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Leips Lab

Our primary research interest is the genetic basis of natural variation in aging.  In particular,  we are focused on identifying the genes that influence the age-related changes in traits that directly affect fitness, using Drosophila melanogaster as a model system.  We utilize a variety of gene mapping methods to identify candidate genes affecting these traits and then test the effects of natural allelic variation on the phenotype of interest.  While much of our research is done in the laboratory, we are also doing field work in natural populations to investigate the importance of a variety of ecological factors in maintaining genetic variation for these traits.

Leips Lab, Spring 2015



Location: Molecular Lab
BS 369
Phone: 410-455-3479

Location: Fly Lab BS 364
Phone: 410-455-3479

Location: Graduate Student Office BS 368
Phone: 410-455-3800

Location: Fly Food Kitchen BS 159
Phone: 410-455-1674

Dr. Leips profile

Current Members

Chia-HuaLiueChia-Hua Lue
Ph.D. Candidate in Biological Sciences


Mariann GabrawyMariann Gabrawy
Ph.D. Candidate in Biological Sciences




NewAmandaLoWEBAmanda Lo
Masters student in Biological Sciences




AdamRyb100x70Adam Rybczynski
Masters student in Biological Sciences




Dalton B.E., Lu J., Leips J., Cronin T.W., Carleton K.L. 2015. Variable light environments induce plastic spectral tuning by regional opsin coexpression in the African cichlid fish, Metriaclima zebra. Mol Ecol., 10.1111/mec. 13312.

Durham M.F., Magwire M.M., Stone E.A., Leips J. 2014. Genome-wide analysis in Drosophila reveals age-specific effects of SNPs on fitness traits. Nat Commun., 10.1038/ncomms5338.

Horn L., Leips J., Starz-Gaiano M. 2014. Phagocytic ability declines with age in adult Drosophila hemocytes. Aging Cell, 10.1111/acel.12227

Leips, J., Rodd, F.H,, and Travis, J. 2013. The adaptive significance of population differentiation in offspring size of the least killifish, Heterandria formosa.  Ecology and Evolution, 3:948-960.

Hodges, T.K., Laskowski, K.L., Squadrito, G.L., De Luca, M., Leips, J. 2012. Defense traits of larval Drosophila melanogaster exhibit genetically based tradeoffs against different species of parasitoids. Evolution, 67:749-760.

Felix, T.M., Hughes, K.A., Stone, E.A., Drnevich, J.M., Leips, J. 2012.  Age-specific variation in immune response in Drosophila melanogaster has a genetic basis. Genetics 191:989-1002.

Travis, J., Leips, J., Rodd, F.H. 2012.  Evolution in population parameters: density-dependent selection or density-dependent fiitness?  American Naturalist, 181: Suppl 1:S9-S20.

Van Meter, R.J., Swan, C.M., Leips, J., Snodgrass, J.W. 2011.  Road salt stress induces novel food web structure and interactions. Wetlands 31:843-851.

De Luca, M., Klimentidis, Y.C., Casazza, K., Chambers, M.M., Cho, R., Harbison, S.T., Jumbo-Lucioni, P., Zhang, S., Leips, J., Fernandez, J.R. 2010. A conserved role for syndecan family members in the regulation of whole-body energy metabolism.  PLoS One. 2010 Jun 23;5(6):e11286.

Cho, I., Horn, L., Felix, T.M., Foster, L., Gregory, G., Starz-Gaiano, M., Chambers, M.M., De Luca, M., and Leips, J.  2010.  Age- and diet-specific effects of variation at S6 kinase on life history, metabolic and immune response traits in Drosophila melanogaster.  DNA and Cell Biology, 29:473-485.

Jumbo-Lucioni, P., Ayroles, J.F., Moses Chambers, M.,  Jordan, K.W., Leips, J., Mackay, T.F.C, and De Luca, M. 2010. Systems genetics analysis of body weight and energy metabolism traits in Drosophila melanogaster. BMC Genomics, 11:297

Leips, J., Richardson, J.M.L., Rodd, F.H., and Travis, J.  2009.  Adaptive maternal adjustments of offspring size in response to conspecific density in two populations of the least killifish, Heterandria formosa. Evolution 63:1341-1347.

Leips, J. Invertebrate models of immunosenescence. 2009. In Handbook on Immunosenescence: basic understanding and clinical applications. G. Pawelec, C. Franceschi, K. Hirokawa and T. Fulop, eds. Springer. Pp. 87-106.

Bunt, S.K., Yang, L., Sinha, P., Clements, V.K., Leips, J., Ostrand-Rosenberg, S.  2007.  Reduced inflammation in the tumor microenvironment delays the accumulation of myeloid-derived suppressor cells and limits tumor progression. Cancer Research 67:10019-10026.

Lai, C.Q., Leips, J., Zou, W., Roberts, J.F., Wollenberg, K.R., Parnell, L.D., Zeng, Z.B., Ordovas, J.M., Mackay, T.F.C.  2007. Speed-mapping quantitative trait loci using microarrays.  Nature Methods 4:839-841.

Reynolds, R.M., Temiyasathit, S., Reedy, M.M., Ruedi, E.A., Drnevich, J.M., Leips, J. and Hughes, K.A. 2007. Age specificity of inbreeding load in Drosophila melanogaster and implications for the evolution of late-life mortality plateaus.  Genetics 177:587-595.

De Luca, M. and Leips, J.  2007. Mapping genetic polymorphisms affecting natural variation in Drosophila longevity.  Methods in Molecular Biology 371:307-320.

Kiere, L.M., Hofmann, C.M., Tracy, I.E., Cronin, T.W., Leips, J., and K.E. Omland. 2007. Using color to define species boundaries: quantitative analysis in the orchard oriole complex supports the recognition of two species. Condor 109:692-697.

Lesser, K., I. Paiusi and Leips, J.  2006. Naturally occurring genetic variation in the age-specific immune response ofDrosophila melanogaster. Aging Cell, 5:293-295.

Leips, J., Gilligan, P. and Mackay, T.F.C. 2006.  Quantitative trait loci with age-specific effects on fecundity inDrosophila melanogaster. Genetics 172:1595-1605.

Hughes, K.A. and Leips, J.  2006.   A genetic analysis of male mating success and sperm competition in Drosophila melanogaster. Evolution 60:1427-1434.

Bunt, S.K., Sinha, P., Clements, V.K., Leips, J., and Ostrand-Rosenberg, S. 2006.  Inflammation induces myeloid-derived suppressor cells that facilitate tumor progression. Journal of Immunology 176:284-290.

Carbone, M.A., Jordan, K.W., Lyman, R.F., Harbison, S.T., Leips, J., Morgan, T.J., DeLuca, M., Awadalla, P. and Mackay, T.F.C.  2006.  Phenotypic variation and natural selection at Catsup, a pleiotropic quantitative trait gene inDrosophila. Current Biology, 16:912-919

De Luca, M., Yi, N., Allison, D.B., Leips, J. and Ruden, D.M.  2005.  Mapping quantitative trait loci affecting variation in Drosophila triacylglycerol storage.  Obesity Research 13:1596-1605.

Mackay, T.F.C., Roshina, N.V., Leips, J.W. and Pasyukova, E.G. 2005. Complex genetic architecture of Drosophila longevity. Pp. 181-216 in Handbook of the Biology of Aging. E. J. Masoro and S. N. Austad, eds. Academic Press, Burlington, MA.

Leips, J., and T.F.C. Mackay. 2002.  The complex genetic architecture of Drosophila lifespan. Experimental Aging Research 28:361-390.

Leips, J., C.T. Baril, F.H. Rodd, D.N. Reznick, F. Bashey, G.J. Visser and J. Travis.  2001.   The suitability of calcein to mark Poeciliid fish and a new method of detection. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 130:501-507

Leips, J., and T.F.C. Mackay.  2000.  Quantitative trait loci for lifespan in Drosophila melanogaster: interactions with genetic background and larval density. Genetics 155:1773-1788.

Leips, J., J. Travis, and F.H. Rodd. 2000.  Genetic influences on experimental population dynamics of the least killifish.  Ecological Monographs 70:289-309.

Leips, J., M.G. McManus, and J. Travis. 2000.  Life-history responses of treefrog larvae to drying ponds: comparing temporary and permanent pond breeders. Ecology 81:2997-3008.

Leips, J. and J. Travis.  1999.  The relationship between life histories and population dynamics: a study of four natural populations of the least killifish, Heterandria formosa.   Journal of Animal Ecology 68:595-616.

Garganus, M., S.V. Nuzhdin, Leips J., and T.F.C. Mackay.  1999.  High resolution mapping of quantitative trait loci for sternopleural bristle number in Drosophila melanogaster. Genetics 152:1585-1604.

Leips, J. and J. Travis.  1994.  Metamorphic responses to changing food levels in two species of hylid frogs. Ecology 75:1345-1356.

Miller, T., D. Cassill, C. Johnson, C. Kindell, Leips J., D. McInnes, T. Bevis, D. Mehlmann, and B. Richard. Intraspecific and interspecific competition of Wyeomyia smithii (Coq.) (Culicidae) in pitcher plant communities. American Midland Naturalist 131:136-145.


Former Lab Members


Mary Durham

Mary Durham, Ph.D. Biological Sciences, Fall 2013





Theresa Delaney
Theresa successfully defended her PhD thesis in September. She is currently doing post doctoral research in the laboratory of Dr. Michel Slotman (

Tashauna Felix

Adrienne Starks
Adrienne received her PhD in December 2010. She is currently doing post doctoral research at the National Cancer Institute in Frederick, Maryland.

Amanda Reamy
Undergraduate Researcher
Amanda worked in the lab for 2 years. She did an honors thesis on the effects of the gene Dscam on the immune response to parasitoid wasps. Amanda is taking a year off before going to medical school.

Luz Catherine TelloLuz Catherine Tello
B.S. / Biology
Luz was a double major, earning a B.S. in Biology and a B.A. in Psychology. After graduation Luz worked as a technician in the lab for a year. She was involved in numerous projects from field work on the parasitoid wasp/Drosophila community to mapping genes affecting life span. Oh, and she also kept the laboratory running like a well oiled machine. She is currently thriving in her second year of medical school at Drexel.

Leanne FosterLeanne Foster
B.S. / Biology
Leanne worked on the genetic basis of life span and immunosenescence. In her typical way, this was Leanne’s first posting for this site “My name is Leanne Foster, I am currently in med school. I have no life. Don’t go to med school.” After a break, here was her more heartfelt offering: “Hi my name is Leanne Foster. I worked in Dr. Jeff Leips’ lab for three glorious years in which he, and every other member of the lab, helped me grow intellectually and personally. I graduated from UMBC in May of 2006 with a B.S. in Biological Sciences, and am currently a first year at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. I am also a volunteer at Project PLASE, a shelter/clinic for AIDS patients who are homeless.”

Hir DalwadiHir Dalwadi
B.S. / Biology
Hir worked in the lab as an undergraduate and as a technician and pretty much has helped out in all of the research projects at some point. She is currently a Medical Technologist at UMB.

Anna CruzAnna Cruz
B.S. Biology, UNC Chapel Hill
Anna is a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who worked on an independent research project in the summer of 2003. She was adopted as an official lab member at that time. She is originally from Staten Island, New York and is pursuing a double major in Biology and Exercise and Sport Science. Anna is involved in various other activities at UNC-Chapel Hill including ACL injury research, Psychology research, and volunteering at the NC Children’s Hospital. After graduation, she would like to enter medical school.

Jo ZiturJo Zitur
B.S. / Biology
Jo worked as an undergraduate doing research on the genetic basis of variation in life span. She was famous for working the midnight shift and generally keeping everyone on their “intellectual toes” in lab meetings. She is currently a graduate student in the Zwaka Lab at Baylor College of Medicine. Her current research focuses on characterization of a novel pathway regulating embryonic stem cell pluripotency.

Dawn LopezDawn Lopez
M.S. / Applied Molecular Biology
Dawn was a member of the AMB Program and did her thesis work in our lab looking at the effect of expression variation in genes in the catecholamine pathway on life span. She is currently a laboratory technician at U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bee Research Lab

Karen LesserKaren Lesser
M.S. / Biology
Karen started as a technician in my lab and ended up getting her masters. She worked with an undergraduate in the lab, Ioanna Paiusi, to characterize, for the first time, the genetic basis of natural variation in age-specific immune response. Karen is currently a Ph.D. student at UC Riverside in the Zuk laboratory.

Syed AhmedSyed Ahmed
B.S. / Biology
Syed was one of the few males that survived the Leips laboratory, probably because he had a good sense of humor. He did two years of field work on the parasitoid project and was also working on the genetic basis of larval foraging behavior. He is currently doing a Post Bac at NIH in Bethesda and going on interviews for medical school.

Katharine MastKatharine Mast
B.S. / Molecular Biology
Katharine spent a summer as an EMBARC student doing research on the genetic basis of variation in the effects of caloric restriction and age-specific immune response. She has also been formally adopted as a lab member and will be forever remembered for her bread pudding. Here is an update from Katharine on her status: “I graduated with a B.S. in Molecular Biology from Grove City College in 2005 and am presently completing my M.S. in Physician Assistant Studies at DeSales University. I will graduate in August of 2007. I am geographically unsure of where I will accept a job, but I am looking at either surgery–specifically transplant–or emergency medicine.”

Kate LaskowskiKate Laskowski
B.S. / Biology with Honors
Kate initiated our work on the importance of parasitoid wasps as an agents of selection on larval behaviors of Drosophila. Kate earned several awards for her work in the lab including an Undergraduate Research Award from UMBC and Best Student Poster at the IX International Workshop on Parasitoids held in Wales, UK. Of note, Kate was the ONLY undergraduate in attendance. She will start graduate school at the University of Illinois Champagne-Urbana in Alison Bell’s lab

Kathy TranKathy Tran
B.S. Biology
Kathy worked on fine mapping genes regulating age-specific fecundity and also helped with the age-specific immune response experiments.

Gina HiltonGina Hilton
B.S. / Biology, Chemistry Minor
Gina worked on a number of projects in the lab including sorting and identifying thousands of flies and wasps from our field work. Her research project was focused on understanding parasitoid host choice. Gina is currently working as a laboratory technician at Johns Hopkins University while she figures out what she wants to study in graduate school (chemistry or biology).

Ruth ChoRuth Cho
Undergraduate Researcher
Ruth worked in the lab for 2 years and helped with a variety of projects. Her own project was focused on understanding the role of the gene syndecans in producing natural variation in life span. She currently works at Walter Reed Hospital and is headed for medical school next year.

Irene ChoIrene Cho
Undergraduate Researcher
Irene worked for over two years in the lab, and completed an Honor’s Thesis in Biology on her research examining the role of natural variation in the gene S6kinase in age-specific immune response. She is headed to medical school next year.

Sameen RazaSameen Raza
Undergraduate Researcher
Sameen worked closely with my graduate student Adrienne Starks for a year in the lab. As far as I can tell she kept Adrienne’s project running while she was here. She is currently working at a biotech company while she prepares for medical school.

Gwendolyn GregoryGwendolyn Gregory
B.S. / Biology
Gwen worked in the laboratory for two years, the first year as an undergraduate researcher and the second as a research technician (she completed a B.S. in Biology at UMBC in the Spring of 2006). Gwen was primarily involved in our research to understand the genetic basis of variation in age-related changes in the immune response and fecundity. She also kept the lab running smoothly and even designed the logo for our laboratory t-shirt!

Ruby Jackson-AtogiRuby Jackson-Atogi
Undergraduate Researcher
Ruby worked on the role of learning in parasitoid host choice for two years as an undergraduate our lab. We are currently writing a manuscript based on her work for publication. Ruby started the MD/PhD program at Penn State in Fall of 2010.

Won WooWon Woo
Undergraduate Researcher
Won worked on a genome wide association project to identify SNPs affecting age-specific immunity. Won is currently applying for Dental School.

Xin MaXin Ma
Undergraduate Researcher
Xin worked on a variety of projects with Mary Durham in our laboratory. She is currently running her own business but intends on applying to medical school in the near future.

Willis OchiengWillis Ochieng
Undergraduate Researcher
Willis worked with Mary Durham on many aspects of her work. He also did research on a novel phenotype of Drosophila that we are trying to get a new graduate student interested in! Willis plans on applying to graduate school to do research on developmental biology as soon as he recovers from his graduation party…

Mara LasloMara Laslo
Undergraduate Researcher
Mara graduated in December 2009 and will soon start a post bac at NIH working on dietary influences on aging in her favorite model organism, the fruitfly (well, maybe second favorite, horses being her real favorite).

Keisha ClayKeisha Clay
Undergraduate Researcher
Keisha was a visiting student in our lab in the summer of 2009 and worked on the combined effects of diet, age and genotype on age specific immune response. We’re hoping she’ll come back to UMBC for graduate school.

Chris FergusonChris Ferguson
Undergraduate Researcher
Chris was helping Adrienne Starks on her project studying the genetic basis of age-related changes in life history, metabolic and immune response traits. He also did independent research mapping genes affecting age-specific immunity. Chris is currently a graduate student in microbiology at Johns Hopkins University.

Mike TopperMike Topper
Undergraduate Researcher
Mike helped Adrienne Starks on her project studying the genetic basis of age-related changes in life history, metabolic and immune response traits. He also did independent research mapping genes affecting age-specific immunity. Mike is currently applying to medical school.

Hamsa GowdaHamsa Gowda
High School Researcher
Hamsa was a high school student from Centennial High School who worked with me for two years. Her project examined the influence of diet on age-specific immunity. Hamsa is currently an undergraduate Meyerhoff Scholar at UMBC majoring in Biology. She is interested in doing research in the field of genetics after graduation.

Kimia SohrabiKimia Sohrabi
Undergraduate Researcher
Kimia worked with Mara Laslo and Theresa Hodges on mapping genes affecting larval immune defenses against parasitoid wasps. Kimia is currently in the Applied Molecular Biology masters program at UMBC.

Arunkumar JunuthulaArunkumar Junuthula
Undergraduate Researcher
Arunkumar worked with Adrienne Starks to characterize the genetic influence on age-specific life history, metabolic and immune response traits. He also worked on an independent project to identify the genetic basis of age specific immunity. Arunkumar intends to go to medical school.