I am a specialist on beetles (order Coleoptera), especially the Phytophaga, an enormous clade of tremendous ecological and economic importance containing the weevils, leaf beetles, and longhorned beetles. Specific research areas include beetle classification, phylogeny and evolution, timing and patterns of diversification, the genomic basis and evolution of plant feeding, biodiversity surveys and inventories, and geographic patterns of diversity and endemism, with a focus on the tropics and the Southern Hemisphere. Most projects involve international teams of collaborators, field studies, natural history collections, large molecular datasets, and computationally-intensive bioinformatic analyses. In recognition of the worsening biodiversity crisis, some projects have conservation biological goals/implications. I am currently involved in studies of insect biodiversity in North, Central, and South America, Africa, and Australia. My research is funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the FedEx Institute of Technology. I teach courses in Evolution, Entomology, & Biodiversity.

Duane McKenna PhD

William Hill Professor of Biology

University of Memphis

Founding Director, Center for Biodiversity Research

Director, Agriculture & Food Technologies Research Cluster, FedEx Institute of Technology

Cristian Beza-Beza PhD

Research Associate

Cristian studies Neotropical beetle systematics, genomics, ecology, and evolution, and is a specialist on the beetle family Passalidae. He is also studying patterns of geographic distribution and endemism in Passalidae, and how the ranges of montane-endemic passalid species are changing in Mesoamerica as a consequence of global warming and habitat loss.

Michael Charles

PhD Student


Check back soon.

Hwalran Choi PhD

Research Associate

Hwalran is an expert on aphids (Aphididae) and other hemipteran insects. Her research is focused on recontructing aphid phylogeny and evolution using genomic data. However, she also studies aphid-plant interactions and aphid classification.  Her doctoral research was focused on reconstructing the phylogeny of Macrosiphini (Hemiptera: Aphididae) using molecular data. She has also studied the taxonomy of aphids in the genera Myzus and Uroleucon in the Korean Peninsula. She has contributed to many different projects involving insect biodiversity, insect pests of agriculture, and insects of quarantine concern. Currently, she is studying host plant adaptation and functional genomics in aphids.

Dave Clarke PhD

Research Associate


Dave came to the University of Memphis in late 2014 to join the McKenna Lab as an NSF-funded postdoc working on the phylogeny and evolution of weevils. He wrote a Master’s thesis on the beetle fauna of a conservation island in New Zealand, and then moved to the U.S. to study beetle systematics and evolution. He came to Memphis by way of Chicago where he completed his doctoral training at The Field Museum of Natural History and the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has worked as an instructor in biology and environmental science at several institutions in the Chicago area. His research interests span comparative anatomy and morphology, systematics, evolution, biogeography and paleontology of beetles, and his work addresses several questions related to biodiversity and its origins. Dave teaches courses in Evolution, and Human Anatomy and Physiology at the University of Memphis Lambuth Campus (Jackson, TN).

Stephanie Haddad PhD

Research Assistant Professor

Stephanie studies the ecology, systematics, and evolution of the longhorn beetle family Cerambycidae. She is currently investigating the morphology, diversity, and evolution of the chemosensory sensilla of cerambyciform beetles (Cerambycidae, Disteniidae, Oxypeltidae, & Vesperidae) and their close relatives within superfamily Chrysomeloidea in order to learn more about how they have evolved to efficiently sense their environments. In addition to her work with beetles, she has surveyed insect biodiversity in national and urban forests and is interested in conducting species inventories to determine the presence and abundance of different insect groups. She is interested in native insect pollinators and in understanding factors that promote their biodiversity, especially in urban environments. Stephanie has experience teaching general biology lecture and lab, entomology lecture and lab, and senior seminar. She is a proponent of science outreach and mentorship, and is passionate about exploring effective strategies for recruiting, retaining, and advancing minorities and underrepresented groups in science.  

Soo-Hyun Jeong

PhD Student

Soohyun is interested in phylogenomics and Coleoptera evolution, with a particular focus on the ecology and evolution of beetle-plant interactions. Her former M.Sc. research was focused on the taxonomy and phylogeny of Korean flower flies, subtribe Xylotina (Diptera: Syrphidae). Subsequently, she worked as a researcher creating data about plant damaging pests at the Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency of Korea.


Seunggwan Shin PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow (Former)

Current: Professor

Seoul National University

Seunggwan studies insect molecular phylogenetics and evolution with a focus on beetles and flies (Diptera). He is also interested in the ecology and evolution of plant feeding in beetles and flies. He is an expert on black fungus gnats (Diptera: Sciaridae), including their taxonomy, systematics, and evolution. Currently, he is developing analytical pipelines and laboratory methods in support of comparative genomic, phylogenomic, and other studies in the McKenna lab. In addition to insect systematics and evolution, he has a strong interest and background in bioinformatics for phylogenomic studies, including the development of gene sets for target enrichment. He is Co-PI on a recent grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation (a collaboration with Texas A&M University) studying the phylogeny and evolution of Orthoptera. Other collaborations involve researchers from CSIRO (Australia), NCSU (USA), and SNU (South Korea).

Lynette Strickland PhD

NSF Postdoctoral Fellow (starting March, 2021)

Lynette studies tortoise beetle (Cassidinae) chemical ecology, beetle-plant Interactions, polymorphism, sequestration, aposematism, and phenotypic variation.

Check back soon for more information.