Biological Sciences

Peter C. Angeletti, PhD
Associate Professor
Nebraska Center for Virology
E-mail

Research Interests:  My research is focused on three main topics relating to sexually transmitted Human papillomaviruses (HPVs). The first topic involves the analysis of cis and trans-acting signals required for stable replication of HPVs.  A second topic of interest is the analysis of the packaging requirements for HPVs.  A final area of interest for the lab is in discovery of the rates of genital HPV infection and genotypes present in HIV positive populations in Zambia, Africa.  In these studies we hope to determine if HIV plays a role in susceptibility to HPV infection and whether it influences progression of HPV lesions to cancer. 

For more information on Dr. Angeletti: Web Site 

Audrey L. Atkin, PhD
Vice Director and Associate Professor
E-mail 

Research Interests: The Atkin Lab studies gene regulatory mechanisms in eukaryotic model systems with the goal of understanding how cell and developmental biology is regulated. Using a combination of molecular genetic and systems biology approaches, they investigate the regulation of wild-type gene expression by the nonsense-mediated mRNA decay pathway, the regulation of morphogenesis of Candida albicans by quorum sensing and how dietary RNAs affect human gene expression.

For more information on Dr. Atkin: Web Site

Paul Blum, PhD
Professor
E-mail

Research Interests:  We study microbial extremophiles (Archaea) that live at temperature extremes in order to understand the limits and origins of life. Sulfolobus solfataricus is our model system and is an organism used in labs around the world. Research topics include 1) Gene expression and silencing involving the archaeal chromatin code and toxin/antitoxins; 2) Lesion bypass DNA polymerase; 3) Biomining and metal resistance; and 4) Bioenergy enzyme engineering. Our experimental approaches employ genetics, molecular biology and biochemistry that integrate DNA expression arrays and proteomics.

For more information on Dr. Blum: Web Site

Heriberto Cerutti, PhD
Professor
E-mail

Research Interests:  The Cerutti Lab studies the biological roles and the mechanisms of RNA interference (RNAi), an evolutionarily conserved process in plants, fungi, and animals. While the complete details of how RNAi works are still unknown, it appears that the machinery, once it finds a double-stranded RNA molecule, cuts it up into small RNAs, separates the two strands, and then proceeds to destroy other single-stranded RNA molecules that are complementary to one of those segments. Since many viruses produce double-stranded RNA as part of their life cycle, it is becoming apparent that RNAi has important roles in viral defense and transposon silencing. Cells also employ the RNAi machinery to regulate endogenous gene activity. Perhaps more exciting, however, is the emerging use of RNAi as a tool to knock out expression of specific genes on a genomic scale, to learn about their normal function and potential role in diseases. Moreover, RNAi is also being tested as a therapeutic approach for treating genetic diseases.

For more information on Dr. Cerutti: Web Site

Eileen Hebets, PhD
Associate Professor
E-Mail

Research Interests: My research program focuses on understanding the diversity associated with communication systems, with much of my current concentration on intra-specific communication relating to reproductive behavior. Research in my laboratory uses various arachnid groups to ask questions relating to the evolution and function of animal signals.

For more information on Dr. Hebets: Web Site

Qingsheng Li, PhD
Associate Professor
Nebraska Center for Virology
E-Mail

Research Interests: Qingsheng’s research focuses on better understanding the interaction of human immunodeficiency virus type-1 (HIV-1) with its host in the earliest infection to elucidate key steps and critical events in the mucosal transmission of HIV-1, to identify correlates of protection, and ultimately to develop an effective anti-viral topical microbicide and vaccine.

For more information on Dr. Li: Web Site 

Colin Meiklejohn
Assistant Professor
Email

Summary: My lab studies evolutionary genetics using the model genetic organism Drosophila. We use classical, molecular and population genetics methods as well as functional and comparative genomics to study divergence between species and disrupted gene interactions in species hybrids. We are currently studying the genetic basis of speciation, regulatory evolution, and co-evolution between nuclear and mitochondrial genomes.

Kristi Montooth
Associate Professor
Email

Summary: Our research connects genome variation to organismal phenotypes and fitness to understand:
  1. how physiological traits evolve to fit organisms to their ecologies, and
  2. how evolutionary forces shape the genetic and biochemical pathways underlying physiological change.

The pathways of physiology provide systems of genes that link genetic variation and divergence to whole-organism physiological performance traits, such as development rate, metabolic rate, flight velocity, ethanol tolerance and stress responses. Our research integrates experimental, comparative, quantitative genetic, population genetic/genomic, bioinformatic and classical genetic approaches to link genes to their evolutionarily and ecologically significant function.

Etsuko Moriyama, PhD
Associate Professor
E-Mail

Research Interests:  I am interested in bioinformatics, molecular evolution, and molecular population genetics. Owing to many genome projects, almost infinite amount of molecular data is becoming available. They are filled with evolutionary footprints. My interest revolves around mining such information from sequence data, reconstructing the evolutionary process of sequences, genes, and genomes, and applying knowledge we gain from these analyses for protein function prediction and gene mining.

For more information on Dr. Moriyama: Web Site 

Hideaki Moriyama, PhD
Associate Professor
Email

Research Interests:  Relationships between planetary-scale changes in the environment and biological adaptation are of important concern.  The long-term goal of my research is to elucidate mechanisms of biological adaptation and to predict the future form of organisms through the atomic description of biological macromolecules.  To approach this goal, I am proposing a concept of “temperature driven evolution,” in which I try to organize information and to model the biological system along physical factors including temperature.

For more information on Dr. Moriyama: Web Site

Kenneth W. Nickerson, PhD
Professor
E-Mail

Research Interests:  My interests focus on microbial physiology and biochemistry of bacteria and fungi. The main thrusts to our research are: 1/ Bacterial resistance to detergents such as SDS and organic solvents. 2/ The microbial insecticides like the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis. and 3/ Quorum sensing in fungal dimorphism. Current research concerns the role of farnesol in determining yeast-mycelial dimorphism Candida albicans. Quorum sensing is really cell density determination by single celled organisms. Our breakthrough discovery was that C. albicans excretes farnesol as a quorum sensing molecule

 For more information on Dr. Nickerson: Web Site

Karrie A. Weber, PhD
Assistant Professor
E-Mail

Research Interests: Two-thirds of all microbial life on Earth lives in soils and the continental subsurface (including groundwater—Nebraska’s drinking water).  The microorganisms that live in these environments influence the quality of our soil and water which can directly impact human health.  Research in the Weber laboratory focusses on the microorganisms that live in these environments and how they change the chemistry.  These changes in environmental chemistry can have impacts that i) can either remove toxic chemicals or alternatively can create a problem or provide nutrients to plants and other organisms.  We monitor the change in microbial community structure using metaomics techniques concurrent with the changes in chemical reactions occurring in these environment.  We also use traditional microbiological techniques isolating unique microorganisms and describing previously unidentified microbial physiologies.  Elements of particular interest in our laboratory research are those that are essential to human and plant health such as carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and iron and those that can create problems to human health such as nitrogen (nitrate), uranium, and arsenic. 

For more information on Dr. Weber: Web Site

Charles Wood, PhD
Professor
Nebraska Center for Virology
E-Mail
 
Research Interests: The Wood laboratory focuses on HIV/AIDS and AIDS associated cancers in Africa. The lab studies the transmission and evolution of HIV, and the risk factors that are involved. Research involves collaboration with University Teaching Hospital in Zambia and the Ocean Road Cancer Institute in Tanzania, countries in Africa where HIV/AIDS and AIDS associated cancers such as Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS) are prevalent. They study neuroAIDS and whether the brain can serve as an HIV reservoir, how HIV is transmitted from mothers to their infants, and how the virus evolves into new strains to develop drug resistance in infected individuals in Zambia. A parallel project is to study the transmission of a human herpesvirus, known as the Kaposi’s sarcoma virus in both Zambia and Tanzania, which is linked to KS in AIDS patients. The focus is to determine how frequent is the infection by this virus, its route of transmission, the mechanism that this viruses causes cancer and how HIV acts as a co-factor, especially in AIDS patients.

For more information on Dr. Wood: Web Site

Luwen Zhang, PhD
Associate Professor
Nebraska Center for Virology
E-Mail

Research Interests:  Dr. Luwen Zhang’s laboratory studies the transformation processes. Epstein-Barr virus is (EBV) a human herpesvirus of increasing medical importance. EBV infection has been associated with the development of several human cancers. In immunocompromised individuals, such as organ transplant recipients or AIDS patients, EBV almost certainly causes two fatal cancers: post-transplantation lymphoproliferative disorder (PTLD) and AIDS-associated central nerve system (CNS) lymphoma.  The Zhang lab tackles the problems related to how virus interacts with cell, and transforms normal cells into cancerous ones.  Also, potential treatment of human cancers is also on their agenda. Zhang lab has been testing a novel approach to specifically block the viral transformation events that lead to the development of human cancers.

For more information on Dr. Zhang: Web Site

Clay Cressler
Assistant Professor
Email

My research focuses on understanding how ecological and evolutionary dynamics are shaped by the cross-scale interaction between individual-level and population-level processes. Currently, I am studying how host diet influences within-host and between-host disease processes, ultimately shaping host and parasite evolution. Because both the immune system and parasites require host resources, diet has a fundamental but often overlooked role in regulating the outcome of infection. Moreover, diet generates feedbacks between within-host and among-host processes.

For more information on Dr. Cressler: Lab

Wayne Riekhof
Assistant Professor
Email 

Research in my lab focuses on using microbial eukaryotic model organisms as systems to study various aspects of lipid metabolism, including membrane lipid and fatty acid trafficking between organelles, the regulation of membrane lipid and triglyceride synthesis, and the regulation of lipid droplet assembly and morphology.