Distinguished Scientist: James Wahl, Ph.D.

February 26, 2020

Image with caption: James Wahl, Ph.D.

James Wahl, Ph.D.

This profile is part of a series to highlight the researchers who will be honored at a ceremony for UNMC's 2019 Scientist Laureate, Research Leadership, Distinguished Scientist and New Investigator Award recipients.

  • Name: James Wahl, Ph.D.
  • Title: Professor, UNMC Department of Oral Biology, College of Dentistry
  • Joined UNMC: 2001
  • Hometown: Toledo, Ohio

Distinguished Scientist

The Distinguished Scientist Award -- which is sponsored by the chancellor -- recognizes researchers who have been among the most productive scientists at UNMC during the past five years.

Research focus:

  • Epithelial cell adhesion

The goal of my research is:

Our group studies the cells that make up skin as well as the cells that line the oral cavity. Specifically, we are interested in the protein complexes that allow these epithelial cells to interact with their neighbors and form a protective barrier. During wound healing cells interact with neighboring cells to close the wound. On the other hand, during tumor cell migration, the individual tumor cells "turn off" the adhesive complexes and allow the tumor cell to migrate (metastasize) to distant sites in the body. We are working to understand the molecular mechanisms regulating cell adhesion.

My research will make a difference because: Understanding how epithelial cells maintain connections to their neighbors and how these contacts are remodeled is an important foundational question. When we know the mechanisms controlling cell to cell interactions we can begin to understand processes like cancer cell metastasis, cutaneous wound healing and normal development.

The best advice I've ever been given is:

"Just do your own thing and don't worry about things you can't change."

Three things you may not know about me are:

  • This will be my 42nd summer racing BMX bicycles.
  • I hate to fly.
  • I hope to visit New Zealand someday.


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Songli Zhu
February 27, 2020 at 12:52 AM

Congratulations, Professor!

Bill Goodrich
February 26, 2020 at 1:00 PM

Congratulations Jim! I'm sorry to say there is no BMX path to New Zealand. You'll have to fly on that trip :)

Bryan Katafiasz
February 26, 2020 at 12:05 PM

Congratulations, Jim!

Jerrie Dayton
February 26, 2020 at 9:50 AM

This is a very important area to study and understand. I also hate to fly.

February 26, 2020 at 8:50 AM

Congratulations, Dr. Wahl!