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Ajna Rivera

Ajna RiveraI use development and evolution to answer the question: Where do sensory systems come from? 

Looking at animals, we can see that there are varying degrees of complexity in sensory systems.  For example, flatworms have simple eyespots while we humans have large complex image-forming eyes.  At the farthest end of the scale we have the sponges, animals with no nervous system at all. 

To understand where nervous systems came from in our evolutionary history, I am comparing sponge genes and genetic interactions to the genes of animals with nervous systems.  On a smaller evolutionary time scale, I am studying the evolution of eyes in arthropods by examining the development of a tiny crustacean called Euphilomedes.

The types of tools I use include functional and gene expression studies, as well as computational and protein biology. 


I studied Biology at Stanford University as an undergraduate and got my Ph.D. from UC Berkeley.  I then did research and taught Genetics at UC Santa Barbara and at the University of Richmond in Virginia.

Courses I Teach

Embryology and Development

Area of Focus

Evolution of sensory systems

Contact Information

Ajna Rivera, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences
Email Link Email - Website
Phone: 209.946.3982
Office: Biology Room 216
 Curriculum Vitae

University of the Pacific
3601 Pacific Avenue
Stockton, CA 95211