Research in the Department of Biological Sciences

Faculty in the Biological Sciences Department run active research labs that provide opportunities for undergraduate and MS student researchers. Department labs publish in top journals, secure external research funding, and send lab graduates to competitive PhD and MD/PhD programs. You can find a description of the research occurring in the department below. (next to each lab you will find a G (graduate) and/or UG (undergraduate) denoting what level of student researchers work in the lab).

Ecology & Evolution

Ben Carter's lab studies plant physiological ecology, focusing on how climate and other abiotic factors shape variation and evolution of plant functional traits.

Susan Lambrecht's lab studies plant diversity. We are interested in documenting where species live, how they originate and the factors allowing them to coexist in nature. Research in the lab focuses on bryophyte diversity in California, but we also explore other plant lineages and other regions.

Miller Research Lab (G & UG)
Luke Miller's lab studies physiological ecology of rocky intertidal organisms, particularly how they cope with temperature variation and wave stress, under both current conditions and with future climate change. His research includes the development of custom electronic sensors for tracking animal and environmental conditions in the wave-swept intertidal and subtidal.

Shaffer Avian Physiology and Ecology Lab (G & UG)
Dr. Shaffer's Lab studies the physiological ecology of vertebrates, focused primarily on linkages between energy expenditure, behavior, and life history evolution in free-ranging birds. His lab uses a variety of novel data logging technologies to monitor behavior as well as conventional methods to measure energy expenditure and physiological performance. 

Molecular Biology

French Drosophila Genetics Lab (G & UG)

We study the effects of alcohol exposure on development using fruit flies as a genetic model. In addition, we study Drosophila courtship behavior, specifically focusing on how male fruit flies choose an appropriate mate. 

Soto Cell Biology Lab (UG) 

Julio Soto's research students investigate the potential anti-cancer properties of recombinant mojastin mutants (r-Moj_).  His lab has begun to elucidate signal transduction pathways that lead to the apoptotic death of r-Moj_ treated cells.  With the use of targeted knockdowns, confocal microscopy, QRT-PCR, and RNA sequencing, Soto's research students are making great strides in the discovery of a novel apoptotic pathway.

VanHoven Lab (G & UG)

We are interested in the molecular and genetic mechanisms of neural development and behavior in the microscopic nematode C. elegans.  Specifically, we are interested in neural circuit formation and function of the phasmid sensory circuit.  These studies may help us to understand neurological disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.

White Lab (G & UG)

The White Lab is interested in transcriptional and signal transduction pathways in normal and cancerous states. We have two main research areas (1) understanding the role that mastermind plays in gene regulation and (2) understanding how bioactive components found in the foods we eat target cancers. 

Microbiology

Abramson Immunology Lab (G & UG)

Tzvia Abramson's lab studies the immune responses to mucosal pathogens and inflammatory diseases. In particular we focus on respiratory infections such as whooping cough in mice and gut chronic inflammation in human. Additionally, we use mesenchymal stem cells as a cellular approach for these studies. Currently seeking talented graduate and undergraduate students with interest in immunology research.

Ouverney Lab (G & UG)

Our research focuses on the characterization of emerging uncultivable pathogenic Bacteria and Archaea associated with humans.  Most prokaryotes in natural environmental sites are thought to be uncultivable.  Some of these prokaryotes are also present in humans and have been recently associated with human diseases, such as bacteria in the Candidate Division TM7 associated with the oral disease periodontitis.  More specifically our research interests are to discover the natural sources of human-associated TM7 bacteria and to establish a TM7
bacterium model to further understand its role in the human body. 

Systems Physiology

Cargill’s Reproductive Physiology Laboratory (G & UG)
Shelley Cargill’s lab research involves the study of the female reproductive system in
mammalian species and how ovarian input influences overall aging. In particular my research involves how transplantation of young ovaries into aged female mice affects overall lifespan and the possible correlation between estrous cycling and increased lifespan in this research model.

VanHoven Lab (G & UG)

We are interested in the molecular and genetic mechanisms of neural development and behavior in the microscopic nematode C. elegans.  Specifically, we are interested in neural circuit formation and function of the phasmid sensory circuit.  These studies may help us to understand neurological disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.

Wilkinson Neurophysiology Lab (G & UG)

Katie Wilkinson's lab studies the muscle sensory neurons that innervate the muscle spindle and provide body position and movement information to the central nervous system. Her lab is currently studying the effect of obesity and inflammation on these proprioceptor neurons.