Faculty Database:
[ Phd Program: Biology ]

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NameEmailPhd ProgramResearch InterestsPublications
Ahmed, Shawn email , , , , , publications

Our research group utilizes the nematode C. elegans to investigate germ cell immortality: mechanisms that allow germ cells remain eternally youthful as they are transmitted from one generation to the next. We also study how telomerase functions at chromosome termini, as well as the consequences of telomere dysfunction.

Baldwin, Albert S. email , , , , , , publications

Our laboratory studies an amazing regulatory factor known as NF-kappaB. This transcription factor controls key developmental and immunological functions and its dysregulation lies at the heart of virtually all major human diseases.

Bautch, Victoria email , , , , , , publications

Blood vessel formation in cancer and development; use mouse culture (stem cell derived vessels) and in vivo models (embryos and tumors); genetic, cell and molecular biological tools; how do vessels assemble and pattern?, dynamic image analysis.

Bloom, Kerry email , , , , , , publications

Our objective is to understand the dynamic and structural properties of chromosomes during mitosis.  We use live cell imaging techniques to address how kinetochores are assembled, capture microtubules and promote faithful segregation of chromosomes.

Burch, Christina email , , , , , publications

Experimental Evolution of Viruses.  We use both computational and experimental approaches to understand how viruses adapt to their host environment.  Our research attempts to determine how genome complexity constrains adaptation, and how virus ecology and genetics interact to determine whether a virus will shift to utilizing new host.  In addition, we are trying to develop a framework for predicting which virus genes will contribute to adaptation in particular ecological scenarios such as frequent co-infection of hosts by multiple virus strains.  For more information, and for advice on applying to graduate school at UNC, check out my lab website www.unc.edu/~cburch/lab.

Burmeister, Sabrina S. email , , , , publications

Sensory neurobiology of animal communication, sensory-endocrine interactions and evolution of the brain.

Conlon, Frank email , , , , , , publications

Our lab is studying the molecular mechanisms which are involved in the induction and proliferation and patterning of cardiac progenitor cell populations. To identify the molecular pathways involved in these processes, we have used Xenopus and mouse as model systems with particular focus on the endogenous role of genes implicated in the early steps of cardiogenesis and human congenital heart disease. Present projects in the lab involve embryological manipulations, tissue explant cultures, molecular screens as well as protein-DNA interaction experiments, biochemistry and promoter analysis.

Copenhaver, Gregory P. email , , , , , publications

The primary research area my lab is the regulation of meiotic recombination at the genomic level in higher eukaryotes.  Genomic instability and disease states, including cancer, can occur if the cell fails to properly regulate recombination.  We have created novel tools that give our lab an unparalleled ability to find mutants in genes that control recombination. We use a combination of genetics, bioinformatics, computational biology, cell biology and genomics in our investigations.  A second research area in the lab is the role of centromere DNA in chromosome biology.  We welcome undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and visiting scientists to join our team.

Crews, Stephen email , , , , , , publications

Research in the lab is focused on a genetic, cellular, and molecular understanding of Drosophila developmental neuroscience, including the following research areas – (1) Neuronal formation and differentiation, (2) Glial formation, migration, and axon-glial interactions, (3) Synaptic connectivity, and (4) Transcriptional regulation.

Dangl, Jeff email , , , , , , , publications

We use the premier model plant species, Arabidopsis thaliana, and real world plant pathogens like the bacteria Pseudomonas syringae and the oomycete Hyaloperonospora parasitica to understand the molecular nature of the plant immune system, the diversity of pathogen virulence systems, and the evolutionary mechanisms that influence plant-pathogen interactions. All of our study organisms are sequenced, making the tools of genomics accessible.

Dowen, Jill email , , , , , , publications

My lab studies how genes function within the three-dimensional context of the nucleus to control development and prevent disease. We combine genomic approaches (ChIP-Seq, ChIA-PET) and genome editing tools (CRISPR) to study the epigenetic mechanisms by which transcriptional regulatory elements control gene expression in embryonic stem cells.  Our current research efforts are divided into 3 areas: 1) Mapping the folding pattern of the genome 2) Dynamics of three-dimensional genome organization as cells differentiate and 3) Functional analysis of altered chromosome structure in cancer and other diseases.

Duronio, Bob email , , , , , publications

My lab studies how cell proliferation is controlled during animal development, with a focus on the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms that regulate DNA replication and gene expression throughout the cell cycle. Many of the genes and signaling pathways that we study are frequently mutated in human cancers. Our current research efforts are divided into three areas:  1) Plasticity of cell cycle control during development  2) Histone mRNA biosynthesis and nuclear body function  3) Epigenetic control of genome replication and function

Furey, Terry email , , , , , publications

The Furey Lab is interested in understanding gene regulation processes in specific cell types, especially with respect to complex phenotypes, and the effect of genetic and environmental variation on gene regulation. We have explored these computationally by concentrating on the analysis of genome-wide open chromatin data generated from high-throughput sequencing experiments; and the development of statistical methods and computational tools to investigate underlying genetic and biological mechanisms of complex phenotypes. Our current projects include determining the molecular effects of exposure to 1,3-butadiene, a known carcinogen, on chromatin, gene regulation, and gene expression in lung, liver, and kidney tissues of genetically diverse mouse strains. We are also exploring chromatin, transcriptional, and microbial changes in inflammatory bowel diseases to identify biomarkers of disease onset, severity, and progression.

Gladfelter, Amy email , , , , , publications

We study large multinucleate cells such as fungi, muscle and placenta to understand how cells are organized in time and space.  Using quantitative live cell microscopy, biochemical reconstitution and computational approaches we examine how the physical properties of molecules generate spatial patterning of cytosol and scaling of cytoskeleton scaffolds in the cell cycle.

Goldstein, Bob email , , , , , , publications

We address fundamental issues in cell and developmental biology, issues such as how cells move to specific positions, how the orientations of cell divisions are determined, how the mitotic spindle is positioned in cells, and how cells respond to cell signaling – for example Wnt signaling, which is important in development and in cancer biology. We are committed to applying whatever methods are required to answer important questions. As a result, we use diverse methods, including methods of cell biology, developmental biology, forward and reverse genetics including RNAi, biochemistry, biophysics, mathematical and computational modeling and simulations, molecular biology, and live microscopy of cells and of the dynamic components of the cytoskeleton – microfilaments, microtubules, and motor proteins. Most experiments in the lab use C. elegans embryos, and we have also used Drosophila and Xenopus recently. C. elegans is valuable as a model system because of the possibility of combining the diverse techniques above to answer a wide array of interesting questions. We also have a project underway to develop a new model system for studying how cellular and developmental mechanisms evolve, using little-studied organisms called water bears. Rotating graduate students learn to master existing techniques, and students who join the lab typically grow their rotation projects into larger, long term projects, and/or develop creative, new projects.

Grant, Sarah email , , , , , publications

Our research goal is to understand how bacterial pathogens cause disease on their hosts. We are working with a plant pathogen, Pseudomonas syringae which introduces virulence proteins into host cells to suppress immune responses. Our laboratory collaborates with Jeff Dangl’s lab in the UNC Biology Department using genomics approaches to identify P. syringae virulence proteins and to discover how they alter plant cell biology to evade the plant immune system and cause disease.

Hedrick, Tyson email , , publications

Research in my laboratory focuses on how animals produce and control movement, with a particular interest in animal flight.  We use both computational and experimental techniques to examine how organismal components such as the neuromuscular and neurosensory systems interact with the external environment via mechanics and aerodynamics to produce movement that is both accurate and robust.  Keywords: biomechanics, flight, avian, insect, neural control, muscle, locomotion, computational modeling

Jones, Alan email , , , , , , , publications

The Jones lab is interested in heterotrimeric G protein-coupled signaling and uses genetic model systems to dissect signaling networks.  The G-protein complex serves as the nexus between cell surface receptors and various downstream enzymes that ultimately alter cell behavior. Metazoans have a hopelessly complex repertoire of G-protein complexes and cell surface receptors so we turned to the reference plant, Arabidopsis thaliana, and the yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, as our models because these two organisms have only two potential G protein complexes and few cell surface receptors.  Their simplicity and the ability to genetically manipulate genes in these organisms make them powerful tools.  We use a variety of cell biology approaches, sophisticated imaging techniques, 3-D protein structure analyses, forward and reverse genetic approaches, and biochemistries.

Jones, Corbin email , , , , , , publications

The goal of my research is to identify, clone, and characterize the evolution of genes underlying natural adaptations in order to determine the types of genes involved, how many and what types of genetic changes occurred, and the evolutionary history of these changes. Specific areas of research include: 1) Genetic analyses of adaptations and interspecific differences in Drosophila, 2) Molecular evolution and population genetics of new genes and 3) Evolutionary analysis of QTL and genomic data.

Kieber, Joe email , , , , , publications

Hormones influence virtually every aspect of plant growth and development. My lab is examining the molecular mechanisms controlling the biosynthesis and signal transduction of the phytohormones cytokinin and ethylene, and the roles that these hormones play in various aspects of development. We employ genetic, molecular, biochemical, and genomic approaches using the model species Arabidopsis to elucidate these pathways.

Kier, William email , , , publications

I am interested in the comparative biomechanics of marine invertebrates.  In particular, I study the functional morphology of musculoskeletal systems, the structure, function, development and evolution of muscle, and invertebrate zoology, with particular emphasis on the biology of cephalopod molluscs (octopus and squid).  My research is conducted at a variety of levels and integrates the range from the behavior of the entire animal to the ultrastructure and biochemistry of its tissues.

Laederach, Alain email , , , , , publications

The Laederach Lab is interested in better understanding the relationship between RNA structure and folding and human disease. We use a combination of computational and experimental approaches to study the process of RNA folding and in the cells. In particular, we develop novel approaches to analyze and interpret chemical and enzymatic mapping data on a genomic scale. We aim to fundamentally understand the role of RNA structure in controlling post-transcriptional regulatory mechanisms, and to interpret structure as a secondary layer of information (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v505/n7485/full/505621a.html).  We are particularly interested in how human genetic variation affects RNA regulatory structure. We investigate the relationship between disease-associated Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms occurring in Human UTRs and their effect on RNA structure to determine if they form a RiboSNitch.

Maddox, Amy Shaub email , , , , , , , publications

My research philosophy is summed up by a quote from Nobelist Albert Szent-Gyorgyi: “Discovery is to see what everybody has seen and to think what nobody has thought.” My lab studies the molecular and physical mechanisms of cell shape change during cytokinesis and tissue biogenesis during development. Specifically, we are defining how cells ensure proper alignment and sliding of cytoskeletal filaments, and determining the shape of the cell throughout division. To do so, we combine developmental biology, cell biology, biochemistry, and quantitative image analysis.

Maddox, Paul S. email , , , publications

My research program is centered on understanding fundamental aspects of cell division. During cell division, complex DNA-protein interactions transform diffuse interphase chromatin into discrete mitotic chromosomes, condensing them several thousand fold to facilitate spatial segregation of sister chromatids. Concomitantly, kinetochores form specifically at centromere regions of chromosomes and regulate force-producing interactions with microtubules. While these processes are absolutely required for genomic stability, the in vivo mechanisms of chromosome and kinetochore assembly remain unsolved problems in biology. I investigate 1) the spatiotemporal regulation of mitotic chromosome assembly, and 2) the molecular basis of centromere specification. To do so, I will combine biochemical approaches with high-resolution light microscopy of live cells, whole organisms, and in vitro systems.

Marzluff, William email , , , , , , , , , publications

We are interested in the mechanisms by which histone protein synthesis is coupled to DNA replication, both in mammalian cell cycle and during early embryogenesis in Drosophila, Xenopus and sea urchins.

Matera, Greg email , , , , , , , publications

Research in our laboratory is focused on RNA. We aim to understand how ribonucleoprotein particles (snRNPs, mRNPs, etc.) are transcribed, packaged and transported to their final destinations in the cell.  We are also interested in the genetic and epigenetic forces that direct formation of microscopically visible subcellular structures (e.g. nuclear bodies). We use a combination of approaches, including Drosophila genetics, molecular cell biology, biochemistry, digital imaging microscopy and genome-wide analyses. Projects in the lab are focused on two areas:  models of a neurogenetic disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) and the functional analysis of post-translational modifications of chromatin and RNA-binding proteins important in cancer and other diseases.

Matson, Steven email , , , , publications

Research in our laboratory is focused on the enzymatic mechanisms and biological roles of DNA helicases which convert duplex DNA to ssDNA for use as a template in DNA replication and repair or as a substrate in recombination.  Defects in genes encoding DNA helicases have been linked to genomic instability leading to a variety of progeriod disorders and human cancers. Our long-range goal is to understand the mechanism of action of helicases and to define their roles in DNA metabolism. The lab also has an interest in the process of DNA transfer by bacterial conjugation – the unidirectional and horizontal transmission of genetic information from one cell to another. Conjugative DNA transfer plays a role in increasing genetic diversity in addition to propagating the spread of antibiotic resistance and microbial virulence factors. Our long-range goal is to define the function and regulation of the relaxosome, and each protein in this nucleoprotein complex, in conjugative DNA transfer.

McKay, Daniel email , , , , , , publications

Research in the lab focuses on how a single genome gives rise to a variety of cell types and body parts during development. We use Drosophila as a model organism to investigate (1) how transcription factors access DNA to regulate complex patterns of gene expression, and (2) how post-translational modification of histones contributes to maintenance of gene expression programs over time. We combine genomic approaches (e.g. chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by high-throughput sequencing) with Drosophila genetics and transgenesis to address both of these questions. Defects in cell fate specification and maintenance of cell identity often occur in human diseases, including cancer.

Miller, Laura email , , , , , publications

Miller’s research group focuses on topics in integrative biophysics: physics applied to biology at the level of cells to organisms. In particular, the group is interested in the role of fluid forces during locomotion and morphogenesis. One ongoing project is focused on understanding the aerodynamics of flight in the smallest insects. Another current project investigates the role of fluid forces during the development of the embryonic vertebrate heart.

Mitchell, Charles email , , , , publications

My work focuses on the role of plant pathogens in (A) controlling or facilitating biological invasions by plants, (B) structuring plant communities, and (C) modulating the effects of global change on terrestrial ecosystems.  My group works on viruses, bacteria, and fungi that infect wild plants, chiefly grasses and other herbaceous species. Ultimately, I am interested in the implications of these processes for the sustainable provisioning of ecosystem services and for the conservation of biological diversity.

Nimchuk, Zachary email , , , , , , publications

Understanding how cells communicate and co-ordinate during development is a universal question in biology. My lab studies the cell to cell signaling systems that control plant stem cell production.  Plants contain discrete populations of self-renewing stem cells that give rise to the diverse differentiated cell types found throughout the plant.  Stem cell function is therefore ultimately responsible for the aesthetic and economic benefits plants provide us. Stem cell maintenance is controlled by overlapping receptor kinases that sense peptide ligands. Receptor kinase pathways also integrate with hormone signaling in a complex manner to modulate stem cell function.  My lab uses multiple approaches to dissect these networks including; genetics, genomics, CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing, live tissue imaging, and cell biological and biochemical methods.  This integrated approach allows us to gain an understanding of the different levels at which regulatory networks act and how they contribute to changes in form and function during evolution.

Peet, Robert email , , , , publications

My research focuses on plant community ecology and such related fields as plant geography, conservation biology, ecoinformatics and plant population ecology. I am particularly interested in how plant communities are assembled and vary across landscapes.   Toward this end I am helping define the emerging discipline of ecoinformatics through development of international databases and standards for large-scale data integration and exchange.  My current research on the vegetation of the Southeastern United States includes on-going studies of the long-term dynamics of Southeastern forests, human impacts on floodplain ecosystems, targets for restoration, and more generally factors influencing the composition and species diversity of terrestrial plant communities across a range of spatial scales.

Peifer, Mark email , , , , , , , publications

Cell adhesion, signal transduction, and cytoskeletal regulation during embryogenesis and in cancer.  We focus on the regulation of cadherin-based cell-cell adhesion, and on Wnt signaling and its regulation by the tumor suppressor APC.

Reed, Jason email , , , , , publications

Regulation of plant development:  We use techniques of genetics, molecular biology, microscopy, physiology, and biochemistry to study how endogenous developmental programs and exogenous signals cooperate to determine plant form.  The model plant Arabidopsis thaliana has numerous technical advantages that allow rapid experimental progress.  We focus on how the plant hormone auxin acts in several different developmental contexts.  Among questions of current interest are i) how auxin regulates patterning in embryos and ovules, ii) how light modifies auxin response, iii) how feedback loops affect kinetics or patterning of auxin response, iv) how flower opening and pollination are regulated, and v) whether natural variation in flower development affects rates of self-pollination vs. outcrossing.

Rogers, Steve email , , , , , , publications

The research in our lab is centered on understanding the mechanisms and principles of movement at the cellular level. Cytoskeletal filaments – composed of actin and microtubules – serve as a structural scaffolding that gives cells the ability to divide, crawl, and change their shape.  Our lab uses a combination of cell biological, biochemical, functional genomic, and  high resolution imaging techniques to study cytoskeletal dynamics and how they contribute to cellular motion.

Searles, Lillie L. email , , publications

My lab is interested in mechanisms that (1) fine tune gene expression and (2) coordinate transcription and RNA processing in eukaryotes. Our work is based on molecular, genetic and biochemical analysis of the suppressor of sable gene of Drosophila.

Sekelsky, Jeff email , , , , publications

Genome instability is a major cause of cancer. We use the model organism Drosophila melanogaster to study maintenance of genome stability, including DNA double-strand break repair, meiotic and mitotic recombination, and characterization of fragile sites in the genome.  Our primary approaches are genetic (forward and reverse, transmission and molecular), but we are also using biochemistry to study protein complexes of interest, genomics to identify fragile sites and understand the regulation of meiotic recombination, fluorescence and electron microscopy for analysis of mutant phenotypes, and cell culture for experiments using RNA interference.

Shank, Elizabeth email , , , , , , publications

My laboratory studies chemically mediated interactions between microbes, particularly those that lead to alterations in bacterial development. In the natural world, interspecies chemical communication contributes to the stability and function of complex microbial communities. We explore the mechanisms and molecules that microbes use to influence their microbial neighbors both in the laboratory and in natural environments using genetics, microscopy, chemical imaging, and next generation sequencing. Our goal is to gain insights into microbial ecology, identify compounds with novel bioactivities, and obtain chemical tools to manipulate bacterial behavior to our benefit.

Shiau, Celia email , , , , , , , publications

The Shiau Lab is integrating in vivo imaging, genetics, genome editing, functional genomics, bioinformatics, and cell biology to uncover and understand innate immune functions in development and disease. From single genes to individual cells to whole organism, we are using the vertebrate zebrafish model to reveal and connect mechanisms at multiple scales. Of particular interest are 1) the genetic regulation of macrophage activation to prevent inappropriate inflammatory and autoimmune conditions, and 2) how different tissue-resident macrophages impact vertebrate development and homeostasis particularly in the brain and gut, such as the role of microglia in brain development and animal behavior.

Slep, Kevin email , , , , , , , publications

Our lab examines cytoskeletal dynamics, the molecules that regulate it and the biological processes it is involved in using live cell imaging, in vitro reconstitution and x-ray crystallography.  Of particular interest are the microtubule +TIP proteins that dynamically localize to microtubule plus ends, communicate with the actin network, regulate microtubule dynamics, capture kinetochores and engage the cell cortex under polarity-based cues.

Sockman, Keith W email , , , , , publications

I study the ultimate and proximate factors controlling flexibility in reproductive behavior. Using songbirds as a system, I use field and laboratory studies to investigate the ecological cues regulating reproductive flexibility, the neural integration of these cues, and the neural mechanisms precipitating adaptive behavioral outcomes. Of particular interest is the study of courtship and mate-choice behavior and how the songbird brain integrates ecological and social information. I am also interested in how the timing of reproduction, reproductive effort, and family planning are controlled. I use high performance liquid chromatography for the measurement of central catecholamines and immunocytochemistry and microscopy for quantifying neuropeptides and the expression of immediate early genes as markers of neural activity.

Stafford, Darrel W. email , , , publications

My laboratory at present is working on the vitamin K cycle and vitamin K-dependent proteins.  The enzymes of the vitamin K cycle include, at a minimum two integral membrane proteins, both of which were purified and cloned by my laboratory.  One, the vitamin K epoxide reductase is the target of warfarin for which 40 million prescriptions are written each year in the US alone.  Polymorphisms in this gene are the best example to date of the use of genomics in molecular medicine.  We are also interested in purifying any additional components of this cycle and trying to understand the ~50% of patients whose genotype is not informative about warfarin dose.  In addition, we are interested in the mechanism of how factor VIIa works and the role of the extracellular matrix in coagulation.

Vision, Todd email , , , , , , publications

Our lab uses computational and molecular tools to study the evolution of genome organization, primarily in the flowering plants. Areas of
investigation include the origin and consequences of differences in gene order within populations and between species, the evolutionary and functional diversification of gene families (phytome.org), and the application of genomics to evolutionary model organisms (mimulusevolution.org).  We also are involved in a number of cyberinfrastructure initiatives through the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (nescent.org), including work on digital scientific libraries (datadryad.org), open bioinformatic software development (e.g. gmod.org) and the application of semantic web technologies to biological data integration (phenoscape.org).

White, Peter email , , publications

My research interests are wide ranging, including topics in conservation biology and plant ecology.  I have had several foci: species richness (including the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, beta diversity (including the comparison of diversity in different parts of the world that have similar climates and the connections to coinservation planning),and  the ecology of natural disturbances (including connections to environmental ethics and conservation of biodiversity).  Through my role as Director of the University’s North Carolina Botanical Garden, a conservation focused garden, I am also involved in research and poliy in invasive species biology, ecological restoration, ex situ conservation and reintroduction of rare species, and related subjects.

Willett, Christopher email , , , , publications

My lab concentrates on studying the molecular genetic basis of the evolutionary processes of adaptation and speciation. The questions we ask are what are the sequence changes that lead to variation between species and diversity within species, and what can these changes tell us about the processes that lead to their evolution. We use a number of different techniques to answer these questions, including molecular biology, sequence analyses (i.e. population genetics and molecular evolution techniques), physiological studies, and examinations of whole-organism fitness. Currently work in the lab has focused on a intertidal copepod species that is an excellent model for the initial stages of speciation (and also provides opportunities to study how populations of this species adapt to their physical environment).

Yeh, Elaine email , , , publications

The site of microtubule attachment to the chromosome is the kinetochore, a complex of over 60 proteins assembled at a specific site on the chromosome, the centromere. Almost every kinetochore protein identified in yeast is conserved through humans and the organization of the kinetochore in yeast may serve as the fundamental unit of attachment. More recently we have become interested in the role of two different classes of ATP binding proteins, cohesions (Smc3, Scc1) and chromatin remodeling factors (Cac1, Hir1, Rdh54) in the structural organization of the kinetochore and their contribution to the fidelity of chromosome segregation.