Marianna (Marianthi) Karageorgi

Stanford University, Postdoctoral scholar

Email: mkarag@stanford.edu

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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

Grants, 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

Adaptation to new and changing environments. Toxins. Curiosity-driven science. Revisit old questions.

Background

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. My aspiration 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.

The first experiment I ever dreamed about doing as an undergraduate student was a thought experiment: “If you could replay the tape of life, would it lead to creatures similar to those today?” I was fascinated by the experiment that Gould proposed in his 1989 book Wonderful Life. The experiment led me to ponder the beauty of life’s diversity and to wonder how nature innovates and how predictable evolution can be. In my undergraduate studies, I became interested in the development and evolution of structures across species, i.e. in characterizing the evolutionary history of structures, studying the constraints that shape their evolution, explaining why evolution often generates novel characteristics through convergent solutions, and even attempting to predict evolution. During my undergraduate studies in Crete and my master’s studies in Heidelberg, I researched diverse model systems, from mice and medaka fish to hydra and a “living fossil” annelid. I learned classical genetic and molecular biology methods to study the role of genes and gene regulation in the development and evolution of novel structures.

For my graduate thesis, I joined the lab of Dr. Benjamin Prud’homme in France, a leading European researcher studying the genetic basis of behavioral and morphological evolution. In my graduate research, I used the egg-laying behavior of the agricultural pest Drosophila suzukii as a model to study how a novel adaptive behavior evolves across a lineage. I discovered that D. suzukii acquired the ability to integrate mechanosensation, gustation and olfaction in a stepwise manner, leading us to propose a multi-step mechanism for the evolution of its novel egg-laying behavior (Karageorgi et al., Current Biology 2017). After my graduate thesis, I decided to move to the US and continue my studies in evolutionary genetics. In 2017, I joined the lab of Prof. Noah Whiteman at UC Berkeley, a leader in co-evolutionary genetics of host-parasite interactions, I worked on a textbook system in evolutionary ecology and I led a study where we examined how the monarch butterfly and other specialist insects evolved resistance to cardiac glycosides, toxins of their host plants.  We showed that evolution of resistance to cardiac glycosides in the monarch butterfly lineage has occurred through an adaptive walk that involves three amino acid substitutions in the ATPα, the target of cardiac glycosides (Karageorgi et al., Nature 2019). In 2020, I joined the lab of Dr. Dmitri Petrov at
Stanford, a leader in the study of the genetics of adaptation and an expert in the population genomics of Drosophila adaptation, to learn theoretical aspects of the theory of adaptation and acquire a new skillset in population genomics. In my current postdoc, I study the genetics of adaptation to toxic cardiac glycosides in populations of Drosophila subobscura and the genetics of adaptation to synthetic insecticides in D. melanogaster and other insect pests.

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