Meet Our Team

Principal Investigator

Flora Rutaganira

Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Developmental Biology

Flora received her B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from UC Davis and her Ph.D. in Chemistry and Chemical Biology from UC San Francisco under the mentorship of Prof. Kevan Shokat. In 2017, she became fascinated by choanoflagellates and joined the laboratory of Prof. Nicole King at UC Berkeley as an HHMI Hanna Gray Postdoctoral Fellow. Based on her research on choanoflagellate kinase signaling in the King lab, Flora started her lab, the FUNR lab (from Flora’s government name: Florentine Uwamahoro Novotny Rutaganira) to study the origin of cell communication in animals at Stanford University in the departments of Biochemistry and Developmental Biology. She hopes that the work in her lab will uncover how molecule sensing was integrated with core signaling pathways during the evolution of animals, and uncover core principles of animal cell signaling.

Email: FUNR[at]

Fellows & Senior Scientists

Scott Berger

New Science Fellow

I am a Biophysics PhD candidate that studies cell cycle timing & genome replication in ichthyosporeans and choanoflagellates.

Lupe Peña

Senior Staff Scientist

I am establishing expansion microscopy techniques for choanoflagellates. I am completing my PhD at UC Berkeley in Molecular and Cell Biology.

Email: gepena9[at]

Graduate Students

María Nguyễn


I study the role of Src signaling in choanoflagellate biology.

Jia Zheng Woo


I study the functions of lectins in choanoflagellate biology.
My favorite protist: Symbiodinium
Email: jiazwoo[at]

Hannah Reeves


I study the role of focal adhesions in choanoflagellate biology
Email: hlreeves[at]

Post-Baccalaureate Researchers

Yvette Morales

Life Sciences professional

I study choanoflagellate-bacterial symbioses.

Iliana Hernandez

Life Sciences assistant

I am developing protocols to study Src in choanoflagellates.

Viky Villanueva

CHEM-H/IMA Postbac

I study the function of SH2 signaling domains in choanoflagellates.

I am developing selectable transgenic markers in choanoflagellates.

Rotation Students

Open Positions

Stanford Rotations

We have positions open for Stanford graduate students in the biosciences and chemistry. Email Flora (FUNR[at] to schedule a meeting.

Former Team Members

Name (Position, Academic Year)

Emma Esterman (Graduate Student Rotation, 2023)

Nils Dormanns (Master’s Student, 2023-2024)

© Florentine Rutaganira

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