Faculty Research

Karen Caldwell, PhD
Assistant Professor
Research:  Remediating Interior Building Surfaces Contaminated by Methamphetamine

Research has the overall goal of determining the best way to remediate clandestine methamphetamine labs (“Clan Labs”). After the discovery of a Clan Lab, removal of the gross quantities of hazardous materials is carried out by first responders. Afterwards, cleanup (remediation) must be carried out by property owners. Remediation costs can range anywhere from $30,000.00 to $300,000.00. Sometimes, demolition is chosen, rather than remediation. An understanding of the physico-chemical factors that are important for effective cleansing of interior building surfaces is desired, especially if such understanding ultimately leads to lower costs of remediation. This project requires a manifold approach. Reproducible methods for applying to and then recovering materials from typical surfaces found in buildings are being developed. The chemistry of effective cleansing agents is also being explored. Methamphetamine model compounds (surrogates) are used in these studies.

Melissa Grigione, PhD
Research: Mammalian Conservation and Ecology

My primary research interest is mammalian spatial ecology - understanding how ecological and manmade elements influence home range size and location for particular species. My research emphasizes conservation biology because I work with species whose populations have been seriously altered as a consequence of habitat degradation and fragmentation. In addition to wildlife biology, conserving these species requires an intimate knowledge of political and legislative systems, and community-level human dimension practices. I have worked with a range of species, including mountain lions, Florida panthers, bobcats, coyotes, and Florida burrowing owls. My international research includes conservation projects for the puma, guanaco, and vicuna in South America and conservation of Neotropical cats (ocelots, jaguars, jaguarundis) along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Charlene Hoegler, PhD
Senior Lecturer
Research: Cardio-Vascular Biochemistry

My research focuses on cardio-vascular biochemistry. This describes the basic connections between metabolism, cell energetics and heart failure. Recent studies have suggested that differential protein expression in various tissues during early stages of heart failure (HF) may contribute to symptoms. My investigations explore the role of enzymes involved in cell energy production and the complications that ensue when key pathways are compromised. The effects of HF on heart tissue and other organs are compared by tracking isoenzyme banding patterns of proteins involved in ATP production. Results indicate that physiological changes in end stage HF may be a consequence of complex metabolic alterations rather than single organ failure.

Sergey Kazakov, DSc, PhD
Research: Biophysical Chemistry

The interdisciplinary and bionanotechnology oriented physicochemical research laboratory has been established in Dyson Hall. The general research direction of the lab is to model natural biochemical reactors using a combination of polymer network and lipid bilayer within artificial membrane/hydrogel system (lipobeads) with controlled properties. In particular, we study natural (bacterial spore) and synthetic (hydrogel) ionic reservoirs, mechanobiochemical systems with ability to convert environmentally sensitive mechanical energy into biochemical energy of living processes. The current focus of the lab is to encapsulate anticancer drugs into lipobeads and develop a platform for the targeted chemotherapy with superior tumor response and minimum side effects even at a greater loading concentration by reaching and killing the targeted malignant cells without healthy cells being affected.

Nancy Krucher, PhD
Research: Cancer Biology

Dr. Krucher was recently awarded a $399,135 grant from the National Institutes of Health and National Cancer Institute entitled “CDK4/6 Resistance: An Alternate Strategy to Target RB Phosphorylation in Cancer.” This grant will fund her important work which could lead to new treatment strategies for certain types of cancer; it will also support undergraduate research. "Therapies used to treat cancer patients often become less effective over time, a phenomenon called 'resistance.' This grant will allow Pace students and I to study the biochemical mechanisms of resistance that occur in breast and pancreatic cancer treatment."

Joseph Krumpfer, PhD
Assistant Professor
Research:  Polymer & Inorganic Chemistry

Polymers are among the most important materials used by people today. Our research focuses on a unique class of polymers, known as silicones or siloxanes, which are characterized by their noncarbon-based backbone and exhibit excellent thermal, mechanical, non-toxic and biocompatible properties. With the recent advances and increased requirements in many industries, such as space exploration and medical device development, new materials must be developed to meet new demands. We are particularly interested in a number of fundamental and cross-disciplinary areas of study which include reactions of siloxanes with inorganic oxide surfaces; prevention of bacterial growth on silicone materials; mechanical analysis and imaging of textured pre-ceramic network polymers; and the polymerization of hybrid inorganic-organic polymers. In addition to our active laboratory research, our group is currently conducting a study with a number of peer institutes across the country focusing on the importance of women faculty in STEM education.

Sally Marik, PhD
Assistant Professor
Research: Neuroscience

Neural circuits are not hard-wired but modified throughout life based on experiences. When the delicate balance of plasticity is lost, the consequences may result in various disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, Autism Spectrum Disorder and Schizophrenia. My lab’s goal is to understand how disruption of key synaptic proteins impact neural circuits and ultimately behavior, using a variety of techniques including molecular biology, microscopy, optogenetics, social behaviors, learning and memory tasks. Our research will provide better understanding of how mutations in synaptic proteins impact complex behaviors and lead to novel therapeutics to alleviate disruptions in neural plasticity.

David N. Rahni, PhD
Research:  Bio-Analytical Chemistry and Biosensors

A successful integration of a conducting transducer and a bio-molecular recognition (e.g., enzyme, antibody, tissue) should lead to a most exhilarating electron transfer phenomenon that can be probed toward the assay of key in-vivo/ex vivo/in situ metabolite concentrations and, or their mechanistic investigations. Broadly called Biosensors aka bio-electro-analytical chemistry, and as evident by its proliferation of published scholarships, patents and technology transfers of the past few decades, this exciting discipline is poised to immeasurably impact the monitoring of key ultra-trace substances of clinical, environmental, forensic, industrial, or medical significance in complex matrices. Hence, the concept of implantable  array of such micro-sensors coupled with pharmaceutical micro reservoirs to monitor the levels of key metabolites for optimal homeostasis in human body, is not any longer a science fiction but rather, a pleasant reality attainable on the horizon!

Joshua Schwartz, PhD
Research: Animal Behavior

The objective of my research program 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. I have found that anuran amphibians (frogs and toads) are ideal organisms with which to pursue this goal. I have worked in both the tropics and temperate zone and used field and laboratory-based methods to address questions of interest.

Mohsen Shiri-Garakani, PhD
Associate Professor
Research:  Quantum Spacetime, History and Philosophy of Physics

Dr. Garakani is a theoretical physicist who works on developing a unified quantum theory for gravity and spacetime. His approach is based on Segal's idea of algebraic simplicity (specifically, focusing on semi-simple Lie algebras and Clifford algebras) which was further applied to spacetime structures by David Finkelstein. Dr. Garakani also studies issues in history and philosophy of contemporary physics, concentrating on foundation of quantum theory.

Aaron Steiner, PhD
Assistant Professor
Research: Molecular Biology and Bioinformatics

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
Associate Professor & Biology Chair
Research: Microbiology, Animal-Microbe Symbioses

I am broadly interested in the effects of beneficial bacteria on animal host tissues. My lab is currently investigating the symbiosis between the benthic Hawaiian bobtail squid, Euprymna scolopes, and the bioluminescent bacterium, Vibrio fischeri. One of the aims of my research is to examine the early developmental changes in the squid light organ in response to the symbiotic bacteria. Projects in my lab have included identification of the microbial communities associated with healthy and diseased coral tissues, isolating symbiotic bacteria associated with the squid accessory nidamental gland as well as identifying free-living spirochetes isolated from the Hudson River.