Research Focus

Research in the Department of Biological Sciences is unique and ever evolving. Our department’s collaborative environment—along with Michigan Tech’s emphasis on research—fosters a wide variety of inter-university research projects. Faculty research strengths in biochemistry and molecular biology, ecology and environmental sciences, and health provide a strong foundation for many fields in biological sciences.

Our research centers, diverse research groups, and state-of-the-art facilities in the Dow Environmental Sciences and Engineering Building and Great Lakes Research Center create an exciting research environment with exceptional opportunities for students and faculty members alike.

Researchers

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Plant Biochemistry; Environmental Remediation; Plant-Microbe Interactions
Developmental Biology; Transcriptional Biology; Cancer Biology
Algal Extracellular Polymers and Biocomposites - Regulation of Biogenesis
Bioseparations; Virus removal and detection; Biosensors
Cellulose and lignin biosynthesis in trees; Wood formation; Tree growth and development; Engineering trees; Forest bioinformatics
Gene Silencing; RNA Interference (RNAi); MicroRNA (miRNA) and miRNA Eveolution; RNA Silencing in Plant Germ Extract and Drosophila Embryo Lysate.; Fungal RNAi and microRNA; MicroRNA Technologies: Small Tandem Target mimic (STTM) and MicroRNA Array; Plant Electrophysiology in Plant microRNA STTM lines and Venus flytrap.
Cancer Genetics and Metabolism; Mechanisms of Cancer Initiation and Progression; Functional Genomics and Bioinformatics; Interactions of Diet and Nutrition with Cancer
Ebenezer Tumban
Viral infectious diseases; Molecular virology; Virus-like particles bioengineering ; Vaccines & correlates of immune protection; Immunizations
Infectious diseases, human papillomaviruses; Virus-like particles, prophylactic and therapeutic vaccines; Vaccine formulations; Peptide mimotopes discovery
Evolution; Genetics; Toxicology; Developmental Biology

Ecology and Environmental Sciences

Fish Biology; Zooplankton ecology; Limnology; Conservation Biology
Bioremediation of Contaminated Groundwater Environments; Microbial Ecology and Kinetics of Chlorinated Aliphatic Solvent Biodegradation; Conversion of Organic Solid Wastes and Cellulosic Feedstocks to Electricity via Microbial Fuel Cells
Plant Biochemistry; Environmental Remediation; Plant-Microbe Interactions
Algal Extracellular Polymers and Biocomposites - Regulation of Biogenesis
Plant Evolutionary Ecology; Ecological and Community Genetics; Genome Size and Polyploidy Evolution; Invasive Species Biology and Integrated Socio-Environmental Systems
Ecology of lakes, streams, and their riparian interface with terrestrial systems; Fish ecology, biology, functional morphology; effects of land use on ecological systems; Biomonitoring for research and restoration; Effects of Invasive Species
Cellulose and lignin biosynthesis in trees; Wood formation; Tree growth and development; Engineering trees; Forest bioinformatics
Aquatic Ecology; Paleoecology
Limnology; Ecosystem Ecology of Streams and Rivers; Biogeochemistry
Jill A. Olin
Understanding species- and food web-level responses to environmental stressors using combined dietary biomarker, ecological and modeling approaches; Evaluating distributional patterns of organisms and the mechanisms that drive these patterns; Using abundance and biomass estimates to quantify nekton communities; Quantifying the mechanisms and processes that structure food webs and ecosystems; Developing ecosystem models to evaluate the effect of environmental change 
Using pollutants as ecological tracers; Overwintering bioaccumulation and bioamplification; Energy dynamics in Great Lakes food-webs; Energetic costs of multiple stressors
Environmental biotechnology, including in situ bioremediation of contaminated subsurface environments, monitoring and evaluation of the performance of biological treatment processes, development of in situ biological treatment systems for urban storm water runoff, innovative reuse of waste materials, and in situ improvement of soils properties via microbially-mediated processes.
Environmental Quality
Evolution; Genetics; Toxicology; Developmental Biology

Health

Cardiovascular physiology, neurophysiology and exercise science.; Neural mechanisms of cardiovascular diseases and metabolic disorders.; Neural mechanisms of exercise training in regulating autonomic and cardiovascular function.
Adaptations to exercise training; Functional losses following injury; Skeletal muscle function; Cycling biomechanics; Physiology education
Hematology; Immunohematology; Clinical Chemistry; Medical Laboratory Administration and Management; Medical Mycology/Virology
Clinical Lab Techniques; Clinical Immunology and Serology; Human Anatomy and Physiology; Human Nutrition; Parasitology
Central Mechanism of Salt Sensitive Hypertension; Brain Prorenin Receptor and Hypertension; Brain Orexin System and Hypertension; Stress and Neuroinflammation and Hypertension; Neuronal Mechanism of Metabolic Syndrome
Gene Silencing; RNA Interference (RNAi); MicroRNA (miRNA) and miRNA Eveolution; RNA Silencing in Plant Germ Extract and Drosophila Embryo Lysate.; Fungal RNAi and microRNA; MicroRNA Technologies: Small Tandem Target mimic (STTM) and MicroRNA Array; Plant Electrophysiology in Plant microRNA STTM lines and Venus flytrap.
Cancer Genetics and Metabolism; Mechanisms of Cancer Initiation and Progression; Functional Genomics and Bioinformatics; Interactions of Diet and Nutrition with Cancer
Ebenezer Tumban
Viral infectious diseases; Molecular virology; Virus-like particles bioengineering ; Vaccines & correlates of immune protection; Immunizations
Infectious diseases, human papillomaviruses; Virus-like particles, prophylactic and therapeutic vaccines; Vaccine formulations; Peptide mimotopes discovery
Evolution; Genetics; Toxicology; Developmental Biology

Research News

 

Researcher Focus

Tori Connors

Tori Connors

Contact

tconnors@mtu.edu
906-487-1628

  • Department Coordinator

Claire Danielson

Claire Danielson

BS, Medical Lab science, Michigan Technological University

Contact

cedaniel@mtu.edu
906-487-2120

  • Medical Laboratory Science (MLS) Program Director

Claire attended Michigan Tech where she received a Bachelor's degree in Medical Laboratory Science (MLS). After graduation, she completed her clinical practicum at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, MN. She has worked at the University of Colorado Health in Immunohematology, Microbiology, and Chemistry. She has also worked at Baraga County Memorial Hospital as a Generalist and Microbiology Supervisor. Claire returned to Michigan Tech to complete her Master's degree in Biological Sciences, Laboratory Management in 2019. She is currently the MLS Program Director, Assistant Teaching Professor, and Academic Advisor for the MLS program. She enjoys spending time outdoors with her family, nordic . . .

Rupali Datta

Rupali Datta

PhD, University of Hyderabad, India

Contact

rupdatta@mtu.edu
906-487-1783

  • Professor, Biological Sciences

Dr. Datta’s primary research interest lies in the application of plant biochemistry, genetics, molecular biology and microbiology in solving environmental problems,using phytoremediation, plant-microbe interactions and bioremediation. Dr. Datta’s research involves the study of interactions between plant, soil, microbial and water systems to understand the mechanisms of uptake and detoxification of specific environmental contaminants in biota from two broad angles – biochemistry and genetics.

Specifically, Dr. Datta’s current research focus is on the study of bioavailability of metal and organic contaminants in aquatic media and the potential of using plants to remediate contaminated sites, mediated by microbes. Dr. Datta actively collaborates with environmental . . .

Paul Goetsch

Paul Goetsch

Contact

pdgoetsc@mtu.edu
906-487-1790

  • Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences

In multicellular organisms, how do multiple cell types originate from one cell and one genome? A critical early cell fate decision is whether to develop as germline (reproductive) or soma (non-reproductive). My research focuses on assessing how the highly conserved DREAM transcriptional repressor complex maintains the germ vs. soma cell fate decision during embryogenesis. After a flurry of cell divisions from the starting “germ cell” (i.e. united egg and sperm), somatic cells begin to exit the cell cycle as the DREAM complex suppresses the proliferative germ cell program. This process is commonly reverted in cancer cells (i.e. a soma-to-germline transition) and is . . .

Michael Gretz

Michael Gretz

PhD, Arizona State University

Contact

mrgretz@mtu.edu
906-487-3175

  • Professor, Biological Sciences

Our work is centered on the cell wall and associated extracellular polymers of algae. We are interested in what these algal extracellular matrices can tell us about: 1) the evolution of the land plant cell wall, 2) the unique characteristics that allow for life in aquatic habitats, 3) the interactions within complex biofilms, including the heterotropic utilization of complex macromolecules, and 4) the biomineralization processes (ex. silica and calcium carbonate) associated with these extracellular polymers.

What is the broader significance of our work? The characters of plant cell walls determine the properties of innumerable products we consume every day. Our work has potential . . .

Erika Hersch-Green

Erika Hersch-Green

MS, University of California, Davis - Population Biology

Contact

eherschg@mtu.edu
906-487-3351

  • Associate Professor, Biological Sciences

Broadly speaking I am an evolutionary ecologist who studies how plants interact with their abiotic and biotic communities. My work integrates the theory and techniques from the disciplines of ecology, evolution, genetics, chemistry, and physiology.  My research makes both fundamental and applied contributions and current projects include:

  1. deciphering the interplay between the abiotic environment (especially nutrient eutrophication and water availability), the genomic structure (genome size and composition) of terrestrial plants, and multitrophic communities (plants, herbivores, pathogens, pollinators),
  2. examining the efficacy of management efforts and the cultural, social, and ecological impacts of invasive plant (e.g., baby’s breath, Eurasian milfoil) and/or insect (e.g., Spotted winged drosophila on soft . . .

Casey Huckins

Casey Huckins

PhD, Michigan State University, 1996

Contact

cjhuckin@mtu.edu
906-487-2475

  • Professor, Biological Sciences

Research conducted by my lab group is focused on ecology and restoration in aquatic systems including lakes, streams, coastal wetlands and the riparian ecosystems that connect them.  The research that my graduate students, our collaborators and I conduct tends to focus on ecological patterns and processes in systems influenced by human actions.  In many cases we apply the learned scientific understanding to inform the restoration or rehabilitation of the system or population.  Our projects are often motivated by this reciprocal interplay and exchange between restoration and the advancement of scientific understanding.  Major projects have/are conducting examine 1) the ecology and restoration of . . .

Chandrashekhar Joshi

Chandrashekhar Joshi

PhD, Biochemistry, University of Poona, India

Contact

cpjoshi@mtu.edu
906-487-2738

  • Department Chair and Professor, Biological Sciences

I am a plant molecular biologist who is interested in understanding of how trees make cellulose. Simply put, cellulose is a chain of glucose molecules, and a large number of such cellulose chains weave together with other polymers to form plant cell walls. Cellulose biosynthesis is also one of the most ancient and essential life processes of plants.

Due to its omnipresence in terrestrial ecosystems, we use a large number of cellulose products in our day-to-day life in the form of paper, furniture, clothes, medicines and even food. Ironically, we knew little about how plants synthesize cellulose until recently. However, the last decade . . .

Charles Kerfoot

Charles Kerfoot

PhD, University of Michigan

Contact

wkerfoot@mtu.edu
906-487-2769

  • Research Professor, Biological Sciences

Robert Larson

Robert Larson

PhD, Biological Sciences, Michigan Technological University

Contact

ralarson@mtu.edu
906-487-2254

  • Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences

Robert earned his Master’s and PhD in the Department of Biological Sciences at Michigan
Technological University studying neural-cardiovascular physiology. He completed his Post-
Doctoral fellowship in neurocardiology at The University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine
where he studied cardiac sensory and sympathetic nerves in hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and hypertension. Prior to graduate school, Robert worked in the diagnostic laboratory at Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital serving as both a Generalist and Hematology and Coagulation Supervisor.

Sarah LewAllen

Sarah LewAllen

Contact

selewall@mtu.edu
906-487-2035

  • MLS Program Coordinator

Amy Marcarelli

Amy Marcarelli

PhD, Utah State University

Contact

ammarcar@mtu.edu
906-487-2867

  • Professor, Biological Sciences

I am an ecosystem ecologist with interests in energy and biogeochemical cycles in freshwaters. My research program blends basic and applied research, and integrates across aquatic habitats including stream, river, wetland, lake littoral zones and the nearshore regions of the Great Lakes. My past and future research trajectory is governed by an interest in understanding the role of small, poorly quantified fluxes or perturbations on ecosystem processes, and in linking those ecosystem processes to the underlying structure of microbial, algal, macrophyte and animal communities.

One benefit of an academic career is the synergy between an active research program and undergraduate and graduate . . .

Brigitte Morin

Brigitte Morin

Contact

bemorin@mtu.edu
906-487-3373

  • Associate Teaching Professor, Biological Sciences

Brigitte attended Michigan Tech in 2001 where she received a Bachelor's degree in Medical Laboratory Science (MLS), as well as a certificate in Secondary Education and minors in both General Science and Spanish. Following graduation in 2006, Brigitte taught high school Biology for six years in Illinois. After receiving an MS degree in Biology from Northern Illinois University, Brigitte has returned to Michigan Tech as a lecturer, primarily in the MLS program.

Jill Olin

Jill Olin

Contact

jaolin@mtu.edu
906-487-1121

  • Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences

Gord Paterson

Gord Paterson

Contact

gpaterso@mtu.edu
906-487-1120

  • Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences

Lindsay Putman

Lindsay Putman

Contact

liputman@mtu.edu
906-487-2256

  • Postdoctoral Scholar, Biological Sciences

John Romanowski Jr

John Romanowski Jr

MS, Biological Sciences, Central Michigan University

Contact

jromanow@mtu.edu
906-487-3585

  • Laboratory Supervisor

Guiliang Tang

Guiliang Tang

PhD, Weizmann Institute of Sciences, Israel, 2001

Contact

gtang1@mtu.edu
906-487-2174

  • Professor, Biological Sciences

Recruitment

One Fast-Track/Accelerated (One Additional Year from Campus Undergraduate) MS Graduate Student in MicroRNAs is Needed to Do Research on Computational (No Wet Experiments) MicroRNA Evolution. For Details Please Check: Accelerated MS Program. Interested Students with an Objective to Publish a Review or Research Paper Please Contact Dr. Guiliang Tang.

Biography

Dr. Tang conducted his graduate research on the catabolic pathway of the essential amino acid lysine in the laboratory of Dr. Gad Galili at the Weizmann Institute of Sciences, Israel. He then moved to the laboratory of Dr. Phillip D. Zamore at the University of Massachusetts Medical School for his post-doctoral research on plant RNA interference (RNAi) and microRNA (miRNA) pathways. He established his independent Gene Suppression Laboratory at the University of Kentucky (UK) and became a tenured Associate Professor there.

In October 2011, he moved . . .

Xiaohu (Mark) Tang

Xiaohu (Mark) Tang

PhD, The Weizmann Institute of Science

Contact

xiaohut@mtu.edu
906-487-3068

  • Assistant Professor

  • The Laboratory of Cancer Metabolism and Functional Genomics is to characterize deregulation of cancer metabolism and the role of nutrients during cancer initiation and progression. In this perspective, we are aiming to understand the underlying mechanisms and pursue alternative and feasible means to apply on patients. In addition, understanding of diet-cancer interactions could establish a strategy for long-term cancer prevention.

Xiaoqing Tang

Xiaoqing Tang

PhD, Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, 2003

Contact

xtang2@mtu.edu
906-487-1872

  • Associate Professor, Biological Sciences

Diabetes is caused by either the loss of the insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas, leading to a deficiency of insulin (type 1 diabetes), or insulin resistance, reduced insulin sensitivity, and reduced insulin secretion (type 2 diabetes). In both types of diabetes, the patients develop serious secondary complications, such as microvascular complications, oxidative stress and endothelial dysfunction, cardiovascular disease, and kidney failure.

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are newly discovered, 21-24nt in size, non-coding RNAs. miRNAs negatively regulate the expression of protein-coding genes by binding to the 3'-untranslated region (3'-UTR) of specific targeted gene transcripts (mRNAs). Each miRNA regulates the expression of hundreds of target . . .

Stephen Techtmann

Stephen Techtmann

PhD, Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Maryland, Baltimore MD

Contact

smtechtm@mtu.edu
906-487-3250

  • Associate Professor, Biological Sciences

I am an environmental microbiologist who studies microbial communities in diverse ecosystems. Microbes (Bacteria and Archaea) are ubiquitous in the environment and play essential roles in the cycling of elements. These environmental microbes are capable of catalyzing a wide array of chemical reactions, many of which may have industrial applications. I study how complex microbial communities can cooperate to perform functions of industrial interest. The majority of microbes in the environment are difficult to grow in the lab. Furthermore, many industrially-relevant pathways are found in microbes not yet grown in the lab. I seek to employ both culture-based and culture-independent . . .

Dave Toczydlowski

Dave Toczydlowski

Contact

t-11@mtu.edu
906-487-2478

  • Research Engineer/Scientist, Biological Sciences

Trista Vick-Majors

Trista Vick-Majors

PhD, Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Montana State University

Contact

tjvickma@mtu.edu

  • Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences

I am a microbial ecologist who studies the reciprocal relationships between microbial communities and biogeochemical processes in aquatic ecosystems. Microorganisms are widespread in the environment and are responsible for driving key elemental transformations that control the quality of our water and influence the greenhouse gas concentrations in our atmosphere. I am interested in understanding how physical and chemical characteristics interact with microbial communities and influence or are influenced by microbial metabolism and diversity. My work is also aimed at understanding energetic constraints on microbial metabolism that may result from ecosystem change or seasonal change, such as the formation of ice-cover. Field . . .

Travis Wakeham

Travis Wakeham

MS, Biological Sciences

Contact

twakeham@mtu.edu
906-487-3435

  • Assistant Teaching Professor, Biological Sciences

Travis is a proud born and raised Yooper; he received both his B.S. and M.S. in Biological Sciences from Michigan Tech. Wanting to stay close to home, he joined his alma mater as the Department of Biological Sciences Laboratory Supervisor in 2017. Since then, he has become an Academic Advisor and Lecturer. 

In his position as an academic advisor, Travis helps students to understand academic policies and procedures, select courses to fulfill their academic goals, locate and use campus resources, and explore career options. Travis is trained in Mental Health First Aid and serves as a Safe Place AllyCareer Coach, and a member on the Title IX Awareness Committee. In addition to advising, Travis teaches several courses in the department and coordinates . . .

Thomas Werner

Thomas Werner

PhD, Umea Univeristy, Sweden, 2005

Contact

twerner@mtu.edu
906-487-1209

  • Associate Professor, Biological Sciences

Dr. Werner became interested in the question “What is life?” as a four-year old child in his parent’s garden in former East Germany. With the age of 10, he began to develop a life-long interest in the biology of butterflies and moths. He has been breeding and collecting them ever since. For his Master’s thesis, he decided to shift his focus to molecular biology because this was a newly emerging field of biology that promised new jobs.

Thus, Dr. Thomas Werner studied the human heart disease-causing virus Coxsackie B3 at the molecular level at Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena in Germany. After the fall of the Berlin . . .

Lucille Zelazny

Lucille Zelazny

Contact

lzelazny@mtu.edu
906-487-2791

  • Research Assistant, Biological Sciences