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Welcome to the new Visiting Assistant Professors in Biology – Fall 2011

Welcome to the new Visiting Assistant Professors in Biology – Fall 2011

(l – r) Drs.  Lake, Fanning, Hickman and Laakso

There are new faces this semester in the halls and classrooms in the Biology Building – and they’re not just those of the freshmen! Following the retirement of Drs. Klug and Lipton this past June, and the relocation to other institutions of Drs. Azizi and Killian, the department has contracted with new professors to teach core courses Themes, Euk, Ecology and Genetics. We were very fortunate to find and hire these four “Visiting Assistant Professors,” each knowledgeable and accomplished in their own right, while we conduct a search for four new professors to permanently fill the vacant positions. In addition, we are fortunate to have an Exchange Professor visiting with us this semester – Dr. Hans Peter Klein, from Bonn, Germany.

The four visiting assistant professors are:

Stacey Fanning, who received her Ph.D. from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (Newark), and whose research interests include cancer immunology, hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, and the separation of graft-vs-host disease from graft-vs-tumor effects. Dr. Fanning will be teaching Genetics in the fall and spring, and Themes in Biology in the spring.

Mark Hickman is a geneticist who received his Ph.D. from Harvard University. The goal of Dr. Hickman’s research is to identify the functions of unknown genes. To achieve this, he uses molecular genetic and genomic/bioinformatic approaches in the yeast, S. cerevisiae. Genome sequencing has shown that S. cerevisiae contains ~1000 genes whose functions are unknown, and Dr. Hickman’s research focuses on the ~186 of these that are conserved in humans. Dr. Hickman will teach the introductory biology course Themes in Biology for the fall and spring semesters, as well as the core course, Biology of the Eukaryotic Cell, in the spring.

Meg Laakso received her Ph.D. from Baylor College of Medicine, and has gone viral! That is to say, her research interest is in viruses – those obligate parasites which need a host organism or host cells to survive. Her research specifically involves HIV, and how it becomes resistant to drugs that block HIV infection.. The goal is to develop new antiviral agents to combat HIV. Dr. Laakso will be teaching Genetics in the fall, and Biology of the Eukaryotic Cell in the spring.

Ellen Lake is an ecologist, and received her Ph.D. from the University of Delaware. Dr. Lake’s research generally focuses on invasive plants and their impacts on native plants, and specifically on the biological control of mile-a-minute weed, an invasive vine that is rapidly expanding its range in the eastern United States. One ongoing research project is evaluating the effectiveness of integrating weed management strategies, biological control, pre-emergent herbicide, and native plantings in an effort to restore native plant communities. Dr. Lake is teaching Ecology and Field Biology for the fall and spring semesters, and Themes in Biology for the spring semester, and loves taking her classes outside!