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Biology Faculty

Luke K. Butler – Physiological and Behavioral Ecology

ButlerheadshotAssociate Professor of Biology
Ph.D., University of Washington

Research Interests – Dr. Butler is interested in ecological and evolutionary influences on the physiology and life history of animals, and how animals respond to natural and human disturbance. Using birds as model organisms, Dr. Butler’s lab conducts field- and specimen-based studies of molt physiology and feather morphology to illustrate the proximate and ultimate forces that underlie songbird life history trade-offs. They also investigate the hormonal and behavioral responses of birds to natural disturbances such as predators and weather, and to human disturbances such as habitat degradation and urbanization.

Teaching Interests – Dr. Butler teaches the biology department’s introductory course, Themes in Biology, and upper-level courses in avian biology and animal behavior. Before coming to TCNJ Dr. Butler was a post-doctoral scholar in the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Institutes for Reforming Science Teaching (FIRST). He continues to work with FIRST collaborators to create classes that are active, student-centered, and objectives-based.

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Wendy Clement – Plant Systematics and Evolution

clementheadshotAssociate Professor of Biology
Ph.D., University of Minnesota (Twin Cities)

Research Interests – Dr. Clement is an evolutionary biologist and plant systematist, and she and her students study the evolution of plant diversity. Their work uses phylogeny as a framework to investigate how plant diversity evolved, where major groups of plants originated, and how they dispersed to their present-day locations. Her work integrates molecular phylogenetics, morphology, biogeography, and pollination ecology to address these questions.

Teaching Interests – Dr. Clement teaches the biology department’s introductory course, Themes in Biology, as well as upper level courses in Systematic Biology, and Plant-Insect Interactions. Prior to TCNJ, Dr. Clement was a lecturer in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at Yale University, and she was a post-doctoral scholar in the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Institutes for Reforming Science Teaching (FIRST). Dr. Clement uses this training to create an active and student-centered environment in her classroom.

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Gary Dickinson – Physiological Ecology of Marine Invertebrates

Associate Professor of BiologyDickinson_Headshot
Ph.D., Duke University

Research Interests – Dr. Dickinson and his students conduct research in the area of marine invertebrate physiology. His research group employs an integrative and highly interdisciplinary approach to study biological adhesion, biomineralization, and larval behavior in barnacles, crabs and bivalves. The group is especially interested in assessing how environmental stressors, such as ocean adicidification and global warming, will affect the mechanical, structural and biochemical properties of invertebrate shells and glues.

Teaching Interests – Dr. Dickinson teaches the biology department’s introductory course, Themes in Biology, and an upper-level course in Animal Physiology. Outside of the classroom, Dr. Dickinson mentors independent research students in his laboratory.

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Curt Elderkin – Population and Conservation Genetics

elderkinAssociate Professor of Biology
Ph.D., University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Research Interests – Population and conservation genetics of freshwater mussels, evolutionary ecology of freshwater invertebrates, quantitative genetics of environmental stresses, and population biology, ecology, and physiology of invasive species.

Teaching Interests

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Kathryn T. Elliott – Bacterial Genetics

kte headshotAssociate Professor of Biology
Ph.D., University of Michigan

Research Interests – Using the soil bacterium Acinetobacter baylyi ADP1 as a model organism: nature and frequency of gene duplication and amplification, evolution and adaptation of gene amplification mutants, and regulation of expression of metabolic genes

Teaching Interests – I teach Genetics which was one of my favorite classes when I was a college student. I also teach two upper-level classes on Bacteria: Bacterial Pathogenesis explores how bacteria make us sick at a molecular level; Bacterial Genetics focuses on the genetics of non-pathogenic bacteria that have unusual and complex lifestyles.

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Jeffery T. Erickson – Developmental Respiratory Neurobiology


Associate Professor of Biology
Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Research Interests – Dr. Erickson’s research interests fall within the field of developmental respiratory neurobiology with a focus on understanding the genetic determinants of vertebrate breathing behavior. In particular, he and his students seek to understand how specific growth and transcription factors impact the stabilization and maturation of breathing behavior during early postnatal development. Dr. Erickson uses a combined physiological and anatomical analysis of genetically engineered mice to address these questions.

Teaching Interests – Dr. Erickson’s teaching is in the areas of cellular and molecular biology and neurobiology/neuroscience. He teaches Biology of the Eukaryotic Cell, a freshman/sophomore level core course, and an upper-level course in Neurobiology. In addition, Dr. Erickson directs the Biology Internship course and has mentored numerous students in independent research.

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Zach Grochau-Wright – Evolution of Multicellularity, Astrobiology


Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology / Teacher-Scholar Faculty Fellow
Ph.D., The University of Arizona

Research Interests – Evolution of Multicellularity, Major Transitions in Evolution. Astrobiology

Teaching Interests – Evolutionary Biology, Genetics and Developmental Biology, Astrobiology

Tracy L. Kress – Gene Expression and Cell Biology in Yeast

Tracy KressAssociate Professor of Biology
Ph.D., Brown University

Research Interests – Dr. Kress’s research aims to understand a fundamental question in molecular biology relevant to all organisms: how do cells regulate the expression of their genes? Dr. Kress and her undergraduate research students utilize a combination of genetics, molecular biology, and biochemistry to investigate the cellular mechanisms that underlie the steps in gene expression, and to understand how these steps are coordinated to ensure accurate and efficient gene expression. Because gene expression is a fundamental cellular process, it can be studied in genetically amendable organisms such as the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and give important insights into how the same process functions in humans.

Teaching Interests – Dr. Kress teaches core courses, such as Themes in Biology and Eukaryotic Cell Biology, and an upper level course on the Molecular Biology of Gene Expression. In addition, Dr. Kress mentors Independent Research students and teaches a senior seminar entitled “The RNA World”.

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Donald A. Lovett – Osmoregulation of Crustaceans

Don Lovett HeadshotProfessor of Biology
Ph.D., University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Research Interests – Dr. Lovett’s long-range research goals are to understand how crabs osmoregulate (maintain salt balance in the blood) in light of the fact that they live in estuaries, where they must tolerate exposure to a wide range of environmental salinity from fresh water to full-strength seawater. It is known that the gills are the primary organ in the crab used to osmoregulate and that during acclimation to various salinities, the crab modulates the activity of the enzyme Na+, K+-ATPase in the gills. As an integrative biologist, he studies the anatomy, ultrastructure, cell biology, physiology, and molecular biology of the gill in order to answer the question, “How does the crab accomplish this?”

Teaching Interests – Dr. Lovett teaches the introductory biology course, Themes in Biology, as well as two biology option courses: Microscopic Anatomy and Techniques and The Natural History of the Galápagos Islands and Ecuador, which culminates in a 2-week faculty-led program to visit the various habitats studied in the course. He also contributes to the biology freshmen orientation class and teaches an FSP called The Evolutionary Controversy from Ancient Greece to the Modern American Classroom.

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Janet A. Morrison – Plant Ecology and Biotic Interactions


Professor of Biology
Ph.D., State University of New York – Stony Brook

Research Interests – Dr. Morrison and her students conduct research in the broad area of plant ecology, studying natural populations and communities of plants. Their work focuses on interactions between plants with other organisms, including other plants and their natural enemies (herbivores and pathogens). A main focus is on the role of biotic interactions in the ecology of non-native invasive plant species.

Teaching Interests – Dr. Morrison teaches courses in ecology and plant sciences, often with a field component and/or specific connection to human society; these include Ecology and Field Biology, Plants and People, Field Botany and Plant Systematics, and The Ecology and Evolution of Disease. She has included undergraduate students in her research for 20 years, with numerous projects in the field, lab, and greenhouse. Dr. Morrison also directs campus-wide initiatives to develop research experiences for students in all disciplines at The College of New Jersey.

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Christopher G. Murphy – Behavior Ecology of Treefrogs

Associate Provost for Curriculum and Liberal Learning, and Professor of BiologyKit Murphy
Ph.D., Cornell University

Research Interests – Dr. Murphy and his students conduct research in the broad area of animal behavior, with a focuson sexual selection and acoustic communication in treefrogs. The goal of the research is to understand how calls produced by males influence the mate choice of females and the interactions between calling males. Observations and experiments in the natural environment, including digital recordings and playback experiments, are the main research tools used in these studies.

Teaching Interests – Dr. Murphy has taught a wide range of courses, but most of his teaching has been in non-majors biology as part of general education programs. He will teach a First Seminar Program course in the Fall of 2014. He has mentored numerous undergraduate students in research.

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Sudhir Nayak – Genetics and Bioinformatics


Professor of Biology
Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania

Research Interests – Dr. Nayak conducts research in the fields of genetics and bioinformatics, with an emphasis on the molecular, genetic, and biochemical analysis of germ cell development in Caenorhabditis elegans. Current projects include forward/reverse genetic analysis of germ line development, development of small molecule proteasome inhibitors, novel methods for nematode transformation, and development of software for bioinformatic analysis.

Teaching Interests – Dr. Nayak’s teaching is focused in the areas of genetics and bioinformatics. His primary teaching responsibility is the core class in Genetics. In addition, he teaches the advanced elective “Genomics and Bioinformatics”, senior seminar based on “Genome-wide Approaches to Basic Science and Medicine”, and the first seminar course “Blame if on your parents.”

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Amanda Norvell – Cell Biology and Gene Expression in Fruit Flies


Professor of Biology
Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania

Research Interests – Dr. Norvell’s laboratory studies how cellular asymmetries are established and maintained, using Drosophila melanogaster oogenesis as a model system. Their work focuses on understanding how appropriate temporal and spatial accumulation of specific proteins within the oocyte is achieved. The lab utilizes classical genetic approaches, coupled with molecular biology techniques to investigate post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression.

Teaching Interests – Dr. Norvell has taught at all levels of the Biology curriculum. As a developmental cell biologist, Dr. Norvell is one of the faculty members who regularly teaches Biology 211, The Biology of the Eukaryotic Cell. In addition, Dr. Norvell teaches upper division courses in Molecular Immunology and Advanced Cell Biology. Outside of the classroom, Dr. Norvell mentors independent research students.

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Marcia L. O’Connell – Zebrafish Developmental Biology

oconnellProfessor of Biology
State University of New York – Stony Brook

Research Interests – In my laboratory we investigate the molecular regulation of early development in vertebrates, and we pursue our studies in the model organism Danio rerio (zebrafish). We are most interested in maternal regulation, and the protein products that regulate the earliest patterning events during embryogenesis; those that convert the spherical embryo to an organism with bilateral symmetry. We investigate both the functions of maternally provided mRNAs and proteins in this context, and the regulation of the expression of these proteins and mRNAs.

Teaching Interests – My teaching interests reflect my research interests, and therefore I primarily teach courses in cell biology, genetics, and developmental biology. I also interact with freshmen in our orientation seminar, and with seniors in our capstone course, where the focus is on topics related to genetics and development. In addition, I always have between 3-5 students enrolled in Independent Research who are conducting that research in my laboratory.

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Brian O’Neill – Behavioral Genetics of Neurological Disorders

Brian ONeill

Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology
Ph.D., The Ohio State University

Research Interests – Dr. O’Neill’s research has focused on understanding the genes and the neurobiology underlying neuropsychiatric disorders (such as addiction, ADHD, and autism). More broadly, he is interested in how genetic factors predispose an individual to display the behavioral symptoms of neurological diseases; especially related to dopamine-a neurotransmitter involved in addiction and Parkinson’s.

Teaching Interests – Dr. O’Neill teaches the Foundations of Biological Inquiry (BIO201) and the Biology of the Eukaryotic Cell (BIO211) courses, as well as a senior capstone seminar. He is interested in guiding students through these first two-year courses and the laboratory sections that accompany them, to their advanced senior-level courses-and ultimately to their scientific goals beyond the classroom.

Jeffrey M. Osborn – Plant Evolutionary Biology

Jeffrey M. Osborn

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Professor of Biology
Ph.D., Ohio State University

Research Interests – Dr. Osborn and his students conduct research in the broad area of plant evolutionary biology, studying both fossil and living plants. The majority of their work is phylogenetically oriented and considers evolutionary relationships among seed plants based principally on the study of pollen development and morphology. He is also interested in pollination biology, including the evolution of pollination mechanisms and the functional role that pollen plays in particular syndromes.

Teaching Interests – Dr. Osborn’s teaching has covered a broad range of areas, including introductory-level biology and botany courses. He has also mentored numerous independent research/study students and taught an array of upper-level classes and seminars; some include Comparative Plant Morphology, Paleobotany, Plant Anatomy, and several Microscopy-based courses. In addition, he has taught an interdisciplinary course titled Understanding Biology through Art.

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Keith W. Pecor – Freshwater Animal Ecology


Professor of Biology and Department Chair
Ph.D., University of Michigan

Research Interests – Dr. Pecor and his students conduct research in the field of freshwater ecology, with an emphasis on the ecology of crayfish. Their work considers ecology at multiple scales, including behavioral ecology and community ecology. Recent projects include behavioral ecology of exotic crayfish, arthropod community structure in New Jersey streams, and mapping the distributions of different crayfish species in New Jersey.

Teaching Interests – Dr. Pecor’s teaching is focused in the areas of ecology and organismal biology. He teaches the core course Ecology and Field Biology and the options courses Biology of the Invertebrates and Freshwater Ecology.

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Nina Peel – Cell Biology and Genetics

Associate Professor of Biologypeel faculty interests
Ph.D., University of Cambridge, U.K.

Research Interests – Using C. elegans as a model organism: how centrosome duplication is controlled, the functions of protein phosphatase 1 (PP1) in early development, and how microtubule dynamics are regulated by post-translational modifications.

Teaching Interests – Dr. Peel teaches Eukaryotic Cell Biology and Genetics courses, as well as the senior capstone experience, Biology Seminar. She also teaches an upper level course on the genetics of cancer.

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Howard K. Reinert – Vertebrate Ecology and Conservation


Professor of Biology
Ph.D., Lehigh University

Research Interests – Dr. Reinert and his students conduct research in the areas of vertebrate physiological ecology, behavioral ecology, and conservation biology. The majority of their effort is focused on research that can be applied to the conservation of reptiles and amphibians, especially threatened and endangered snakes. Dr. Reinert has active research programs in Pinelands of New Jersey, the Appalachian Mountains of Pennsylvania, and in the Dutch West Indies.

Teaching Interests – Dr. Reinert’s teaches introductory and advanced courses in ecology and biostatistics. He has mentored numerous undergraduate independent research students as well as graduate students at other institutions.

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Zaara Sarwar – Bacterial Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

sarwarAssistant Professor of Biology
Ph.D., Syracuse University

Research Interests – Dr. Sarwar’s research aims to understand the molecular mechanisms of 
bacterial signal transduction systems in order to elucidate their biological roles, particularly as it pertains to pathogenesis. Her lab biochemically and genetically characterizes two- component signal transduction systems and transcriptional factors of bacterial pathogens including Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Acinetobacter baumannii. Identifying the signal inputs and regulatory outputs of these networks will provide valuable insight into the molecular basis of virulence and enable development of antimicrobials.

Teaching Interests – Dr. Sarwar teaches General Microbiology. She is also very interested in developing courses in bacteriology, such as Bacterial Metabolism, Biochemistry of Bacterial Signal Transduction, and Gene Regulation in Bacteria. Additionally, she is passionate about mentoring students in research and has designed her research program to provide students with a comprehensive and multidisciplinary experience in cutting edge research in microbiology, molecular biology, genetics and biochemistry.

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Dennis Shevlin – Population Biology of Fungi

shevlinAssociate Professor of Biology
Ph.D., University of California – Berkeley

Research Interests – Population biology and life cycle of the parasitic fungus, Sporisorium with its host, Broomsedge (Andropogon virginicus) in North America.

Teaching Interests – Themes of Biology, Eukaryotic Cell Biology, Oceanography, Biology of Fungi, Man in the Natural World (non-majors) and Human Physiology (at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School).

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Leeann E. Thornton – Plant Biochemical Responses to Stress


Associate Professor of Biology
Ph.D., Washington University – St. Louis

Research Interests – Dr. Thornton’s research uses biochemical and genetic techniques to explore how plant growth is regulated in response to stress. Her work provides a basic understanding of how plants respond to the environment and relates to how well crop plants produce food. She is studying the activity of proteins from a model plant, Arabidopsis, and from important crop plants, such as rice. She mentors independent research students that explore how individual plant genes encode for specific activities regulating growth and development throughout the life of a plant.

Teaching Interests – Dr. Thornton teaches the introductory biology course, Themes in Biology, as well as the senior capstone experience, Biology Seminar. She teaches the Biology of Seed Plants and Plant Genetics. She also contributes to the biology freshmen orientation class and teaches an FSP called Nature on your plate: connecting your food choices to the natural world.

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Melkamu G. Woldemariam – Molecular and Chemical Ecology in Plants

WoldemariamMAssistant Professor of Biology
Ph.D., Friedrich-Schiller University and Max-Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Jena, Germany

Research Interests: Dr. Woldemariam’s research is focused on understanding the signal transduction pathway that orchestrate plant defense responses against herbivore attack. Mainly, he is interested in identifying and characterizing jasmonate-dependent regulatory mechanisms in plants using a combination of large-scale transcriptomics, metabolomics and genetics approaches.

Teaching Interests: Dr. Woldemariam teaches Foundations of Biological Inquiry, Comparative Transcriptomics and Metabolomics, and Seminars in Biology.

Matthew A. Wund – Evolutionary Ecology


Professor of Biology
Ph.D., University of Michigan

Research Interests – Dr. Wund and his students investigate how evolutionary changes in populations and developmental changes within individuals interact to promote adaptation to novel environments. Using the threespine stickleback fish as a model system, they seek to determine how individuals and populations respond to the introduction of novel predators or the colonization of new habitats.

Teaching Interests – As an evolutionary ecologist, Dr. Wund’s teaching interests include evolution, ecology and vertebrate biology. He is also particularly interested in teaching science to non-majors, with the hope of improving scientific literacy in the general public, and specifically in future elementary and early childhood teachers. His non-majors course, “Inquiries in the Life Sciences” is directed specifically towards this population of students. He also supervises student teachers interested in becoming middle and high school biology teachers.

More Information Dr. Wund’s Page


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