Dr. Vanessa Beauchamp
Science Complex, Room 3101B

Research Interests:The overarching goals of my research program are to test and refine ecological models of succession, identify environmental thresholds involved in plant community change, and elucidate the role of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in plant community dynamics. A large part of my research program also involves practical applications related to management, conservation and restoration of plant communities.


Harald Beck, Ph.D.
Curator of TU Mammal Collection
Science Complex, Room 3101D
(410) 704-3125

My current research focuses on understanding how disturbances, either natural (i.e. treefalls, ecosystem engineers) or anthropogenic (i.e. habitat destruction, overhunting), affect population dynamics and species richness of mammals and plants in the Amazon. For instance, the dramatic impact of peccaries (a pig-like creature) on forest ecology is apparent to anyone who has watched a 300-strong herd of these animals thunder through the understory (animal mediated disturbance). But because of habitat destruction and hunting (anthropogenic disturbance), the species has been driven to local extinction and a new generation of trees is maturing without the massive seed predation, dispersal (mammal-plant interactions), soil disturbance, or physical damage wrought by peccaries. To test some of these hypotheses, I have set up several long-term experiments in Cocha Cashu and Los Amigos, two sites within the Peruvian Amazon. Furthermore, in collaboration with colleagues from the IUCN Tapir Specialists Group, we are currently testing the impact of tapir disturbances on the seedling and sapling communities using hundreds of exclosures across five Neotropical countries and in Malaysia.

Another “hot topic” in my lab is to quantify the role of ecosystem engineers. These species physically modify and create new habitats and thereby control the availability of resources to species. However, unlike most mammalian ecosystem engineers (i.e. beavers), I posit that peccaries have two distinct engineering mechanisms. First, while foraging for below-ground resources they “bulldoze” through the soil, creating germination sites for “leaf litter-gap dependent” plant species, and thus potentially increasing plant richness. Second, peccaries can function as ecosystem engineers by creating and maintaining wallows that may be critical habitats for aquatic species. Since 2003 I have been studying the effects of peccaries as ecosystem engineers.


Dr. Mark Bulmer
Science Complex, Room 4150A

My research is currently focused on the molecular arms race between termites and their fungal pathogens. 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 can destroy fungi with secreted antibiotics (small peptides and enzymes). A better understanding of the mechanism and evolution of this antifungal defense strategy is potentially of great value, not only because it may lead to more effective termite control methods but also because it can elucidate novel strategies that termites employ to counter the evolution of antibiotic resistance. This research includes tropical termites and their fungal pathogens in Panama and Australia as well as in and around Towson.


Dr. Renée Dickie
Smith Hall, Room 343


Dr. Elana Ehrlich
Science Complex, Room 5150B

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. Brian Fath
Smith Hall, Room 273
(410) 704-2535

My research broadly focuses on sustainability, which I address using three different approaches: network environ analysis, integrated environmental assessment, and information theory. Sustainability is a critically important area that encompasses a broad range of research interests including ecosystem services, biodiversity, natural resources, human cultures, and specific environments. I use network analysis to investigate thermodynamic sustainability indicators. These indicators are often referred to as ecosystem goal functions because they determine holistic properties of the ecosystem such as energy or exergy flow, biomass production, and respiration. These metrics help understand the overall behavior and health of that system and its response due to perturbations. Integrated environmental assessment is an application of multidisciplinary methods to human systems to address specific place-based issues. I have used IEA to study the watershed quality of a major metropolitan reservoir and am interested in further applying this process to local and international issues. Recently, I have begun looking at using information theory, particularly, Fisher Information, as a potential sustainability metric.



Dr. Susan E. Gresens
Science Complex, Room 3101J
(410) 704-4368

Dr. Gresens is interested in the ecology of freshwater systems, particularly streams. Her research focuses on communities of macroinvertebrates and attached algae; the ecology of midge larvae (Diptera: Chironomidae) is her specialty. Midge larvae occur in a wide range of aquatic habitats, exhibit high species diversity, and are often very numerous. The potential importance of midges as primary consumers, which transform algal and detrital material, and transfer it to higher trophic levels has been largely overlooked, due to their small size. Her previous research has demonstrated interactive effects of food quality and thermal regime on feeding and growth of larvae. Current research in her laboratory is defining spatial patterns in the composition of stream invertebrate communities, in response to watershed urbanization. Her goals are to develop a mechanistic understanding of the causes of low biological diversity in urban streams, and to determine the value of midge larvae as ecological indicators within urban areas.


Dr. David Hearn
Science Complex, Room 4101C

My research focuses on understanding the evolutionary, 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 predicted 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. Such an understanding will contribute to a richer picture of mechanisms of anatomical patterning, and, in the process, gene regulatory mechanisms may be discovered that can generate storage-rooted and succulent-stemmed crops. Additional 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 patterns and processes of biological pattern formation and employs computational/bioinformatic, mathematical, field and lab experimental approaches.


Dr. Matthew Hemm
Smith Hall, Room 483

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 found 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. L. Scott Johnson
(410) 704-2587

Dr. Johnson is broadly interested in the reproductive behavior and ecology of small birds. More specifically, his interests include the evolution of mating systems including extra-pair mating behavior, sex ratio manipulation, factors affecting nestling growth, the evolution of egg shape and size, the function of song, the proximate and ultimate effects of nestling ectoparasites on reproduction, the effect of calcium availability and reproductive output, territorial behavior, and parental behavior. Much of Dr. Johnson’s research involves they House Wren as a study species but research is also planned involving Tree Swallows and Mountain Bluebirds. His primary research site is the Helen Brinton Bird Reserve near Big Horn, Wyoming. Dr. Johnson takes several students to this site each summer.


Dr. John Lapolla
Science Complex, Room 3101E
(410) 704-3121

Coevolution of Acropyga ants and mealybugs
        Acropyga ants display a fascinating behavior I have termed trophophoresy. Trophophoresy is the behavior of a queen ant taking with her on her mating flight a mealybug from her birth nest (LaPolla, 2002). This mealybug serves as a "seed" individual through which a new colony of mealybugs will be created. The ants feed on the sugary substances produced by the mealybugs. It is believed the ants and mealybugs are mutually dependent on one another for survival. Acropyga ants are, in a sense, the dairy farmers of the ant world.
        We know virtually nothing about the symbiosis between Acropyga ants and their mealybug “cattle.” Investigating the biological aspects of this complex symbiosis has become a major component of my research program. In collaboration with Drs. Ted Schultz & Sean Brady (National Museum of Natural History) and Dr. Joseph Bischoff (National Institutes of Health-GenBank), several important studies are planned over the next several years.
2) Biodiversity Studies
        I have employed the replicable "ALL" (Ants of the Leaf Litter) protocol to examine patterns of ant diversity across South America. In collaboration with Dr. Ted Schultz (NMNH) and doctoral student Jeffery Sosa-Calvo (U Maryland-College Park), my research project will continue gathering and examining leaf litter ant data from Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Brazil and Peru. Over the next three years, we will complete on-going studies comparing the Guiana Shield fauna to the rest of South America to extrapolate patterns of endemism and identify areas of conservation concern.
        I am also Lead Scientist for Conservation International’s Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring in Suriname. This project involves periodic ant sampling at Raleighvallen in the Central Suriname Nature Reserve.
3) Revisionary Systematics
        I am in the process of completing a world revision of the ant genus Paratrechina, a large genus of over 140 species, and a group that contains many invasive species of agricultural and economic importance. With no taxonomic monograph available, most Paratrechina species are currently impossible to identify. Defining the species will help efforts at using biological control methods to control invasive species. The genus has never been revised and there are undoubtedly many new species awaiting discovery.
        I am also currently beginning a world revision of the genus Discothyrea with doctoral student Jeffery Sosa-Calvo (U Maryland-College Park). These enigmatic ants are found worldwide in subtropical and tropical localities. They are thought to be specialist predators on arthropod eggs.


Dr. Barry Margulies
Science Complex, Room 5101E
(410) 704-5019

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
Science Complex, Room 5150C
(410) 704-2035

Dr. Masters is interested in the application of molecular techniques (such as DNA fingerprinting) to the study of ecological questions. Specifically, his interests include the study of a number of behaviors such as migration, mate choice, cooperation, kin recognition, and maternal behavior. Recent research has also involved investigation of the impact of genetic diversity on fitness, an area of study with clear implications for species conservation. Most of his research has involved various species of salamander, but Dr. Masters is not a slave to taxa, and has worked on a variety of organisms, including birds, insects, and plants.


Dr. Jay A. Nelson
Smith Hall, Room 257
(410) 704-3945

Dr. Nelson’s research broadly focuses on trying to understand how the environment controls life processes and how living organisms have evolved to respond to environmental pressures in two (thinking of growing to three) systems: 1) The main focus of my research is the nutritional physiological ecology of Loricariid catfish. Evidence suggests that loricariid catfishes of the genus Panaque are capable of utilizing wood in their diet. I am studying the ability of Panaque to degrade carbon polymers like cellulose and hemi-cellulose. In collaboration with Dr. Daniel Wubah of this department, I am also investigating the enzymes produced by the microflora of Panaque guts. In collaboration with Dr. Don Stewart of the SUNY College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry and Bill Patterson of Syracuse University, I am trying to take this research to South America so that we may better understand the unique biology of Panaque in situ. 2) I am also collaborating with colleagues in Canada to investigate factors that contribute to locomotor performance in Atlantic cod. I have already shown that exercise physiology in these fish varies on an individual and population level and that environment (salinity and temperature) are important limiting factors. We are currently trying to better understand the inter-relationships of various locomotor types in cod, their relationship to predatory ability, and how other physiological factors like nutritional state influence locomotor capacity and physiology. 3) I am in the planning stages of starting a research project on the locomotor capacity of local fishes. This may take the form of a collaboration with Dr. Joel Snodgrass of this department studying the effects of human developments on local stream fish populations.


Dr. Chris Oufiero
Science Complex, Room 3101G 

I am broadly interested in evolutionary physiology and functional morphology. My research can be divided into three general areas: 1) The consequences of sexual selection on functional traits (such as the effect of exaggerated morphologies on locomotion in Xiphophorus), integrating sexual selection, physiology, behavior and phylogenetic comparative methods; 2) Diversity and trade-offs in functional traits such as swimming and feeding performance; 3) The effects of climate variability on morphology and physiology, particularly in ectotherms, incorporating a phylogenetic comparative approach. I use a variety of techniques and methods, and have investigated these topics in a variety of organisms, focusing on teleosts and squamates, but have also collaborated on projects working on other taxa such as mammals, arachnids and squid.


Dr. Erik P. Scully
(410) 704-3012

My primary research interests are the population biology of invertebrates, especially crustaceans, and the population level consequences of individual behavior. My current research interests include: (1) Effects of chronic exposure to heavy metals on life history patterns of terrestrial isopods living in serpentine areas; (2) The dynamics of aggregation formation in terrestrial isopods. I am also engaged in collaborative research projects with other faculty: (1) Laboratory and in vitro studies of disease and bleaching in corals (with Gary K. Ostrander, Johns Hopkins University); (2) Using Neural Network models to study the evolution of simple behavioral responses (with Dr. John Alexander, Computer and Information Sciences, Towson University). I am willing to advise students in a variety of research areas. For example, one of my current students is investigating a model in theoretical systems ecology, and I would be interested working with individuals who wish to explore historical and philosophical questions in evolutionary biology.


Dr. Richard Seigel
Smith Hall, Room 345
(410) 704-3123

My basic research philosophy is that one cannot be a good conservation biologist without first being a strong population ecologist, and, conversely, that an interest in conservation biology is a required interest of anyone calling themselves a population ecologist. Thus, research in my lab is oriented in two main directions; studies on the evolutionary ecology of amphibians and reptiles (using both field and experimental approaches) and studies on the conservation biology of amphibians and reptiles, which is almost exclusively field-oriented. My selection and recruitment of graduate students follows these approaches; of the 16 students I have mentored to date, eight have focused on evolutionary ecology and eight on conservation biology. Naturally, students are strongly encouraged to work outside of their specific area of expertise and to collaborate with myself or with their fellow students.


Jack D. Shepard, Ph.D.
Science Complex, Room 5101C 
(410) 704-2394

My research program is directed toward determining the biological and behavioral effects of stress. While responses to acute stress are primarily adaptive, chronic stress can lead to both somatic and psychiatric illness. A key feature of stress-related disease is increased reactivity to stress including excess secretion of stress hormones such as the glucocorticoids and corticotropin releasing factor. My research interests are centered around three areas of investigation:
1.) behavioral responses to stress and glucocorticoid excess
2.) neuroendocrine regulation during acute stress
3.) functional plasticity in the stress axis in response to chronic stress or exposure to psychostimulant drugs.I welcome the participation of both undergraduate and graduate students in my research program.


Dr. Vonnie Shields
Science Complex, Room 4109 
(410) 704-3130

Chemosensory cues, such as odor and taste stimuli, play a pivotal role for insects in selecting food sources, mates, and oviposition sites. Research in the Dr. Shields’ laboratory concentrates on olfactory and gustatory processing by the peripheral and central nervous systems of both larval and adult insects (Lepidoptera). One area of study focuses on (a) the sensory mechanisms by which female moths detect hostplant-associated odorants that allow them to assess hostplant availability and suitability and the presence of potential competitors or co-habitants and (b) how this neural information is conveyed to the brain by antennal olfactory sensory organs. Other avenues of research will be directed towards exploring the importance of gustatory cues in the location of food sources by larval insects and examining the structural organization of gustatory organs. Work in this laboratory combines anatomical, neurophysiological, and behavioral methods in a multidisciplinary approach to seek answers to specific questions such as: (i) which plant odors provide important cues by which larvae and adults detect their hostplants? and (ii) what role do phagostimulants (nutrients, sugars, secondary plant compounds) and deterrents play in hostplant selection and feeding behavior in larvae? Recent evidence indicates 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 therefore, allows students to gain insights into the fundamental processing of sensory information in the brain. Also, students will acquire microscopic techniques and learn methods associated with behavioral and physiological assays.


Dr. Erik Silldorff
Science Complex, Room 5150J  
(410) 704-3120

My laboratory focuses on the study of vasoactive characteristics of the mammalian renal microcirculation (rat model), specifically the descending vasa recta, to determine the potential for regulation of total and regional renal medullary blood flow. Because of the unique vascular anatomy of the renal medulla, medullary blood flow is derived exclusively from vasa recta originating from efferent arterioles of juxtamedullary glomeruli. Focus is on the effects and interactions of vasoactive agents acting in a paracrine or autocrine (local) manner within the renal medulla. This research may ultimately be linked to such physiological phenomenon as pressure natriuresis and the urine concentrating mechanism as well as pathological conditions such as ischemic acute renal failure. A recent project examined the ability of adenosine to alter vascular tone in vasa recta as well as the second messenger systems involved in this action. We are currently examining the response to angiotensin II in these vessels and their dependence upon arachidonic acid metabolites for the generation of vasoconstriction. The majority of our studies focus upon locally produced hormonal or paracrine agents which alter vascular activity in an autoregulatory fashion.


Dr. Petra ("Peko") Tsuji
Smith Hall, Room 349

My laboratory investigates dietary compounds as preventive strategies against human diseases, especially cancer and inflammation. Additional interests include human gene polymorphisms that have been linked to variable cancer incidence and thus may be viable molecular targets for therapy or prevention. These genes, among others, may be responsible for the individual responses to dietary compounds. Current projects include the effects of dietary compounds on selenium-containing proteins in cancer prevention and promotion. Such dietary compounds include the essential micronutrient selenium, resveratrol (in berries, red wine), sulforaphane (in broccoli), EGCG (in tea), and Chrysin (in passion flower). Biological models utilized include, but are not limited to, in vitro (human and mouse cells, tissue samples) and in vivo (mouse) models.


Dr. Colleen Winters
Science Complex, Room 5150E 
(410) 704-3124


Dr. Sinclair's 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, an analysis of the genetic structure of terrestrial snail populations in the Potomac River basin, and an analysis of genetic influence on sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) success.


Michelle Snyder, Ph.D.
Smith Hall, Room 253
(410) 704-4817

The immune system is the body's line of defense against disease-causing bacteria, viruses and fungi.  In order to carry out its function the immune system must be able to distinguish self from non-self.  If the immune system fails to detect foreign invading pathogens, the body succumbs to infection and possible death.  On the other hand, if the system mounts an attack against its own tissues, autoimmunity can develop.

It has been recently appreciated that the crucial ability of the immune system to quickly detect foreign invading pathogens is a function of an evolutionarily ancient arm of the system, termed the innate system.  Cells of the innate system have evolved to distinguish pathogens from self by recognizing highly conserved pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) through a similarly-conserved array of surface-associated pattern-recognition receptors (PRRs).  PRRs used by mammalian immune systems have been identified in organisms as diverse as horseshoe crabs, tomatoes, worms and fruitflies.  In fact, some of the ground-breaking work in identifying the PRRs by which innate immune systems recognize invading pathogens was completed in fruitflies.

The slime mold Dictyostelium discoideum is a unique model organism that exists for part of its lifecycle as unicellular amoebae but is induced to form a multicellular sporulating body upon starvation.  The amoeboid cells phagocytose bacteria for nutrient uptake, and this process is utilized in higher organisms by innate immune cells to eliminate invading bacteria.  Due to the ease with which they can be cultured and genetically manipulated, Dictyostelium amoebae have long been used to study the process of phagocytosis.  It has not been appreciated, however, whether Dictyostelium detect bacteria using the same types of PRRs as do innate immune cells. 

The research in our laboratory is aimed at studying Dictyostelium responses to known PAMPs found in bacteria, fungi and viruses.  Our preliminary studies have revealed that Dictyostelium amoebae can indeed respond to known PAMPs, suggesting that elements of the pattern-recognition machinery used by innate immune systems in higher organisms are conserved.  We are taking advantage of the manipulability of the Dictyostelium genome to identify and study particular gene products that may be involved in the Dictyostelium response to PAMPs.  Characterization of such proteins in Dictyostelium may allow for identification of novel players conserved in the innate immune systems of mammals.

Although the immune system has developed to recognize and eliminate foreign organisms, various pathogens have evolved strategies to evade immune responses.  Some pathogens such as Mycobacterium tuberculae have evolved strategies to evade mammalian immune surveillance by acquiring the ability to survive within phagosomes of innate immune cells.  Recent studies have shown that microbial pathogens also can infect and survive within phagosomes of Dictyostelium.  We are working to develop a model system using Dictyostelium and Mycobacterium bovis BCG (a weakened Mycobacterium strain that is safely administered as part of a vaccine for tuberculosis in much of the developing world).  We hope that such a system will allow us to translate our findings related to pattern recognition in Dictyostelium to host-pathogen interactions in human diseases such as tuberculosis.


Dr. John Weldon
Science Complex, Room 5101K 

I am broadly interested in protein function and behavior at a molecular level, and how we can manipulate the behavior of proteins through directed engineering and external modulators. My research uses techniques from molecular biology, biochemistry, and cell biology to examine the control of protein synthesis by bacterial toxins. I am particularly interested in the intracellular trafficking of Pseudomonas exotoxin A (PE) and PE-based toxin conjugates, the unique diphthamide target of PE, and the use of conjugate molecules therapeutically.


Dr. Larry Wimmers
Science Complex, Room 5101F
(410) 704-2766

Dr. Wimmers' laboratory employs a combination of molecular genetic and classical physiological tools to address three aspects of plant function. He has long-term interests in the response of plants to salt stress and the mechanisms of phloem translocation. His 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. His studies of phloem translocation have concentrated on the mechanism of phloem loading, and the control of that process. Recently he has also investigated factors affecting the ability of plants to accumulate heavy metals, the goal being to produce plants with a high potential for accumulation of heavy metals that can be used to remove such toxins from contaminated soils and wetlands.


United States Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense Adjunct Faculty

Dr. Steven Baskin
U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense
3100 Ricketts Point Road
Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland 21010-5400

Dr. Baskin's research focuses primarily on mechanisms of cyanide intoxication and therapies for the treatment of this poison, he also devotes studies to the cardiac actions of neuroactive agents such as oximes and organophosphates as well as muscarinic and other compounds that would antagonize a cholinergic-induced cardiomyopathy.

Dr. Alan Brimfield

Dr. David Lenz
U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense
3100 Ricketts Point Road
Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland 21010-5400

Dr. Lenz' current research is directed toward the development of human proteins capable of being used as bioscavengers that would afford protection against exposure to highly toxic organophosphorus cholinesterase inhibitors which form the basis of some nerve agents. Current research interests involve the generation, purification and sequencing of mutants of several esterases of human origin such as acetylcholinesterase, butyrylcholinesterase, carboxylesterase and paraoxonase with the goal of producing and characterizing enzymes with novel binding or kinetic properties. The projects require skill in the art of mutagenesis, both site-directed and random, as well as the ability to develop kinetic assays and expression systems. An interest in molecular biology is required and a strong background in chemistry or biochemistry is helpful.

Dr. John McDonough
U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense
3100 Ricketts Point Road
Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland 21010-5400

Current research explores the following subjects: (1) the mechanisms by which toxic compounds – specifically organophosphate agents – affect the central nervous system to produce changes in brain function; (2) the mechanisms by which seizures develop following exposure to organophosphates, the functional and pathological consequences of these seizures, and how different classes of drugs can block or terminate the seizure activity; and (3) the short- and long-term neurobehavioral consequences of exposure (acute high dose or chronic low dose) to organophosphate agents. These projects involve neuropharmacological studies involving electrophysiological (quantitative EEG analysis), behavioral, and neuropathological analysis of drugs in whole animal preparations (rat, guinea pig, nonhuman primate). 

Dr. John Petrali
U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense
3100 Ricketts Point Road
Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland 21010-5400

Dr. Petrali oversees the daily activities of a state-of-the-art electron microscopy facility that provides high resolution transmission electron microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, x-ray microanalysis, immunohistochemistry, immunoelectron microscopy, cryomicroscopy and image analysis. The facility is responsive to all mission directives of the United States Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense and is considered a highly visible competitive functional laboratory of the scientific community. As principal investigator, Dr. Petrali develops and conducts primary investigations to detect diagnostic and ultrastructural mechanisms of action of chemical and biological threat agents. Primary investigations included contributions toward the development of a internationally recognized immunohistochemical procedure, ultrastructural identification of cells targeted by sulfur mustard toxicity in skin, determining pathogenesis of microblister formation, determining sulfur mustard effects on effects of the microenvironment of the skin basement membrane, determining sulfur mustard effects on the morphological integrity of structural attachment mechanisms of epidermal – dermal connections. Results of these published studies are now driving the investigations of threat agents conducted by other scientific disciplines in-house as well as extramurally.

Dr. James Romano, Jr.

Dr. John Schlager
U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense
3100 Ricketts Point Road
Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland 21010-5400

Molecular and cellular biology research approaches are applied to characterize the cytotoxicity, devise therapies for toxicities, and determine specific biomarkers for quantitative analysis of chemical warfare agent exposure. We are elucidating the specific mechanism(s) of cell toxicity produced by alkylating chemicals by identifying pathways for potential therapeutic intervention and cytoprotection prior to or just following chemical exposure. Laboratory research centers on the effect of sulfur mustard on its disruption of normal gene expression in in vivo exposure models such as animal skin and lung and in vitro models including cultured human keratinocyte and immortalized cells. Techniques used for board transcript identification studies include subtraction library construction, probing DNA arrays, differential display-polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and quantitative RT-PCR, and 2d gel/MS proteomics.

Dr. Alfred Sciuto
U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense
3100 Ricketts Point Road
Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland 21010-5400

Studies in Dr. Sciuto's laboratory are conducted to develop and test the efficacy of therapeutic compounds against acute lung injury. Acute lung injury, defined as the progression of injury to life threatening pulmonary edema formation, is produced by using either inhalation or system injection techniques. Areas of investigation of acute lung injury and related mechanisms include the following: (1) use of whole-body inhalation exposure systems; (2) small animal isolated perfused lung preparations; (3) investigations of the role of reactive mediators, such as leukotrienes, prostaglandins, and cytokines in the injury process; (4) investigation of both tissue and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid for clues to the injury processes; (5) the effect of toxic agents and therapies on lung dynamics; (6) efficacy testing of therapeutic compounds based on their capacity as anti-edemagens; (7) survival analysis of effective drug interventions in in vivo experiments; (8) assessment of the role of antioxidant mechanisms and lipid peroxidation in lung injury processes; (9) investigation of the role of glutathione (thiol groups) in protection; and (10) assessment of histopathological changes related to lung damage and treatment efficacy. Studies will utilize spectrophotometric, high-performance liquid chromatography; enzyme immunoassay analysis; gas chromatography; and established biochemical assay techniques of compounds of interest. Information will be gathered into a data base for use in the treatment against chemical agent-induced pulmonary injury.

Dr. Tsung-Ming Shih
U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense
3100 Ricketts Point Road
Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland 21010-5400

Dr. Shih's laboratory employs a combination of electrophysiological and neurochemical tools to address the actions of organophosphorus (OP) anti-cholinesterase agents and their therapeutic compounds in whole animal models. He has long-term interests in the relationship between central neurotransmission and pathophysiological responses. Current research interests involve a comparison of the effects of various OP compounds on the neurotransmitter systems subsequent to either acute toxic or chronic repeated subtoxic exposure of these agents; the identification of pharmacological classes of drugs that are most effective against OP agents-induced electroencephalographic (EEG) seizures in animals models; and the ability of therapeutic drugs to reverse the alterations in brain neurotransmitter systems induced by OP agents and the subsequent neuropathology.

Dr. William Smith
U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense
3100 Ricketts Point Road
Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland 21010-5400

Dr. Smith’s research objective is to develop relevant cellular and tissue models to evaluate biochemical changes initiated by sulfur mustard. Cell biology research is conducted to establish flow cytometric assays for the determination of alkylation induced alterations in cultured human epithelial cells, and develop therapeutic means to protect epithelium from deleterious biochemical changes induced by sulfur mustard. His laboratory’s goal is to identify approaches that will intervene in the production of vesicant induced injury. Research is conducted to: (1) determine which biochemical mechanisms are likely to mediate vesicant injury, thereby allowing meaningful research on intervention; (2) define mechanisms of action of vesicating agents and their antidotes to develop better methods of therapy and prophylaxis; and (3) develop in vitro models for determining the efficacy of prophylactic and therapeutic compounds for mustard injury.