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|Education:||B.S. in Biology
Southwestern University, 1993
|Ph.D. in Biology
Florida State University, 2000
Areas of Interest:
Courses Taught: Introductory Biology, Genetics, Cell Biology, Developmental Biology, Molecular Biology, Survey of Human Diseases
My main research focuses on the regulation of human N-cadherin gene expression. N-cadherin is a cell surface protein that is normally involved in cell to cell contacts called adherens junctions and desmosomes. These contacts hold like cells together in tissues and are required for tissue integrity. N-cadherin is normally expressed in neurons and other more mobile cells. Epithelial cells express E-cadherin, a related cadherin, and most human organs are formed from epithelial tissues. As it turns out, most human cancers also arise in epithelial tissues and when those tissues begin incorrectly expressing N-cadherin instead of or in addition to E-cadherin they become more mobile and are more likely to metastasize. As a result, I am very interested in understanding what proteins regulate the expression of the human N-cadherin gene with an eye toward understanding how it is incorrectly turned on in cancer cells.
In recent years I have had students work with me on projects in four different realms.
- N-cadherin project - described above
- Black-tailed prairie dog DNA fingerprinting - Ongoing project to evaluate the relatedness of the prairie dogs at Doane's Aldrich Prairie Research Site using PCR to produce DNA fingerprints.
- West Nile virus - one student collaborated with veterinarians across the state to collect blood from dogs to detect West Nile virus exposure in dogs as an indicator of the spread of the disease. Another student worked on trapping mosquitos to quantify the size of the virus infected mosquito population.
- Human genetics studies - looking at the potential inheritance of a variety of traits from physical fingerprints to human iris characteristics such as pigment dots and crypts.