Carolyn Elya, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor in Molecular and Cellular Biology Zombiologist in Chief

Carolyn received her Ph.D. in 2017 from UC Berkeley (go bears!) working with Dr. Michael Eisen where she accidentally discovered zombies in her backyard. She developed the zombie fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster-Entomophthora muscae) lab system based on this encounter, and brought it with her to Dr. Benjamin de Bivort’s group at Harvard University where she completed her postdoc investigating the neuromechanistic basis of zombie behaviors. As the head of her own lab, Carolyn is thrilled to dive even deeper into the zombie fruit fly system to explore all things behavior manipulation.

Diana Redlund

Faculty Assistant

Diana is our in-house administrative, logistics and ordering ninja.

America Cox

REU Student

America is pursuing her undergraduate degree in Ecology with a minor in Chemistry from the University of Utah. As a participant of Harvard’s GEO REU program, she is working in the lab to test if we can perturb fungal invasion of the brain by altering properties of the blood brain barrier.


Brandon Fricker, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Researcher

Brandon received his Ph.D. from Emory University in 2024 working with Dr. Aubrey Kelly on the neural circuits driving social behaviors in the cooperatively breeding spiny mice (Acomys cahirinus). He is broadly interested in how the activity of individual neurons produce specific, complex, and often stereotyped behaviors. In the Elya Lab, Brandon is interested in a variety of projects, including how E. muscae manipulates fruit fly neural activity to produce summitting behavior and how circadian rhythms may be perturbed during infection.

Hunter Guarnaschelli

Coop Undergraduate

Hunter is a rising senior at Northeastern University pursuing a degree in Behavioral Neuroscience. He is interested in understanding the neural mechanisms underlying zombie behaviors, and how these might relate to disease pathologies in humans.

Charlie Heacock

Research Assistant

Charlie received her undergraduate degree from Northeastern in 2023. In addition to helping maintain the Elya lab, Charlie is interested in figuring out what’s in the sticky goo that emanates from the proboscides of dying flies.

Lucy Hurlbut

Undergraduate Researcher

Lucy is a rising senior and an IB concentrator in her Junior year. Among other interests, she is curious to understand how host fecundity and thermal preference are altered by E. muscae infection.

Andrés Muedano Sosa

Undergraduate Researcher

Andrés is a rising sophomore and prospective Chemical and Physical Biology concentrator. He is broadly interested in molecular evolution and host-pathogen interactions. In the Elya Lab, Andrés is curious to explore how mycoviruses affect E. muscae pathogenicity.

Gabrielle Paniccia

Gaby Paniccia, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Researcher

Gaby received her Ph.D from the Rockefeller University in 2024 working in the lab of Dr. Charles Rice to understand a novel antiviral activity of phospholipid scramblase 1 (PLSCR1) against SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. She is broadly interested in host-pathogen interaction, not only between the fly and E. muscae, but also between E. muscae and the viruses that infect it. In the Elya lab, she is interested in developing methods for genetically manipulating the fungus to enable broader study of the genetic underpinnings of its pathogenesis.

Rina Sotiropoulou

Research Assistant

Rina is a Research Assistant who is interested in all things bugs. Her past research in microbial ecology focused on host-symbiont interactions between ectomycorrhizal fungi and their tree hosts across New England forests. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from Boston University and plans to pursue graduate studies. In her free time, Rina enjoys rock climbing, ballroom dancing, and playing the piano. Her menagerie of pets include snakes, beetles, and other creepy crawlies.

Julius Tabin

Graduate Student (OEB)

Julius is a graduate student in the Organismic and Evolutionary Biology department, broadly interested in behavioral genetics. In the past, he has studied a variety of organisms, including cavefish, zebrafish, catsharks, gars, skates, big cats, and deer mice. He is currently working on understanding the molecular and mechanistic basis of E. muscae induced summiting behavior. Julius is also trained in Egyptology and, in his free time, continues to research the morphology of ancient Egyptian hieratic. 𓋴𓐠𓄿𓎛𓃃𓂻𓃭𓏤𓆷𓄿𓇋𓏲𓁶!

Leslie Torres-Ulloa, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Researcher

Leslie earned her Ph.D. in 2024 from UMass Chan Medical School in the lab of Athma Pai. She is excited to explore the circadian component of E. muscae infection as well as understand how cell-specific gene expression changes in fungus and fly across the time course of pathogenesis.

Future members

Wanted: curious scientists!

Grad students: Our primary affiliation will be with the MCO graduate program, but we are happy to consider any students within the HILS alliance.

Undergraduates: Send Carolyn an email with your CV as well as and why you’re interested in the lab.

Summer students: There are several mechanisms to pursue summer research at Harvard. Send Carolyn an email with your CV and why you’re interested in the lab. Please also indicate which programs (at Harvard or elsewhere) would be appropriate to support your work.


Haesung Jee

Undergraduate Researcher

Haesung graduated in 2024 with a concentration in IB. after pursuing a Senior Thesis looking for candidate summiting effector genes in E. muscae. She is next looking to complete her master’s degree in Ecology and the ENS in Paris, France.