Jonathan Sullivan: Honors Student in the Spotlight

 Jonathan Sullivan

Jonathan Sullivan


Major: Biology

From: Madison, AL


Our current Honors student in the spotlight is Jonathan Sullivan.  Jonathan is one of 30 seniors set to graduate with an Honors Diploma this academic year.


Where are you from and what high school did you attend?    

I lived in Boston, MA until I was 10 and then moved to Madison, AL.

I attended Bob Jones High School in Madison, enrolled mainly in AP science classes and participated in science oriented clubs (Chemistry Club, BEST Robotics, and Science Olympiad to name a few). In addition, I enrolled in a good deal of engineering courses and earned an advanced diploma.

I started taking courses at UAH in my senior year of high school through the dual enrollment program.


 What is your major and class here at UAH?    

I am a Biology Major and am set to graduate in Spring of 2014.

 What are your plans after graduation?    

Post-graduation, I plan on persuing my PhD in neurobiology and behavior.  I hope to become a professor of neuroscience and help decipher mechanisms behind the formation of neural circuits within the central nervous system.


What topic did you choose for your Honors Thesis?

My Honors thesis was done under Dr. Luciano Matzkin in his laboratory of ecology and evolution on the differences in chemosensory behavior across the four populations of the cactophilic Drosophila mojavensis species. They live in necrotic cactus tissue in the Southwestern US/Northern part of Mexico. The species makes use of four host cacti (each being a different species and thus having different molecular compositions) and primarily navigate their way to the plants by following olfactory cues emitted from the rot. Each population prefers to mate/feed/rear young in their own cactus host and thus has more than likely undergone a local adaptation event to become more sensitive their host's cues. Because each population prefers to be on their own cactus, they do not interact with the other populations very often. We think that this behavior may support a form of geographical reproductive isolation and may potentially be one of the factors leading to ecological speciation.

What else have you been involved in on and off campus?

My work under Dr. Matzkin resulted in an invitation by the NESCENT organization to present a poster at Evolution 2013 in Snowbird, Utah. I have also presented my work at a local conference between UAH and Middle Tennessee State. In addition to the time spent in Dr. Matzkin’s lab, I have volunteered in Dr. McFeeter’s laboratory of biochemistry and Dr. Carpenter’s laboratory of social psychology.

I am a member of the Psi Chi and try to volunteer my time to the organization whenever possible. I currently instruct the lab section of Human Anatomy and Physiology. 


 What are your thoughts on the Honors College?  How has it impacted your time at UAH?     

The Honors College has provided me with the opportunity to take challenging courses that inspire complex reasoning skills and discipline. This course load has molded me into the successful student that I am today.