Karen Snetselaar, Ph.D.

Professor of Biology
Office: Science Center 225
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)

Snetselaar, K., and McCann. M.  2017. Ustilago maydis, the corn smut fungus, has an unusual diploid mitotic stage.  Mycologia 109: 142-150. DOI: 10.1080/00275514.2016.1274597

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 

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.  

Book chapter

“Hawks Bring a Touch of Wilderness to Saint Joseph's University in Crimson and Gray,” in The Red-Tailed Hawks of Saint Joseph’s University, ed. M. McCann and C. Dixon.  2015.

Selected recent abstracts/presentations

*Lewis L., *DiMuzio M., and Snetselaar K.  2017.  Haploid cells of Ustilago maydis form filaments on mature leaves of corn.  Presented at the annual meeting of the Mycological Society of America, Athens GA.

**Kimmel, K., and Snetselaar, S.  2015.  Characterizing environmental factors contributing to plant community dynamics on a full-scale green roof in Philadelphia, PA.  Ecological Society of American proceedings, also presented as a poster.  Baltimore MD. 

Fritz, C., Forster, B. Snetselaar, K. King Smith, C.  Beyond Collaboration: Strengthening a life science community of practice for science education by bringing cell biology to high schoolstudents.http://www.asbmb.org/meetings/annualmeeting2015/sessions/publicpolicy/OutreachAbstracts/   Also presented as a poster presented at the 2015 meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology.  San Diego, CA.

“Going Wild in the City:  Evolution of Attitudes about Urban Ecology,” Science on Tap science café, National Mechanics, November 2015. 

Snetselaar, K., Glassman, S., McCann, M., Semos, D, McRobert, S. and Lowery.  Saint Joseph's University GK-12 and beyond: Institutionalizing science education outreach.  Annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America, 2010. 

2009.  Snetselaar, K. invited respondent to presentation on Faith and Reason by Charles Miller, as part of “Faith and Reason: A Dialogue at the Heart of Jesuit Education” at Fordham University. 

Grants and Awards

2009-2014.  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