Research Areas

Genomics faculty address questions concerning the mechanisms that drive evolutionary change. A variety of theoretical, descriptive and novel experimental approaches using recent advances in genomic methodology are being used to address the roles played by various evolutionary processes in shaping organisms and populations.
Faculty in Genetics explore the molecular regulation of gene expression at various stages, including transcription, splicing, translation, and post translation modification.  Our faculty also use molecular genetics approaches to study signaling, cell wall formation, protein trafficking, and neurobiology.  Other faculty use population genetics approaches to identify the selective forces that act on genes.
Signaling faculty study cellular communication and the intracellular pathways that regulate activity. These faculty use a wide range of model organisms and techniques to examine a diverse array of signaling pathways involved in hormonal regulation, sensory transduction, and cell growth and metabolism.
The Cell and Molecular faculty explore how genetic information is encoded in genomes and how it is interpreted to produce functional proteins. The research interests of the faculty focus on the regulation of transcription, translation, splicing, and post-translational modifications.
Faculty research concerns plant evolutionary biology; development and genomics; evolutionary biology; molecular phylogenetics and population genomics; chromatin and its impact on gene expression; genome stability; chromosome function; and, evolutionary genetics of aquatic invertebrates.
The Neuroscience faculty explore signal transduction events during sensory perception, synaptic transmission, and disease. Specific areas of interest include hearing, taste, smell, and neurodegenerative disease. This group of researchers uses a wide array of techniques spanning the fields of electrophysiology, cell and developmental biology, microscopy and imaging, and molecular genetics.
Faculty explore how filamentous fungi and budding yeasts assess nutrient availability and respond appropriately by adjusting gene expression, budding patterns, cell morphology, and cell wall structure. Some of these studies involve opportunistic fungal pathogens. Our faculty also use yeast as a model organism to investigate the molecular basis of gene expression, including transcription, RNA processing and translation.
Faculty address diverse areas of plant biology. Their work investigates molecular regulation of the photosynthetic pathway in C4 plants, biosynthetic pathways of plant products that are important as pharmaceutics, growth in difficult or contaminated environments, evolutionary biology by combining state-of-the-art genomics with molecular analyses to understand plant origins and diversification.
Faculty study the ecology of microorganisms including how bacteria use phage-encoded toxins to evade protozoan predators, how the protozoan Tetrahymena uses chemosensation to find food, and how transcription termination regulates gene expression in Bacillus subtilis.  Other microbiology faculty study how filamentous fungi and budding yeast adapt to their environments.
Faculty in Animal Systems Biology study complex physiological and developmental processes in model animals. These systems offer important experimental advantages in their accessibility, genetic resources, or amenability to specialized biochemical and molecular analysis. The systems used include rats and mice, zebrafish, the fruit fly Drosophila, and the nematode worm C. elegans. With modern tools and techniques, our faculty creatively explore key questions relating to sensory biology and neuronal processing, gene and protein expression in metabolic syndromes, and organismal integration through endocrine signaling.
The Department of Biological Sciences has a strong history of research going back to our founding. Faculty, postdocs, graduate students, and undergraduate students all contribute to our research mission. We work with scientific colleagues across the University and around the world. Our productivity speaks volumes about our commitment to research.

If you are interested in obtaining lab research experience, contact the faculty whose research you are most interested in.

Lab Spotlight

  • 3/20/18

    Research in the Rusche lab focuses on the evolution of proteins that regulate gene expression. We study how changes in gene expression patterns enable species to acquire adaptive traits.  We are particularly interested in sirtuin deacetylases, a conserved family of enzymes that require the metabolite NAD+ for activity and generate repressive chromatin.  We are also interested in chromatin protein that evolved from the conserved ORC proteins involved in DNA replication. We use yeast species as model organisms.  Pictured here is the pathogenic yeast C. parapsilosis, which alters its morphology in low nutrients to facilitate scavenging. In the absence of a sirtuin (lower row), C. parapsilosis no longer adopts the scavenging morphology.

  • 3/19/18

    Ponds and lakes act as windows on evolution. In the Taylor Lab we study the effects of Pleistocene glaciation and more recent threats (such as permafrost melting) to freshwater ecosystems on the evolution of zooplankton. We are particularly interested in understanding zooplankton diversity and the evolutionary significance of hybridization.

  • 3/21/18

    The Gunawardena lab is interested in understanding mechanisms of axonal transport in the context of neurodegenerative diseases using Drosophila and human neurons derived from patient iPSCs.

  • 3/19/18

    The Cullen lab is interested in understanding how signal transduction pathways regulate morphogenetic responses. We study signaling (MAP kinase) pathways that control dimorphic responses in fungal species  budding yeast and the human pathogen C. albicans. One interest in the lab is understanding how the polarity Rho-type GTPase Cdc42 is activated in a particular MAP kinase pathway. We use genetics, cell biology, genomics and biochemical approaches to address this problem.

  • 3/19/18

    The goal of work in the Xu-Friedman lab is to understand how cells in the brain, called neurons, perform behaviorally useful computations.  We focus on the connections between neurons, called synapses, and how they act under normal conditions, so that we can understand how synapses go wrong in disease, and what the consequences are for perception and behavior.

  • 3/19/18

    Our laboratory asks the question "What makes us human?" - We use genomic tools in an evolutionary framework to tackle this complicated question. Our current focus is studying the impact of genomic structural variation in human evolution. Genomic structural variants (SVs) involve differences in copy number (i.e., deletions and duplications), orientation (i.e., inversions) or genomic location (i.e., translocations) of large segments of DNA between individuals. We believe that SVs represent a huge and unexplored area of evolutionary genomics that is ripe for studies focusing on their impact on human disease and biology.