Danforth Chair of Biology - Biology, BCMB, Neuroscience
Office: Williams 281
- Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison 1990
- B.S., University of Cincinnati 1982
- BIOL 201: Gateway to Molecular & Cellular Biology
- BIOL 305: Cell Physiology
- BIOL 306: Genes & Genomes
- BCMB 303: Techniques in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
- BCMB 401: Introduction to Independent Study
My research focuses on the evolution of novel protein functions and can generally be described as evolutionary biochemistry or molecular evolution. Together with my students we work at both the protein and the physiological levels using different model organisms such the soil bacteria, Myxococcus, the nematode, C. elegans, and the fresh water protozoan, Paramecium. This flexibility allows students to ask questions about how genes evolve at different biological levels, such as genetic, biochemical, or physiological.
I work with students using the phosphagen kinase family hasa model system for asking questions about protein evolution. These well-studied proteins are important for energy homeostasis, particularly in muscle and nerve cells but they are found in all manner of animal cells, protozoa, and even some bacteria. They have evolved to utilize different substrates, display cooperativity, and exhibit different quaternary structures in the different systems. We are seeking to better understand the biochemical and genetic steps involved in changing the properties of a protein in a profound manner such that they exhibit new properties, such as being able to use new substrates or form higher order quaternary structures. Ultimately this work will help us better understand how we can engineer proteins to help us deal with a variety of societal and economic problems including, environmental clean-up or the industrial synthesis of valuable compounds.