Biological Sciences, Lehigh University Lehigh University home page Department of Biological Sciences home page
Faculty, Biological Sciences, Lehigh University

Neal Simon, Ph.D.

Kayleigh O'Keeffe, Ph.D.
Teaching Assistant Professor

Research Interest:
Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Disease

STEPS, Room 366
1 West Packer Ave 
Bethlehem, PA 18015


email Dr. O'Keeffe

About Dr. O'Keeffe

Dr. Kayleigh O’Keeffe joined the department of biological sciences at Lehigh in 2022. Her research has broadly integrated ecology and evolutionary biology methods to better understand the consequences of within-host microbial interactions on disease. Multicellular organisms are often host to a diverse community of mutualistic, commensal, and parasitic microbes, referred to collectively as the microbiome. The microbial community surrounding a parasite shapes both that parasite’s immediate phenotype and its evolutionary potential. Dr. O’Keeffe has investigated this by focusing on how within-host interactions relate to disease at multiple levels, studying the impacts of these interactions on parasite growth and replication within host individuals and on transmission of parasites across host populations. Her PhD research at UNC-Chapel Hill focused on the interactions among fungal parasites of a grass host. After completing her PhD in 2019, she started a postdoctoral position at the University of Pennsylvania. In this position, she still considered questions related to the ecology and evolution of infectious diseases, but developed these questions within a different study system – ticks and tick-borne pathogens – to uncover how population dynamics of pathogens relate to those of their vector.

In addition to her biological research, Dr. O’Keeffe is passionate about undergraduate education and communicating science to broad audiences. She aims to create learning environments where her students feel confident to participate and ultimately see themselves as scientists, developing both knowledge and skills that parallel those found in a science career, such as experimental design, data interpretation, and communication skills.


Fall 2022

Bios 044 - Integrative and Comparative Biology (Lecture

Bios 045 - Integrative and Comparative Biology (Lab)



*Underlining indicates undergraduate under my mentorship

O’Keeffe, K., Oppler, Z.J., Prusinski, M., Falco, R., Oliver, J., Haight, J., Sporn, L.A., Backenson, P.B., Brisson, D. (2022). Phylogeographic dynamics of the arthropod vector, the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis). Parasites & Vectors. 15, 238. (

O’Keeffe, K.R., Wheeler, B., Mitchell, C.E. (2022). A microbial mutualist within host individuals increases parasite transmission between host individuals: Evidence from a field mesocosm experiment Frontiers in Microbiology. 13 (

O’Keeffe, K.R., Simha, A., Mitchell, C.E. (2021). Indirect interactions among parasites and a microbial mutualist impact disease progression. Proc. R. Soc. B. 20211313. (

O’Keeffe, K.R., Halliday, F.W., Jones, C.D., Carbone, I., Mitchell, C.E., (2021). Parasites, niche modification, and the host microbiome: A field survey of multiple parasites. Molecular Ecology, 30: 2404-2416 (

Oppler, Z.J., O’Keeffe, K.R., McCoy K.D., Brisson D. (2020) “Evolutionary genetics of Borrelia.” In Borrelia: Molecular Biology, Host Interaction and Pathogenesis. Eds. D. Scott Samuels and Justin D. Radolf. Caister Academic Press. (

O’Keeffe, K.R., Oppler, Z.J., Brisson, D. (2020) Evolutionary Ecology of Lyme Borrelia. Infection, Genetics and Evolution, 85:104570 (

O’Keeffe, K.R. and Jones, C.D. (2019) Challenges and Solutions for Analyzing Dual RNA-seq Data for Non-Model Host/Pathogen Systems. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 10:401-414 (

*Highlighted in the Methods in Ecology and Evolution blog:

Hansen, W.D., Scholl, J.P., Sorensen, A.E., Fisher, K., Klassen, J., Calle, L., Kandlikar, G., Kortessis, N., Kucera, D., Marias, D., Narango, D.L., O’Keeffe, K.R., Planas, A., Recart, W., Ridolfi, E., and Shay. M. (2018). How do we ensure the future of our discipline is vibrant? Student reflections on careers and culture of ecology. Ecosphere, 9(2):e02099 (

O’Keeffe, K.R. and Bain, R. (2018) ComSciCon-Triangle: Regional Science Communication Training for Graduate Students. Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education, 19(1) (

O’Keeffe, K.R., Carbone, I., Jones, C.D., Mitchell, C.E. (2017). Plastic Potential: how the phenotypes and adaptations of pathogens are influenced by microbial interactions within plants. Current Opinion in Plant Biology 38:78-83 (

Bowman, T.A., O’Keeffe, K.R., D’Aquila, T., Yan, Q.W., Griffin, J.D., Killion, E.A., Mashek, D.G., Buhman, K.K., and Greenberg, A.S. (2016). Acyl CoA synthetase 5 (ACSL5) Ablation in Mice Increases Energy Expenditure and Insulin Sensitivity and Delays Fat Absorption. Molecular Metabolism, 5(3) (

Biological Sciences
111 Research Drive
Bethlehem, PA 18015
Phone: 610-758-3680
Fax: 610-758-4004