Potential Mentors for REU Summer Projects

Mentors are listed by departmental affiliation. Clicking on the mentor’s name will take you to a longer description of their research interests.

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology


James Bamburg, Role of the actin cytoskeleton in neuronal growth and regeneration, pathfinding, and in neurodegenerative diseases, especially Alzheimer disease. Signal transduction mechanisms controlling actin filament dynamics and cell behavior.

Chaoping Chen, Role of the actin cytoskeleton in retrovirus trafficking; mechanisms of the host cell-virus interactions in virus assembly and budding.

Robert Cohen, Molecular recognition and protein-protein interactions as applied to ubiquitin biochemistry and ubiquitin-proteasome mediated protein degradation.

Jennifer DeLuca, Analysis of the molecular architecture of kinetochore-microtubule interface in vertebrate cells and how proteins and protein complexes at this interface drive and regulate chromosome movements.

Santiago Di Pietro, Molecular mechanisms of intracellular protein transport. Molecular bases of human diseases affecting biogenesis of intracellular organelles and the endocytic process.

Brian Geiss, (joint appt. in Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology Dep’t.), Molecular virology, focusing on mosquito-borne flaviviruses and alphaviruses. Understanding the biochemistry of viral RNA capping, antiviral drug discovery targeting the flavivirus RNA capping enzyme, and examining the roles of cellular and viral proteins in alphavirus assembly.

Jeffrey C. Hansen, Elucidating the structure/function relationships of the chromatin fiber. Use of analytical ultracentrifugation and quantitative agarose gel electrophoresis to yield unique information about secondary and tertiary structures of chromatin fibers, and the
architectural chromatin binding proteins that modulate these structures in solution.

P. Shing Ho, Structures and structural gymnastics of nucleic acids. Both DNA and RNA are induced to various biologically interesting and functional conformations resulting from perturbations in the environment, drug interactions, and protein binding. We have been studying these effects by crystallography, molecular modeling, and biochemistry.

Steven Markus, How various molecules conspire to assemble and orient the mitotic spindle apparatus prior to cell division, paying particularly close attention to various classes of molecular motors — nano-sized ATP-powered machines — and how they are regulated to perform their myriad functions during cell division.

Brian McNaughton, (joint appt. in Chemistry Dep’t.), Chemical biology, Directed evolution, Organic chemistry, Biophysical chemistry. Small molecule-dependent, sequence-selective regulation of mRNA translation; inhibition of protein-protein interactions; targeted delivery of therapeutics and imaging reagents. Researchers in The McNaughton Group address these challenges using methods in organic synthesis, combinatorial chemistry, molecular biology, and cell biology, in the context of high-throughput screening and evolution-based selections.


Jennifer K. Nyborg, In recent years, human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1) has become increasingly recognized as an important cause for public health concern throughout the world and is the causative agent of a variety of clinical diseases, including an aggressive and fatal cancer called adult T-cell leukemia, and a neurological disorder that is clinically very similar to multiple sclerosis. A large body of evidence suggests that the clinical manifestations of HTLV-1 infection occur as a consequence of a virally-encoded protein called Tax. My laboratory focuses on defining the intracellular consequences of Tax expression in the infected human cell, with emphasis on the Tax-dependent events that lead to malignant transformation.

Olve Peersen, Picornaviruses are a family of small positive sense single stranded RNA viruses that cause a wide range of diseases in humans and animals including rhinoviruses that cause the common cold and poliovirus, the prototypical member of this family. We are interested in understanding the molecular details of picornaviral replication and are using structural biology and biophysical techniques to determine the structure of viral proteins and study their interactions.

Jessica Prenni, (joint appt. in Proteomics & Metabolomics Facility), Mass spectrometry based proteomics and metabolomics.

Eric D. Ross, Numerous diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and transmissible spongiform encephalopathies are associated with protein misfolding into ordered aggregates, called amyloid fibrils. We are using yeast prions as a model system for examining the causes and consequences of amyloid fibril formation.

Tom Santangelo, Our laboratory focuses on the regulation of transcription, from a global perspective to a detailed structure-function analysis of the archaeal RNA polymerase. Many Archaea can also produce bio-hydrogen and our laboratory is focused on a rational metabolic-engineering effort to generate strains with altered hydrogen production levels.

Laurie Stargell, Combining yeast genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, and biophysical techniques, we are using a multi-faceted approach to understand the functional requirements of the general transcription factors in transcription initiation in vivo.

Christopher Snow, The prediction and design of biomolecular structure and specificity.

Tim Stasevich, How post-translational modifications to chromatin and the transcription machinery contribute to eukaryotic gene expression.

Michael M. Tamkun, (joint appt. in Biomedical Sciences Dep’t.), Regulation of muscle electrical excitability at both the cellular and molecular levels.

Tingting Yao, Regulation of gene expression and chromatin dynamics by ubiquitin conjugation and deconjugation.

Department of Biology

Patricia A. Bedinger, The work in my laboratory centers on pollen development and function in higher plants, using arabidopsis, tomato and maize as model organisms. Our major focus is on the molecular analysis of pollen and pistil proteins that mediate sexual recognition in higher plants via specific protein-protein interactions.

Daniel R. Bush, My research focuses on sugar and amino acid allocation from sites of primary assimilation to import-dependent sinks in plants. This is a fundamental process that allows plants to function as multicellular organisms. We use molecular, genetic and biochemical tools to define the mechanisms and regulation of this essential process.


Deborah Garrity, I am interested in how the embryonic heart differentiates chambers and acquires a regular rhythm of contraction. Since zebrafish embryos are transparent, one can observe cardiac arrhythmia and patterning defects in mutant embryos. My lab uses developmental genetics, molecular biology and fluorescent and histochemical imaging techniques to investigate phenotypes of embryonic heart form and function.

Shane Kanatous, Enhance understanding of molecular changes associated with hypoxia and translate these results for therapeutic applications in the treatment of myopathies.

June Medford, Since the dawn of civilization humans have used plants for food, fuel, shelter and clothing. We are continuing this use and apply cutting edge technology of Synthetic Biology to understand basic aspects about plants and develop new types of plants and plant traits useful for society.

Tai Montgomery, Our lab studies small non-coding RNAs and their roles in gene regulation and genome defense.

Donald L. Mykles, My research concerns the regulation of molting and limb regeneration in crabs and lobsters. Specific areas are signaling mechanisms in the molting gland, phenotypic changes in skeletal muscle during lobster development, and proteolytic mechanisms mediating molt-induced claw muscle atrophy. Biochemical, immunocytochemical, and molecular biological methods are used.

Marinus Pilon, Processes by which plants regulate the incorporation of Fe and Cu ions into proteins that are involved in photosynthesis in plant chloroplasts.

Elizabeth A. H. Pilon-Smits, In the Pilon-Smits lab we study processes by which plants accumulate and detoxify environmental pollutants, from the molecular level to the field. Our approaches include genomics, genetics, biotechnology, biochemistry, whole-plant physiology, and ecological studies. These studies are aimed to gain knowledge about basic biological processes, and to create plants that may be used for environmental cleanup.

Anireddy S. N. Reddy, One of the fundamental questions in plant biology is how hormonal and environmental signals regulate cellular processes and various aspects of plant growth and development. We are interested in understanding the mechanisms by which plant cells sense and respond to various signals. Our current research activities are focused on three areas: i) calcium-mediated signal transduction mechanisms with emphasis on calcium sensors and their target proteins, ii) mechanisms that regulate basic and alternative splicing of pre-messenger RNAs, and iii) designing and testing of novel synthetic signal transduction circuits in plants.

Department of Biomedical Sciences

Noreen E. Reist, Chemical synapses are required for nervous system function, from sensation to learning and memory. Molecular dissection of synaptic transmitter release using molecular biology, Drosophila genetics, electrophysiology, and electron microscopy.

Deborah Roess, Cellular endocrinology.

Stuart Tobet, Determination of cell positions in the developing neuroendocrine brain.

Jozsef Vigh, Retinal preparations (whole eye cup, slice and isolated cell) are investigated mainly with electrophysiological techniques (ERG, extracellular-, sharp electrode- and patch-clamp recordings) in order to answer how visual signals are processed.

Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering

Christie Peebles, Metabolic engineering, secondary metabolism, regulatory networks, and systems biology in plants, bacteria and yeast for the production of bio-based chemicals and fuels.


Ashok Prasad, Developing quantitative and predictive models for molecular and cellular biology by using tools and methods from the engineering and physical sciences, in particular chemical kinetics and statistical mechanics.

Kenneth Reardon, Environmental biotechnology, particularly bioremediation. Improve our understanding of microbial degradation of hazardous compounds often with the use of molecular biological and proteomic methods) and to develop better processes for cleanup of contaminated air, water and soil.

Christopher D. Snow, Prediction and design of biomolecular structure and specificity. Application areas of interest include bioenergy, synthetic biology, pharmacogenetics, and structural biology.

Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition

Michael Pagliassati, Saturated fatty acids are important mediators of disease progression in NAFLD and do so via the induction of ER stress.

Michelle T. Foster, Adipose tissue regulation (metabolic and adipokine); diet-induced obesity and hepatic steatosis; visceral fatty acids and insulin resistance; adipose tissue removal-induced metabolic improvements.

Christopher L. Gentile, Dietary regulation of cardiovascular function. Mechanisms of diet-induced cardiovascular abnormalities.

Department of Health and Exercise Science

Adam Chicco, Elucidating the roles of polyunsaturated fatty acid metabolism and mitochondrial dysfunction in the development and progression of cardiometabolic disease, and how dietary and pharmaceutical interventions may modulate these processes.

Karyn Hamilton, The mechanism(s) of exercise- and phytochemical-induced protection of the heart and vascular endothelium against hypoxia-reoxygenation injury.

Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences

J. Lucas Argueso, Chromosomal rearrangements and phenotypic consequences of altered genome architecture; Effects of environmental exposure on copy number variation (CNV) and chromosome structure; Molecular mechanisms of DNA double-strand break repair; Structural genome variation in natural yeast populations; Genomics of industrial yeast strains and bioethanol fermentation.

Susan Bailey, Emerging relationships between telomere function and DNA damage response continues to provide new insight into how cells satisfy their imperative to maintain genomic stability. DNA repair is necessary for putting broken ends back together after damage, such as that caused by exposure to ionizing radiation. In contrast, telomeres, the natural ends of chromosomes, must avoid rejoining to other DNA ends, yet, many of the same players are found at both types of DNA ends.

Jac Nickoloff, Cellular processes that maintain eukaryotic genome stability, including DNA repair by homologous recombination and nonhomologous end-joining, DNA damage checkpoints, and DNA replication fork stabilization and restart.

F. Andrew Ray, Radiation-induced carcinogenesis and the development of new methods for cancer cell detection using genomics combined with in situ hybridization techniques.

Ronald Tjalkens, Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Neurosciences. Astrocyte biology and calcium signaling, mitochondrial dysfunction in neurodegenerative disorders, and molecular regulation of neuro-inflammatory genes.

John Volckens, Development of methods for aerosol and air pollution measurement, combustion emissions and their associated health effects, and the development of improved diagnostic techniques for assessing human exposures to and adverse health effects of air pollution.

Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology


Glenn Telling, The mechanism of prion replication, prion species barriers and strain diversity, and the molecular basis of inherited human prion diseases.

Carol Wilusz, Regulation of gene expression in the inherited disease myotonic dystrophy. Study of RNA-binding protein CELF1/CUGBP1, whose aberrant expression in myotonic dystrophy leads to altered mRNA metabolism.

Jeffrey Wilusz, Mechanisms of mRNA turnover in mammalian cells and their impact on virus infections.

Mark Zabel, Interaction of prions with cells and receptors of the immune system and lymphoid tissues in the early entry, trafficking, and pathogenesis phases of prion infections.

Please note that, due to space limitations in some labs, it may not be possible to place everyone in their first choice.