Jess & Mildred Fisher College of Science & Mathematics


MOLECULAR BIOLOGY•BIOCHEMISTRY•BIOINFORMATICS

Affiliated Faculty Members

All faculty involved with mentoring in the MB3 Program are actively involved in research.  The faculty members are listed below along with a brief description of their research interests.  You can find out more information about individual faculty and their research by following the links to their personal web pages.  If you wish to learn more about the research projects going on in faculty labs, just contact us.  We'd love to hear from you.

 

Department of Biological Sciences

 

Dr. Muktak Aklujkar

Smith Hall 324A,  410-704-3027

maklujkar@towson.edu

Assistant Professor

Ph.D., University of British Columbia

My lab will sequence, annotate and analyze the genomes of anaerobic bacteria and investigate their physiology and metabolism through genetic experiments with a focus on proteins predicted to function in the processes of energy conservation and electron transport.

Research interests: anaerobic bacterial physiology, bacterial metabolic pathways, genetic techniques, genome annotation

Dr. Mark Bulmer

 

Dr. Mark Bulmer
Smith Hall 251,   410-704-4065
mbulmer@towson.edu
Assistant Professor
Ph.D., Boston University

Termites live in large, crowded colonies, which can make them vulnerable to the rapid spread of disease. This predicted vulnerability has led to the development of fungal pathogen strains as an alternative to chemical control of termite infestations. However, termites appear to have exploited elements of the conserved innate immune system for socially mediated protection. Antifungal peptides that are usually associated with the hemolymph (insect blood) are spread among colony members by mutual grooming and incorporated into nest building materials.

My research uses tropical termites and their fungal pathogens from Panama and Australia, as well as from in and around Towson, to understand the evolution and mechanism of these antimicrobial peptides and the fungal pathogens they target. Because termites rely upon these secreted peptides to protect themselves from pathogens, they have enormous potential in termite control strategies.

 

 

Dr. Elana Ehrlich

Smith Hall 249,  410-704-2385

eehrlich@towson.edu

Assistant Professor

Ph.D.,

Critical cellular processes are controlled through regulated degradation of proteins via the ubiquitin proteasome system. The E3 ubiquitin ligase is the final enzyme in the ubiquitination reaction that transfers ubiquitin molecules to the protein substrate targeted for degradation. My lab has two ongoing research projects, both related to ubiquitin:

1. The ubiquitin proteasome system is frequently co-opted by viruses to target either cellular or viral proteins for proteasomal degradation. The genome of Kaposi’s sarcoma herpesvirus (KSHV) encodes a number of proteins that act directly as ubiquitin ligases, act as a subunit of a ubiquitin ligase, enhance the stability of a cellular ubiquitin ligase or in some way affect the activity of a ubiquitin ligase. RTA is the key activator of the switch from latent to lytic replication. In addition to activating lytic gene expression, RTA has also been assigned ubiquitin ligase activity and has was reported to stabilize the cellular E3, RAUL. We are working to identify different protein substrates of the RTA ubiquitin ligase as well as cellular ubiquitin ligases that are recruited or stabilized by RTA.

2. Cul5 is an E3 ubiquitin ligase that is frequently hijacked by viruses. Cul5 has been co-opted by HIV, Adenovirus, KSHV, and HPV. We have previously reported a cellular function of Cul5 in regulation of Hsp90 client proteins. Hsp90 clients are frequently dysregulated in cancer; in fact Hsp90 is required to maintain the oncogenic state of multiple types of cancer cells. We are interested in exploring the role of Cul5 expression in cancer diagnosis, prognosis and sensitivity to chemotherapy.


My lab is currently recruiting graduate students.

 
Dr. Gail Gasparich

 

Dr. Gail Gasparich
Smith Hall 487,   410-704-4515
ggasparich@towson.edu
Associate Dean of FCSM and Professor
Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University

The development of taxonomic and phylogenetic classification of the eubacterial class Mollicutes whose members are all closely associated with a variety of hosts including vertebrates (Mycoplasmas, Ureaplasmas), arthropod hosts (Entomoplasmas, Spiroplasms, Mesoplasmas) and plants (Phytoplasmas). Bacterial strains are currently classified using serological and biochemical tests. However, it has recently been determined that using these classical characters to distinguish "serogroup" status may not accurately represent species distinctions as originally thought. For this reason a major long term project within my laboratory is to characterize the diversity and assess the relationships among the genera using cladistic analyses based on serology, metabolic tests, morphology, ecology, molecular and biogeographical data. Undergraduate students have a wide range of opportunities to conduct research on evolutionary relationships within and among the different Mollicute genera.

Long term research goals for the future involve:  The development of a gene expression vector for use with the genera Spiroplasmas for the basic examination of gene expression and regulation is also a research focus in the laboratory. Such a vector could also be used for the more applied purpose of developing insect biocontrol by expression of arthropod lethal toxins (i.e. Bt toxin and scorpion toxin) by spiroplasmas in their arthropod hosts (which include disease carrying mosquitoes and ticks). The identification of the protein(s) involved in attachment to examine the question of host specificity and pathogenicity.
 
Dr. David Hearn

 

Dr. David Hearn

Smith Hall 215, 410-704-2997

dhearn@towson.edu

Assistant Professor

Ph.D., University of Arizona

My research focuses on understanding theevolutionary, developmental, and ecological processes responsible for land plant diversity.  The analysis of character evolution using tools from molecular phylogenetics and molecular genetics forms the core of this research.  In particular, fascination with plant form, plant morphogenesis, and plant development fuel these interests.  Currently, I am examining the evolutionary and developmental mechanisms responsible for water storage tissue in stems and roots (i.e., plant succulence).  Stem succulence provides a classic example of convergent evolution, as over thirty lineages have evolved stem succulence.  I am testing my hypothesis that shared (homologous) developmental modules are switched on and off during evolution to account for multiple origins of succulent growth habits.  My lab is undertaking phylogenetic, bioinformatic, anatomical, and molecular genetic analyses in Brassica, Arabidopsis, Vitaceae, and Passifloraceae to understand what aspects of succulence evolution and development are shared and which aspects differ among distantly related lineages.  Addiontal projects include the analysis of biological shape, biodiversity informatics, and computational approaches to characterize plants in an automated fashion.  At its most general, my lab focuses on the causes and consequences of biological pattern formation and employs computational/bioinformatic, mathematical, field and lab experimental approaches.
 
Dr. Matthew Hemm

 

Dr. Matthew Hemm

Smith Hall 483, 410-704-2996

mhemm@towson.edu

Assistant Professor

Ph.D., Purdue University

My lab is focused on identifying and functionally characterizing proteins containing fifty or fewer amino acids.  The prevalence and physiological function of such small proteins are poorly understood in any organism.  To address these biological questions, we are using the model bacterium Escherichia coli. We have recently shown that E. coli contains many more small proteins than had been previously predicted.  Further analysis has shown that many of these proteins are expressed under specific environmental conditions, suggesting that they have interesting functions in the cell.  Our current goals include continuing to characterize small protein function in E. coli, in particular those small proteins that are predicted to span the membrane with a single hydrophobic a- helix.  These transmembrane small proteins make up the majority of small proteins identified in E. coli, and could be performing a wide range of functions at the membrane.  Ultimately, the information we learn about E. coli small proteins will provide a foundation for investigating small protein abundance and function in both other bacteria species and eukaryotes.
 
Dr. Barry Margulies

 

Dr. Barry Margulies
Smith Hall 485B,   410-704-5019
bjmarg@alum.mit.edu
Associate Professor
Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University

The Towson University Herpes Virus Laboratory (TUHVL) is studying pathogenic mechanisms employed by three different human herpesviruses, the virus’ interactions with the host immune system, and means of antiviral intervention for each infectious agent.

Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) is the etiologic agent for fever blisters and cold sores.  We are using a mouse model of infection to explore long-term delivery of the useful anti-herpetic acyclovir.  We have already developed silicone-based controlled-release devices that release acyclovir at a quantity and rate that completely stops infection in vitro, and prevent reoccurrences in vivo.  We are currently collaborating with multiple labs in the US to improve efficacy and extend our studies to other viruses and model systems, including HSV-2, the etiologic agent of genital herpes.

We are also examining an odd molecular phenomenon exhibited by the US27-encoded chemokine receptor-like glycoprotein expressed by human cytomegalovirus (CMV), a ubiquitous pathogen that tends to cause solid organ damage, including but not limited to CMV retinitis, a blindness caused by death of retinal cells in the eye. Although there does not appear to be anything special about the mRNA or protein sequences from this gene, it is clear that a single transcript codes for two related glycoproteins. Our favorite hypothesis, that alternative initiation codons are being employed, is currently under investigation.

It has been hypothesized, through many lines of circumstantial evidence, that human herpevirus-6 (HHV-6) is the indirect cause of multiple sclerosis (MS), perhaps by tricking the host immune system into attacking itself through a phenomenon called molecular mimicry. We are developing a mouse model for MS that employs expression of a single HHV-6 protein and whether it can be proved as a causative link to MS. We believe such a system will give us an ideal small animal model to definitively prove or disprove the currently circulating theories of a viral origin for MS, and provide a system to test many different antiviral drugs' ability to combat MS.

 
Dr. Brian Masters

 

Dr. Brian Masters
Smith Hall 213A,   410-704-2035
bmasters@towson.edu
Associate Professor
Ph.D., University of Florida

My research involves the use of molecular techniques (such as DNA fingerprinting) to answer ecological questions.  Currently, there are three major projects that are being conducted in my lab:
  1. Don Forester and I have been collaboratively examining the maternal behavior of the Mountain Dusky Salamander (Desmognathus ocoee) for a number of years through field and laboratory studies.  These studies have yielded quite interesting results, and have provided insight into the evolution of cooperation and the biology of maternal behavior.
  2. Scott Johnson and I are currently collaborating on a project that examines reproductive behavior in house wrens (Troglodytes aedon) using field and molecular studies. We are specifically interested in how specific behaviors impact reproductive success with the goal of better understanding the mechanisms that drive the evolution of animal behavior.
  3. I am very interested in the role of genetic diversity in the fitness of organisms.  A project involving undergraduate and graduate students has shown the role of genetic diversity, as measured by microsatellite DNA fingerprinting, in the fitness of house wrens.  I am currently beginning a project that will investigate the role of genetic diversity in the spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum).  These studies have implications for evolutionary biology as well as in conservation efforts.
 
Dr. Roland Roberts

 

Dr. Roland Roberts
Smith Hall 205,   410-704-3034
rroberts@towson.edu
Associate Professor
Ph.D., Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge

My laboratory is engaged in research on the systematics and evolution of vascular plants. Taxonomic groups of current interest are the Asteraceae and Euphorbiaceae.  I am also interested in the evolution of desert flora, particularly population structure and the roll of hybridization in speciation, and the biogeography and evolution of the flora of the West Indies specifically that of the islands of the Lesser Antilles.  Methodologies employed for uncovering evolutionary relationships include the use DNA sequences of chloroplast and nuclear genes along with traditional techniques.
 
Dr. Vonnie Shields

 

Dr. Vonnie Shields
Smith Hall 345,   410-704-3130
vshields@towson.edu
Associate Professor
Ph.D., University of Regina

All animals detect and react to chemicals in their external environment.  Recent evidence suggests that the basic processing of chemosensory information is similar in invertebrates and vertebrates.  Consequently, using insects as model systems has implications for chemosensory research on species in diverse animal phyla and allow us to gain insights into the fundamental processing of sensory information in the brain.  Chemosensory cues, such as odor and taste stimuli, play pivotal roles for insects in selecting food sources, mates, and oviposition sites.  One main line of research in my lab is directed towards exploring the importance of gustatory cues in the selection of food sources by carrying out feeding behavioral and electrophysiological studies on larval insects (Order Lepidoptera).  In addition, the structural organization of these gustatory organs is being examined using transmission electron- and scanning electron microscopy.  One potential outcome of this research is to find novel biocontrol techniques against insect pests.  Another avenue of research is being directed toward understanding the sensory mechanisms by which insects detect plant-associated volatiles and how this information is processed by the olfactory system of the insect.

My overall research aim is to increase our understanding of how and what chemosensory information is processed in the insect brain and to contribute to the knowledge of how nervous systems analyze, recognize, and respond to complex sensory stimuli.

 
Dr. Colleen Sinclair-Winters

 

Dr. Colleen Sinclair-Winters
Smith Hall 215A,   410-704-3124
csinclair@towson.edu
Assistant Professor
Ph.D., Mayo Clinic and Foundation

My laboratory is involved in the study of genetic diversity in populations of invertebrates and vertebrates. Current projects include the evaluation of population diversity in non-biting midges (Cricotopus sp.) from Baltimore streams (collaboration with Dr. Susan Gresens), the development of microsatellite libraries for and the analysis of the genetic structure of terrestrial snails, Ventridens ligera and Succinea sp. and an analysis of genetic influence on sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) success (collaboration with Dr. Jay Nelson).
 
Dr. Michelle Snyder

 

Dr. Michelle Snyder
Smith Hall 489A,  410-704-4817
msnyder@towson.edu
Assistant Professor
Ph.D., Northwestern University

Research in my laboratory is focused on understanding the mechanisms by which cells of the innate immune system identify disease-causing pathogens.  Evidence in recent years suggests that innate immune cells can recognize pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) on bacterial and fungal cell walls and in bacterial and viral nucleic acids.  The processes by which mammalian innate immune cells recognize these PAMPs appear conserved in a variety of organisms including plants, worms and fruitflies.  Our research involves an even simpler organism, the cellular slime mold Dictyostelium discoideum, and our preliminary results suggest that Dictyostelium recognize and respond to PAMPs through similar mechanisms as do mammalian innate immune cells.  We are hoping that given the ease with which genetic pathways can be manipulated in Dictyostelium cells, our study of Dictyostelium responses to PAMPs will allow for identification and characterization of novel pathways that are also involved in innate immune responses in mammals.
 

 

Dr. Peko Tsuji

Smith Hall 349,  410-704-4117

ptsuji@towson.edu

Assistant Professor

MPH, Ph.D., Medical University of South Carolina

Current projects include:
- effects of dietary compounds on selenium-containing proteins in cancer prevention and promotion using human colon cancer cells. Dietary compounds include resveratrol (in berries, red wine), sulforaphane (in broccoli), EGCG (in tea), and Chrysin (in passion flowers)
- the role of the 15kDa selenoprotein in colon cancer prevention and promotion
- the role of dietary selenium in colon cancer prevention and promotion
- the role of gut microbiota in colon cancer


My laboratory investigates dietary compounds as preventive strategies against human diseases, especially cancer and inflammation.

 

 

Dr. John Weldon

Smith Hall 267,  410-704-3191

jweldon@towson.edu

Assistant Professor

Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University

 

My laboratory uses techniques from molecular biology, biochemistry, and cell biology to investigate questions concerning the design of immunoconjugate (antibody-linked) therapeutics, the intracellular trafficking of Pseudomonas exotoxin A, and the control of protein synthesis by elongation factor 2.
 
Dr. Larry Wimmers

 

Dr. Larry Wimmers
Smith Hall 360,   410-704-2766
lwimmers@towson.edu

Director, Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, Bioinformatics Program
Associate Professor
Ph.D., Cornell University

My laboratory employs a combination of molecular genetic and classical physiological tools to address three aspects of plant function.  I have long-term interests in the response of plants to salt stress and the mechanisms of phloem translocation. Our approach to the salt stress response has been to identify genes induced by sub-lethal levels of salt stress, and to test their role in salt-stress resistance by altering their expression in transgenic plants.  Our studies of phloem translocation have concentrated on the mechanism of phloem loading, and the control of that process.  Our goal is to produce plants with increased tolerance to saline soil conditions.
 
Department of Chemistry
Dr. Richard Preisler

 

Dr. Richard Preisler
Smith Hall 543,   410-704-3055
rpreisler@towson.edu
Associate Professor
Ph.D., Stanford University

My research interests concern the energetics and dynamics of nucleic acid structure. He has done physical studies on conformation transitions such as the B-to-Z transition in DNA.  Presently I am collaborating with Dr. Ryzhkov in an investigation of doubly spin-labeled DNA oligonucleotides. The paramagnetic probes will be sensitive to the local conformation and dynamics of the molecule, as detected by EPR spectroscopy.
 

 

Dr. Shuhua Ma

Smith Hall 584B,  410-704-2741

sma@towson.edu

Assistant Professor

Ph.D., Institute of Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences

One area of research in my group is the molecular dynamics (MD) simulations of enzyme catalytic reactions. Results from MD simulations can provide detailed information about protein dynamics and conformational change during catalysis, which is useful for rational inhibitor design. Another area of research is the virtual screening of small molecule databases to discover small molecules that can bind tightly to the active site or allosteric sites of an enzyme, tightly bound molecules will then be used as lead compounds to design novel inhibitors.

Research interests
Computational chemistry and biochemistry, enzyme catalysis and computer-aided inhibitor design

 
Dr. Clare Muhoro

Dr. Clare Muhoro
Smith Hall 514G,   410-704-4827
cmuhoro@towson.edu
Associate Professor
Ph.D., Yale University

Organometallic chemistry research on the synthesis, characterization and reactivity of phosphanyl(organyl)boranes This project explores the chemistry of phosphanyl(organyl) boranes, a group of compounds with potential applications in transition metal and polymer chemistries. As a result of their dual donor and acceptor nature, phosphanyl(organyl)boranes can be used to craft highly desirable metal complexes that can be employed to selectively attenuate metal complex properties. Our goal is to develop reliable and general synthetic methodology to these compounds and to apply their bifunctional properties in innovative ways.

Environmental chemistry research on the chemical fate of carbamate pesticides. Our primary interest lies in investigating the chemical fate of carbamate pesticides in aquatic systems. Carbamates are derivatives of carbamic acid and find diverse applications in global agriculture. Ligand-like carbamates and inorganic materials in soils may undergo interesting coordination chemistry under environmental conditions. Our goal is to describe selected chemical processes of this type.
 
Dr. Ana Marie Soto

Dr. Ana-Marie Soto
Smith Hall 569,   410-704-2605
asota@towson.edu
Assistant Professor
Ph.D., University of Nebraska Medical center

Dr. Soto’s current research interests are on the stability and ligand binding properties of nucleic acid structures. She is especially interested in studying the effect of electrostatics in drug binding and inhibition and in the development of small inhibitor molecules.
 
Dr. Cynthia Zeller

 

Dr. Cynthia Zeller
Smith Hall 514G,   410-704-2170
czeller@towson.edu
Assistant Professor
Ph.D., University of Alabama at Birmingham

Use of cell/molecular biological methods applied to problems in forensic science, including development of methodologies that can be readily automated in the forensic laboratory setting. Development of specific cell staining techniques which will aid in the unequivocal identification of sperm cells in mixed stain samples; development of procedures that will allow for utilization of degraded DNA as is seen in mass disater situations; and devlopment of protocols which will allow for the rapid extraction of DNA from sperm cells, thereby purifying this fraction for downstream DNA analysis procedures.
 
Dr. Timothy Brunker

 

Dr. Timothy Brunker

Smith Hall 514F, 410-704-3118

tbrunker@towson.edu

Assistant Professor

Ph.D., Oxford University

Dr. Brunker is interested in the synthesis and properties of new types of chiral transition metal complexes for uses in two types of applications - molecular switches and as chiral catalysts for organic reactions.  Molecular switches are molecules that can exist in at least two different forms that can be reversibly interconverted upon application of an external stimulus, such as light, heat or some other type of environmental factors such as pH, and where the state of the switch can be easily detected.  They may be useful as information storage devices and in molecular electronics.  Dr. Brunker is working on switches in which the two interconvertible forms are chiral, and may therefore be probed by their interactions with plane polarized light.  In a second project he is working on developing chiral ligands based on an azaferrocene core for various metal-catalyzed reactions of interest in organic chemistry.
 
Department of Computer and Information Sciences
Dr. Nadim Alkharouf

 

Dr. Nadim Alkharouf
York Road 423, 410-704-3149
nalkharouf@towson.edu
Assistant Professor
Ph.D., George Mason University

My research interests include the design and development of databases for high throughput biological experiments. My main focus has been on DNA sequencing data, gene expression and proteomics experiments. I am also very interested in data mining and OLAP (online analytical processing), a method for large database mining. In the past I worked on soybean genomics, building databases and analyzing gene expression data from experiments dealing with the identification of resistance genes in soybean against a devastating parasite known as the soybean cyst nematode (SCN). Recently I have been working on developing a database analysis system for blue berry genomics and analyzing gene expression data related to blue berry cold hardiness. I am also working on a new algorithm that builds a better peptide database for Mascot (proteomics) searches, one that results in more significant hits.
 
Dr. Sungchul Hong

 

Dr. Sungchul Hong
York Road 479,   410-704-6338
shong@towson.edu
Associate Professor
Ph.D., University of Texas, Dallas

Intelligent agents, auction mechanisms and data classification (machine learning approach).
 
Department of Mathematics
Dr. Elizabeth Goode

Dr. Elizabeth Goode
Stephens Hall 316M,   410-704-498
egoode@towson.edu
AssociateProfessor
Ph.D., State University of New York at Binghamton

DNA splicing systems, DNA computing and DNA implementations of genetic algorithms

 

                    

                                   

 

 




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Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, & Bioinformatics

Towson University

8000 York Road

Smith 360

Towson, MD 21252

410-704-3491

Affiliated Faculty Members
 

Dr. Muktak Aklujkar


Dr. Nadim Alkharouf

Dr. Timothy Brunker

Dr. Mark Bulmer

Dr. Elana Ehrlich

Dr. Gail Gasparich

Dr. Elizabeth Goode

Dr. David Hearn

Dr. Matthew Hemm

Dr. Sungchul Hong

Dr. Shuhua Ma

Dr. Barry Margulies

Dr. Brian Masters

Dr. Clare Muhoro

Dr. Richard Preisler

Dr. Roland Roberts

Dr. Vonnie Shields

Dr. Colleen Sinclair

Dr. Michelle Snyder

Dr. Ana-Marie Soto

Dr. Peko Tsuji

Dr. John Weldon

Dr. Larry Wimmers

Dr. Cynthia Zeller

 
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