General biology I, genetics, introduction to research, biotechnology, and laboratory courses in general biology I, genetics, microbiology, and cell biology
Determining Genes Involved in Nervous System Development
Neural development requires a large number of tightly regulated molecules to direct the movements of neurons to their proper locations throughout the brain and body, as well as provide the signals necessary for proper synapses to form between these cells and other neurons and tissues. Though numerous molecules and signals have been determined to direct neuron migrations and axon pathfinding, our understanding of how these molecules and other as of yet unidentified molecules direct these movements is still in its infancy. Previous work by myself and other have used the genetic model organism Caenorhabditis elegans, a small soil-dwelling nematode, to identify and understand signaling pathways and molecules involved in neuron migrations and axon pathfinding. One set of neurons, the Q cells, were determine to be affected by several factors, including a transcription factor that directs posterior migration. We are currently examining several genes downstream of this transcription factor to determine if these genes are involved in the migration of the Q cell descendent neurons. Through the identification and detailed understanding of the genes involved in Q cell migration, we can increase our understanding of how neurons migrate from their birth places to form a mature nervous system. As many of these genes are conserved in humans, our studies will likely increase our understanding of the development of the central nervous system in humans.
Dyer, J.O., Demarco, R. S., and Lundquist, E.A. Distinct roles of Rac GTPases and the UNC-73/Trio and PIX-1 Rac GTP exchange factors in neuroblast protraction and migration in C. elegans, Small GTPases 1:1 (2010).
Chapman (Dyer), J.O., Li, H., and Lundquist, E.A. The MIG-15 NIK kinase acts cell-autonomously in neuroblast polarization and migration in C. elegans. Developmental Biology 324:2 (2008).
Mapping Mutations Involved in Lethality and 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. Also, genes required for viability have been isolated in Drosophila, but the identities of many of these genes have yet to be determined. 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. As many genes have been conserved from organisms like the fruit fly to humans, understanding which genes cause infertility and are required for viability in fruit flies will provide us with a list of genes that may likely also lead to infertility and lethal diseases in humans. Determining the molecular causes of female infertility and decreased viability of fetuses could lead to the development of treatments for these women to allow for them to conceive biological children and for survival of these 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.