Ken Belanger - Biology Faculty at Colgate

Colgate Directory

Ken Belanger

Ken Belanger

Raab Family Chair and Professor of Biology; Chair of Biology
Biology, 215 Olin Hall
p 315-228-7870


BA, Luther College, 1990; PhD, Duke University, 1996

Teaching Experience

Assistant Professor, University of Scranton, 1998-2001; Instructor in Biology, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, 1997-1998


Developmental biology, cellular biology, molecular biology, genetics


Understanding how the intracellular movement of macromolecules influences cell structure and function. Specifically, how nuclear protein import is regulated and how vesicle mediated secretion contributes to asymmetric cell growth during development.

Teaching at Colgate

My teaching activities integrate my interest in the molecular events that take place inside cells with the resulting cellular activities that regulate the functions and the organization of individual cells, tissues, organs, and organisms.
  • 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.

  • Molecular Biology (Biol 321) integrates lectures, problem-solving activities, and careful dissection of the primary literature exploring molecular biology with a “molecular biology methods” lab that integrates lectures on advanced molecular biology techniques with a semester-long lab project that use these techniques to ask an original research question. In lecture, students read and discuss primary journal articles that investigate questions ranging from how cells "know" to only duplicate their DNA once prior to each cell division, to how the expression of specific genes is regulated, to how the RNA portion of the ribosome can function as an enzyme. Biol 321 lab provides the opportunity to use the latest molecular techniques in a semester-long guided research project. Our most recent project used microarrays (DNA chips), quantitative PCR, and other methods to investigate changes in gene expression that occur during the development of an animal from a fertilized egg to a multicellular embryo.

  • Developmental Biology (Biol 324) classes examine how changes in gene expression and cell-cell interactions influence both the function and the fate of cells in a developing embryo. The progression from single-celled zygote to multicellular organism containing millions of cells requires intricately coordinated molecular events. These events lead to the differentiation of specific cell types that are organized in a specified pattern and carry out specialized activities. Students in Developmental Biology examine such model developmental systems as sea urchins, fruit flies, amphibians, plants, and chicken embryos as they utilize a variety of molecular, microscopic, and microsurgical techniques to examine events occurring during early embryonic development.

  • Advanced Cellular Biology (Biol 326) is an elective course that utilizes the primary literature and class discussions to investigate cell structure and function. All of the topics covered are areas of intense research in the field of Cell Biology, including mitochondria structure and ATP synthesis, cytoskeletal dynamics, intracellular transport of molecules, regulation of cell cycle progression, and programmed cell death. Students in Biol 326 write increasingly complex papers, climaxing with the synthesis of an in-depth “Current Opinion in Cell Biology” review article at the conclusion of the semester.

  • Intracellular Transport (Biol 483) is a biology Research Tutorial course in which 6 – 8 undergraduate students undertake an independent research project investigating a novel question focused on understanding how cells move molecules to specific intracellular locations. Students in Biol 483 each have their own project and spend the semester moving rapidly toward being able to design, carry out, and interpret their own experiments utilizing cellular and molecular techniques to investigate cell function.

  • Cells and Human Development (Core 124) is a Scientific Perspectives course taught as part of Colgate’s Core Curriculum. As a Scientific Perspectives Core course, Cells and Human Development uses the field of human fertilization and early development to explore how scientists investigate new questions, analyze qualitative and quantitative data, and communicate the results and significance of their investigations. In addition, discussions focusing on assisted reproduction (in vitro fertilization), somatic cell nuclear transfer (“cloning”), stem cell research, and gene therapy allow us to investigate the potential impact scientific findings and technological advances have on society.
All of these courses, from the first-year seminar to the research tutorial, emphasize student comprehension of the process by which scientific information is obtained. This means that we spend considerable time discussing not only what we understand about specific aspects of biology, but also how scientists investigate the functioning of molecules, cells, and organisms. All courses require reading of the primary scientific literature, design and/or execution of an original research experiment, and reporting on the results of the experiment in either the format of a primary journal article or as an oral report. It is my goal to have students leave these courses not just having learned some new ideas about a particular area of biology, but also having taken a significant step toward “thinking like a biologist” and asking new questions about the field they have just spent a semester examining.

Academic Service

Selected Publications

* = undergraduate author
  • Finn EM*, DeRoo EP*, Clement GW*, Rao S*. Kruse SE*, Kokanovich KM*, Belanger KD. (2013) A subset of FG-nucleoporins is necessary for efficient Msn5-mediated nuclear protein export. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta – Molecular Cell Research. 1833: p1096 – 1103. DOI: 10.1016/j.bbamcr.2012.12.020
  • Belanger KD, Griffith A*, Baker H*, Hansen J*, Simmons Kovacs L*, Seconi J*, Strine A*. (2011) The karyopherin Kap95 and the C-termini of Rfa1, 2, and 3 are necessary for efficient nuclear import of functional RPA complex proteins in S. cerevisiae. DNA and Cell Biology. 30(9):641-51
  • Belanger KD, Walter D, Henderson TA*, Yelton AL*, O’Brien TG*, Belanger KG, Geier SJ, Fahrenkrog B. (2009) Nuclear localization is critical for the proapoptotic activity of the HtrA-like serine protease Nma111p. J Cell Sci. 122(21):3931-41.
  • Belanger KD. (2009) Using affinity chromatography to investigate novel protein-protein interactions in an undergraduate cell and molecular biology lab course. CBE Life Sci Educ. 8(3): 214-225.
  • Harper NC*, Al-Greene NT*, Basrai MA, Belanger KD. (2007) Mutations affecting spindle pole body and mitotic exit network function are synthetically lethal with a deletion of the nucleoporin NUP1 in S. cerevisiae. Current Genetics. 53(2): 95 – 105.
  • Belanger KD, Gupta A*, MacDonald KM*, Ott C*, Hodge CA, Cole CN, Davis LI. (2005) Nuclear pore complex function is influenced by glycosylation of the transmembrane nucleoporin Pom152p. Genetics. 171: 935 – 947.
  • Bembenek J, Kang J, Kurischko C, Li B, Raab JR*, Belanger KD, Luca FC, Yu H. (2005) Crm1-mediated nuclear export of Cdc14 is required for the completion of cytokinesis in budding yeast. Cell Cycle. 4(7):961-71.
  • Belanger KD, Simmons LA*, Roth JK*, VanderPloeg KA*, Lichten LB*, Fahrenkrog B. (2004) The karyopherin Msn5/Kap142 requires Nup82 for nuclear export and performs a function distinct from translocation in RPA protein import. J Biol Chem. 279(42):43530-9.
  • Belanger KD. (2004) Model Organisms. Encyclopedia of Genetics. Ed. B.D. Ness. Salem Press, Pasadena, CA. p545 – 547.
  • Belanger KD, Wyman A, Sudol M*, Singla S, and Quatrano RS. (2003) A signal peptide screen in Fucus distichus embryos reveals expression of glucanase, EGF domain-containing, and LRR receptor kinase-like polypeptides during asymmetric cell growth. Planta. 217: 931 - 950.


Yeast nucleoporins Nup1 and Nup2 physically interact with karyopherin-alpha in mediating nucleocytoplasmic transport.


2012: Academic Research Enhancement Award — known as an “AREA” grant — from the National Institute of General Medical Science of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

National Institutes of Health research grants (July 2001 - June 2005; August 2005 - July 2008); National Science Foundation - Frontiers in Integrative Biological Research grant (September 2004 - August 2009); NSF - Major Research Instrumentation grant (July 2002 - June 2005); NIH Postdoctoral Research fellowship (November 1996 - August 1998)

Grants Awarded

  • National Institutes of Health – Academic Research Enhancement Award (NIH-AREA R15): “Analysis of the role of FG-nucleoporins in nuclear protein export.” $325,282. March 1, 2012 – February 28, 2015.
  • National Science Foundation – Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (NSF S-STEM): "A Program To Enhance Undergraduate Success and Persistence in the Sciences," GE Gogel, DH Saracino, EG Nolen, KD Belanger, L Waldman. $600,000; Sept 15, 2007 – August 31, 2012.
  • National Science Foundation – Major Research Instrumentation Award (NSF-MRI): “MRI: Acquisition of a laser-scanning confocal microscope for multi-disciplinary research at Colgate University,” JE Meyers, AJ Tierney, D McHugh, KD Belanger, K Ingram. $495,158; Sept 1, 2009 – August 31, 2012.
  • National Science Foundation – Frontiers in Integrative Biological Research (NSF-FIBR): “A systems approach to study redox regulation of functions of photosynthetic organisms.” Co-PI with four others (PI: Himadri Pakrasi, Washington University). $294,131 to Colgate. September 1, 2004 – August 31, 2011.
  • National Institutes of Health – Academic Research Enhancement Award (NIH-AREA): “Influence of glycosylation on nuclear pore function.” $205,959; August 1, 2005 – July 31, 2009.
  • National Science Foundation – Major Research Instrumentation Award (NSF-MRI): “Acquisition of fluorescence microscopy instrumentation for research and education in biology, geology, and neuroscience.” Primary author with four co-PIs. $98,086; July 1, 2002 – June 30, 2005.
  • National Institutes of Health -Academic Research Enhancement Award (NIH-AREA): “Examination of Nup1-mediated nucleocytoplasmic transport.” $124,731; July 1, 2001 – June 30, 2005.