Faculty with Undergraduate Student Research Opportunities in Biology
The following faculty can be contacted about undergraduate research opportunities for Biological Sciences students at Ohio University. They may be in the Biological Sciences Department of the Biomedical Sciences Department.
Spatial population genomics
In a nutshell, this lab studies how the dynamic environmental context of populations shape their evolutionary trajectories. Such understanding is crucial for elucidating how environmental heterogeneity and change influence the generation and maintenance of biological diversity, and ultimately for forecasting their future trajectories—a pressing question given the current accelerated rates of change. To answer this question, we integrate field, molecular, and computational work on a variety of study systems (from tropical small terrestrial mammals to temperate trees). An important component of our work is also the development of novel bioinformatic tools that take full advantage of the increasing amount of genomic data for non-model species and that allow for the explicit integration of relevant biological realism into population genetics inference. Because of this truly interdisciplinary research program, the lab offers an ideal opportunity of hands-on experience for undergraduates with diverse interests within the umbrella of evolutionary genomics.
Molecular Biology, Tumor Immunology
My research explores the capability of antigen presenting cells (dendritic cells and macrophages) to act as inducers or suppressors of immunity responses in different diseases such as cancer, atherosclerosis or infections. These cells are keystones of the immune response, being capable of triggering specific immunity. Thus, they have been used for vaccination purposes. In pathological conditions, they can be involved in inflammatory diseases, collaborating with tissue injury. On the other hand, they can collaborate with tumor growth by suppressing the specific anti-tumor immune response or inducing tumor vascularization. Investigating the factors governing the phenotype plasticity of these cells may unhide new targets for immune therapies. We approach these studies by using state-of-the-art molecular biology and immunology techniques such as DNA cloning, real-time quantitative PCR, western blot, immunofluorescence, immunohistochemistry, flow cytometry, magnetic cell separation and in vivo imaging.
The organization and dynamic activities of the cytoskeleton are precisely regulated to control the shapes, behaviors, and physiological functions of ~200 distinct cell types that make up our bodies. The surfaces of our cells display a remarkably wide range of variation in form and function. I am interested in understanding mechanisms that regulate the organization of the actin cytoskeleton just underneath the plasma membrane and how actin filaments attach to the membrane to form and maintain structurally specialized cell surfaces. Currently, we utilize cell culture and mouse models of human deafness to investigate proteins required for proper development and maintenance of actin-based stereocilia that line the surface of sensory hair cells in the inner ear. In parallel with experiments in mammalian systems, we (in collaboration with Dr. Soichi Tanda, Biological Sciences) are taking advantage of the powerful genetics of the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, to elucidate the roles of homologous fly proteins in the assembly and maintenance of actin-based cell surface structures.
Research in my laboratory is focused on exploring the mechanisms that allow Staphylococcus aureus to cause disease in humans. Infections caused by S. aureus, and in particular those caused by the highly drug resistant form, methicillin resistant S. aureus (MRSA), are a growing problem in the United States, and very few antibiotics remain effective in treating diseases caused by this bacteria. Understanding the pathogenesis of S. aureus is critical to aid the development of effective vaccines and treatments. The human bloodstream represents an important in vivo environment, which S. aureus uses to disseminate throughout the body. Using state-of-the-art next generation DNA sequencing techniques, I am exploring novel regulatory mechanisms that influence S. aureus virulence gene expression during growth in human serum. Work in my laboratory also examines the secretion of toxins and virulence factors by S. aureus, a process that is critical for the bacteria to cause disease. Research in my lab employs a wide variety of microbiology and molecular biology techniques and represents an ideal environment for undergraduates with a keen interest in microbiology research to gain hands-on, practical experience.
Molecular and Cellular Biology of Cancer and Anticancer Therapeutics
The research interests of my lab are glucose transport and glucose related energy metabolism in cancer cells and tumors. These areas of study belong to a branch of cancer research under the category of cancer metabolism, which has recently been named as a new hallmark of cancer. The molecules we are currently focused on are glucose and glucose derived energy, and a powerful signaling molecule: ATP. ATP is found to be 103 to 104 times higher in concentration inside tumors, but outside of tumor cells. This is specifically called intratumoral extracellular ATP (eATP). We have recently found that eATP functions both extracellularly as a molecular messenger, and intracellularly as both an energy and signaling molecule, greatly enhancing the cancer cells’ ability to resist drug treatment and induce metastasis (cancer cell spread), both of which are responsible for more than 90 percent of cancer-related deaths. Very recently, we have also found that eATP induces cancer stem cells (CSC), which are vitally important for cancers’ drug resistance and metastasis. Because of these new findings, we also have been exploring novel translational strategies of reducing drug resistance and metastasis by therapeutically targeting eATP itself or its closely associated biological processes. We use CRISPR-Cas9, bioluminescence, fluorescence microscopy and animal models to study eATP and cancer. My lab has both a knowledgeable and skillful team of graduate and undergraduate students working on multiple related research projects, providing a productive environment for undergraduate student training.
My research interests include identifying adaptations in neural and skeletal muscle properties following prolonged periods of alterations in muscle activity level (i.e. disuse, exercise training), exercise physiology, the mechanisms of human skeletal muscle fatigue, and clinical neuromuscular pathophysiology. Research is conducted on humans (both healthy and diseased) and utilizes a combination of techniques including electromyography, electrocardiography, peripheral nerve stimulation, magnetic brain stimulation and ultrasound imaging. The collective long-term goal of this research is to determine the physiological mechanisms that regulate neuromuscular performance following acute and chronic changes in activity, as well as in clinical populations who present with strength losses and/or excessive fatigue (i.e. cerebral palsy, chronic fatigue syndrome, elderly, post-op, etc).
The main purpose of my laboratory is to investigate the cellular mechanisms controlling skeletal muscle glucose and lipid metabolism and how impairments in these mechanisms contribute to insulin resistance in conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and aging. A particular emphasis is placed on the examination of the insulin signaling cascade in skeletal muscle to determine mechanisms of impairment including the role that lipids and cytokines may have on insulin signaling. A number of experimental models are incorporated in the lab to effectively study metabolism including human, rodent, and cell culture models. Additionally, a number of (in vivo) models are used to manipulate metabolism including exercise and nutritional intake.
Diabetes is becoming increasingly prevalent in the United States as well as worldwide. An off-shoot of this is an increase in secondary complications, including cardiovascular disease, retinopathy, neuropathy, and nephropathy. The main research focus of my laboratory is the identification of genes, proteins and regulatory pathways involved in the development of diabetic nephropathy, or kidney damage, with an emphasis on the roles of STAT5 and inflammation. My group uses mouse models, cell culture and gene expression assays including real-time RT/PCR, western blot and immunohistochemical analyses. We also are using bioinformatics (in collaboration with Dr. Lonnie, a colleague in Engineering) to evaluate gene expression. We correlate changes in gene expression with changes in kidney function and histomorphometric parameters (the latter performed in collaboration with Dr. Ramiro Malgor, a colleague in the Biomedical Sciences Department ). This knowledge will aid in the design of more specific, targeted markers and therapeutic approaches for the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of human diabetic kidney disease. Due to its wide scope, this research offers a myriad of opportunities for student participation. Roles would involve helping to design a project addressing a specific research question, learning and performing the experimental procedures involved in the project, collecting results and maintaining a laboratory notebook, analyzing the results, and summarizing the findings for presentation in both oral and written form.
Everything we experience in the sensory world (i.e., vision, hearing, touch, smell, taste and proprioception) is translated into electrical bursts of activity—called spikes—in the neurons of our brains. I have a general interest in how sensory information is encoded in trains of spikes across neurons and how higher-level areas of the brain decode the spike trains of lower-level neurons to form a percept of the sensory world. In investigating sensorineural coding, I focus on binaural hearing—i.e., the specific type of hearing conferred by having two ears. Binaural hearing underlies our ability to pinpoint the location of a sound source, identify different reverberative environments (e.g., shower stall vs. cathedral), and assists in segregating a sound source of interest in a world of constant, competing sources. My lab uses both neurophysiological approaches to measure the spiking of neurons in auditory areas of the brain and psychophysical approaches to measure perceptual abilities, in response to binaural sound stimuli. We use rabbits, which have a similar range of hearing as humans, as our experimental animal model. Finally, we use sophisticated mathematical analyses to quantify information in neural data, and develop computational models to explore the function of neural circuits.
Cell Biology, Neurobiology, Genetics
The Duerr Lab uses a model organism, the small (1 mm) soil nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, to study genes and proteins involved in neurotransmission by monoamines such as dopamine and serotonin. This simple animal has exactly 302 identified neurons and an easily manipulated genome with 20,225 sequenced genes. We use genetics, molecular biology, cell biology, microscopy, and behavioral assays to study monoamine signaling. We are examining when and where monoamines are made and how this expression is regulated. We are also interested in the interactions between monoamines and the effects of changes in different monoamine regulators on neuronal function and behavior. A final goal is to use our system to understand effects and genetic targets of prescribed drugs called monoamine oxidase inhibitors, which are used to raise monoamine levels in humans.
Immuno-parasitology, Molecular and Cell Biology
Research undergoing in my laboratory aims to understand the biology of tropical disease at the molecular, cellular, individual, community and global levels. Currently our projects involve research in my laboratory at Ohio University, as well as in the Tropical Disease Institute's projects in Ecuador. Activities within these projects include studies dealing with basic mechanisms of the disease, serological and molecular diagnostic test development, clinical research, epidemiology, vector biology, Geographical Information System, sociology, community education, communications, etc.
Rhythmic neuronal activity is widespread in nervous systems and plays a central role in certain types of sensory processing, in motor pattern production, and possibly (in vertebrates) in attention. These rhythms are generated endogenously (i.e., they can continue without rhythmic sensory input) by central neural networks, and hence they are an example of the nervous system's ability to spontaneously create patterns. Network rhythmicity has been extensively studied in several invertebrate preparations and in the lamprey, and we now have a good general understanding of the mechanisms underlying it. However, we understand relatively little about its dynamic regulation (e.g., how rhythmic pattern frequency and phasing are controlled), and, in the case of motor systems, how these neural networks interact with their peripheral effectors (the musculoskeletal system) so as to continually generate behaviorally relevant, functional motor outputs.
Our lab studies these issues in the pyloric neuromuscular system of the lobster. The pyloric neural network produces a wide range of rhythmic neural outputs (similar to our ability to walk, run, hop, etc.), but has only 15 neurons divided into six neuronal types. As a result of this small size, the mechanisms underlying the activity of this small neural computer can be studied on the individual neuron and network level. Similarly, the muscles that the network innervates are known, and thus how the nervous system and the periphery interact to produce behavior also can be studied on a well-defined and fundamental level. Our research techniques include computational modeling, neuronal electrophysiology, and measurement of muscle electrical and contractile responses to neuronal input. Undergraduates can contribute to this effort in any of these areas; due to the preparation’s experimental advantages, undergraduates can generally be making significant scientific contributions within their first semester of work. For more detailed information, visit our website.
Mammalian Ecology, Physiology, and Conservation
Research in my lab focuses on the physiological ecology and conservation biology of mammals, with an emphasis on bats. Specific research questions asked in my lab are diverse, but always driven by the need to understand how individuals and populations respond to environmental challenges such as climate change, altered disturbance regimes, and human land-use patterns. The field of physiological ecology provides researchers with the tools needed to make predictions regarding how animals are capable of responding to our changing biotic and abiotic landscape by studying their physiological and behavioral responses in situ. The field of conservation biology, meanwhile, seeks to apply knowledge from numerous disciplines towards the study and conservation of Earth's biodiversity. Bats are ideal organisms for these research in these fields because they are diverse, widespread, and are capable of dispersing great distances, yet are taxa of high conservation concern due to changing climates, newly discovered wildlife diseases, and various human activities. Our research focuses on bats and other small mammals within this context of physiological ecology and conservation biology, with the larger goal of better understanding these diverse animals and guiding conservation efforts. Current projects in the lab include studies of hibernation and migratory patterns of bats in Chile, of behavioral and population ecology of bats in Yellowstone National Park, impacts of roads on forest bats in southeast Ohio, and impacts of large-scale prescribed burning on endangered bats in northeast Alabama.
Insect Nutritional Ecology, Physiological Stress Responses of Plant Feeding Caterpillars and Aquatic Insects
My research focuses on the environmental physiology of insects, with a particular focus on the interface of nutrition, stress responses, and metabolic fate of toxicants. Current projects fall into two broad categories:
1) Chemical Ecology of Insect-Plant interactions—Using the tomato and tomato hornworm caterpillar as a model system, I am interested in how changes in leaf antioxidants (vitamin C, glutathione, phenolics) brought on by environmental stress (drought, heat) impacts the growth of caterpillars. In particular, I am investigating the susceptibility of caterpillars to oxidative stress (free radical damage) and how it may be exacerbated or alleviated by the chemistry of the hostplant they choose to feed on.
2) Aquatic Insect Ecology—Many streams in southeastern Ohio are impacted by acid and heavy metals from mine drainage, sedimentation and other land use practices. Over the last few years, our lab has collaborated with members of the Appalachian Watershed Research Group, the Voinovich Center, the Midwestern Biodiversity Institute, and state agencies to develop better aquatic macroinvertebrate sampling and bioassessment methods. We currently receive funding from the US EPA and Ohio Department of Natural Resources and are sampling over 100 sites in southeastern Ohio to improve stressor diagnosis and monitor the biological recovery at remediated sites. Undergraduates can assist with fieldwork, sorting and identifying macroinvertebrates, and conduct independent projects to investigate effects of specific stressors on the abundance, distribution and functional role of selected stream macroinvertebrates.
The molecular mechanism of growth, obesity, aging, and diabetes are the focus areas of my laboratory. We clone and express genes involved in these processes. Genomics and proteomics studies are important components of our work. Transgenic and gene disrupted mice also are used in our projects. Overall, we hope to discover diagnostics, therapeutic targets, or therapies for disorders related growth, obesity, aging, and diabetes.
Natural Selection, Adaptation, Speciation, and Systematics
My lab studies the evolution of organismal biodiversity, including species formation, taxonomy, biogeography, adaptation, natural selection in the wild, and animal conservation. We adopt an approach that is grounded in organismal biology and natural history while pursuing a modern research agenda. Our research trajectory spans three inter-related fronts. The first is the interaction between biogeography, polymorphism, and species formation, including taxonomic implications. This research is largely phylogeographic in nature. The second theme of my research focuses on predator-mediated natural selection and the evolution of anti-predator adaptations. This research is focused on population-level studies and represents an ecological approach to the study of ongoing evolutionary processes. Finally, we are investigating the impacts of roads and habitat fragmentation on amphibian and reptile populations and have contributed to the construction of “ecopassages” under roads to aid migrating herpetofauna.
Synaptic Physiology, Neurodegeneration
My laboratory is interested in understanding how trillions of brain cells are talking to each other and orchestrating complex behaviors such as leaning and memory. We also study what happens if some of those brain cells are not functionally working. One of current projects in the lab is to understand molecular and cellular basis of Parkinson's disease - dopamine disaster!
We chose Drosophila as a model animal to study brain function and disorders due to its powerful and sophisticated genetics. Our research is being performed using a multidisciplinary approach including whole-cell recording, optical imaging, immunostaining, amperometric and molecular genetic techniques.
Molecular and Cellular Biology
The global increase in obesity is a major force driving the epidemic of type 2 diabetes. Over the past decade it has become clear that both obesity and adipose tissue are more complex than originally believed. Recent research from my laboratory has found that adipocytes are heterogeneous in nature, arise from different developmental lineages, and have distinct phenotypic properties. The central goal of my laboratory is to understand at a molecular and cellular level what accounts for heterogeneity between white adipocyte subpopulations and to study the effect these different adipocyte subpopulations have on systemic metabolism. To this end, we have developed novel cell and mouse models to study adipocyte biology. Knowledge gained from this research will aid in the identification of specific markers and the development of therapeutic approaches to combat the metabolic disorders associated with obesity. Students participating in the laboratory would learn standard molecular biology techniques (gel electrophoresis, PCR, western blot, immunohistochemistry), as well as cell culture, mouse genetics, state of the art confocal microscopy, and lineage tracing analysis.
Overall research interest in my laboratory is to understand cell-to-cell communication in the central nervous system (CNS) and how the brain modifies its function and structure through experiences. The on-going research is focused on the role of Zn2+ as a synaptically released neuromodulator and/or transmembrane signal in the neuronal activity and intracellular signaling, using a multidisciplinary approach, combining electrophysiology, fluorescence imaging, and immunohistochemistry. Specifically, we plan to pursue two lines of research: (1) to study the role of Zn2+ in neuronal transmission and synaptic plasticity in the CNS. The considered research topics/missions include LTP and its implication in learning and memory. (2) to investigate neural action in neuron regeneration and neurotoxicity such as brain ischemia (stroke), epilepsy, alcoholism, stress & depression (bipolar), Alzheimer's disease.
Neurophysiology and Ingestive Behaviors
My long-term research interests involve the roles of apolipoproteins and neuropeptides in the control of energy homeostasis, and pathogenesis of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. The current projects focus on apolipoproteins and neuropeptides act on vagal and sympathetic nerves to hindbrain and hypothalamus for the control of lipid transport, glucose metabolism and energy homeostasis. Using denervation of sensory and sympathetic nerves and intracerebroventricular cannula implantation as well as genetic mouse models, we investigate the effect of peripheral and central apolipoproteins in the regulation of lipid deposition and combustion in adipose tissue and liver, and energy expenditure through neural activation. In addition, neural activation and sympathetic activity in peripheral tissues and brain are determined using immunohistochemistry and norepinephrine turnover rate.
The purpose of our laboratory is to investigate pathogenesis of disease. We study the histomorphological and biochemical alterations of tissues from in vitro and in vivo models. As approach we use various techniques such as immunohistochemistry and immunofluorescence, in-situ hybridization and image analysis.
Our current research topic is vascular pathology focused on atherosclerosis. Using a genetically modified mouse model (Apo e-/-) we are trying to understand not only the pathogenesis but also the effect of some new drugs on it; as well as its relation to other chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes.
We have collaborative researches with other laboratories in OHIO, which makes our laboratory an interdisciplinary environment.
Ecomorphology, Phylogeography, Speciation, Species Distribution, Taxonomy
My academic research experience and interests include species delimitation and genetic characterization of populations, as well as exploring how the environment influences the genetic and morphological configuration of individuals and populations. For this, I use standard molecular laboratory techniques involved in data collection (DNA/RNA extraction, next-generation sequencing, and genotyping) as well as data curation and analysis (sequence data management, phylogenetic reconstruction, genetic inference). In addition, I integrate ecological and morphological data to explore how the phenotype is determined by the interaction between genotype and environment using multivariate techniques for data analysis.
Molecular & Cell Biology of Disease Expression
The focus of my research is two-fold; 1) understanding the role of chronic inflammation and toll-like receptor signaling in the development of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases and cancer and 2) using the new-found knowledge to develop novel diagnostic and therapeutic strategies for the diagnosis and/or treatment of these diseases. Our research efforts are currently focused on Type I Diabetes, Type 2 Diabetes and its associated metabolic diseases/consequences such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, as well as sepsis, and neurodegenerative diseases, which are all associated with chronic inflammation. We use a molecular and cell biology approach which is then validated for efficacy in vivo in animal models of disease as potential novel therapeutics.
Evolutionary Physiology, Functional Ecology, and Ecomorphology
I am presently involved in three lines of research. First, I am interested in the evolution of morphological diversity in squamate reptiles. Specifically, my lab is investigating the interplay between phylogenetic diversification and morphological diversification. This work has important implications for identifying adaptive radiations and determining the factors involved in the explosive speciation observed in some groups. Another goal is to infer the adaptive significance of key functional traits using state-of-the-art comparative methods. Second, I am interested in the evolution of locomotor function as a consequence of morphological variation in lizards. I have developed methods for quantifying locomotor performance in the lab and field. My lab emphasizes sprint performance and endurance as two critical measures of performance that affect the ability of an organism to subdue prey, avoid predators and defend territories. A critical question in evolutionary biology is whether morphological diversity is related to functional diversity, as is expected in adaptive radiations. Thus, I have initiated research in the southwestern deserts of North America, tropical environments of Australia, and the habitats of South Africa to investigate the evolution of the association between morphology and performance. Finally, I am interested in the adaptive significance of individual variation in locomotor performance. We are currently focusing on how locomotor performance affects survival and mating success. These analyses require a combination of detailed demographic data and field manipulations. To date we have worked on four lizard systems: the tree lizard, Urosaurus ornatus, the side-blotched lizard, Uta stansburiana, Galapagos lava lizards, Microlophus albemarlensis, and common lizard, Lacerta vivipara. Field manipulations include hormone supplements, follicle ablations, and nest microclimates. In addition to these projects, I have been involved in research projects focusing on the responses of bird communities to anthropogenic disturbance, the ontogeny of locomotor performance in shorebird chicks, and the ontogeny of performance in general.
Behavioral Ecology, Animal Behavior
My research interests are in sexual selection, the evolution of alternative mating tactics, and the evolution of communication in aggressive interactions. Currently I am examining the evolution of variation in female mating preferences and alternative mating tactics in swordtail and platyfishes (Xiphophorus). Mating is one of the most important selection events driving the evolution of diversity. In my laboratory we examine the role that female mating preferences and male-male competition play in the evolution of diverse behaviors, morphologies and new species. The fishes I study are found in small, freshwater streams in Mexico. In addition to studying their behavior in the field, we collect fish and bring them back to the laboratory to study. Breeding the fish in the laboratory allows us to examine the interaction between genes and environmental factors in the development of behavior. We are also examining the role of behavioral syndromes in the success of a swordtail/platyfish hybrid, as an invasive species introduced into freshwater streams around the world.
The research in my laboratory is focused on understanding how bacteria survive and cause disease within the human host. My laboratory studies Shigella dysenteriae which the causative agent of shigellosis, a severe diarrheal disease. S. dysenteriae invades the cell of the human colonic epithelium where it multiplies and spreads from one cell into neighboring cells. In order to establish a productive infection the bacteria must express a very specific set of genes which encode proteins that are required for invasion, replication, nutrient acquisition and evasion of the human immune defenses. My interest is in understanding how S. dysenteriae senses the environment within the host and the molecular mechanisms used to regulates the expression of the specific genes required for infection. I encourage the participation of motivated undergraduates who are interested in the experiencing, hands on, the rewards and challenges of experimental science.
Neurovascular Physiology & Disease
Interdependent development and functions of the mammalian nervous and vascular systems are tightly coordinated. The brain vasculature provides a critical and expansive blood supply to support neuronal metabolism and function, and vascular lesions within the brain are often accompanied by neurological dysfunction. Our lab is interested in understanding how these systems influence one another ? e.g., how diverse neural and vascular cell populations respond to cues from one another. Current studies use a mouse model of brain arteriovenous malformation, a human vascular disease characterized by direct delivery of blood from artery to vein (without intervening capillaries), vessel entanglements, and often accompanied by neurological deficit. We are using this model to determine molecular and cellular mechanisms that regulate neurovascular development and function ? and mechanisms involved in neurovascular pathogenesis ? using mouse genetics, molecular and cell biological, and imaging approaches.
Insulin is crucial to maintaining energy balance and correct blood sugar. All of the insulin circulating through your body comes from one type of cell: the beta-cell. Insulin-producing beta-cells are found in micro-organs in the pancreas called Islets of Langerhans (they look like little islands in a sea of pancreatic tissue). My laboratory is investigating what early pathological changes occur in these insulin-producing islets that contribute to the onset of Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) in order to intervene before the disease ensues. My lab primarily uses mouse models of diabetes as a source of islets and use fluorescence imaging techniques to examine how islet cells respond to stimulation or stress in real time. We currently have three projects of potential interest to students: 1) Examining how factors released from fat tissue in obesity can impact islet function, 2) Determining how islets change the way they respond to glucose during the development of obesity and diabetes, 3) developing drugs that improve islet function. Students will learn how to dissect tissues, culture cells, perform fluorescence imaging experiments, form hypotheses, analyze data, and potentially publish their work.
Evolutionary Morphology and Vertebrate Paleontology
My research interests are positioned at the interface of laboratory- and museum-based comparative and developmental anatomy and field paleontology to address a variety of topics in vertebrate evolutionary morphology. My main laboratory and museum efforts to date have primarily focused on phylogenetic and functional analyses within the archosaurian groups that include both avian and nonavian dinosaurs, pterosaurs, and crocodyliforms. Generally these studies aim to characterize aspects of integrated anatomical systems (e.g., postcranial skeletal pneumaticity in dinosaurs [including birds] and pterosaurs, mammal-like dental organization in notosuchian crocodyliforms) within an explicit phylogenetic framework—and then to explore the functional, ecological, and evolutionary implications of various types of anatomical organization. My major field efforts to date have mostly focused on Cretaceous terrestrial/freshwater faunas from former Gondwanan landmasses such as Afro-Madagascar and Antarctica. Ongoing research topics under investigation by members of my lab include: descriptive and phylogenetic characterization of a diverse avifauna and nonavian theropod dinosaur assemblage from the latest Cretaceous of Madagascar, evolutionary morphology of the avian locomotor apparatus, descriptive and comparative analyses of titanosaurian sauropod and ceratopsid dinosaurs, and cranio-dental variability in notosuchian crocodyliforms. There are many opportunities for motivated undergraduates to become involved in the lab, including the development of (1) research projects as part of senior theses, (2) presentations at scientific conferences, and ultimately, (3) manuscripts based on their research.
Conservation Biology, Wildlife Ecology and Conservation
The Conservation Ecology Lab at OHIO works on applied wildlife and conservation research across a broad range of systems and species. Research interests in our lab are diverse, spanning mammals, reptiles and amphibians, and we use a variety of experimental, observational and computational approaches that are geared towards solving conservation issues. For example, we work on sustainability of carnivore trapping and trophy hunting (bobcats, brown bears), evaluating impacts of roads on reptiles and mammals, and evaluating the effects of multiple stressors on amphibians. The research in our lab is generally field-intensive, and includes camera trapping, telemetry, wildlife habitat surveys; we also conduct aquatic mesocosm and lab experiments with amphibians, develop monitoring techniques for endangered and threatened species, and work with citizen science data. We make extensive use of Geographic Information Systems to map wildlife habitat and develop spatial models, and biostatistics to analyze experimental and field-collected data (mark-recapture, occupancy).
Cell Biology and Disease Mechanisms
Obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease are associated disorders. My laboratory performs basic and translational research to study the pathogenesis and pathophysiology of these metabolic diseases. As model systems, we use human samples, genetically engineered mice, and various cell lines to study the physiological and molecular pathways underlying fat metabolism, vascular function, and energy metabolism. We also have various national and international collaboration going on in the laboratory. My laboratory is also working on identifying therapeutics of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Vertebrate Population Biology, Evolutionary Ecology
I investigate the evolution of life history traits (e.g. survivorship, reproductive rates, age of first reproduction etc.) and the conservation biology (extinction and loss of biodiversity due to anthropomorphic causes) of long-lived organisms. My research philosophy is to develop a system into model by developing a mechanistic understanding of how environmental variation affects population dynamics. I use a variety of tools that combine demographic and experimental techniques to observe variation within populations and to predict the outcome of environmental perturbations on survivorship and reproductive rates. This approach allows me to simultaneously address basic ecological and evolutionary questions and their relevance to conservation and management issues.A particular research focus is how the environment where eggs incubate affects the hatchling phenotype and how that ultimately influences population structure, behavior, and fitness. Additional research interests include temperature-dependent sex determination, restoration ecology, and population biology. Learn more about my research and recent publications.
The Rosol laboratory focuses on the pathogenesis and treatment of cancer metastasis, particularly to bone, which is one of the major causes of death in people with prostate and breast cancer and lymphoma/myeloma. The lab is in ARC (Academic and Research Center) and uses molecular biology, tissue culture, organ culture, and mouse models of cancer and metastasis with in vivo bioluminescent imaging to address important biomedical questions.
Functional Morphology and Vertebrate Paleontology
My research explores how faunas respond to global environmental change through time. I am particularly interested in faunal transitions across the Paleogene-Neogene boundary in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and the responses of endangered animals to habitat loss today. Research projects involve microvertebrate sampling strategies and laboratory techniques in vertebrate paleontology, uCT studies of fossil mammals from the East African Rift of Tanzania, kinematics of movement and posture in the Old World Monkeys of Vietnam and East Africa, and positional behavior and field kinematics of Malagasy lemurs and Asian lorises.
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
My research focuses on DNA repair and mutagenesis in molecular level. We analyze DNA polymerases of yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and humans to understand their contributions to damage-induced and spontaneous mutagenesis.
Major goals are
- To understand how polymerases convert DNA damage into mutation.
- To elucidate mutation signatures (types and rates of mutations) that are created by polymerases upon DNA damages.
- To elucidate mutation signatures by error-prone DNA polymerases on undamaged DNA.
- To develop a new method to detect and analyze new environmental mutagens.
Genetics, Molecular and Developmental Biology
The main focus in my laboratory is to understand the function of the Clic (Chloride Intracellular Channel) gene in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. Clic is involved in a variety of biological processes including actin cytoskeleton assembly, protection from cell death, and longevity. Its mammalian counter part, Clic5, is a deafness gene. Thus, understanding Clic function in Drosophila will be connected to wellbeing of humans. Using a variety of genetic tools available in Drosophila, my lab tries to dissect a network of genes that work together with Clic. To elucidate how Clic function in actin cytoskeleton assembly, we observe how the structure of the rhabdomeres, a stack of 60,000 microvilli (needle-like cellular protrusions) of photoreceptors in the compound eyes changes in different genetic backgrounds. Morphologies of the rhabdomeres are observed with light microscopy and transmission electron microscopy. An ambitious goal is to identify all the genes that work together with Clic in this morphogenetic process. Anti-cell death function of Clic is also a very attractive topic. Although we have not made much progress on this topic, it could lead us to a novel cancer treatment.
Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the second leading cause of bacterial STDs, establishes asymptomatic infections in man at high frequency. Unfortunately, increased levels of antimicrobial resistance are making it more difficult to treat gonorrhea. One project in my lab studies the interaction of Neisseria species with animals to identify factors that contribute to asymptomatic carriage and dissemination of antimicrobial resistance My lab also studies a defense system, called the complement system, used by our bodies to recognize and destroy foreign microbes. Complement proteins can bind bacterial pathogens such as N. gonorrhoeae and kill them by punching holes in their membranes. The cells of our own bodies protect themselves from inadvertent damage by expressing regulatory proteins that hinder complement activity directed toward human cells. We have found that N. gonorrhoeae manipulates a complement regulatory protein called CD46 during infection by redirecting its trafficking to sites around the bacteria. We are testing the hypothesis that N. gonorrhoeae steals CD46 from infected cells to protect itself from complement killing. This process may allow N. gonorrhoeae to evade immune defenses and cause persistent infections.
My research interests are primarily in avian and forest ecology. I am broadly interested in how organisms respond to environmental variation. More specifically, I am interested in how habitat structure affects the distribution and availability of resources (e.g., arthropods), and how individual behavioral variation affects the acquisition and allocation of resources to offspring. My research employs a variety of field and lab techniques to determine how the environment and individual variation in behavior affect variation in reproduction and survival of breeding birds. Undergraduate research opportunities involve a range of topics including incubation behavior, provisioning, food resources (identification of arthropod prey), predation and parasitism, spatial ecology and social interactions.
Evolutionary and Functional Morphology
Research in my lab focuses on the comparative biomechanics and functional morphology of the vertebrate feeding system. We conduct comparative and experimental studies to understand how food acquisition (e.g., prey capture) and processing (e.g., mastication) develop during ontogeny, how the physiology of these behaviors differ between species, and how diet and feeding have influenced the evolution of the vertebrate head. Current projects include: 1) electromyographic studies of the jaw muscles to address questions about the evolution of feeding motor patterns and coordination; 2) studies of mandibular and facial bone strains to understand forces generated in the skull bones during feeding, biting and other behaviors; 3) kinematic studies using high speed video and x-ray movies to understand how muscles produce movements of bones and soft tissue structures during feeding; 4) comparative studies of bite force to understand the effects of jaw and head position on force production; 5) field studies on the ecological and physiology of feeding in wild primates. Research is currently being conducted on a wide variety of lizards and mammals. Undergraduates are encouraged to develop independent projects in the lab.
Comparative Anatomy and Paleontology
Research in my laboratory involves the study of animals living today as well as long extinct animals such as dinosaurs. Our goal is to understand the evolution of form and function. Many of our questions pertain to dinosaurs as living, breathing animals: What were their sense organs (nose, eyes, ears) like? What was their physiological makeup? What was their behavior like? Answering these questions requires reconstructing aspects of their biology by looking closely at dinosaur fossils (including dinosaurs like T. rex, Velociraptor, and Triceratops). But dinosaur fossils aren't enough, and so we turn to modern animals and their anatomical structure. We routinely examine many birds and crocodiles (the closest living relatives of dinosaurs), but also many other animals that are relevant for particular projects, such as rhinos, giraffes, moose, seals, and lizards. Our techniques range from the low-tech (anatomical dissection) to the latest in advanced digital imaging and 3D computer visualization. Our lab is equipped with all of the latest tools and techniques, and there's always activity in the lab among the many graduate students. With so many diverse projects, there are lots of different research opportunities for undergraduates.