My teaching interests integrate my interests in the processes of cellular differentiation, stem cells, and the functioning of the nervous system.
Molecules, Cells, and Genes (Biol 212) is required of all biology, environmental biology, and molecular biology concentrators and provides an in-depth introduction to eukaryotic cell function at the biochemical, macromolecular, and cellular levels. In lecture and lab, students are introduced to and asked to explore such topics as bioenergetics, enzyme kinetics, genes and regulation of gene expression, the cell cycle and the cytoskeleton, intracellular signaling and transport, and organelle structure and function. This class requires students to integrate their understanding of these seemingly diverse topics in order to explore basic cell function and to understand how different cells carry out different activities.
Biology of Stem Cells (Biol 327) is a seminar course, in which we tackle the ever changing field of stem cell biology. We examine the historical background of stem cell research (stretching back to the mid 1700s!) and the chain of events that brought us to the ethically fascinating and contentious position we are at today. Along the way, we explore what we actually know about adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells, their features, their promise, and their problems. In lab, we explore both stem cells that are involved in regeneration, such that a planarian can be cut in half and a week later you have two fully functional planaria with normal anatomy, and stem cells in culture as we try to hold them undifferentiated and then bias their differentiation.
Molecular Neurobiology (Biol 389 and Neur 389) is an elective focused on understanding the molecular underpinnings of how the nervous system functions. We begin by looking at the nature of the channels that allow particular ions to move and allow the generation of electrical currents in the cells. The class then explores how neurons communicate with each other, looking at the synthesis, release, and reactions of neurotransmitters. We then examine sensory systems as particular examples where molecular receptors have evolved to detect and process information from the physical world around us into the electrochemical code of the brain. At the end of the class, we turn to neural development, looking at the molecules that define, connect, and maintain neurons, and tease out how neural activity leads to changes in neural structure.
I also regularly teach in our Developmental Biology (Biol 324) course.
I offer a research tutorial which allows students to get hands-on experience designing independent research projects in developmental neurobiology.
Throughout my teaching, I focus on conceptual learning, bringing recently published papers from the primary literature so that we can focus on how science is done and where science is going. The biology faculty at Colgate have also made a strong emphasis on writing, working to give students the skills they need to effectively communicate the biology of today and tomorrow. I hope to provide my students the skills to interpret, critically analyze, and then explore the open questions provided by the rapidly evolving biological research fields.