Participating Faculty Members
Updated for 2015
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. My research focuses on the regulation of carbon metabolism, specifically the phenomenon known as catabolite repression. One approach to our research is to understand which are the proteins that transmit the signal resulting in differential expression of certain genes. A different approach looks at the structure of gene promoters that are regulated by catabolite repression, and at the sequences that are critical for this regulation.
Dr. Shantanu Bhatt
Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) is one of the leading causes of infantile diarrhea in developing countries and contributes to significant morbidity and mortality. EPEC belongs to a family of pathogens that infect the intestinal tract and attach intimately to the host cell. Upon attachment the pathogen destroys cellular microvilli, which are organelles crucial for the absorption of fluids and nutrients. Destruction of the microvilli results in diarrhea. The genetic island called locus of enterocyte effacement (LEE) is essential for the ability of EPEC to cause diarrhea. Thus, a comprehensive understanding of the environmental cues and regulators that control the LEE holds the key to designing effective therapies to combat EPEC outbreaks. Our research is focussed on identifying such virulence factors. The research will enable students to harness concepts from physics, chemistry, and the diverse sub-disciplines of biology, including cells, genetics, biochemistry, and microbiology, and integrate them together towards addressing a socially and biologically relevant phenomenon.
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.
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.
The cellular and molecular basis of sleepThe function of sleep is one of nature’s greatest mysteries; however, it is clear that sleep is essential. Lack of sleep in humans is linked with an increased prevalence of heart disease, diabetes and various psychological disorders. Moreover, in animal systems like rats, fruit flies and worms, total sleep deprivation is lethal. In fact, with sleep disorders on the rise and people working longer shifts and multiple jobs, lack of sleep has become a global public health concern. There is a need for the discovery of new genes and molecular pathways that regulate sleep in order to develop novel therapeutics and sleep aids. Because of the conserved nature of sleep, invertebrate genetically tractable animals have become valuable tools. Caenorhabditis elegans is a fast growing microscopic nematode whose genes we can manipulate with ease. We know the location and synaptic connection of every neuron, of which there are only 302! Genes that regulate C. elegans sleep also regulate sleep in more complex animals, including humans, making it an ideal system for studying sleep. The Nelson lab uses various molecular biology, genetic and neurobiological/behavioral tools, including video imaging systems, to unravel both the cellular and molecular basis of C. elegans sleep.
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].