Program PhD Students

Thomas Beatman

Thomas Beatman

Title: IB PhD Student
Department: Biology


During my undergraduate studies at the University of New Hampshire I did research on spiders in the lab of Professor Emeritus Edward K Tillinghast, investigating a number topics related to spider silk glands. My initial spider research examined changes in the cellular physiology of the aggregate silk gland ducts in orbweb spiders, measuring glycogen consumption and vesicle mobilization in the ducts during web construction using chemical assays and electron microscopy. Other studies included investigating whether silk gland activity is controlled by neural innervation, the source of compounds utilized in the silk glue, and differences in the structure, function, and product composition of the aggregate glands in orb- and cobweb spiders. Following this I did my Master's degree at Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany in the Molecular Life Science Master's degree program, investigating the physiology of acetic acid tolerance in yeast strains for application in biotechnological production of ethanol.

For my PhD at the University of Akron I working under the advisory of Dr. Todd Blackledge. Across the numerous invertebrate phyla a great number of environmental adaptations have evolved, and amongst the arthropoda one of the most extraordinary evolutionary developments has been silks, and their diverse use by spiders makes for an intriguing subject of study. My main interest is in the historical evolutionary shifts which has led to this diversity. I hope to look at changes in the silk gland complements of different spider families as it relates to established phylogenetic frameworks and to better inform our understanding of spider evolution. In addition, processing of the silk by the glands and spinning through the spinnerets has been seen to play a major role in determining their physical characteristics, and how this can change across closely related spiders also runs along the line of this phylogenetic research.


B.S., Biology, University of New Hampshire; M.S., Molecular Life Science, Jacobs University, Germany