Renae Brodie is an ecological physiologist who investigates the reproductive and larval biology of crabs. Currently, she is studying fiddler crabs along the Atlantic coast, where she has established field sites from Massachusetts to Georgia to test hypotheses about how temperature and other factors― like population density, food supply and pollution―impact survival and reproduction. Ultimately, insights from these projects will allow Renae, her students and collaborators to predict how the health and geographic ranges of fiddler crab populations will shift as the planet’s climate continues to change.
Biologist Sarah Bacon is fascinated by the relationship between mother and fetus during pregnancy. "What I'm really interested in is fertility and miscarriage," she says. "Eighty percent of what humans conceive is lost before birth." Bacon says that most pregnancies end before a woman even knows she's pregnant. She's trying to find out why by studying reproduction in rats, which have very similar pregnancies to humans. Bacon also studies the ways in which mother and fetus communicate through the placenta. "It's so powerful, such an enigma," she says. "There's no other relationship that is that physiologically intimate."
Kathy Binder is keenly interested in how adults with low literacy skills learn to read. She has examined how these readers use various “codes” of language - phonological codes (sounds), orthographic codes (spelling patterns), and morphological codes (roots and affixes). She examines how these codes influence spelling, vocabulary, and comprehension abilities. Binder teaches a CBL course in which her students become adult literacy tutors to better understand readers’ strengths and weaknesses. This work has been funded by the NIH and IES.
Mara Elizabeth Breen
Ken Colodner’s research focuses on molecular mechanisms of neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders. Colodner and his students utilize the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, as a model organism to investigate how human disease-related proteins induce cell death and dysfunction in the brain. The Colodner Lab is particularly interested in examining the extent to which neuronal and glial cells, the two major cell-types of the brain, contribute to the neurodegenerative disease process.
Gary Gillis is interested in the biomechanics and neuromuscular control of animal locomotion. He has worked on systems ranging from swimming fish to running mammals and has been involved in projects exploring plasticity in muscle function and the effects of body size on locomotor movements. Most recently his lab has been using toads to study the control of rapid deceleration during landing. In 2012 and 2013 Gillis served as a Program Officer for the National Science Foundation. Gillis is the point-person for Summer Student Programming, Federal Grant Submissions, and Faculty Fridays.
Kathryn A. McMenimen
Kathryn McMenimen is interested in the chemical interactions that underlie biological systems. Her research group uses tools at the interface of chemistry, biochemistry, neuroscience, and biophysics to study one type of molecular chaperone, the small heat shock proteins. McMenimen is particularly interested in protein homeostasis and how dysfunction of molecular chaperones contributes to protein misfolding diseases, such as, cataracts, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and other neurological diseases.
Using preclinical models, Jared Schwartzer studies the interaction of the immune system and nervous system during brain development in utero, and the effects of these interactions on behavior during postnatal development. Much of his research is inspired by clinical and epidemiological trends observed in individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders. In the Schwartzer Lab, specialized techniques from neuroimmunology and behavioral neuroscience come together to explore how changes in the mother’s immune system influence social behavior in offspring.
Andre’s research explores the neurobiological changes that underlie persistent cocaine-seeking behaviors in mice. Previously, he determined that a little known epigenetic mechanism, nucleosome remodeling, was critical for the formation of cocaine-associated memories and synaptic plasticity. This research was recently published in Nature Communications. Through teaching, André seeks to harness students’ curiosity about addiction and direct it towards a better understanding of the nervous system. In his courses, students have the opportunity to manipulate the reward pathway in mice then examine the contribution of those specific brain regions to drug-seeking behavior.
Using an insect model of coevolution, Karen Hollis studies the predator-prey relationship between larval antlions, insects that capture prey in carefully constructed pit traps, and ants, which often stumble into those traps. Hollis and her students have shown that antlions can learn to anticipate prey arrival, providing them with an enormous predatory advantage. On the other side of this competition, some species of ants not only are able to rescue nestmates that fall into antlion pits using precisely directed and highly sophisticated maneuvers, but also learn to avoid pits after a single encounter with antlions. Currently, Hollis is investigating the genetic mediation of ants’ rescue behavior: It seems that some fathers produce kinder daughters.