Biology Department Faculty and Staff

Brianne Barker, Associate Professor and Chair


Barker Lab Website

Research interest: Immunology

I am 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 that clear the invader. However, evidence suggests that signaling through these receptors may also lead to cell death or immune-mediated disease. Specifically, I am focused on understanding how PRR recognition of HIV and related viruses leads to the T cell death and immune dysfunction seen in AIDS. Some non-human primate species are naturally infected with an HIV-like virus and do not experience T cell death and immune dysfunction following infection.

My laboratory is examining the nucleic acid-binding PRRs in these non-human primate species to determine how they may differ in structure or function from the homologous receptors in humans. Such differences may play an important role in allowing these non-human primates to avoid the pathologic consequences of infection and may provide new avenues for HIV therapy.

Stephen Dunaway, Professor


Research interest: Molecular Biology and Cancer Biology

The Dunaway lab is interested in understanding the global regulation of protein synthesis. Translation, the mechanism by which proteins are synthesized based on the information encoded in mRNA, is an essential process in all living organisms. Consisting of initiation, elongation and termination phases, many aspects of this process are conserved across bacteria and eukaryotes. The elongation phase, in particular, has several conserved steps and universally requires two protein elongation (EF) factors.

However, fungal translation elongation was determined to be unique in its absolute requirement for a third factor, the ATPase eEF3. While the exact function of eEF3 is unclear, eEF3 binds close to the E-site of the ribosome and has been proposed to facilitate the removal of deacylated tRNA from the E-site. In the Dunaway lab, we are particularly interested in understanding eEF3’s in promoting translation and using this information to develop novel therapeutics targeting eEF3 to combat life threatening fungal disease.

Aoife Hernon, Lecturer

HS 128

Anatomy and Physiology

Roger Knowles, Professor


Research interest: Neurobiology of Alzheimer’s Disease

The three pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) are senile plaques, neurofibrillary tangles, and neuronal loss.  However, the biochemical pathways that link plaques and tangles to neuronal degeneration are unclear.  In our laboratory, students choose research projects that focus on trying to elucidate these pathways and to identify novel targets to protect neurons.  Examples of projects include: modifying of receptor activation that can protect neurons from damage; use of growth factors to enhance neuronal health; and altering immune cell activity to promote healthier responses.

Eileen LaBrutto, Biology Operations Manager

HS 100

Christina McKittrick, Associate Professor


Research interest: Neurophysiology

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.

Jessica McQuigg, Assistant Professor


Research interest: Disease ecology and Herpetology

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.
Joanna Miller, Associate Teaching Professor


Research interest: Molecular Biology and RNA interference

RNA interference, a powerful reverse genetics technique, can be used to specifically down-regulate gene expression in a wide variety of organisms, from tiny single-celled fission yeast to humans. RNA interference is significant not only as a new biological pathway and a useful tool for research scientists, but also as a novel approach to a new class of therapeutic agents. My research interests are to discover new homologs of key RNA interference proteins, such as Dicer, by bridging bioinformatics tools with experimental data. This allows me to study a protein’s evolutionary conservation and provides the opportunity to further investigate the role of particular domains or key amino acid residues using mutagenesis.

Paris Scarano, Lecturer

HS 140

Post-secondary education in the sciences

Tammy Windfelder, Associate Professor


Research interest: Behavioral Ecology

I am interested in animal behavior and population biology.  Current research in my lab focuses on small mammal species on Drew’s campus and at the Great Swamp Watershed Association’s Conservation Management Area, investigating the impact of white-tailed deer on the small mammal community as well as the responses of wild mammals to natural disaster and disease.  My previous research focused on primates in both the Peruvian Amazon and the rainforests of Uganda, where I studied ecological factors influencing patterns of group-living and social behavior, as well as primate communication.