The following is a list of Drew faculty members and RISE fellows who have previously mentored or plan to mentor DSSI students and their projects. Please contact individual mentors to determine their availability and any prerequisites required for working on these projects.
DR. BRIANNE BARKER (IMMUNOLOGY/VIROLOGY)
Research in the Barker lab is focused on understanding innate immune responses to viral infection. We are interested in the immune response mediated by receptors called pattern recognition receptors (PRRs). These receptors bind to unique structures of microorganisms or viruses to induce the activation of immune responses (inflammation) that clear the invader. However, evidence suggests that inflammation downstream of these receptors may also lead to cell death or immune-mediated disease. Specifically, we are interested in PRRs that recognize viral nucleic acid, particularly viral DNA. PRR recognition of DNA from HIV and related viruses is thought to lead to the T cell death and immune dysfunction seen in AIDS. Research has shown that damaged DNA and viral DNA may lead to overlapping responses, particularly inflammatory responses. Thus, understanding this process has implications for understanding the chronic inflammation that is involved in many disease states, both infectious and non-infectious. We are focused on examining the innate immune DNA sensors and the signaling downstream of these receptors, addressing the following two questions:
How are viral nucleic acids sensed in infected cells to signal an inflammatory response?
How are variations in nucleic acid sensors related to viral pathogenesis and other disease states?
DR. MARVIN BAYNE (BIOCHEMISTRY/MOLECULAR BIOLOGY)
Hall of Sciences 318
My lab uses the nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans, to examine basic biological processes and to model human diseases. Currently, the lab is focused on two projects: developing a worm model for Parkinson’s Disease and studying the roles of neurexin and neuroligin in worm behavior. For the Parkinson’s Disease project, we are using worms expressing Green Fluorescent Protein in the 8 dopaminergic neurons to monitor the degradation of these neurons by the expression of mutant human Parkinson’s genes a-synuclein and LRRK2. For the neurexin/neuroligin project we are creating knockout worms for these genes using CRISPR/Cas9 technology. Additional projects under consideration include an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) model in C. elegans and directed evolution projects examining drug resistant human topoisomerase 2 or plastic degrading enzymes.
DR. ADAM CASSANO (BIOCHEMISTRY)
Hall of Sciences 317B
Chemical reactions that take over 100,000 years in aqueous solution at physiological pH and temperature can occur in less than a second in an enzyme active site. My research explores two examples of these amazing catalysts. In one case, we study the catalytic power of enzymes involved in phosphoryl transfer, one of the most important chemical reactions in biology, by studying the mechanisms of the chemical reaction catalyzed in aqueous solution. We are now also studying the properties of aldo-keto reductases, a family of enzymes of interest for both medical and industrial purposes. Here, we are examining the phenomenon of substrate inhibition, where the enzyme is inhibited by the reactant of the reaction it is supposed to catalyze! For both systems, results from the laboratory are augmented with computer modeling to provide a better representation of how the enzymes work.
DR. KIM CHOQUETTE (CHEMISTRY)
In the Choquette lab we are working to develop new organic reactions using samarium diiodide (SmI2). This reagent is a single-electron reductant, facilitating radical and nucleophilic coupling reactions. SmI2 is air-sensitive, meaning that all reactions need to be carried out under an inert atmosphere, like Argon. This provides a unique opportunity for the undergraduate researcher to gain expertise with specialized equipment and protocols for the air-sensitive reactions.
We are developing a protocol to use SmI2 using air-free glassware called a Schlenk line. We also have a new glovebox in the lab, the standard equipment to carry out air-sensitive reactions. With the glovebox we are developing new reactions that use SmI2 and catalytic amount of Ni salts to form difficult to obtain tertiary alcohols and vinyl alcohols.
DR. ALEX DE VOOGT (PSYCHOLOGY/BUSINESS)
Psychology and Business Departments
Aviation accident analysis with a focus on General Aviation and/or helicopters using public data such as those found on the NTSB and the FAA online databases. Students who took the course BST333/PSYC333 on Aviation Psychology & Management are particularly encouraged to participate but this course is not a requirement.
DR. STEPHEN DUNAWAY (MOLECULAR BIOLOGY/GENOMIC STABILITY)
Hall of Sciences 109
Dr. Dunaway’s research laboratory has merged with Dr. Barker’s research laboratory to examine DNA sensing, particularly with regard to damaged DNA. Please see Dr. Barker’s description.
DR. CHRIS FAZEN (BIOCHEMISTRY)
Hall of Sciences 212
Research in the Fazen lab focuses on understanding the phenomenon of bacterial persistence. Within a population, persister cells are a rare phenotype exhibiting non-heritable tolerance (and survival) to lethal doses of antibiotics that would otherwise kill the rest of the genetically identical population. While persisters are capable of surviving antibiotic treatment, they can neither grow in the presence of antibiotics nor confer this tolerance to their offspring, distinguishing these types of cells from antibiotic-resistant mutants. However, because persisters can survive antibiotic treatment (and regrow following removal of the antibiotic), their presence may play significant roles in the reoccurrence of chronic infections and the development of antibiotic resistance. In the lab, we utilize tools from chemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology, and microbiology to understand bacterial persistence and to develop new compounds and strategies to combat it.
DR. HOWARD FRAENKEL (PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY)
Hall of Sciences 318
Prediction and experimental determination of the structure and reactivity of molecules compose the core research interests of this laboratory. Prediction is achieved through the use of the appropriate equations of motion and related physical laws without the use of adjustable parameters where possible. Bond lengths and bond angles in molecules are calculated using the precepts of quantum chemistry. Rate constants and activation energies are calculated using unimolecular reaction rate theory and molecular dynamics. Tools to measure molecular structure include rotational-vibrational infrared spectroscopy and fluorescence spectroscopy. Measurement of chemical reactivity involve plans to acquire a flash photolysis capability. Current interests focus on determination of what molecular or lattice structure is required to generate fluorescence or phosphorescence at a desired wavelength. General application areas include reduction of pollutants generated by combustion and materials used for anti-counterfeiting and authentication technologies.
DR. SHAGUFTA GAFFAR (SOIL SCIENCE/ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE)
Environmental Studies and Sustainability Department
Hall of Sciences 101
Dr. Gaffar is a researcher in the fields of soil science and environmental science. She has a particular interest in biochar and its effects on various aspects of soil health and plant growth. Biochar is a type of charcoal that is made from organic materials and can be used to improve soil quality, sequester carbon, and mitigate the effects of climate change. Dr. Gaffar’s research focuses on the effects of biochar on soil characteristics, microbial populations, carbon sequestration, and pesticide retention. She also studies the combined effects of biochar with other amendments, such as rhizobium and mycorrhizal fungi, on plant growth and soil nutrient levels. Dr. Gaffar’s research aims to better understand the potential benefits of biochar in agriculture and environmental management, and to identify ways to optimize its use for maximum impact.
DR. VINCENT GULLO (CHEMISTRY)
Hall of Sciences 322
With increasing microbial resistance to current antibiotics, commonly referred to as the “antibiotic crisis”, there is an urgent need for new antibiotics to control resistant bacterial strains. My lab is working on two antibacterial projects. Kibdelomycin is an interesting antibacterial compound discovered at Merck from a microorganism. Dr. Perkins’ lab is fermenting the organism to produce kibdelomycin. My lab is purifying kibdelomycin and synthetically modifying the chemical structure to increase the antibacterial spectrum against gram-negative organisms. Another project in my lab is optimizing the antibacterial activity of compounds discovered from a synthetic chemical library here at Drew. This project requires a five step synthetic route to produce new analogs of the isoindole core structure.
DR. RYAN HINRICHS (PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY/ATMOSPHERIC CHEMISTRY)
Hall of Sciences 210
The atmospheric chemistry research group investigates chemical reactions at solid-air interfaces that are relevant to atmospheric processes including climate change and air quality. Airborne particles — such as sea spray, smoke, and mineral dust — play an important role in controlling Earth’s climate. We investigate how the climate-important properties of these particles are altered by reactions with trace gases such as volatile organic compounds, ozone and nitrogen dioxide. We also investigate interfacial chemistry that can occur in indoor environments to better understand the implications for air quality in the built environment.
DR. HILARY KALAGHER (PSYCHOLOGY/AVIATION PSYCHOLOGY)
Hannan House 100
My current research is in aviation psychology, a subfield of psychology that brings the science of analyzing behavior, personal attributes, cognitive ability and motivation to the forefront of the “human factors” of flying. The DARIUS (Drew Aviation Research initiative for University Students) team utilizes a database maintained by the National Safety Transportation Board to examine a number of research questions. Recent examples of studies include examining fuel planning errors, children and infants in aviation accidents, and pilots’ loss-of-visual reference during a flight.
DR. ROGER KNOWLES (NEUROBIOLOGY)
Hall of Sciences 107B
The three pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) are extracellular senile plaques, intracellular neurofibrillary tangles, and a profound loss of neurons and functional neuronal connections. Recent evidence suggests that there is a connection between these pathologic events. However, the biochemical pathways that link the extracellular deposits and the intracellular dystrophies are unclear. In our laboratory, students choose research projects that focus on trying to elucidate these pathways. Examples of projects include: identification of receptor mediated second messenger activation that can lead to AD-like morphological changes in neurites; quantification of a dose-dependent and time-dependent effects of extracellular stimulation with various molecules secreted by microglia; and exploration of changes in microtubule stability due to second messenger stimulation.
DR. YI LU (STATISTICS)
Math and Computer Science Department
Hall of Sciences 309
I am interested in functional data analysis. There are many applications and examples of functional data, such as growth trajectories (human heights measured over many years), parametric curves and shapes, handwritten signatures, runner’s pace during a race, biomechanical measurements during a specific activity, etc. I am also interested in Bayesian statistics, which is a class of increasingly popular and powerful methods that allow the incorporation of existing information as “priors” in the model. In addition, I’m interested in designing efficient algorithms and simulations to perform statistical inference.
DR. BRIAN MCKITTRICK (ORGANIC CHEMISTRY)
Hall of Sciences 333
I am an organic chemist who has 35 years of experience using organic chemistry to design and synthesize new molecules that bind to receptors, enzymes or other biological targets as potential new therapeutic agents.
After joining RISE in Jan of 2022 I started 2 research projects. Both of these provide opportunities to learn how to do organic synthesis and apply those skills to develop biologically active compounds for use in drug discovery.
1) Taurine Transporter Inhibitors: we are synthesizing a series of taurine transporter inhibitors to probe their effects on resistance that develops during chemotherapy treatment of ovarian cancer.
2) PROTAC Project: we are synthesizing some tool molecules to help us understand the structure activity relationships of a small molecule called BC-1215 and use this to identify sites on the molecule where we can build in a covalent linker. The goal is to modify BC-1215 with a linker that we can use to develop PROTAC based drugs (collaboration being done with Dr. Lachowicz’s group). See Intro to PROTAC Video
There are a number of other potential projects that involve organic synthesis and drug
discovery that we will start depending on students’ level of interest. For more about my background see Brian McKittrick LinkedIn Profile
DR. CHRISTINA MCKITTRICK (NEUROPHYSIOLOGY)
Hall of Sciences 137
I am interested in exploring how various central neurotransmitter systems are affected by pharmacological and environmental manipulations, and how these changes, in turn, are related to behavior. My research has focused on the biological consequences of stress and the neurochemical effects of drugs of abuse. Recent theories have emerged which suggest that both stress and drugs of abuse activate certain common pathways within the brain, while chronic exposure to either stimulus can lead to long-lasting changes in the responsiveness of these pathways. Our laboratory examines the effects of stress and drugs of abuse on neurotransmitter release in these pathways and attempts to correlate the neurochemical changes with observable behaviors. Investigation of neurochemical changes in response to these stimuli may provide clues about the neural circuitry underlying the behaviors and physiological states associated with drug addiction and stress-related mental illnesses.
DR. JESSICA MCQUIGG (ECOLOGY)
Hall of Sciences 104
The McQuigg lab focuses on wildlife disease ecology, herpetology, and aquatic ecology. Her current research focuses on understanding disease dynamics between the invasive amphibian chytrid fungus,Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, and frogs in geographic areas that are not experiencing amphibian declines. In particular, her lab is exploring how environmental conditions and complex aquatic communities moderate pathogen intensity in frogs and how we can manage aquatic habitats to be less disease prone. To answer these questions, we use field sampling and monitoring of frogs, aquatic macroinvertebrates, zooplankton, and algal resources, and conduct experiments in the lab. When we aren’t in the field, we use global information systems (GIS) to understand landscape characteristics and molecular techniques such as DNA extraction and quantitation to identify infected individuals.
DR. G. SCOTT MORGAN (MORAL AND POLITICAL PSYCHOLOGY)
Hannan House 205
Students in the Moral and Political Psychology (MAPP) Lab work alongside Prof. G. Scott Morgan to investigate people’s worldviews. The lab empirically tackles three interrelated questions. What are the causes and consequences of seeing attitudes as grounded in moral right and wrong? How do people use political ideologies as lenses through which to make sense of their social world? And what motivates people to stand up in the name of their beliefs — through peaceful or not so peaceful protests and activism? Recent projects have examined how social influence and perceptions of harm shape our tendencies to moralize our beliefs; the reasons we maintain trust for high power members of our political groups even when we know they are lying to us; and the ways that our perceptions of given protest movements (e.g., the Black Lives Matter Movement) shape our views of other protest movements (e.g., climate change activism).
DR. JOHN PERKINS (MICROBIOLOGY)
Hall of Sciences 332
Industrial microbial fermentation is extensively used in the production of food and beverages, vitamins and other fine chemicals, and pharmaceutical products including antibiotics. My lab works on two fermentation projects: production of the antibiotic kibdelomycin produced by the actinomycete Kibdelosporangium sp. and production of vitamin B2 (riboflavin) by the Gram-positive model microorganism Bacillus subtilis. In the first project, students use classical mutagenesis and screening methods to improve the production and pharmacokinetics of kibdelomycin. Purified kibdelomycin is also provided to Dr. Gullo’s group for chemical modification to improve the efficacy of this antibiotic. Classical mutagenesis and screening methods are also used in the second project to isolated host mutations that improve the production level of riboflavin.
DR. TAMMY WINDFELDER (ANIMAL BEHAVIOR AND POPULATION ECOLOGY)
Hall of Sciences 131
Dr. Windfelder’s research interests include animal behavior and population ecology. Her current research focuses on the small mammal species found on Drew University’s campus and at the nearby Great Swamp Watershed Association’s Conservation Management Area. Since 2009, Dr. Windfelder and her students have been monitoring these small mammal populations to investigate the impact of deer and deer-proof fencing on these populations. With the Drew Forest Restoration Project, we can also examine the effects of the regrowth of a healthy understory and native plant community on these small mammal populations. Furthermore, this long-term study provides the unique opportunity to examine long-term changes in small mammal populations and their responses to stochastic events such as disease outbreaks, major storms, and changes in predation pressure.