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Due to the breadth of study in biology, and driven by a mission to educate our undergraduate and graduate students, the University of Dayton Department of Biology faculty has developed a wide spectrum of research interests. Additionally, this faculty plays a key role in one of the department's strongest differentiating aspects, that is, the way it integrates undergraduate and graduate education, especially in the research arena.

Faculty Research

Due to its nature and to its mission to undergraduate education, the Department of Biology has faculty whose research interests span a wide spectrum in biology. In recent years, the department's research has become more focused and competitive for external funding, and particularly within the fields of biomedical, environmental-ecological, genetics and molecular evolution and biosensor research. Our research projects have become quite competitive regionally and nationally, as evidenced by the success rate of our faculty members in securing external funding for their research from agencies such as NIH, NSF and others.

Dr. Jayne Robinson, Dr. Yvonne Sun, Dr. Mrigendra Rajput and Dr. Loan Bui represent our Microbiology group. Dr. Madhuri Kango-Singh, Dr. Karissa Krane, Dr. Amit Singh and Dr. Shirley Wright represent our Developmental, Cellular and Molecular Biology group. Dr. Pothitos Pitychoutis studies Neuroscience.

  • Dr. Loan Bui’s lab research focuses on developing cell-based models to understand the science of different detrimental diseases such as cancers, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases and investigating novel therapeutic options to treat patients suffering these health issues. The research is highly interdisciplinary and at the interface of cell biology, biomaterials, nano/micro-technology, and medicine. The research work covers a wide range of scientific and engineering areas, including micro-manufacturing, microfluidics, nanomaterials, cell/tissue engineering and drug delivery. Learn more
  • Dr. Madhuri Kango-Singh's research focuses on the molecular genetic mechanisms underlying tumor progression and metastasis. She uses the sophisticated genetics available in Drosophila to identify genes and genetic pathways that when defective contribute to the growth and spread of cancer cells. Given the conservation of genetic and cell biological pathways, the information generated from Drosophila is expected to inform knowledge about the underpinnings of human cancer. Learn more
  • Dr. Karissa Krane, a physiologist, studies lung physiology and the role of aquaporins in normal and diseased lung tissue, with an emphasis on asthma etiology.
  • Dr. Pothitos Pitychoutis a neuroscientist, studies the behavioral, neurochemical and molecular mechanisms underlying neuropsychiatric disorders and their treatment. A major research line of his lab concerns the sex-dependent neurobiological adaptations that underlie the actions of antidepressant drugs and stress at the preclinical level with the ultimate goal to identify novel targets for individualized and sex-oriented psychopharmacotherapies.
  • Dr. Mrigendra Rajput’s lab is focusing on host-RNA virus interactions. During infection, viruses modulate the host responses and at the same time host defense mechanisms influence the virus. Understanding the host-pathogen interaction provides critical information regarding RNA virus replication, disease pathophysiology and helps us in developing new targeted therapeutic interventions for viral infection.
  • Dr. Jayne Robinson studies how bacterial behavior is influenced by environmental signals and conditions. This research can shed light on how bacteria can colonize animal hosts and has applications in infections.
  • Dr. Amit Singh uses the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster to research the molecular, genetic, and environmental basis of normal eye development, and to elucidate the genes and molecules that when altered result in the genesis of birth defects in the eye. Learn more
  • Dr. Yvonne Sun's laboratory focuses on understanding how the foodborne pathogen, Listeria monocytogenes, responds to the chemical environment of the intestines. Specifically, her research addresses the molecular and metabolic mechanisms of how Listeria regulates virulence by oxygen and short chain fatty acids.
  • Dr. Shirley Wright's research is related to the cytoskeletal aspects of cell motility and fertilization.

Our biosensor faculty includes Dr. Karolyn Hansen and Dr. Jayne Robinson.

  • Dr. Karolyn Hansen's research focuses on the integration of biomolecular recognition with sensor devices, specifically sensor surface functionalization with molecular recognition elements for detection of biological and chemical analytes in aqueous solutions and gas phase. This research has application in national defense, medical diagnostics, environmental assessment, safety and security and forensics.

Our Molecular Genetics and Evolution group includes Dr. Mark Nielsen and Dr. Thomas Williams.

  • Dr. Mark Nielsen studies evolution at the molecular level using as a model proteins that have not evolved in millions of years. He asks fundamentally important questions such as why some functional genes continuously change and others do not.
  • Dr. Thomas William's lab studies the genetic and molecular mechanisms controlling animal form and it's evolution. Learn more

Studies on ecosystems, water conservation and interactions between individuals and populations are the themes of several of our faculty members. Our key research faculty in these areas include Dr. Albert Burky, Dr. Jennifer Hellmann, Dr. Chelse Prather and Dr. Ryan MMcEwan.

  • Dr. Albert Burky's laboratory has focused on the physiological adaptations of natural populations of invertebrates and fish and the anthropogenic perturbations of fresh water ecosystems in several countries of the Americas.
  • Dr. Jennifer Hellmann’s research focuses on the ways in which environmental variation can induce changes in behavior, physiology, and morphology (phenotypic plasticity). In particular, she uses fish as a model system to understand how transgenerational plasticity — when parental environments alter the phenotype of future generations — can program offspring for the environment they are likely to experience (with a particular interest on how parental predation risk prepares offspring for living in high predation environments). Learn more
  • Dr. Ryan McEwan's lab focuses on plants, plant communities and ecosystems, how they change through time, what causes those changes, and particularly, how human manipulation of ecosystems creates feedback. Research topics include invasive species and prescribed fire. Learn more
  • Dr. Chelse Prather studies the relative importance of factors that structure invertebrate communities and how the diversity of invertebrate communities affect how an ecosystem functions. Her research has been conducted in a variety of ecosystems from rainforests in Puerto Rico to rare grasslands in Texas. Learn more

Student Research

The UD department of biology has a long history of outstanding participation in the annual Stander Symposium. The Symposium serves as a venue for students of all disciplines to present their individual and collaborative research projects, often worked on for longer than the academic year. It features a keynote speaker, poster sessions, performances, art exhibits, and oral presentations. Honoring the late Bro. Joseph W. Stander, S.M., Professor of Mathematics and Provost (1974–1989), the Stander Symposium fosters the Marianist tradition of community and gives students the opportunity to learn from each other.

"The best part of Stander is the opportunity to have students from every discipline under one roof presenting," said undergraduate Madison Irwin, a biology major. "There's so many different projects and it’s a great thing to have it all in one place."

All UD students are invited to attend the Stander Symposium as an "alternative day of learning." Non-participating students are encouraged to attend the symposium to appreciate and learn from the research of their peers. For students presenting posters, discussing their work with students of other disciplines is another learning experience.

"I think the best thing about it is the fact that it forces you to really know your data and be able to talk about it at an intelligent level with the faculty that come by and ask you about it, as well as undergrads," said biology graduate student Eric Camino. "Can you discuss it with people in your field as well as with people in other studies? Can you explain why it’s relevant? I think that science, when you really understand it, can be explained on both levels within your field and outside it."

UD biology students have a unique experience in their research projects because of the all-inclusive collaboration with faculty members in the lab and presenting their findings, often for the first time, at the symposium.

"The department has grown, and the number of students participating in Stander has grown," said Dr. Jayne Robinson, UD biology professor. "It's an integral part of our curriculum because it’s one thing for students to go in the lab and do the work, but science doesn’t help the world if it’s not communicated. Students have to learn how to communicate their work, and their ultimate goal is to publish it, but one of the first stages is to go and present it at Stander. Often these students go on from doing the Stander Symposium and go to regional, national, and international meetings where they present their work."

UD biology students also appreciate having Stander Symposium as a springboard for their research.

"Projects evolve," said graduate student Sumant Grover. "The big questions remain the same, but your findings change the way you think about them. It's a good platform for conceiving what you want to do at international conferences, it’s a growing basis of your research and a good firsthand experience."

Faculty members in the biology department encourage participation in the symposium. The research component of the presentation fosters collaboration between undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty.

"We want the students in the laboratory," said Dr. Karolyn Hansen, UD biology professor. "It’s such a rich experience to have those different levels of research in the laboratory. The advisor, the mentor, is the driver and the focus of the lab. The grad students come in and learn from the mentor and choose really challenging projects, and the undergrads come in and learn from the graduate students… we foster that at a very high level."

For UD alumni, the involvement in Stander Symposium projects as undergraduate students had lasting impacts for them.

"While working in Dr. Krane's laboratory [at UD as an undergraduate] I collaborated with current Notre Dame graduate student Connor Ratycz and current UD graduate student Kyle McGrail," said Mark Hawk '14, a graduate student at University of Notre Dame. “It was a great experience to bounce ideas off of one another as well as help each other with certain protocols. Working with both Kyle and Connor has inspired me to work in science and continue to develop collaborations with fellow students, which in turn forges robust friendships."

"The part I enjoyed most about research was reading the primary literature and other studies that were previously performed in my field to construct my own hypothesis and develop experiments," said Ratycz.

Experiencing the research process firsthand can affirm their career choice for some students, and teach skills that will be critical in future careers as scientists.

"Students grow in experience, gain knowledge about themselves in what their strengths and weaknesses are which helps them decide their career path…" said Hansen. "I'd like to think that this experience has helped to shape them in their careers."

For Hawk, the experience certainly proved invaluable.

"Stander was a stepping-stone in developing my scientific communication skills," Hawk said. "It has enabled me to explain scientific data at the highest of standards as well as develop the professional side of scientific poster presentations. Stander reaffirmed my career choice of science management due to the enjoyment I have when talking about science."

At the conclusion of the symposium, projects done by UD biology students all have one thing in common: overwhelming success!

"When they're finished with Stander walking back with their poster under their arm and a smile on their face saying 'I did it', it's an attainment of a goal and it drives them to want to do the next thing because they've proved that they can do this kind of work…" said Hansen. "It's the realization that they can accomplish a project, present it, and feel really good about it."


Department of Biology

Science Center
300 College Park
Dayton, Ohio 45469 - 2320