Research Opportunities

Our department offers the scientific resources and caliber of faculty one would expect to find at a large research institution. Recently, the University received a $7.5 million grant from the Dyson Foundation to build new state-of-the-art science laboratories in Dyson Hall on the Pleasantville campus. In addition, several recent faculty grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation had allowed us to acquire state of the art technology for faculty-student research, including a $300,000 laser-scanning confocal microscope

Several Department of Biology faculty members engage in scholarly research with undergraduate students. Many of the faculty have extramural funding and continually publish in peer reviewed scientific journals with undergraduate student authors. A description of each research-active faculty members’ research program and most recent publications (Pace undergraduate student names are highlighted) follows:

Melissa Grigione, PhD

Dr. Grigione’s primary research interest is mammalian spatial ecology -- understanding how ecological and manmade elements influence home range size and location for particular species whose populations have been seriously altered as a consequence of habitat degradation and fragmentation. In her lab, tools such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS), remote sensing technology, and molecular genetic techniques are employed to better understand these questions.

Charlene Hoegler, PhD

Dr. Hoegler studies connective tissue changes in rat aorta following balloon angioplasty.

Jack Horne, PhD

The goal of Dr. Horne’s research is to identify the genes that mediate the morphological differentiation of neurons in the developing nervous system. To this end, Dr. Horne and his students are developing an in vivo electroporation technique that can be used to deliver both GFP expression plasmids, which can be used to monitor the morphological differentiation of neurons in live embryos, and morpholino-based loss-of-function reagents, which will be used to knockdown the expression of specific target genes. The advantage of this electroporation-based technique is that it will allow them to induce loss-of-function at specific, and later, stages of development, enabling us to assess the function of genes that are used at multiple times during development.

Nancy Krucher, PhD

Many proteins that control cell division are involved in cancer development. The phosphorylation state of the Retinoblastoma protein (Rb) regulates the ability of this protein to control cell proliferation. Phosphorylation stimulates cell cycle progression, whereas dephosphorylation of Rb inhibits progression through the cell cycle. Alterations in the Rb pathway that lead to excessive phosphorylation of Rb have been observed in almost all types of cancer. Dr. Krucher’s work focuses on the regulation of Protein Phosphatase 1 (PP1) activity by its interacting protein, PNUTS (Phosphatase Nuclear Targeting Subunit) which is responsible for activation of the Rb tumor suppressor protein.

Josh Schwartz, PhD

Dr. Schwartz’s main interests are vertebrate behavior and sensory ecology with a focus on animal communication. The objective of his research is to increase our understanding of how both proximate and ultimate factors, including adaptations facilitating the detection and assessment of biologically relevant sensory information, can shape the communication systems of animals. He works with tropical and temperate zone frogs, ideal organisms with which to pursue this goal. Aspects of frog communication biology he has studied include species isolating mechanisms, intraspecific and interspecific territoriality and agonistic behavior, mate choice, call transmission in the environment, calling energetics, communication networks and chorusing dynamics.

Aaron Steiner, PhD

Hearing loss is an increasingly common and burdensome public health issue in modern societies. The majority of hearing loss cases are caused by the death or deterioration of sensory hair cells in the inner ear, which in humans are not naturally regenerated. My group aims to understand how these delicate cells might be regrown to restore hearing. To achieve this goal we use the tools of molecular biology, bioinformatics, and microscopic imaging to study how sensory hair cells are naturally regenerated from stem cells in the zebrafish. We hope that our work will contribute to the future development of therapies for hearing loss.

Andrew Wier, PhD

The symbiosis between the benthic Hawaiian bobtail squid, Euprymna scolopes, and the bioluminescent bacterium, Vibrio fischeri, is used as a modelsystem to study the effects of beneficial bacteria on animal host tissues. Thesquid-vibrio symbiosis has a profound diel rhythm, where every day at sunrise,95% of the bacterial symbionts and many host cells are vented from the lightorgan into the sand and surrounding seawater. One of the aims of Dr. Wier’s research is to examine the principal signaling events that occur between the host and its symbiont during the daily cycle. He also plans to define the signals and signaling pathways by which the host and its bacteria communicate.