Biological Sciences

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

Chemical biology: development of novel molecular probes for DNA sequencing analysis and disease gene discovery; Medicinal chemistry: development of new imaging and therapeutic agents towards cancer and cardiovascular disease; Design and synthesis of novel prodrugs of peptides and peptide mimetics.
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
Invasive plants; Herbicide resistance; Genetically modified crops; Gene introgression in plants
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
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
Aquatic and Landscape Ecology; Invasive Species Mapping; Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Monitoring; Applications of Unmanned Aerial Systems; Assessment of Transportation Infrastructure Condition Using Remote Sensing; Automated Road and Bridge Condition Analysis; Multispectral Sensing; Development and Deployment of Decision Support Systems; Land Cover Change Mapping and Monitoring
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
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.
Great Lakes Remote Sensing; Ocean Optics; High Latitude Oceanography; Dynamic Decision Support Systems; Water Quality of Inland Lakes
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
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

Contact

cedaniel@mtu.edu
906-487-2120

  • MLS Clinical Practicum Coordinator

Rupali Datta

Rupali Datta

PhD, University of Hyderabad, India

Contact

rupdatta@mtu.edu
906-487-1783

  • Acting Biological Sciences Department Chair (Spr 2020)

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 . . .

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 . . .

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 . . .

Raquel Heitor

Raquel Heitor

Contact

raheitor@mtu.edu
906-487-2025

  • Office Assistant, Biological Sciences

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:

    . . .

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 . . .

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.

. . .

Charles Kerfoot

Charles Kerfoot

PhD, University of Michigan

Contact

wkerfoot@mtu.edu
906-487-2769

  • Professor, Biological Sciences

Robert Larson

Robert Larson

PhD, Biological Sciences, Michigan Technological University

Contact

ralarson@mtu.edu
906-487-2254

  • Director, Medical Laboratory Science Program, 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 . . .

Amy Marcarelli

Amy Marcarelli

PhD, Utah State University

Contact

ammarcar@mtu.edu
906-487-2867

  • Associate 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 . . .

Brigitte Morin

Brigitte Morin

Contact

bemorin@mtu.edu
906-487-3373

  • Senior Lecturer, 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 . . .

Gord Paterson

Gord Paterson

Contact

gpaterso@mtu.edu
906-487-1120

  • Assistant Professor, 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 . . .

Xiaohu (Mark) Tang

Xiaohu (Mark) Tang

PhD, The Weizmann Institute of Science

Contact

xiaohut@mtu.edu
906-487-3068

  • Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences

  • 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 . . .

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, . . .

Stephen Techtmann

Stephen Techtmann

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

Contact

smtechtm@mtu.edu
906-487-3250

  • Assistant 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 . . .

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 . . .

Travis Wakeham

Travis Wakeham

MS, Biological Sciences

Contact

twakeham@mtu.edu
906-487-3435

  • Biological Sciences Advisor

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.

In his position, Travis helps students to understand . . .

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 . . .

Chunxiu (Traci) Yu

Chunxiu (Traci) Yu

PhD, The Weizmann Institute of Science

Contact

chunxiuy@mtu.edu
906-487-2353

  • Research Assistant Professor

Traci works with brain stimulation and neurological disorders, such as Parkinson's Disease, depression and stroke. Prior to coming to Michigan Tech, she served as a research scientist working in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Duke University.

Traci's research employs neuroengineering and neurobiology approaches to control brain circuit function and to improve the efficacy and efficiency of brain . . .

Lucille Zelazny

Lucille Zelazny

Contact

lzelazny@mtu.edu
906-487-2791

  • Research Assistant, Biological Sciences