Welcome to the Ballerini Lab!

Dept. of Biological Sciences 

Sacramento State University



OCTOBER: Yeah, so THIS happened !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

SEPTEMBER: After trying to start up a new lab from scratch during a pandemic, finally celebrating a few Ballerini lab firsts… First Aquilegia seeds planted and first DNA isolations at Sac State - accomplished with the first Ballerini Lab MS student, Maria Alcaraz, who’s the first in her family to earn a college degree and the first in her family to pursue an advanced degree! Go Maria!!

SEPTEMBER: Congratulations to the newly minted PhD graduate Dr. Zac A. Cabin, aka Dr. ZAC! How to celebrate? With a pair of custom embroidered Vans featuring his study organism (A. Coerulea) of course! Happy to celebrate the accomplishments of my lab baby brother!!

JUNE-JULY: Hit the road and air to go out and collect some columbines!! Collected A. brevistyla, A. canadensis, and A. formosa in Nevada, Montana, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Alaska assisted by L. Ballerini, D. Pfarr, and Soda.

MAY: Went to see the man, the myth, the legend… San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich IRL!!! Also celebrated the 2020 and 2021 Sac State Graduates at Carmencement with colleagues Gabrielle Hoskins (NSM Advising) and Prof. Erin Olsan (Biology)!!

APRIL:  I took the Up-Goer Five Challenge and tried to describe my research using only the 1000 most commonly used words in the English language. How did I do?

Some green life forms that can't move need help from friends to make babies. To get baby-making friends to visit and help make babies, the green life forms can make colored parts that look pretty. Sometimes the green life forms also make sweet food to try to get baby-making friends to visit. The pretty colored parts can take different forms to hold the sweet food. I want to know how the plans that green life forms use to build the pretty colored parts that hold the sweet food for baby-making friends are different than the plans of green life forms that do not make pretty colored parts with spots to hold the sweet food. So far, I have found one big way that the plans are different! I have also found several  ways that the plans have changed to control which color the pretty parts are. How exciting!

APRIL:  Congratulations to Molly on the submission of her very first 1st-author paper! ~4.5 years ago we first talked about collaborating on a project - she did a ton of work and got great results! L: the moment she clicked ‘Submit’. R: the moment we raised a glass (or can) in celebration!


AUGUST: The POPOVICH paper about a gene controlling nectar spur development in Aquilegia finally came out! Check it out in PNAS: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2006912117

AUGUST: Well, it wasn’t Alaska as planned, but Maria, Soda, and I still managed to get out into the field in the Eastern Sierra Nevada. The columbines had pretty much finished flowering, but we got to see a few in flower and Maria practiced taking nectar measurements near Upper Morgan Pass Lake at > 11,000 feet in elevation. Woot woot!

JULY: A great showing by the Columbine Crew at the Botany 2020 Virtual Conference! Amazing talks by Molly and Minya! So many amazing other talks from and interactions with people from around the world!

APRIL: CONGRATS to Maria on writing an AWESOME Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) proposal that was funded! Now we just have to figure out how to do some research when we can’t do fieldwork or work in the lab… #pandemicpause

MARCH: The SARS-Cov-2/COVID-19 pandemic puts the lab on hiatus. Keeping fingers crossed that we can still make some collecting trips this summer, otherwise it’s going to be slim pickings throughout the next academic year. Stay safe and healthy and keep up that physical distancing!

JANUARY: Welcome to the first three Hornets to join the Ballerini Lab at Sac State! Cyrill Castro (Comp. Sci., ’20), Jesus Landin (Bio. Sci., ’20), & Maria Alcaraz (Bio. Sci., ’21)!!

JANUARY: Many many thanks to Nathan for helping me build Silver, the Ballerini Lab data crunching machine! Nathan has taught me so much about computing from the hardware, to the software, to the coding. Hoping to pass that knowledge on to students at Sac State! Check out those bomb @$$ mouse pads!


OCTOBER: Went to the Hornet Homecoming Game with fellow first year Biological Sciences faculty Prof. Clint Collins and Prof. Erin Olsan. 

Final Score

    Montana        22

    Sac State      49

Hornets for the win! Stingers UP!

SEPTEMBER: Got some sweet custom columbine stickers made by the women of Microbes and Beyond (clearly columbines are part of the Beyond). You can request some here.

AUGUST: Finally, a publication. I almost forgot what that feeling was like. This manuscript is foreshadowing for bigger things to come… stay tuned!

Ballerini et al., 2019  Comparative transcriptomics of early petal development across four diverse species of Aquilegia reveal few genes consistently associated with nectar spur development. BMC Genomics 20:668. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12864-019-6002-9

AUGUST: Farewell Santa Barbara, Hello Sacramento! The Ballerini Lab gets its start at Sac State - Stingers Up!




6000 J ST