Melody Sain

Melody Sain
330 North Orchard Street, Room 3235F
Madison WI 53715
Preferred pronouns: she/her/hers
Joined WID: 2021

Understanding the evolution and genetic underpinnings of flowering plant sex determination.


Melody Sain calls a small town in West Tennessee home where she was continually engaged in many educational and outreach activities that her school and community had to offer. She was also highly active in pageants which helped her fund her undergraduate college tuition. Melody spent much of her childhood time outside riding her four-wheeler, exploring the woods around her home, and playing with her younger brother. Therefore, it is no surprise that part of her career involves exploring the outdoors to try and uncover a fragment of its mystery which she began exploring as a kid.


  • BS, Biology concentration in Ecology and Environmental Biology, University of Tennessee at Martin
  • MS, Biology, University of Texas at Tyler
  • PhD, Botany, University of Wisconsin-Madison (present)

Research Description

The understanding of sexual systems is an interesting process of reproductive evolution in plants. The evolution of dioecy in angiosperms is an area that has been well documented but understanding why there may be a transition from bisexuality to unisexuality is not as well understood. Thalictrum (meadow-rue) is a genus within the Ranunculaceae family that exhibits a variety of sexual systems: hermaphroditism (bisexual flowers), andromonoecy (male and hermaphroditic flowers on one plant), gynomonoecy (female and hermaphroditic flowers on one plant) and dioecy (male and female flowers on separate plants). Thalictrum dioicum, a dioecious species within the genus, has shown that during development flowers are unisexual at conception, whereas many dioecious angiosperms are perfect and abort either stamens or carpels during development. Therefore, sex determination in Thalictrum may occur by homeotic (transformation of one organ into another) mechanisms acting upstream of sexual organ identity. Thalictrum has been well studied and possesses several characteristics that make it a good system to examine evolutionary transitions in sexual systems. My research seeks to build on the existing knowledge of sexual system evolution, by investigating the genomic architecture of sex determination in Thalictrum and determining whether similar mechanisms were utilized in each independent origin of dioecy within the genus.


  • L&S Community of Graduate Research Scholars, UW-Madison
  • J.F. Crow Institute for the Study of Evolution, UW-Madison
  • UW-Madison Teaching Academy (Future Faculty Partner)
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science (member)
  • American Genetics Association (member)
  • Botanical Society of America (member)
  • Society for the Study of Evolution (member)


  • Campus- Wide TA Award, UW-Madison (Exceptional Service 2019)
  • L&S Teaching Fellow, UW-Madison (2019-2020)