College of Science


Jill Adler

Jill P. Adler, Ph.D., Professor. Research interests are on drug and vaccine development with an emphasis on liposome delivery systems for the treatment of microbial infections, in particular fungal and viral infections. Recent work has been focused on the interplay between the adaptive and innate immune response in both fungal and viral infections, and the interactions between anti-microbial drugs and the immune response.
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Steve Alas

Steve Alas, Ph.D., Professor. Cancer Biology/Immune Response to Human Prosthetic Biometals. My laboratory studies the DNA damage response and DNA repair mechanisms in various tumor cell model systems, particularly breast cancer, colon cancer and leukemias. A major area of our studies is to examine genes that play a role in detecting damage to cells' DNA and whether mutations in those genes found in tumor cells contribute to resistance against chemotherapeutic drugs. The Breast Cancer 1 gene (BRCA1) and a family of death & survival genes (Bcl-2 family) are the central genes in our studies. Another avenue of research is the study of novel biometals, initially developed by the US Air Force, that may be new generation materials in the development of human implants and prosthetics. In collaboration with engineers at Cal Poly, our projects involve examining the immune response against the novel alloys, bone degradation caused by activation of immune cells upon implant exposure, and also the ability of bacteria to colonize both tradition biometals used in human prosthetics (titanium, stainless steel) and the new generation alloys.
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Peter Arensburger

Peter Arensburger, Ph.D., Assistant Professor. Bioinformatics and genomics. My research focuses on exploring the regulatory roles of small RNAs in arthropod and mammalian genomes. Over the last several years small RNAs have been shown to play a critical role not only in gene regulation, but also in regulating other genomic features, such as transposable elements. Using high throughput sequencing experiments, it is now possible to measure not only small RNA levels but also whole gene expression in specific tissue and life stages. Understanding the relationship between small RNAs, gene expression, and transposable element movement in economically important species will help develop more efficient transformation methods and may play an important role in the future of human gene therapy development. 
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Paul Beardsley

Paul Beardsley, Ph.D., Associate Professor. My research interests include K-12 science education and botany. Accordingly, I have a joint position at Cal Poly Pomona with the Center for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Education (CEMaST and the Department of Biological Sciences.
In science education, one major goal of my work is to develop, contribute, and rigorously study sustainable partnerships with local schools to improve levels of achievement for all students and improve teacher's effectiveness in science. A second more specific goal of my work is rigorous educational research, curriculum development, and advocacy focusing on student learning and teaching methods in evolutionary biology. Current projects involve studying the impact of inquiry-based teaching on middle school student learning in genetics and evolution. I am also developing curriculum supplements with the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History for AP Biology that focus teaching evolution using human examples. I am interested in recruiting graduate students interested in biological education.
In scientific research, my developing lab focuses on collaborative research in monkeyflowers (plants in the generaMimulus, Erythranthe, and Diplacus). Current projects involve research in systematics and the genetics of species differences and rare plants. I am interested in recruiting graduate students interested in plant genetics. 
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Ed Bobich

Ed Bobich, Ph.D., Professor. Functional plant morphology. All plant structures and processes are affected by their environment. In our lab we try to link interesting and novel plant structures, like lignotubers in walnuts, or cells, such as gelatinous fibers in desert plants, to their function. Thus, our research often incorporates several different fields, usually plant anatomy, biomechanics, and physiological ecology. Students in the lab have studied plants in the local woodlands, coastal sage scrub, and the Sonoran Desert and have addressed some long-standing questions through their research. 
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Andrea Bonisoli Alquati

Andrea Bonisoli Alquati, Ph.D., Assistant Professor. Environmental Toxicology, Physiological Ecology. Our research aims at explaining variation among individuals and across species in their physiological and genetic responses to environmental disturbance and contamination. This is examined mainly in the field, using landscape-level experimental conditions created by environmental disasters. In particular, research in the lab focuses on the nuclear disasters of Chernobyl and Fukushima, and on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The response of individual organisms is assessed using genetic, physiological and behavioral analyses. Variation across species in their exposure and sensitivity to contamination is analyzed in relationship to the life-history and ecological traits of the different species, and used to predict their phenotypic and evolutionary responses to contamination over time. 

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Kristin Bozak

Kristin R. Bozak, Ph.D., Professor. Molecular Biology, Plant Physiology. Expression of genes involved in ripening of avocado; hormonal and developmental control of gene expression; genetic elements involved in regulation and expression. Tissue culture of endemic and/or rare plant species with varying hormone treatments.
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Nancy Buckley

Nancy E. Buckley, Ph.D., Professor. Cell, Molecular, and Developmental Biology

Investigating the role of cannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors on immune function. We recently reported that chronic THC treatment reduces mouse resistance to a systemic Candida albicans (C. albicans) infection as assessed by survival, tissue fungal load and cytokine production (Blumstein et al. 2014. PLoS One 9:e103288). Current and future goals include investigating mechanisms by which THC and other cannabinoids alter immune function in immune competent and immune compromised mice.

Investigating the role of garlic on immune function. We recently reported that garlic stimulates lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) production from the J774A.1 murine macrophage cell line in a time and dose dependent manner (Sung et al. 2014. Phytother Res.). Current and future studies include investigating mechanism by which garlic and allicin, the major component of crushed garlic, alter LPS-induced TNF-α production. Our current and future studies also include investigating the effect of garlic and allicin on cytokine production from different immune cells challenged with C. albicans.

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John Chan

John K. Chan, Ph.D., Professor and University Pre-professional Advisor. Elucidate the effect of nicotine on microbes and the host immune responses. Examine the mechanisms responsible for the observed bactericidal effect of nicotine on bacteria and the suppressed immune response on the phagocytic cells, lymphocytes, and killer and natural killer cells. Collaborative work presented by Dr. Sean Liu from Dept of Chemistry.
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J. Curtis Clark

J. Curtis Clark , Ph.D., Professor. Plant Systematics and Evolutionary Biology. Evolution of Asteraceae, Papaveraceae; Speciation; Biogeography; Computer applications in biology. Dr. Clark is not accepting new graduate students at this time.

Jeremy T. Claisse

Jeremy T. Claisse, Ph.D., Assistant Professor. Quantitative Marine Ecology. Research interests include life history and ecology of marine organisms associated with reef ecosystems, including kelp forest systems here in California, coral reef systems in Hawaii and the Caribbean, and manmade reef habitats (e.g., artificial rocky fishing reefs and breakwaters, submerged structures of oil platforms and offshore renewable energy developments), with a particular emphasis on marine conservation, fisheries management, and marine protected areas.

Wendy Dixon

Wendy J. Dixon, Ph.D., Professor. Microbiology, Cell and Molecular Biology; Elucidation of phosphorylation pathways involved in regulating cell-cycle genes and initiatiing DNA replication in budding yeast; Location, movement and interactions of DNAreplication initiators during the cell cycle; Effect of over-expression of cell-cycle genes on cell growth and tumor formation.
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Douglas Durrant

Douglas M. Durrant, Ph.D., Assitant Professor. The long-term goal of our lab is to determine how dendritic cells (DCs) impact viral clearance and repair in the brain during viral encephalitis. We study West Nile virus, a neurotropic flavivirus, which has emerged as a significant cause of neuronal injury and inflammation in humans that can potentially result in death. Therefore, rapid, yet tightly controlled responses that restrict viral spread while limiting tissue damage within the brain are essential. In the brain, DCs are localized in an area between the periphery and the brain parenchyma, strategically positioning them to govern the trafficking and effector functions of infiltrating leukocytes. We want to elucidate the mechanisms utilized by these DCs to either contain viral spread or minimize immunopathology. Currently, we are interested in the CD11c+DEC205+ DC subset, which have been shown to be critical for effector T cell activation. Our hypothesis is that during WNV encephalitis, the local environment in which the DC-T cell interaction takes place provides critical inflammatory cues to support the development of the CD11c+DEC205+ to be fully immunogenic impacting on viral clearance. In addition, we hope to target the CD11c+DEC205+ DCs with a hybrid antibody that carries WNV peptide antigens and determine whether this boosts immunity during WNV encephalitis.

Sepehr Eskandari

Sepehr Eskandari, Ph.D., Professor. Physiology and Neuroscience. Research in this laboratory focuses on the brainγ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) transporters. These molecules are involved in the regulation of inhibitory neuronal signaling in the brain and, in addition, are the targets of several important experimental and clinical drugs. Because GABA is the most abundant inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, the GABA transporters are implicated in the treatment of epileptic seizures, and in the control of the devastating consequences of stroke. Our goal is to elucidate a comprehensive understanding of GABA transporter structure and function. In addition, we are interested in the nature of drug interaction with the GABA transporters. Our functional experiments examine wild-type, chimeric, and mutant transporters and are designed with the goal of gaining a deeper understanding of the mechanism of transport cycle. The pharmacological experiments focus on identifying the minimum substrate structural features needed for recognition and translocation by the transporter. The long-term goal of the pharmacological studies is to identify/develop compounds that selectively target various isoforms of the GABA transporters found in different brain regions. Such research will pave the way for localized pharmacological treatment of epileptic seizures, stroke, and other pathophysiological conditions in which neurons enter hyper-excited states. Electrophysiological (two-electrode voltage clamp, patch clamp, ion-selective electrodes), molecular and cell biological (site-directed mutagenesis, western blots, etc.), imaging (light and fluorescence microscopy, thin section and freeze-fracture electron microscopy), as well as isotope methods are used to achieve these goals.
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Frank Ewers

Frank Ewers, Ph.D., Professor. Plant ecology, anatomy and evolution. Water transport, plant structure and biomechanics are all examined to determine whether form follows function. Our research is on the structure, function and ecophysiology of plants. This includes especially the biology of chaparral shrubs of California, mangrove trees of Mexico, and temperate and tropical climbing plants. At Cal Poly Pomona the central focus to our research program will be on native and invasive plants of the Voorhis Ecological Reserve. We will explore the wood structure/function/ecology/evolution at the tissue, organ, whole plant, community and landscape levels. A central theme will be the functioning of native versus exotic species and examination of the conditions that result in invasions of the native plant community. 
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Kristine Hartney

Kristine Behrents Hartney , Ph.D., Professor. Experimental field studies. Marine biology, ecology of temperate water reef fishes, and fish/invertebrate associations. Desert/marine system parallels, population dynamics and patterns of sexual expression in Atriplex hymenelytra (Chenopodiaceae). Effects of teaching innovations on learning outcomes. 
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Glenn Kageyama

Glenn H. Kageyama, Ph.D., Professor. Neurobiology; Enzyme histochemistry, Electron microscopy. Developmental plasticity of central nervous system synapses. Development and plasticity of oxidative and glycolytic pathways in the central nervous system.
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Craig LaMunyon

Craig W. LaMunyon, Ph.D., Professor. Research in my lab deals primarily with the genetics of development in the nematode C. elegans. Our specific focus is the final stage of sperm development, the drastic cellular reorganization that accompanies sperm activation. A complex signaling pathway stimulates sperm activation, and my lab is identifying the gene products that participate in the signaling pathway. We have identified one gene product that inhibits activation until its inhibition is relieved by the signaling. Interestingly, this inhibitory gene product, SPE-4, is a homolog of the human protein Presenilin1, which when mutated causes early onset Alzheimer's Disease. By focusing on the functions of gene products involved in sperm cell development we can learn about human disease genes. Our lab also investigates vitamin transporters in C. elegans. We have investigated a knockout of the folate transporter FOLT-1. Knockout worms are sterile and metabolically compromised as a result of folate deficiency. Our results suggest that much of the detrimental phenotype is caused a build up of homocysteine, a toxic intermediate in folate metabolism. We have been able to improve the phenotype of the knockout mutants by supplementing them with thiamin, and amazingly, the worms upregulate thiamin uptake when they are folate deficient. Women with folate deficiency are at risk for having children with birth defects, and our results suggest that thiamin supplementation may be an effective therapy. We are also investigating the riboflavin transporter, which has an even more detrimental effect on worm phenotype when it is knocked out. We will soon begin using vitamin transporter knockouts as a novel means of controlling pest nematodes.
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Kristopher Lappin

A. Kristopher Lappin, Ph.D., Professor. The unifying theme of my research is the evolutionary ecomorphology of animals. In this field, one seeks to understand how the form and function of animals relates to how they interact with their environment. On the one hand, techniques in functional morphology, biomechanics, and physiology are used to study how animals work. On the other, animal-environment relationships, such as predator-prey interactions and social behavior, can be studied using techniques in behavioral ecology. The deciphering of the relationships between form/function and ecology/behavior can be achieved quantifying relevant animal performance measures, such as sprinting speed, jumping distance, and, my favorite, bite force. The characterization of animal performance, an emergent property of animal form and function, is a fundamental component of ecomorphological research. When ecomorphological patterns are examined in a comparative phylogenetic framework, one can test hypotheses of how the form and function of animals have evolved with regard to their behavioral ecology. 
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Joan Leong

Joan M. Leong , Ph.D., Professor. Plant-insect interactions; pollination ecology, agricultural crop pollination; biology and ecology of native bees, foraging behavior of bees, conservation and restoration of vernal pool habitats; plant reproductive biology. 
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Wei-Jen Lin

Wei-Jen Lin , Ph.D., Professor. Microbiology and bacterial pathogenesis. Molecular mechanisms of pathogenesis of bacteria and their toxins. Including biochemistry of bacterial toxins, antimicrobial controls, and regulation of gene expression.
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Junjun Liu

Junjun Liu, Ph.D., Associate Professor. This lab studies the molecular mechanism underlying the regulation of breast cancer cell invasion that is the initial step towards metastasis. The lab also studies the regulation of mitosis, particularly the events regulated by polo-like kinase 1 (Plk1), which plays a pivotal role in regulating the progression of mitosis and has recently emerged as a promising target for cancer therapy. Another area the lab is interested in is development of novel, rapid and sensitive diagnostic methods.
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Erin Questad

Erin Questad, Ph.D., Assistant Professor. Research questions in my lab relate to global change and the conservation of plant species diversity. My interests span several fields, including plant community ecology, restoration ecology, and invasion ecology. Three main questions of emphasis are: 1) How does environmental heterogeneity affect species diversity and conservation? 2) How has global change altered the interactions between native and invasive species? 3) How can plant functional traits guide the restoration of ecosystem processes?
An ongoing project in the lab addresses ecosystem restoration and endangered plant reintroduction in Hawaii and Southern California. This collaborative project combines high-resolution remote sensing data with field-based studies to improve restoration outcomes in dry ecosystems. A second project explores the impact of nitrogen deposition on invasion, restoration, and fire management in a grassland community in Southern California. 
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Bharti Sharma

Bharti Sharma, Ph.D., Assistant Professor. My research is broadly focused on the evolution of plant developmental genetic pathways with a particular focus on reproductive biology. The main focus of my lab is to understand the genetic programs controlling inflorescence development. I also seek to answer questions including: How do new organ identity pathways evolve? How do established genetic programs diversify following gene duplication? and how can molecular genetics inform on biological homology? Changes in organ identity are likely to involve elaboration or modification of the ABC model (a genetic model for floral organ identity). My research aims to apply molecular and genomic tools towards understanding the genetic and developmental pathways leading to novelty in floral structures. Research in my lab thus contributes towards a deeper understanding of evolutionary mechanisms involved in flower development.
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Jason Smith

Jayson Smith, Ph.D., Associate Professor. Dr. Smith is a marine conservation ecologist with particular interest in anthropogenic disturbances on ecosystem functioning and community structure of coastal habitats. Given the high population of humans in southern California, urban coastal ecosystems are subjected to numerous human impacts. Work in Smith's lab attempts to understand how these systems are changing and functioning in the face of these disturbances. Smith applies his conservation interests mostly to rocky intertidal ecosystems, focusing on invasive seaweeds; effects of human visitation; long-term change in community structure and dynamics; effects of climate change; restoration ecology, and environmental policy and management (such as Marine Protected Areas). The research questions addressed have implication in policy making decisions, particularly with current emphasis being placed on Ecosystem Based Management. Recently, focus has been placed on introduced seaweeds, including determining their impact on community structure, how they fit into native food webs, and examination of transport vectors.
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Jamie Snyder

Jamie C. Snyder, Ph.D., Assistant Professor. Research interests: Virology and Environmental Microbiology. My research explores the role of viruses in the evolution and ecology of microbes inhabiting natural environments. We believe that by further studying these interactions we will gain a deeper understanding of microbial population structure and evolution. In addition, we are working to describe in detail the first complete archaeal virus replication cycle. Recently, we determined that one archaeal virus (Sulfolobus turreted icosahedral virus – STIV) utilizes the same cellular proteins that HIV-1 uses during its replication cycle. We believe by further elucidating the replication cycles of STIV, we will achieve a better understanding of all archaeal viruses (maybe even bacterial and eukaryal viruses) and will be used to establish links between viruses infecting all the domains of life.
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Christos Stathopoulos

Christos Stathopoulos, Ph.D., Professor. Medical Microbiology; Molecular Biotechnology; Bacterial Pathogenesis; Vaccine Development. Current research projects in my laboratory focus on various aspects of the secretion of virulence factors in gram-negative bacterial pathogens and their role in microbial pathogenesis. The majority of our efforts are spent on (i) the elucidation of the molecular mechanism of autotransporter secretion across the gram-negative bacterial cell envelope (Type V secretion), (ii) the identification and characterization of novel virulence factors of Yersinia pestis, the causative agent of plague, and (iii) the identification of novel protective antigens for the development of vaccines against plague and infectious diseases caused by pathogenic E. coli strains. Our approaches include molecular biology methodologies, genomics, proteomics, and experiments with animals.
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Andrew Steele

Andrew D. Steele, Ph.D., Assistant Professor. How are activity and physiological rhythms entrained by feeding? This is an outstanding question in neuroscience that we seek to answer. Our work suggests that the neurotransmitter dopamine is crucial to establish food entrained circadian rhythms and that it is acting via dopamine receptor 1 neurons in the dorsal striatum. This research problem has important biomedical implications for obesity and anorexia as well as basic science interest in circadian time keeping and the neurobiology of behavior.

Robert Talmadge

Robert Talmadge, Ph.D., Professor. Primary research interests include identification of cellular mechanisms involved in skeletal muscle adaptation following chronic alterations in muscle activity, such as spinal cord injury, space flight, exercise and disease states such as muscular dystrophy and congestive heart failure. Other research interests include age-associated sarcopenia, comparative muscle physiology, regulation of muscle growth and neural adaptation of the spinal cord locomotor networks following spinal cord injury.
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Ángel Valdés

Ángel A. Valdés, Ph.D., Professor. Valdés' research focuses on the systematics and biogeography of opisthobranch mollusks. Opisthobranch mollusks, or seaslugs, are a diverse group of almost exclusively marine, hermaphroditic organisms. Sea slugs are closely related to pulmonate gastropods (terrestrial snails and slugs) and display remarkable adaptations to different environmental conditions in the ocean. About 6,000 species are known worldwide but new species are constantly been discovered and named. A particularly rich source of new species is the deep sea, which remains largely unexplored.

One of the key factors in the evolutionary success of opisthobranchs is their trend towards the reduction or loss of the shell. In order to protect their exposed bodies, opisthobranchs have developed chemical defenses, which they obtain from their prey or synthesize on their own, as well some remarkable cases of warning colorations and mimicry. Because their morphological plasticity, opisthobranchs are an ideal subject to the study of evolution.

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Yuanxiang (Ansel) Zhao

Yuanxiang (Ansel) Zhao, Ph.D., Associate Professor. Stem cell biology. We are interested in using human mesenchymal stem cells as our in vitro cellular model to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying human adipogenesis and osteogenesis, investigate human pluripotent stem cell culture requirements, and study cellular toxicity of selected pharmaceutical drugs and environmental chemicals.
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