Research Opportunities

Several Department of Biology and Health Sciences faculty members engage in scholarly research with undergraduate students. Many of the faculty have extramural funding and continually publish in peer reviewed scientific journals with undergraduate student authors. A description of each research-active faculty members’ research program and most recent publications (Pace undergraduate student names are highlighted) follows:

Cyrus Bacchi, PhD
Dr. Bacchi’s research focuses on identification of new chemical leads which potentially can go forward into badly needed chemotheraphy for African Sleeping Sickness. In vitro and in vivo methods are being used to identify potentially interesting compounds, which are synthesized by collaborating pharmaceutical firms. An additional aspect of this work is to examine the biochemical mechanism of action of promising compounds. This research is funded by Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi) which has brought together the consortium of Anacor and Scynexis pharmaceuticals and Haskins Lab of Pace University to target drug discovery.

Melissa Grigione, PhD
Dr. Grigione’s primary research interest is mammalian spatial ecology -- understanding how ecological and manmade elements influence home range size and location for particular species whose populations have been seriously altered as a consequence of habitat degradation and fragmentation. In her lab, tools such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS), remote sensing technology, and molecular genetic techniques are employed to better understand these questions.

Charlene Hoegler, PhD
Dr. Hoegler studies connective tissue changes in rat aorta following balloon angioplasty.

Jack Horne, PhD
The goal of Dr. Horne’s research is to identify the genes that mediate the morphological differentiation of neurons in the developing nervous system. To this end, Dr. Horne and his students are developing an in vivo electroporation technique that can be used to deliver both GFP expression plasmids, which can be used to monitor the morphological differentiation of neurons in live embryos, and morpholino-based loss-of-function reagents, which will be used to knockdown the expression of specific target genes. The advantage of this electroporation-based technique is that it will allow them to induce loss-of-function at specific, and later, stages of development, enabling us to assess the function of genes that are used at multiple times during development.

Marcy Kelly, PhD
Triclosan is a broad spectrum antimicrobial agent that is currently found in many consumer goods. The primary focus of Dr. Kelly’s research is to determine the mechanisms employed by triclosan to promote growth inhibition, killing, and antibiotic resistance in Staphylococcus aureus. Therapeutic options for the treatment of infections caused by this organism have become limited. Triclosan resistance in S. aureus most commonly maps to fabI, an enzyme involved in fatty acid biosynthesis. Several recent studies have indicated that resistance to triclosan in S. aureus may actually involve multiple targets. Supporting this, a S. aureus triclosan resistant mutant isolated in Dr. Kelly’s laboratory seems to have an alteration in the expression of several cell membrane structural and functional genes.

Nancy Krucher, PhD
Many proteins that control cell division are involved in cancer development. The phosphorylation state of the Retinoblastoma protein (Rb) regulates the ability of this protein to control cell proliferation. Phosphorylation stimulates cell cycle progression, whereas dephosphorylation of Rb inhibits progression through the cell cycle. Alterations in the Rb pathway that lead to excessive phosphorylation of Rb have been observed in almost all types of cancer. Dr. Krucher’s work focuses on the regulation of Protein Phosphatase 1 (PP1) activity by its interacting protein, PNUTS (Phosphatase Nuclear Targeting Subunit) which is responsible for activation of the Rb tumor suppressor protein.

Gregory Lampard, PhD
Dr. Lampard’s research program aims to characterize the inner workings of a dual environmental/developmental control module to identify the direct links between stress-induced signaling protein activation and the inhibition of stomatal development in the model dicot plant, Arabidopsis

The findings from his studies will contribute to biology on two levels. First, these studies will characterize the molecular details of environmental control of stomatal development, opening the door to the development of future stress-tolerant plants by either classical breeding methods or genetic modification. Furthermore, it will provide insight into how global climate changes will affect plant development from both plant survival and crop productivity standpoints.

Robert Parks, PhD
Significant variations in digestive tissue oxytocin (OT) concentration have been observed in fasting male rats when compared to controls. The following experimental groups are employed: ab lib (full access to feed and water), fasted with subsequent food access; fasted with subsequent food exposure; and fasted rats. All fasting intervals are 48 hours. Feeding time post fast is 30 minutes. Rat digestive organs and accessory digestive tissue samples are assayed for OT by radioimmunoassay. Targets sampled include vagus trunks, esophagus, pyloric antrum, duodenum, pancreas, jejunum, ileum, cecum, and distal colon. Generally significant higher OT concentrations have been observed in these tissues in all experimental groups when compared to fasting controls. Further experiments are being discussed to look at the role of the vagus nerve and higher brain centers in this response

Milton Schiffenbauer, PhD
Dr. Schiffenbauer studies the antimicrobial effects of green and white tea extracts and POM juice extract.

Josh Schwartz, PhD
Dr. Schwartz’s main interests are vertebrate behavior and sensory ecology with a focus on animal communication. The objective of his research is to increase our understanding of how both proximate and ultimate factors, including adaptations facilitating the detection and assessment of biologically relevant sensory information, can shape the communication systems of animals. He works with tropical and temperate zone frogs, ideal organisms with which to pursue this goal. Aspects of frog communication biology he has studied include species isolating mechanisms, intraspecific and interspecific territoriality and agonistic behavior, mate choice, call transmission in the environment, calling energetics, communication networks and chorusing dynamics.

Dan Strahs, PhD
Dr. Strahs’ research focuses on understanding the biochemistry of DNA-processing enzymes. His lab studies the enzyme topoisomerase IA, an enzyme of prokaryotic organisms, which manages the supercoiling generated during transcription. Interest in this enzyme stems from the possibility of affecting the host organism. To study this, his laboratory employs both computational and experimental methods to investigate topoisomerase IA. Projects conducted by students in his laboratory have focused on active site mutations, large scale motions in an enzyme/DNA substrate complex, the modeling of homologous enzymes, and the docking of small-molecules into the topoisomerase active site.

Andrew Wier, PhD
The symbiosis between the benthic Hawaiian bobtail squid, Euprymna scolopes, and the bioluminescent bacterium, Vibrio fischeri, is used as a modelsystem to study the effects of beneficial bacteria on animal host tissues. Thesquid-vibrio symbiosis has a profound diel rhythm, where every day at sunrise,95% of the bacterial symbionts and many host cells are vented from the lightorgan into the sand and surrounding seawater. One of the aims of Dr. Wier’s research is to examine the principal signaling events that occur between the host and its symbiont during the daily cycle. He also plans to define the signals and signaling pathways by which the host and its bacteria communicate.