posters at the UNC Summer Undergradaute Pipeline Research Symposium. Both had a lot of interest and aquitted themselves well in their presentations.
Kale Hartmann successfully defends her PhD
Kale defense Kale defense June 18, 2019    Kale Hartmann defended her dissertation titled "Meiotic Crossover Patterning in Drosophila melanogaster. Dr. Hartmann will now be the Curriculum Fellow in Genetics and Genomics at Harvard Medical School.
Hapi Jackson joins the lab as a SOLAR participant
Hapi Jackson Hapi Jackson May 20, 2019    Hapshepsut (Hapi) Jackson has joined the lab through the SOLAR (Summer of Learning and Research) program. Hapi is a rising senior at North Carolina Central University. She is being mentored by Julie Korda Holsclaw.
Kiarash Saghaei joins the lab as a SMART participant
Kiarash Saghaei Kiarash Saghaei May 15, 2019    Kiarash Saghaei will be doing research with us this summer. Kiarash is a UNC undergraduate who is participating in the SMART (Science and Math Acheivement and Resourcefulness Track) program. He is mentored by Susan Cheek.
Evan Gales awarded SURF
Evan Gales Evan Gales May 13, 2019    Evan Gales was awarded a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship from the UNC Office for Undergraduate Research. This will allow Evan to continue his research on mus302 and its roles in RPA regulation. Evan is mentored by Juan Carvajal Garcia.
Kale and Talia's paper accepted at Genetics
Hartmann 2019 Hartmann 2019 Apr 26, 2019    Our paper on roles of the mei-MCM complex in promoting and suppressing meiotic crossovers was accepted at Genetics (link). Authors include Kale Hartmann (1st), former student Kathryn Kohl, and Talia Hatkevich (corresponding author).
Carolyn Turcotte joins the lab
Carolyn Turcotte 2019 Carolyn Turcotte 2019 Apr 25, 2019    Carolyn Turcotte has joined the lab for her PhD research. She will investigate the function of the Bloom syndrome helicase in regulating meiotic recombination.
Kale accepts position at Harvard
Harvard Curriculum Fellows Harvard Curriculum Fellows Apr 9, 2019    Kale Hartmann has accepted a position as Curriculum Fellow in Genetics and Genomics at Harvard Medical School. During her three years there she will work to improve graduate education at HMS.
Dr. Julie Korda Holsclaw joins the lab
Julie Korda Holsclaw Julie Korda Holsclaw Apr 8, 2019    Julie Korda Holsclaw, PhD, has joined the lab to conduct postdoctoral research.
Talia Hatkevich presents research at Fly Meeting
Talia Fly 2019 Talia Fly 2019 Mar 31, 2019    Talia Hatkevich gave an inspiring talk at the 2019 Genetics Society of America Drosophila Research Conference She received lots of questions, which she answered with enthusiasm.
Kale Hartmann elected into FPG Honor Society
Kale Hartmann Kale Hartmann Mar 29, 2019    Kale Hartmann was elected into the Frank Porter Graham Graduate and Professional Student Honor Society, in recognition of "outstanding service provided to the University and community."
Talia Hatkevich wins Magnuson Award
Talia Magnuson Award Talia Magnuson Award Mar 17, 2019    Talia Hatkevich was selected (along with two other students) to receive the Terry Magnuson Award for outstanding graduating student in the Curriculum in Genetics and Molecular Biology. The award was presented by Terry Magnuson at the 2018 Genetics Retreat (held in 2019 because of hurricane delay). Talia also gave a great talk at the retreat.
Alex Stutzman joins the lab for Spring rotation
Alex Stutzman Alex Stutzman Feb 11, 2019    Alexis Stutzman will be in the lab for Spring rotation. She will be investigating what Blm helicase does in rapid syncytial-stage S phases, by ChIP-EM and Oxford Nanopore sequencing.
Jeff wins Mentoring Award
Mentoring Award Mentoring Award Jan 8, 2019    Jeff has been selected by BBSP for the inaugural Award for Excellence in Basic Science Mentoring. His selection was based on a "compelling" nomination package assembled by his students.
Talia wins DeLill Nasser Travel Award
DeLill Nasser Award LDOC Jan 8, 2019    Talia Hatkevich has been selected by the Genetics Society of America to recieve the DeLill Nasser Travel Award for Professional Development. Talia will present her research at the 2019 Drosophila Research Conference in Dallas, TX.
Diego Martinez Castañeda joins the lab
Diego Diego Jan 8, 2019    Diego Martinez Castañeda, a junior Biology major, will be conducting undergraduate research in our lab. He will be working with Leeza Santiago Millán studying mechanisms of DNA repair during gene drive.
Lunch at Topo to Celebrate LDOC
LDOC LDOC Dec 5, 2018    To celebrate the last day of classes, the lab got together at Top of the Hill for lunch. Left to right: Leela Wissman, Evan Gales, Maggie Miller, Leeza Santiago Millán, Carolyn Turcotte, Juan Carvajal-Garcia, Susan Cheek, Kale Hartmann. Princess and Talia couldn't make it, and Jeff is taking the photo.
Three Undergraduate Researchers Present Posters
Posters Posters Nov 16, 2018    Three undergraduates researchers in the lab presented their posters. Left to right:
  • Maggie Miller ( Talia Hatkevich): "How Drosophila meiotic chromosomes repair breaks in pairing mutants"
  • Evan Gales ( Juan Carvajal-Garcia): "Mapping and characterization of mus302 in Drosophila melanogaster"
  • Leela Wissman ( Kale Hartmann): "Understanding the Blm helicase in Drosophila melanogaster"
Talia Hatkevich wins Lineberger Graduate Fellow Award
Talia Hatkevich Talia Hatkevich Oct 12, 2018    Talia Hatkevich has been selected for the Lineberger Graduate Fellow Award. The purpose of this award is to recognize "outstanding graduate students in the research programs of members of UNC's Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center". .
Lab attempts new lab photo
Lab photo 2018 Lab photo 2018 Oct 10, 2018    Desperately in need of a new photo, the lab went to the spider sculpture by Louise Bourgeois. Top photo (L to R): Susan Cheek, Carolyn Turcotte, Leeza Santiago Millán, Leela Wissmann, Talia Hatkevich, Evan Gales, Princess Onuorah, Jeff Sekelsky, Maggie Miller, Juan Carvajal Garcia, Kale Hartmann. Bottom photo. Standing: Jeff Sekelsky. Lying: everyone else. Photos by Vincent Boudreau..
BBSP student Carolyn Turcotte joins the lab for Fall rotation
Carolyn Turcotte Carolyn Turcotte July 16, 2018    Carolyn Turcotte, a 1st-year student in BBSP, has selected our lab for her Fall rotation. Carolyn comes with outstanding research experience, having studied C. elegans meiosis in the lab of Paula Checchi at Marist College. Carolyn published a paper on her research in GENETICS, and also wrote a review article published in GENETICS.
PREP Scholar Leeza M. Santiago Millán joins the lab
Leeza Santiago Millan Leeza Santiago Millan July 16, 2018    Leeza M. Santiago Millán, a post-baccalaureate researcher in the UNC PREP program, has joined the lab. PREP helps prepares students for graduate school through workshops, courses, and a year of full-time research (though Leeza comes to us with varied and substantial research experience already).
Nicole's paper on the interchromosomal effect accepted at Current Biology
Crown et al. Crown et al. July 2, 2018    Nicole's paper on the interchromosomal effect on recombination was accepted at Current Biology. This paper, titled "Local inversion heterozygosity alters recombination throughout the genome," employs whole-genome sequencing to understand how inversions on one chromosome impacts meiotic recombination globally. For analysis of the WGS data, Nicole teamed up with co-first author Danny Miller, formerly of Scott Hawley's lab at Stowers Institute for Medical Research.
Talia wins best poster at Gordon Research Conference on Meiosis
Talia poster prize Talia poster prize June 18, 2018    Talia won the award for best poster by a postdoc at the Gordon Research Conference on Meiosis. That's especially impressive because Talia is a graduate student! Her prize includes an "I ♥ Meiosis" mug and a one-year print subscription to Trends in Genetics.
Jeff elected next Vice Chair of Gordon Research Conference on Meiosis
June 18, 2018    Jeff was elected to be Vice Chair of the next (2020) Gordon Research Conference on Meiosis. He will become Chair of the following meeting, in 2022..
Nicole off to start her own lab at Case Western Reserve University
Nicole Farewell Nicole Farewell May 31, 2018    Dr. Nicole Crown has left the lab to start her own lab in the Department of Biology at Case Western Reserve University. The photo on the left is from our farewell dinner.
Kale finishes teaching her first full class
May 30, 2018    Kale finished teaching a course this semester at Durham Technical Community College. She was the instructor of record for General Biology II.
Caitlin receives her B.S. with Honors
Caitlin and David Caitlin and David May 12, 2018    Caitlin Moffatt received a well-deserved B.S. with Honors in Biology. Caitlin was mentored by Kale and (previously) Danielle. Caitlin will continue her path in research through the NIH Postbac Intramural Training Award in the lab of Orna Cohen-Fix. at NIDDK. The photo is here is from a going away party for Caitlin and David (see below). at Top of the Hill.
David recieves his B.S. in Biology
May 12, 2018    David Morgan received his B.S. in Biology. David was mentored by Julie and, after Julie graduated, by Susan. This fall David will enroll in the Sidney Kimmmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University (where his mother earned her MD).
Sekelsky alumni reuinion at the Fly Meeting
Fly Meeting 2018 Fly Meeting 2018 April 18, 2018    We had our traditional Sekelsky lab and alumni (amd F2, loved ones, etc.) Fly Meeting dinner. Attending were (clockwise from lower left):
Caitlin gives talk at John J Koeppe Research Symposium
Caitlin honors talk Caitlin honors talk Apri 5, 2018    Caitlin gave an outstanding talk at the Koeppe Biology Honors Symposium, titled " Altering Substrate Specificity of the Nuclease GEN". Caitlin described swapping the helical arch of the GEN endonuclease with similar regions from a human and a fungal protein in an effort to separate the Holliday junction resolvase activity from the 5' flap endonuclease activity.
Caitlin receives travel award to attend Fly Meeting
January 16, 2018    Caitlin received a travel award from the UNC Office of Undergraduate Research to attend and present a poster at the Genetics Society of America's Drosophila Research Conference in Philadelphia in April.