Participating Faculty Members
Updated for 2014
Dr. Catalina Arango
Research in my lab uses the plant symbiont Sinorhizobium meliloti as a model organism to study regulation of genes and cellular processes in bacteria. One area of research involves the identification of genes that are important for biofilm formation S. meliloti. Another area focuses on the regulation of carbon metabolism, specifically the phenomenon known as catabolite repression. One project will be investigating the mechanism by which the genes that are involved in utilization of raffinose are turned on or off depending on the presence of the repressing carbon source succinate. Another project will look at the occurrence of catabolite repression in some bacteria isolated from deep, underground, isolated caves. This bacteria were recently disocovered by Dr. Hazel Barton at Northern Kentucky University. We will also be looking for the presence of genes enoding proteins that are known to participate in catabolite repression in other bacteria.
Dr. Shantanu Bhatt
Enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC) is a major public health concern in developing countries where it causes significant morbidity and mortality in infants. EPEC, along with a few other related pathogens namely enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC), Citrobacter rodentium, rabbit enteropathogenic E. coli (REPEC), and Escherichia albertii constitute a group collectively referred to as attaching and effacing (A/E) pathogens. They are so called because upon infection these pathogens attach intimately to intestinal cells and destroy cellular microvilli. Destruction of the microvilli reduces the ability of the cells to absorb water and nutrients, which ultimately leads to diarrhea. Concurrently, the infected bacterium recruits the structural proteins from the microvilli and remodels them to form filament-like structures that extend out of the infected cell and are crowned on top by the infecting bacterium. This histopathological structure is commonly referred to as an A/E lesion or pedestal. The ability of EPEC to form A/E lesions and cause disease depends on the presence of a pathogenicity island called locus of enterocyte effacement (LEE). The LEE encodes a type 3-secretion system that connects the cytoplasm of the bacteria to that of the host and enables EPEC to traffic a constellation of factors directly into the host, which aid bacterial colonization and cause disease. My lab is interested in identifying bacterial factors that regulate the LEE and modulate the resulting pathogenicity of EPEC. Identification of such virulence factors and their mechanism of action is essential for the developing effective therapies to combat EPEC infections, especially in light of the emergence of highly drug-resistant strains of EPEC. We use a highly interdisciplinary approach by incorporating tools and techniques from bioinformatics, genetics, and biochemistry to interrogate and characterize such virulence factors.
My lab investigates evolutionary processes at the genetic level. My students use computational (bioinformatics) and/or wet lab molecular techniques. Anyone who wishes to quickly obtain and analyze data from the incredible bioinformatics databases should consider working with me over the summer.
Dr. Jonathan Fingerut
Work in my lab centers around movement of organisms in their environment. Current projects are investigating the movement of diatoms in response to different environmental stimuli (e.g. light, temperature, pH, nutrients) and on the large scale movement of an invasive fruit fly with a focus on its control.
Field Research on the Bear Gulch Fossil Deposit
The opportunity exists for one or two undergraduate students to participate in a longstanding field research program dedicated to the collection and study of fossils from the 318 million-year- old Bear Gulch Limestone Deposit of Montana. Successful students will learn about the fauna and flora (biology, ecology, taxonomy, taphonomy) of a Paleozoic bay through study of the relevant literature, examination of lab specimens, and by engaging in team-based field excavations in a remote region out west. During this process, the student will see and or discover fossil forms which are entirely new to science. He/she will also be trained in the geology and theories for formation of this deposit. Qualified candidates must have prior field or significant camping experience, the physical stamina required for manual excavation of the rock unit, and must interview with Dr. Grogan prior to submitting an application for a position on the expedition team.
Dr. Christina King Smith
Research in my lab centers on the cytoskeleton and intracellular motility in eukaryotic cells. Students will investigate actin dependent mechanisms of organelle transport using primary cultures of fish retinal epithelial cells. A second research area involves investigation of the roles of actin and myosin in whole cell movement in cultured mammalian cells. Techniques include protein biochemistry, light microscropy, and cell culture.
Dr. Julia Lee-Soety
Chromosome ends (or telomeres) shorten over time in many human cells; this shortening plays a role in the natural processes of aging, or the inappropriate re-lengthening is involved in cancer cell survival. Cells must, therefore, be able to preserve proper telomere function. Projects in my lab focuses on understanding how particular RNA-processing proteins are able to maintain telomeres using baker’s yeast as a comparative model system, thereby gaining insight into aging and cancer biology.
Dr. Edwin Li
My research area focuses on understanding the physical and chemical principles governing the interaction of membrane proteins. These interactions are measured in model membranes (liposomes), bacterial membranes and eukaryotic membranes using molecular biology and biophysical techniques. The goal is to gain structural and quantitative information regarding the effects of disease-causing mutations in receptor tyrosine kinases, which are membrane receptors that regulate cell growth, differentiation, and mobility.
Dr. Scott McRobert
Animal Behavior, Ecology, Conservation and Evolution.
Dr. Karen Snetselaar
There are several opportunities for undergraduate research in the Ustilago lab. One is to continue a project examining survival of disease-causing fungal cells in soil. Another area of interest involves using a variety of microscopic techniques to characterize the pathogenic structures formed by the fungus inside the plant.
Dr. Clint Springer
The transition from vegetative to reproductive growth is one of the most important developmental milestones in the life cycle of plants. The timing of this transition has major implications for the final yield of crops and the reproductive success of plant species found in natural ecosystems. Elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide ([CO2]) is likely to alter the timing of flowering in plants in the future. These elevated [CO2]-induced changes in flowering time are also likely to translate into economic impacts on crop production and changes in the functioning of natural ecosystems. In addition, I have found that selection for high seed yield at elevated [CO2] involves major changes in plant developmental programs that result in alterations in flowering time. Thus, understanding the mechanisms that lead to altered flowering time at elevated [CO2] is critical for crop breeding programs that are focused on maximizing yields in response to the effects of global change factors as well as predicting plant evolutionary trajectories in the future. The overall goal of this project is to identify mechanisms that elicit changes in flowering time in response to future changes in atmospheric [CO2], and to examine the role of these mechanisms in Arabidopsis thaliana genotypes that exhibit high seed yield at elevated [CO2].
Dr. James Watrous
The projects use the tool of computer simulation to examine the behavior of neural networks that are influenced by the inclusion of pacemaker or cells or cells that produce bursts of activity followed by a period of quiescence. Current projects being investigated are models of circadian rhythms, epilepsy and tremor.