Current Lab Members





Claudia Rückert, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, a.k.a. 'The Boss'

Claudia grew up in a small village in Germany and received both her BS in Biology and MS in Molecular Biosciences from the University of Heidelberg, Germany. Her MS major was in infectious diseases and really reinforced her interest in viruses. She received her PhD from the University of Edinburgh (UK) working on the antiviral responses of tick and mosquito cells. During this time, she worked in the lab of John Fazakerley at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh (2010-2012) and the Pirbright Institute in Surrey (2012-2014). She then spend ~4.5 years in the lab of Greg Ebel at Colorado State University working on virus-mosquito interactions.

In her spare time, Claudia mostly hangs out with her dogs Ryder and Storm, is training Storm in scent work, obedience and agility, and volunteering with dogs at two shelters in the Reno area (all about those dogs). She also enjoys all ball sports, wildlife photography, hiking, and ... Netflix on the couch!

Brian Prince, B.S.

Graduate student (Ph.D. program)

Brian found himself fortunate enough to grow up in Anchorage, Alaska, where he developed an appreciation for the natural world and the desire to understand it. This led him to study biochemistry at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, for his undergrad. His interest in infectious diseases was later cultivated working in the Langelier lab at UCSF, using metagenomics to further diagnostic efforts. He's grateful to have ended up in the Rückert lab in the summer of 2020 and is excited to explore the dynamics between arboviruses and their vectors. 

When not in the lab, Brian can usually be found exploring different areas of the Sierra, and taking advantage of being so close to Tahoe.

Elizabeth Walsh, B.S.

Graduate student (Ph.D. program)

Elizabeth Walsh grew up in Spokane, Washington. As an undergraduate, she attended Western Washington University, and received her B.S in Cell and Molecular Biology with a minor in Chemistry in June 2020. Previously Elizabeth conducted research in plant biology, specifically in the proteins involved with cell elongation. Elizabeth started as a master’s student in the lab in August of 2020.

Outside of the lab, she enjoys hobbies such as climbing, snowboarding, and watching movies. She also enjoys tending to her indoor plants.

Molly McVicar, B.S.

Graduate student (Ph.D. program)

Molly McVicar joined the lab in January 2021 and is supervised by both Claudia and Dr. Monika Gulia-Nuss here at UNR. Molly grew up in Northern California and obtained her B.S. in Biology with a minor in Statistics from UNR in May 2020. Much of her previous research included pathogen detection and transmission in various invertebrates, and her research interests include vector/host interactions, microbial evolution, and the molecular and cellular processes that influence the maintenance/emergence of pathogens.

Outside of the lab, she enjoys needlework + sewing, exercising, and playing video games.

Tran Zen Belila Torres

undergraduate research assistant

Tran Zen grew up in Pampanga, Philippines, and moved to Las Vegas, Nevada right before high school. He is currently pursuing a B.A. in Spanish Literature and Culture with minors in Public Health and Political Philosophy, and expects to graduate in the Spring of 2022. He has previously worked in a cognitive neuroscience laboratory, where he explored the consequences of mTBI on the academic performance of undergraduate students. Tran Zen joined the lab in August of 2020 and hopes to explore the vector competence of mosquitoes for pathogenic viruses, as they pose significant public health issues.
Outside of the lab, Tran Zen is passionate about serving underprivileged populations. He also spends his free time playing volleyball, watercolor painting, and hiking in the Sierra Nevada. 

Kalvin Chan

undergraduate research assistant

Kalvin grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada, prior to moving to Reno for college. The invisible world’s grasp on the visible always amazed Kalvin, leading him to study biological sciences. He is currently pursuing a B.S. in Microbiology and Immunology, and Biotechnology with a minor in biochemistry. He plans to continue onto his masters after graduating in the Spring of 2023. Kalvin joined the Rückert lab in the Fall of 2021 and is currently exploring the innate antiviral responses of mosquitoes and helping with the development of a Cas9 expressing cell line. Kalvin enjoys reading, working out, and hanging with friends. He also loves to explore the natural hot spring networks in northern Nevada whenever possible.

Victoria Miguel Rodrigues

undergraduate research assistant

Victoria grew up in São Paulo, Brazil. She came to the US to complete her undergraduate studies, and she is currently pursuing her B.S. in Biotechnology. Victoria is interested in genetics and hopes to work with research in the future. Victoria started in the lab in January 2022 for an independent study working with Elizabeth.

In her free time, Victoria enjoys listening to music, exercising, and going to the movies.

Former Lab Members

Roxana Sandoval Garcia, M.S.

Former Graduate student

Roxana graduated with her M.S. in Biochemistry in May 2022. She moved to Santa Barbara, California, from Mexico City when she was very young and then attended Humboldt State University where she completed her bachelor's degree (B.S. in Biochemistry). In our lab, she predominantly worked on the Culex cryopreservation studies, as well as setting up in vivo PIWI gene silencing methods. We wish her all the best for her next job and future.

Lexi Robison, B.S.

Former lab technician/manager

Lexi Robison worked in the lab from October 2019 until September 2020 and was in charge of laboratory management, mosquito colony maintenance, and assisting with research projects. She has a B.S. in Microbiology  from Colorado State University, where she as a research assistant under Claudia's supervision. After helping get the lab set up and ready for success, Lexi left in September 2020 to start a new research assistant position at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. She is now a Research Associate at GT Molecular in Fort Collins, CO. We wish her all the best for her new job and future.

Undergraduate students:

Alek Dales was a former senior thesis student within the lab and graduated with his B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in May 2022. He mostly worked on our Culex embryo cryopreservation studies.


Sarah Cunningham took care of mosquito colonies for the entire year of 2021. She was a great reliable mosquito caretaker and will be missed as she pursues her human health research endeavors.


Breiann Mavraedis was a former senior thesis student within the lab and graduated with her B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in December 2020. She is currently working at the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory (NSPHL) here in Reno.


Natalie Rowland was an undergraduate researcher in the lab from October 2019 until November 2020. She worked on various smaller projects and also helped Claudia set up the lab equipment back in October 2019.


Rameen Feda was an undergraduate researcher in the lab from January to May 2020, trying to clone an inducible Cas9 expression plasmid.