Areas of Expertise
I joined the Westminster Biology department in the fall of 2001. I enjoy serving as a faculty member at Westminster because it reminds me of my undergraduate experience; small class sizes that promote student-student and student-faculty interactions, with labs that emphasize hands-on learning using the scientific method. Working at a smaller institution allows me to teach courses ranging from introductory to advanced, which means I have an opportunity to interact with and mentor students at every stage of their undergraduate career.
The courses I teach and my research interests are a constant source of inspiration. I am involved in the design and implementation of many introductory courses required for our biology and molecular biology majors. My intermediate and advances courses focus on the cellular and molecular aspects of genetics, genomics, gene expression, DNA repair, embryology, and recombinant DNA techniques.
I am a strong proponent of scientific information literacy, an essential skill for success in all areas of the biological sciences. We introduce our students to scientific information literacy during the introductory courses and have scaffolded various assignments throughout our curriculum for the specific purpose of building these skills in intermediate and advanced courses. Students must apply the skills in their advanced classes and senior Capstone research experience.
I currently serve as program directory for the Molecular Biology program. I also serve as Chair of the Medical Professions Advisory Committee (MedPAC), a group of faculty advisors from numerous departments that support students who are serious about pursing a career in the health professions (physician, physician assistant, physician therapist, dentist, optometrist, veterinarian, etc.).
Both of my research interests involve the study of gene expression, but they utilize two very different model systems. I am intrigued with the cellular and genetic processes that regulate wound healing and tissue regeneration in salamanders. My lab looks at factors that might affect (positively or negatively) wounding healing and regenerative abilities in Mexican salamanders (axolotl), as well as a few of the underlying genetic mechanisms that contribute to these abilities. I also think it is essential that we identify alternative methods for dealing with bacterial biofilms and multi-drug resistance. My lab is currently assessing the efficacy of small nucleic acids to target and suppress the expression of genes involved in Staphylococcus aureus biofilm formation.