Karen Snetselaar, Ph.D.

Graduate Director and Professor of Biology
Office: Science Center 229
Phone: 610-660-1826
Fax: 610-660-1832
Email: ksnetsel@sju.edu
Website: Faculty Website

In addition to the research areas topics described below, I am interested in science education in general and specifically in promoting science education outreach into K-12 schools.  I am the director for the SJU GeoKids LINKS program, which brings hands-on science into Philadelphia classrooms.



  • B.L.S (1989), from Iowa State University
  • M.S. (1989) in Botany (Mycology), from Iowa State University
  • Ph.D (1993) in Plant Pathology (Mycology), from University of Georgia.

Professional Experience

Assistant Professor (1993 - 2000), Associate Professor (2000 - 2003), and Professor (2003 - present) of Biology, Saint Joseph's University, Chair (2008 - 2014)  Department of Biology, Saint Joseph's University, Philadelphia, PA.

Courses Taught

Bio III: Organismal, Light and Electron Microscopy, Plant Systematics, Plants and Civilization (non-majors)


Undergraduate student authors are indicated with a * and M.S. students by **.

Peer-reviewed publications (selected)

McCann, M., and Snetselaar, K.  2008.  A genome-based analysis of amino acid metabolism in the biotrophic plant pathogen Ustilago maydis.  Fungal Genetics and Biology Thematic Issue: Ustilago maydis.  S77-S87. 

Kämper, J., R. Kahmann, M. Bölker, L. Ma, T. Brefort, B. J. Saville, F. Banuett, J. W. Kronstad, S. E. Gold, O. Müller, M. H. Perlin, H. A.B. Wösten, R. deVries, J. Ruiz-Herrera, C. G. Reynaga-Peña, K. Snetselaar, M.l McCann, J. Pérez-Martín, M. Feldbrügge,C. W. Basse, G. Steinberg, J. I. Ibeas, W. Holloman, P. Guzman, M. Farman, J. E. Stajich, R. Sentandreu, J. M. González-Prietro, J. C. Kennell, L. Molina, J. Schirawski, A. Mendoza-Mendoza, D. Greilinger, K. Münch, N. Rössel, M. Scherer, M. Vranes, O. Ladendorf, V. Vincon, U. Fuchs, B. Sandrock, S. Meng, E. C.H. Ho, M. J. Cahill, K. J. Boyce, J. Klose, S. J. Klosterman, H. J. Deelstra, L. Ortiz-Castellanos, W. Li, P. Sanchez-Alonso, P. H. Schreier, I. Häuser-Hahn, M. Vaupel, E.Koopmann,G. Friedrich, H. Voss, T. Schlüter, J. Margolis, D. Platt,C. Swimmer, A. Gnirke, F. Chen, V. Vysotskaia, G. Mannhaupt, U. Güldener, M. Münsterkötter, D. Haase, Ma. Oesterheld, H. Mewes, E. W. Mauceli, D. DeCaprio, C. M. Wade, J. Butler, S. Young, D. D. Jaffe, S. Calvo, C. Nusbaum, J. Galagan, and B. W. Birren.  2006.  Insights from the genome of the biotrophic fungal plant pathogen Ustilago maydis. Nature 444: 97-101.

Pataky, J. K., and K. M. Snetselaar. 2006. Common smut of corn. The Plant Health Instructor. DOI:10.1094/PHI-I-2006-0927-01  Published on the web at http://www.apsnet.org/Education/LessonsPlantPath/CornSmut/default.htm

Schirawski, J., Bohnert, H.U., Steinberg, G., Snetselaar, K., Adamikova, L., and Kahmann, R.   2005.  Endoplasmic reticulum glucosidase II is required for pathogenicity of Ustilago maydis.  The Plant Cell 17: 3532-3543.   

Mullin, J.M., Leatherman, J. M., Valenzano, M. C., Huerta, E. R., Verrechio, J., Smith, D. M., Snetselaar, K., Liu, M., Francis, M. K., and Sell, C.  2005.  Ras mutation impairs epithelial barrier function to a wide range of nonelectrolytes.  Molecular Biology of the Cell 16: 5538-5550.     

Snetselaar, K. M., *M. A. Carfioli, and *K.M Cordisco.  2001. Pollination can protect maize ovaries from infection by Ustilago maydis, the corn smut fungus.  Canadian Journal of Botany 79:1390-1399.

**Fischer, J. A., McCann, M.P., and Snetselaar, K. M.  2001.  Methylation is involved in the U. maydis mating response. Fungal Genetics and Biology. 34:21-35.

Selected recent abstracts/presentations

Snetselaar, K. , *L. Vasta, *J. Jennings, M. McCann.  2007.  Location of Ustilago maydis infection structures on maize silks.  Annual meeting Mycological Society of America, August 5-10, 2007, Baton Rouge LA.

Snetselaar, K., and M. McCann.  2006.  Host-pathogen interface in Ustilago maydis.  Proceedings of the 3rd Ustilago maydis meeting, held in Guanajuato, Mexico.  (Also a presentation at this meeting.)

Snetselaar, K., **S. Yerrum and M.  McCann. 2005.  Filamentous growth and septation in Ustilago maydis.  Molecular Biology of the Cell:  16: Supplement.  Also presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology, in San Francisco.

**Carre, Carlos, McCann, Michael, and Snetselaar, Karen.  2004.    Inducing Ustilago maydis infection structures.  Presented at the Mycological Society of American annual meeting, Ashevelle NC, July 2004.

**Dawley, M., **Seminack, M., McCann, M., and Snetselaar, K.  2004.   Characterizing a Co-enzyme A synthesis gene from Ustilago maydis.  Presented at the Mycological Society of American annual meeting, Ashevelle NC, July 2004.

*Marchese, R., *J. McLaughlin, *L. Voisey, *L. Gorgol, M. McCann, and K. Snetselaar. 2004. Isolation of Ustilago maydis from soil. Meeting of the Mycological Society of America, Ashville, N.C.

**Mothey, D., K. Snetselaar, and M. McCann. 2004. Functional complementation of an mRNA processing gene from Ustilago. Meeting of the Mycological Society of America, Ashville, N.C.

Snetselaar, K. M., **A. Gopinathan, and M. McCann. 2004. Multiple roles of cAMP in filamentous growth of Ustilago maydis. Meeting of the Mycological Society of America, Ashville, N.C.

*Fertala, J., and M. McCann. 2003. Cloning and characterization of the MET2 gene from Ustialgo maydis. Joint meeting of Mycological Society of America and British Mycological Society. Asilomar, CA.

Snetselaar, K. M., **C. Carre, Jr., and M. McCann. 2003. Nuclear condition in Ustilago filaments and teliospores. Joint meeting of Mycological Society of America and British Mycological Society. Asilomar, CA.

**Gopinathan, A., K. Snetselaar, and M. McCann. 2003. Ustilago maydis uac mutants elicit a host response in maize leaves. 22nd Fungal Genetics Conference, Asilomar, CA.

Snetselaar, K.M. and M. McCann . 2002. Filamentous growth in Ustilago maydis. First International Ustilago maydis meeting, Marburgh, Germany.

Snetselaar, K. M., and M. P. McCann.  2001.  From bud to appressorium: Morphology of the Ustilago maydis transition from saprobic to parasitic growth. Symposium presentation at the 2001 joint meeting of APS, MSA, SON.  *Rucker, E., *C. Carre, *J. Dougherty III, M. McCann and K. Snetselaar. 2001. Using auxotrophs of the corn smut fungus to identify nutrients obtained from the plant by the pathogen during infection.  In press. Proceedings National Conference on Undergraduate Research XV.

*Walmsley, D., M. McCann and K. Snetselaar. 2001. Using 2-D gel electrophoresis to identify proteins synthesized during mating in Ustilago maydis. In press. Proceedings National Conference on Undergraduate Research XV.

Snetselaar, K., S. Lee, *A. Nguyen and M. McCann. 2000.  Using microdensitometry and image analysis to study nuclear cycle events in a plant pathogenic fungus. Microsc. Microanal. 6: 686-687.

Grants and Awards

2009-2013.  Co-PI, with Sandra Fillebrown, Michael Clapper, Michael McCann, and Tetyana Brerezovski, for NSF Noyce Fellowship grant, Enhancing the Math and Science 5-year Education Programs at SJU.  DUE #0934713 $748,182. 

2008-2012. Principal Investigator for NSF Major Research Instrumentation award, “MRI: Acquisition of a Confocal Microscope for Research and Research Training in Biology and Physics at Saint Joseph’s University.  With C. King Smith, P. Habdas, and C. Coffey.  DBI-0821298.  $413,049. 

2005-2012. Principal Investigator NSF GK-12 Track 2:GeoKids LINKS in Philadelphia: Continuing a University, Museum, Elementary School Collaboration in Science.” With S. McRobert, S. Glassman, and M. McCann.NSFDGE-0440506     Approx. $1,700,000.  

2002-2005.     Principal Investigator NSF Grad teaching Fellows in K-12 (GK-12): “Bringing place-based learning to urban Philadelphia.”  With S. McRobert, S. Glassman, and M. McCann.   NSF DGE 0139303 $832,320.  

2001-2004.  Co-PI for NSF Major Research Instrumentation award, “Acquisition of a transmission electron microscopy and ultramicrotome for natural sciences at SJU.”  With C. King Smith (Project Investigator) and M. McCann.   NSF MRI 0115962 $354,163.  

1998-2003. Principal Investigator NSF RUI: Isolation and characterization of mating impaired mutants in the fungus Ustilago maydis.  With M. McCann.  NSF MCB 9807807 $181,000.    1997-1999. Principal Investigator NSF Major Research Instrumentation award, “Acquisition of two microscopes with image processing and analysis instrumentation, for Biological Research at St. Joseph’s University.  With C. Smith, P. Tefft, and M. McCann.   #9724401, $99,469.


Although I have worked with a number of different fungi, most work in the lab currently revolves around the fungus Ustilago maydis, which causes smut disease of corn plants. Most recent work has addressed questions concerning how the fungus chooses the sites for infection in the host plant.  I am also interested in urban ecology and presently have students doing research on the green roof atop the Science Center at SJU.

Faculty Expert Profile