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Jesse Hall and MU columns

Faculty Mentors

Our faculty mentors work at the cutting edge of the biomedical and related sciences. They are all full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty with exceptionally productive research programs in the seven strongest biomedical-related research units on campus (Biochemistry, Biological Sciences, Molecular Microbiology & Immunology, Medical Pharmacology & Physiology, Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, Veterinary Biomedical Sciences, Veterinary Pathobiology). The following 40 faculty mentors are representative of the more than 200 potential PREP Scholar faculty mentors on the MU campus.

Deborah AndersonDeborah Anderson
Associate Professor of Veterinary Pathology

Our laboratory is interested in understanding the host pathogen interactions involving virulence factors that contribute to the extreme virulence of Y. pestis, enhanced transmission to the flea vector, and the worldwide persistence of the plague.

James Birchler James Birchler
Curators’ Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences

Our laboratory studies gene expression in multicellular eukaryotes on both the specific gene and chromosomal levels using Drosophila and maize as experimental organisms. We are interested in the mechanisms involved, how the two levels are interconnected and how they evolve.

Charles Brown Charles Brown
Professor of Veterinary Pathobiology

We want to understand the mechanisms used by the host immune response to remove pathogenic microbes, and mechanisms used by the microbes to combat this removal.

Pamela BrownPamela Brown
Associate Professor of Biological Sciences

Our lab uses Agrobacterium tumefaciens, a plant pathogen and the cause of crown gall disease, as a model to understand how bacteria constrain peptidoglycan synthesis to specific cellular localizations in the context of the mechanism underlying growth and division of A. tumefaciens.

Elizabeth BrydaElizabeth Bryda
Professor of Veterinary Pathobiology

Our lab studies polycystic kidney disease, hereditary deafness, and inflammatory bowel disease. Using rodent and zebrafish models, we are characterizing disease-causing genes and their protein products in order to elucidate the molecular pathways in which these genes/proteins participate.

Donald Burke-Aguero Donald Burke-Aguero
Professor of Molecular Microbiology & Immunology and Biochemistry

Our lab uses cell biology, biochemistry, and computational approaches to compare millions of RNA molecules, looking for the ones that can do helpful jobs: e.g., RNA aptamers that bind tightly to proteins from HIV and prevent this virus from replicating, and artificial ribozymes that catalyze chemical reactions and have implications for the study of evolution.

Michael Calcutt Michael Calcutt
Professor of Veterinary Pathobiology

We focus on the molecular genetics and pathogenesis of Mycoplasmas, a diverse genus of cell wall-less bacteria that includes many important pathogens of food animals and humans. We analyze the repertoire, function and potential antigenic variation of surface membrane proteins, together with chromosomal dynamics and the role of mobile genetic elements in plasticity.

Chiswili Yves ChabuChiswili Yves Chabu
Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences

We want to understand how cell-cell signaling events are initiated, interpreted, and integrated in tumor cells to modulate tumor cells behavior. We use a Drosophila tumor model to investigate how epithelial tumor cells communicate with each other and with host cells, including immune cells, to promote tumor overgrowth and metastasis.

Anand Chandrasekhar Anand Chandrasekhar
Professor of Biological Sciences

We use cell biology and genetic knockout methods to decipher the mechanisms regulating the migration of cranial motor neurons, and how they organize to establish functional neuronal circuits. These studies will provide insight into the underlying causes of neural tube defects such as spina bifida, and of human neuronal migration disorders, such as lissencephaly.

Dawn Cornelison Dawn Cornelison
Professor of Biological Sciences

Our lab studies how muscle satellite cells get information from the local environment, then use that information to decide whether to divide, move to another area in the muscle, or differentiate into functional muscle cells.

Michael GarciaMichael Garcia
Associate Professor of Biological Sciences

We study the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's Disease) and spinal muscular atrophy. We generate genetically modified mice to investigate the role of the neurofilament network in establishing axonal diameter and to determine the mechanisms of disease pathogenesis in CMT2E.

Diana Gil PagesDiana Gil Pages
Associate Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology and Bioengineering

We investigate how antigen recognition by T cell receptors (TCRs) turns on cell adaptive immune function, focusing on the TCR-associated CD3 multiprotein complex. CD3 conformational change (CD3Dc) is at the foundation of our ongoing research studying structural, biochemical, developmental and physiological levels of control exercised over CD3Dc.

Mark HanninkMark Hannink
Professor of Biochemistry

We study the molecular mechanisms that regulate cell responses to their environment, e.g., how human cells sense and respond to oxidative stress. We identified several protein complexes that regulate cellular responses to oxidative stress and are developing therapeutic approaches to target these protein complexes and increase the ability of normal cells to withstand oxidative stress.

Michael A. HillMichael A. Hill
Professor and Associate Director of the Dalton Cardiovascular Research Center

We study signaling mechanisms that underlie the vasoconstrictor response of an arteriole following an acute rise in intraluminal pressure. We include approaches to determine the relationships between pressure-induced changes in smooth muscle membrane potential, sub-cellular Ca2+ signaling, and the resulting signaling events that lead to the contractile response.

Heather HuntHeather Hunt
Associate Professor of Biomedical, Biological and Chemical Engineering

Our work explores the interfaces between surface chemistry, structure, composition and bulk, physical properties of advanced materials for optics, electronics and environmental applications with a focus on the development of new techniques and materials systems that allow tailoring of optoelectronic material properties at the molecular level.

Marc JohnsonMarc Johnson
Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology

Our lab studies the interactions that occur between viruses (particularly HIV) and their hosts, in particular how viruses use host machinery to transport all of the viral pieces to correct location in the cell for assembly. A clearer understanding of these interactions will provide new avenues for the development of antiviral drugs.

Jill KanaleyJill Kanaley
Professor of Nutrition & Exercise Physiology

Our focus is on exercise endocrinology and metabolism including: issues related to obesity and type 2 diabetes and weight loss with diet and exercise; the effects of exercise timing on glycemic control through the overnight period; obesity and adipose tissue inflammation; effects of meal frequency and composition on the hormonal responses.

Elizabeth KingElizabeth King
Associate Professor of Biological Sciences

The core life processes for every organism, such as surviving in the environment, finding food and mates, and reproducing, require the organism to allocate some of its limited resources to these functions. We use computational and empirical techniques to understand how different allocation strategies evolve and the underlying genetic architecture of this highly complex trait.

Margaret J. LangeMargaret J. Lange
Assistant Professor of Medical Microbiology and Immunology

Host and viral factors influence pathogenesis and infection outcomes. We target the cellular mechanisms at the host-virus interface in an innovative therapeutic strategy. We hope to understand mechanisms at the host-virus interface that dictate biological outcomes, highlighting the molecular tug-of-war between host and virus and the complexity underlying co-evolution.

Christian LorsonChristian Lorson
Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology

We focus on spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), the leading genetic cause of infantile death, characterized by degeneration and loss of lower spinal motor neurons. We discovered a relationship between SMA and cardiac problems, suggesting that SMA is a multi-system disease. We are developing new drugs to encourage the body to produce more SMN protein.

Luis Martinez-LemusLuis Martinez-Lemus
Professor of Medical Pharmacology and Physiology

We are determining changes in the position and function of cells within the intact blood vessel wall that occur in response to common mechanical and vasoactive biochemical stimuli, an adaptive cell behavior that appears to allow the vessel to maintain a reduced diameter for extended periods of time with reduced levels of activation and energy expenditure.

Susan McKarns Susan McKarns
Associate Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology

Our research goal is the prevention and treatment of human autoimmune disorders, organ transplantation, inflammatory diseases, wound healing and cancer by better understanding the molecular mechanisms governing the differentiation and function of CD4 T lymphocytes and their role in immunity and tolerance.

Susan NagelSusan C. Nagel
Associate Professor of Ob, Gyn, and Women’s Health

Our basic and translational science research lab focuses on environmental endocrine disrupting chemicals and how they can program fetal development to alter the risk of adult disease. We showed that chemicals associated with unconventional oil and gas extraction or “Fracking” can disrupt the endocrine system and program development and reproductive endpoints in adulthood.

Nicole NicholsNicole Nichols
Assistant Professor of Biomedical Sciences

We utilize a multidisciplinary approach to develop novel models of motor neuron death that mimic aspects of neurodegenerative diseases related to ventilatory and swallowing functions, in order to study the mechanism that underlies plasticity in surviving motor neurons responsible for breathing and swallowing, and how plasticity can be enhanced following motor neuron death.

Solomon OdemuyiwaSolomon "Wole" Odemuyiwa
Assistant Professor of Veterinary Pathobiology

Our research interests include virology, immunology, molecular diagnostics; pathogen discovery, molecular evolution, and emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases.

Jaume PadillaJuame Padilla
Assistant Professor of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology

Our research program incorporates biochemical and molecular techniques, in vitro cell and tissue culture models, to understand the mechanisms linking metabolic and cardiovascular disease. A primary focus is the study of mechanisms causing endothelial insulin resistance and vascular dysfunction associated with physical inactivity, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

Elizabeth ParksElizabeth Parks
Professor of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology

We study the cephalic phase of food intake and sensory effects on absorption of lipid, effects of dietary macronutrients on the development of obesity-related disorders, non-alcoholic hepatic steatosis, liver inflammation, and postprandial metabolism, and model non-steady state kinetics in metabolism.

Michael PetrisMichael Petris
Professor of Biochemistry

Our lab investigates how minerals are accumulated within the body at the right locations and in the right concentrations. Using cells and animal models, we are interested in how copper functions in Alzheimer’s disease, tumor growth, and microbial killing by the immune system.

Charlotte PhillipsCharlotte Phillips
Associate Professor of Biochemistry

We investigate the regulation and structure/function of extracellular matrix and its tissue specific expression in the pathogenesis of inherited connective tissue disorders. Current projects include: therapeutic approach to improve bone quality in children with osteogensis imperfecta, and the pathogenesis of Type I collagen fibrosis in a renal disease mouse model.

Lakshmi PulakatLakshmi Pulakat
Professor of Medicine and Nutrition

Diabetes and metabolic syndrome drive the current epidemic of cardiovascular disease. We utilize rodent models and primary cultures to unravel novel signaling pathways activated by the Ang II type 2 receptor (AT2R) to regulate insulin resistance in conditions of over-nutrition and hypertension.

Cheryl Rosenfeld Cheryl Rosenfeld
Professor of Veterinary Biomedical Sciences

We study the putative therapeutic effects of type I IFN on treating human endometrial cancers. We are examining the combined effects of IFN-a and the anti-estrogen raloxifene on various human estrogen-responsive endometrial cancer cells, including a microarray approach to examine the effects of IFN on estrogen-responsive genes.

Adam SchrumAdam Schrum
Associate Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology and Bioengineering

Our lab is focused on physiologic signaling networks and how they function in molecular and cellular immunity. A main goal is to increase understanding of how T cells of the immune system decide whether to destroy or tolerate healthy, infected or cancerous tissue, with an eye toward applying lessons learned to design immunotherapies.

David SchulzDavid Schulz
Professor of Biological Sciences

We are interested in how spinal cord injury changes the neural networks below the injury. We combine molecular expression profiling with electrophysiology to understand how neuron and network physiology change, as well as the cellular basis for those changes. We use mouse models of spinal cord injury and neurological disease to conduct these studies.

Laura SchulzLaura Schulz
Associate Professor of Ob, Gyn, and Women’s Health

Our laboratory uses mouse models to focus on understanding how the maternal hormonal and nutritional environment during pregnancy, particularly maternal diabetes and the hormone leptin, affects the function of the placenta, and, in turn, the development and future health of the fetus.

Emma Teixeiro-PernasEmma Teixeiro-Pernas
Associate Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology

Our lab researches T lymphocytes of the immune system defining the process of providing protection against infection and cancer. Our focus involves T cells that become effective at clearing pathogens and tumor cells and at providing long-term protection (immunological memory) to use this information to develop or improve therapies against cancer and infection.

Peter Tonellato Peter Tonellato
Professor of Health Management and Informatics

Biomedical Informatics, Mathematical Modeling, Simulations

Bret UleryBret Ulery
Assistant Professor of Biomedical, Biological and Chemical Engineering

As director of the Biomodulatory Materials Engineering Laboratory, he leads a team of researchers focused on the design, development and production of novel biomaterials for a variety of biomedical applications primarily in the fields of immunology and regenerative medicine. 

Victoria Vieira-Potter Victoria Vieira-Potter
Associate Professor of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology

The main focus of our laboratory is how behavioral (e.g., diet, exercise, environmental toxin exposure) and biological (e.g., aging, hormonal changes) factors influence metabolic function, specifically via modulation of the immuno-physiology of adipose (i.e., fat) tissue.

Gary WeismanGary Weisman
Professor of Biochemistry

Our lab studies the relationship between inflammatory disease and “nucleotide receptors” present on the surface of most cells and control a range of functions including platelet aggregation, muscle contraction, neurotransmission, insulin secretion, wound healing, and cell growth. One receptor subtype prevents plaque formation associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Bing ZhangBing Zhang
Professor of Biological Sciences

We use the fruit fly as a genetic organism to study the basic and clinical aspects of the brain. At basic levels, we study the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which synapses form, develop, and function. In addition, we use cutting-edge molecular genetic tools to map neural circuits underlying behaviors, with a goal to understand the neural substrate of behavior or misbehavior.