Biomedical Sciences

Laura L. Bruce, PhD
Associate Professor
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Research Interests:  The work in my laboratory concerns the development of the nervous system. The development of connections in the visual and auditory systems are being studied to understand how structural and neurochemical changes affect functional development, in particular, the growth of axons to their target and formation of synapses. The developing and adult patterns of neural connections are being studied in reptiles as a basis for understanding the organization of the reptilian brain and how it relates to the evolution of amphibian and mammalian connections. 

For more information on Dr. Bruce: Website

Laura A. Hansen, PhD
Professor
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Our research is focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms that lead to skin cancer with the goal of using this information to develop novel, molecularly-targeted treatments. Her research employs a variety of cell and molecular biology techniques and involves students at many levels of their education.  

For more information on Dr. Hansen: Website

Tejbeer Kaur, PhD
Assistant Professor
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The overall goal of our research is to understand the biological mechanisms of degeneration, repair and survival of neurons in the mammalian auditory system with a long-term goal to develop therapies to preserve or restore hearing. We combine auditory neurophysiology, genetics, flow cytometry, sequencing, histology and advanced imaging techniques to investigate the potential role of innate-immune system and inflammation in auditory neuron degeneration, survival, and regeneration. We recently showed that innate-immune cells like macrophages promote auditory neuron survival and repair their synaptic connections in damaged ears.
(Kaur et al., Journal of Neuroscience, 2015; Kaur et al., Journal of Comparative Neurology, 2018; Kaur et al., Frontiers in Neuroscience, 2019).  

For more information on Dr. Kaur: Website

Kenneth L. Kramer, PhD 
Assistant Professor 
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Research Interests: All vertebrate cells are surrounded by a layer of sugars that mediate how cells interact with each other.  Our research is focused on understanding how changes to these sugars control development.  We use zebrafish as a model system, allowing us to easily see organs develop.  We are particularly interested in-ear and vascular development as similar sugars regulate these two distinct processes.

For more information on Dr. Kramer: Website.

Sandor Lovas, PhD 
Professor 
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Research Interests:  The three-dimensional (3D) shape of molecules determines their biological activities.  Therefore, we study the structure-biological activity relationships of peptides.  Our studies involve peptide syntheses and characterization followed by biological assays using cell cultures.  The 3D structure of peptides is stabilized by several intra- and inter-molecular interactions including the weakly polar interactions.  The role of the latter one in structure stabilization is not characterized yet, so, we use Molecular Dynamics simulations, ab initio quantum chemical calculations and bioinformatics techniques to describe their role in peptide/protein structures.  We also use spectroscopic techniques, including vibrational circular dichroism (VCD) and electronic CD, to study the conformational properties of peptides.  All the information gained during the structural studies is subsequently used to design bioactive analogs of peptides.

For more information on Dr. Lovas: Website

Brian J. North, PhD
Assistant Professor
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Research Summary: Aging is the single greatest risk factor for the development of a wide variety of diseases, yet the mechanistic basis driving this interrelationship remains largely undefined. We are interested in understanding how pathways, particularly those regulating protein homeostasis, control the manner in which we age at the cell and molecular level, and how dysregulation of these pathways leads to the development of disease. A majority of the work in our lab focuses on cancer, but we have an interest in cardiac conduction as well as Parkinson’s disease. We utilize a variety of model systems including cell culture, the nematode C. elegans, and mice, which provides a wide variety of options to involve students at any level of education in our research.

For more information on Dr. North: Website

D. David Smith, PhD
Associate Professor
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Research Interests:  My research covers all aspects of peptide chemistry. Current interests include (i) the relationship of the conformation and topography of calcitonin gene-related peptide to its biological activity, (ii) the development of a novel oxime linker with increased acid stability for the synthesis of all types of peptides and (iii) the isolation and structural characterization of hormones from Antarctic fishes.

For more information on Dr. Smith: Website

Garrett A. Soukup, PhD
Professor
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Research Interests: The normal development and maintenance of sensory hair cells and neurons in the inner ear are crucial to hearing. Researchers utilize the mouse as a model to study the inner ear because it is nearly identical to the human inner ear in terms of anatomy, physiology, development and molecular genetics. My laboratory is generally interested in microRNAs, many of which play important roles in regulating gene expression in the normal development of specific cell types. Specifically, we study microRNA-183 family members (miR-183, miR-96, and miR-182), which are required for proper formation and function of neurosensory cells in the inner ear and are important in other sensory organs and ganglia. We utilize knockout mice to examine the effects of miR-183 family loss-of-function and to determine the mechanisms by which these miRNAs support proper differentiation, maturation, function and maintenance of neurosensory cells.

For more information on Dr. Soukup: Website