Marianna (Marianthi) Karageorgi

Stanford University, Postdoctoral scholar


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Appointments and Education

  • Postodoctoral scholar. Stanford University, Biology Department USA. 2020 -

  • Postdoctoral scholar. University of California, Berkeley, Department of Integrative Biology, USA. 2017-2020

  • PhD in Neurosciences (mention très honorable). University of Aix Marseille, Developmental Biology Institute of Marseille (IBDM), France. 2012-2016

  • MSc in Molecular Biosciences. Major in Developmental Biology. University of Heidelberg, Germany. 2009-2012

  • BSc in Biology. Direction of Biomolecular Sciences and Biotechnology. University of Crete, Greece. 2004-2009

Awards and Fellowships

  • NIH Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00). Project: Genetics of adaptation to toxic environments, 2021 - 2026

  • Godfrey Hewitt Mobility Award 2019 from European Society of Evolutionary Biology. Project: Genetics of adaptation in cardiac-glycoside resistant populations of Drosophila subobscura

  • Scholarship for 4th year of PhD thesis completion from Fondation Pour La Recherche Medicale, 2015 -2016

  • Marie Curie Initial Training Network Fellowship (ITN). FLiACT ITN “Systems neurosciences of Drosophila: From genes to circuits to Behaviour”, 2012 – 2015

Research interests

Genetic mechanisms of adaptive novelty, historical contingency and predictability in evolution, novel behaviors and toxins. Curiosity-driven science. Revisit old questions.


I was born in Drama, a small city in the northeastern part of Greece. I attended public school in my hometown and I grew up reading novels, poetry and scratching my mind around math problems with my high-school boyfriend. My dream was to become a novelist. But then, I thought it might be a more exciting path to first discover the world through sciences and travel, and become a novelist when I grow old and wiser.

I did my undergraduate studies in Biology in Heraklion at the University of Crete. I got fascinated with evolution through the study of development. In Gilbert's Developmental biology textbook, there was a chapter explaining how developmental mechanisms can change during evolution and how these changes can explain the diversity of forms observed in nature. While I could not do my thesis in "evo-devo" in Greece, I was enthusiastic to study mechanisms of brain development in the lab of Dr. Donna Karagogeos. I pursued my master studies in developmental biology in Heidelberg. During these years, I learned first hands about "evo-devo" research thought rotations in the labs of Dr. Detlev Arendt,  Dr. Thomas Holstein and Dr. Laurence Ettwiller. For my master thesis, I studied how enhancer properties can affect gene expression in the lab of Dr. Ettwiller. For my PhD thesis, I studied how the novel  egg-laying  behavior of a fruitfly pest evolved in the lab of Dr Benjamin Prud'homme in Marseille. For my postdoctoral work, I have been studying the genetic basis of adaptation to plant toxins and pesticides in the lab of Prof. Noah Whiteman in Berkeley and the lab of Prof. Dmitri Petrov at Stanford.

I am currently building my research program on the genetics of adaptation to novel toxic environments, plant toxins and pesticides. In my postdoc work with Prof. Whiteman, we used genome editing to retrace the path to toxin resistance in the monarch butterfly lineage (Karageorgi et al., 2019). We found that three substitutions in the sodium pump, the target of the toxins, act additive and epistatically for full toxin resistance in the monarch butterfly. We also found that epistasis and negative pleiotropy shaped the path to resistance in the monarch butterfly lineage. In my postdoc work with Prof. Petrov, I am now studying how resistance to pesticides, anthropogenic toxins, evolves in insect communities.  Overall, my research program aims to draw general conclusions on how adaptive traits evolve (macroevolution) and how these traits emerge in nature (microevolution).


Previously, I worked with Dr. Benjamin Prud’homme for my PhD thesis and studied how Drosophila suzukii, a fruitfly pest, evolved its novel egg-laying behavior targeting ripe fruit. Through comparative behavioral analysis, we found that changes in multiple sensory systems are involved in the evolution of its egg-laying behavior, and these changes took place step-wise across in the lineage leading to D. suzukii. We also developed genome editing and neurogenetic tools to study the role of olfaction in the evolution of the novel egg-laying behavior (Karageorgi et al., 2017).

Looking back, the life's tape experiment has endless stories to provide and satisfy the imagination of a novelist.