General biology I, genetics, introduction to research, biotechnology, and laboratory courses in general biology I, genetics, microbiology, and cell biology
Epigenetic Chromatin Modifications
DNA is organized in the cell by wrapping around proteins called histones to form what is known as chromatin. This chromatin then condenses further to form what is known as chromosomes. Not only are histone proteins essential for this packaging of DNA into the cell, but these proteins also function to regulate the transcription of DNA into RNA. Through the modification of histone proteins, the wrapping of DNA around histone proteins can loosen, allowing for transcription to occur, or tighten, preventing transcription. Many other proteins and protein complexes have been shown to modify histone proteins. Two of these protein complexes in which I have focused my studies on include the SAGA complex and a protein complex that includes the Myeloid Leukemia Factor (MLF) using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model. In humans, the MLF1 homolog has been associated with the formation of acute myeloid leukemia; however, the mechanism through which MLF1 is involved in the formation of leukemia is unknown. I am currently working with members from the Workman laboratory from the Stowers Institute for Medical Research where I did a postdoctoral fellowship to publish a manuscript detailing our findings relating to MLF and its involvement in the regulation of transcription. As the misregulation of transcription is a hallmark of cancerous cells, determining how transcription is regulated at the epigenetic level is essential to understanding human health and disease.
Weake, V.M., Dyer, J.O., Seidel, C., Box, A., Swanson, S., Peak, A., Florens, L., Washburn, M., Abmayr, S.M., and Workman, J.L. Post-transcription initiation function of the ubiquitous SAGA complex in tissue-specific gene activation, Genes and Development 25:14 (2011).
Mapping Mutations Involved in Female Sterility
Infertility affects a relatively large proportion of couples in the United States. However, many of the causes for infertility are not well understood. In previous genetic screens for mutations that affect female sterility in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, numerous mutant lines were established that causes these organisms to be infertile. To date, many of the genes affected by these mutations have not been identified. Therefore, in collaboration with Dr. Scott Hawley’s laboratory and Danny Miller from the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, Dr. Laura Salem and I have begun mapping the locations of these mutations using deficiency mapping and complementation testing in Drosophila. Once we have identified the approximate location of these mutations through deficiency mapping, genome sequencing is used to determine the genes that have been mutated in that region to narrow down the candidates for complementation testing. As many genes have been conserved from organisms like the fruit fly to humans, understanding which genes cause infertility in fruit flies will provide us with a list of genes that may likely also lead to infertility in humans. Determining the molecular causes of female infertility could lead to the development of treatments for these women to allow for them to conceive biological children.
Salem, L., Dyer, J., Miller, D., and Hawley, S. “Undergraduate Research Collaboration Mapping Lethal Mutations in Drosophila.” Oral Presentation. The 58th Annual Meeting of ACUBE, University of Portland, Portland, Oregon, October 18, 2014.
Scholarship of Teaching and Learning
Developing an understanding of how students learn and retain information informs teachers and professors how to best convey information to these students. Much research has been done examining different methods and processes in teaching, though no one method has proven to be optimal. In order to assess the learning of our students here at Rockhurst University, I have been working on a project with many of the other biology department faculty members to examine the learning and retention of basic biology information from students in our general biology courses, as well as determining the retention of this information in later courses here at Rockhurst University. The goal of this project is to determine how students learn and retain biological information, which will allow us to tailor our courses to provide the best biology education possible to our students.
Scholes, C., Dyer, J., and Elsenpeter, R. “Question by Question Analysis of Student Performance on a General Biology Assessment Instrument.” Oral Presentation. The 58th Annual Meeting of ACUBE, University of Portland, Portland, Oregon, October 17, 2014.