Dr. Christine Merlin

B.S. University Pierre and Marie Curie, France
M.S. University Pierre and Marie Curie, France
Ph.D. University Pierre and Marie Curie, France
Postdoctoral: University of Massachusetts Medical School

“My lab is broadly interested in understanding the genetic and neurobiological basis of complex behaviors, with a focus on circadian biology and animal migration. Using interdisciplinary approaches (genetics/epigenetics, genomics, molecular and biochemical, behavioral) and contemporary tools in the monarch butterfly, we study mechanisms by which the circadian clock generates 24-hrs rhythms, seasonal animal migration, the role of circadian clocks in this fascinating biological output, as well as magnetoreception”

Research Specialties

Bioinformatics and Genomics
Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Genetics

How long have you been a faculty member at Texas A&M?

I was recruited in the Department of Biology at Texas A&M in the summer of 2013. So almost 7 years.

What made you choose to join the A&M faculty?

I had many good reasons…

First, working in Texas puts my lab squarely in the path of the monarch migration both ways, which in practice means that our campus is also our field station. This is huge for our genetic studies, because we need to have regular access to wild monarchs to maintain genetic variation in the colony we raise in the lab. These guys literally stop to nectar at least twice a year on the garden we planted just in front of our lab.

Second, Texas A&M is a national hub for circadian biology hosted within the Center for Biological Clocks Research. Having colleagues working on similar and complementary topics within the same field was a competitive advantage for establishing my lab. The mentoring I received from them and the collaborations we established have made a huge difference in my career trajectory.

But what really sealed the deal at the time was the rare kind of support the Department of Biology at Texas A&M demonstrated. I was one of a “two-body problem”. As if this was not enough, both of us are circadian biologists. The prospect of getting two jobs in close-by Universities, let alone in the same one, was slim. We both applied to the open position at Texas A&M. What happened next is rare. They offered us two faculty positions, two independent labs, two independent start-up packages.

It was a no-brainer!

What makes A&M stand out above other institutions? What is the best part about being part of the Genetics program?

I guess I’ve already answered the first question above. An aspect that I really like about being part of the Genetics program is the exposure to a wide range of genetic research me and my trainees get. This is very enriching and help us all become more rounded scientists.

Fun Facts:

When I am not in the lab, I am…

In my home office, doing house chores, relaxing on the deck (in no particular order). Don’t judge me, I was an Assistant Professor trying to get tenure until recently! I’ll look out for a FUN hobby or two now.

My favorite restaurant in College Station is?

Casa do Brazil. I am a meat lover, AND they make the best martinis in town. Try the espresso one when you get a chance!

What is the most gratifying aspect about mentoring graduate students?

Watching them mature scientifically and be successful is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. That said, having to mentor graduate students over the past 7 years has also taught me a lot – about who I am as a person, who I want to be as a PI – it has changed me in many ways. FUN FACT? This mentor-mentee relationship really is a two-way street.

Do you have any hidden talents?

Does changing door locks count (latest perceived “prowess” I can think of)?
Seriously, you don’t want to hear me sing, I can’t play music, I can’t predict the future, I can’t teleport (one of my wildest dream!), and I have no magic powers as my name would suggest…