College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences
Bess Dalby, MOCB, Mosser Lab
Macrophages are cells of the innate immune system that are activated in response to a wide variety of external stimuli. Regulatory activation is one of the macrophage phenotypes that most interests our lab for its powerful anti-inflammatory effects. Since I joined the Mosser lab in January of 2013, I have been studying the molecular mechanisms underlying various macrophage activation states and how metabolic signaling pathways may play a central role.
Cora Johnston, BEES, Gruner Lab
My research evaluates how resource landscapes affect community formation and subsequent interactions, particularly regarding shifts in resource availability or use due to environmental change and organismal development. I am currently focusing on how shifting wetland ecosystems are affecting assembly and interactions between crab species along the tropical-temperate divide.
Carol Vieira, MOCB, Dinman Lab
Harley King, MOCB, Xiao Lab
Twelve percent of global crop failure is due to pathogens. Plants have evolved a two-tiered immune system resulting in the regulation of many genes. For example, in response to powdery mildew infection, more than 1500 genes are regulated in Arabidopsis thaliana. Among these regulated genes are RPW8.2, PP2C11, and 14-3-3lambda. Previous work in the Xiao lab discovered that RPW8.2 from Arabidopsis thaliana confers broad-spectrum resistance to powdery mildew disease caused by biotrophic fungal pathogens Golovinomyces cichoracearum spp. The RPW8.2 protein has been shown to be specifically targeted to the host-pathogen interfacial membrane termed the extrahaustorial membrane (EHM) whereby it activates defenses to constrain the fungal feeding structure named the haustorium. How RPW8.2 interacts with PP2C11 and 14-3-3lambda is not well understood. My experiments help characterize these interactions. Understanding plant responses to pathogens will be key to augmenting plants for increased protection
Jessica Goodheart, BEES, Collins/Cummings Lab
I am broadly interested in marine invertebrate evolution systematics and biogeography, but my main focus has been primarily on nudibranchs (sea slugs). My research is focused on understanding the evolution of a particular group of sea slugs (called Cladobranchia), because some species within this group, called aeolids, steal the defenses of the stinging animals they feed on, like jellyfish, sea anemones, corals and their relatives in the phylum Cnidaria! These defenses, tiny harpoon-like structures (called nematocysts) are extremely effective in deterring most predators of cnidarians, but aeolid sea slugs are able to not only defeat the venomous weapons, but also use these defenses to their advantage. My research at the University of Maryland is focused on understanding the evolutionary process that has allowed these slugs to steal and store cnidarian nematocysts to protect themselves.
Carly Muletz Wolz, BEES, Lips Lab
My broad interests pertain to microbial ecology, amphibian-microbial symbiosis, disease ecology and amphibian conservation. The main focus of my research is the skin of amphibians which is an ecosystem inhabited by diverse microbial communities. One aspect of this research is examining the ecological effects of an amphibian skin fungal pathogen on the other microbial organisms present on the amphibian skin. This fungal pathogen commonly known as the chytrid fungus is causing worldwide amphibian decline. Another aspect of my research is studying the bacteria that inhibit infection by the chytrid fungus and are thus considered mutualistic bacteria to the amphibian host. My research presents the opportunity to identify and test potential probiotics for use in conservation applications and to study ecological and evolutionary processes of amphibian skin microbial symbionts.
Steve Christensen, MOCB, Mosser Lab
Macrophages, cells involved in innate immunity, help fight pathogens, repair tissue, and regulate the immune system response. We are specifically studying how these cells respond to various stimuli, how to classify them, and how specific classifications can be used in therapeutic treatment. My work involves the mouse and human model systems as well as Leishmania, a prevalent tropical pathogen.
Steven Smith, CBBG, Ravel/El Sayed Labs
The vaginal microbiome has been implicated in a number of different women’s health issues, including susceptibility to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), thought to be partially a result of shifts in microbial community composition. Understanding which human gene expression factors best predict whether a woman will experience bacterial vaginosis (BV) may help in preventing STIs, since the interaction between human and microbe could drive microbial composition changes and thus BV status. As a second year PhD student in Dr. Jacques Ravel’s lab at the Institute for Genome Sciences in Baltimore, I study the immune response and human gene expression profiles associated with vaginal microbial compositions in BV. My ultimate goal is to predict bacterial vaginosis status given the expression of key mRNA or miRNA transcripts. I am currently collecting and sequencing biological samples in order to subsequently train statistical/computational models for predictive capabilities.
Susan Park-Oschner, MOCB, Zhu Lab
I am working on an influenza vaccine platform, using conserved influenza antigens. This method is designed as a mucosal vaccine, so that it will be effective at the site of infection, the respiratory system. This research has the potential to be used as a universal influenza vaccines, which is important to combat new strains and increased transmission that is becoming more prevalent.
Grace Capshaw, BEES, Carr Lab
My research interests bridge behavioral ecology and sensory biology to address the question: how do environmental conditions influence sensory structure, innervation, and performance in animals? I use a combination of lab and field work to study the extent of variation in sensory traits of plethodontid salamanders that inhabit ecologically disparate habitats. Of particular interest is the presence of intra- and inter-specific sensory variation of cave and surface-dwelling salamander populations. My study currently targets variation in hearing and vibration sensing: two modalities that may be under increased selection for phenotypic change in a visually-constrained habitat such as a cave.
Edward Hurme, BEES, Wilkinson/Moss Lab
I am generally interested in the evolution of social foraging. My approach is to try to answer the question: when do bats choose to search for food in a group vs. alone? Bats are known for roosting in social groups, but little is known about their level of sociality when foraging. Some species have been recorded flying in groups, yet the organization and motivation of this social foraging remains unclear. I plan to study the behavior of free flying bats using miniaturized GPS tags and other remote sensing devices to understand when it is beneficial to forage in groups vs independently.
Vasudevan Achuthan, MOCB, DeStefano Lab
Errors made during replication of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) has been a major contributing factor towards the evolution of the virus. However, the error rate of the viral polymerase (Reverse Transcriptase) is still not completely understood, with the error rate always observed to be higher under in vitro conditions than under cellular conditions. I study what drives down the error rate of the Reverse Transcriptase in cells. With the need to develop novel drugs to cure AIDS, it is very important to completely understand and establish the actual properties of Reverse Transcriptase, which is also the major anti-viral drug target.
Danielle Adams, BEES, Wilkinson Lab
Broadly I am interested in the evolution of mating behavior and sexually-selected communication signals. My current research examines the factors that influence extra-pair mate choice in the greater spear-nosed bat (Phyllostomus hastatus). While extra-pair mating is a well-studied behavior in many socially monogamous birds, relatively little is known about this behavior in socially polygynous species from other taxa. Through a combination of behavioral observations, genetic analyses, and chemical analyses of scent samples, I aim to understand which individuals engage in extra-pair mating and how they choose their mates.
Erika Tomei, CBMG, Wolniak Lab
My lab studies the mechanisms that regulate rapid development using spermatogenesis in the water fern Marsilea vestita as a model system. I am mainly interested in the processes that control spatial organization and polarity during development. Using our transcriptome, I found a large population of kinesins and hypothesized they would be important for regulating spatial organization because of the established role for kinesins in mitosis and cytoskeletal dynamics. Unlike animals, however, very little is known about specific kinesin motors in plants. I started by classifying the family of kinesins in Marsilea and have been able to identify specific kineisns that are independently required for regulating spatial organization, cell fate, and differentiation during development.