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At Mississippi College, the faculty of the department of biological sciences are dedicated to research. Choose a faculty member below to learn about their specific area of research:

Bill Stark, Ph.D.

My research interests include the systematics, phylogeny, and morphology of insects, particularly the aquatic insects such as stoneflies. Much of his research involves a comparative study of insect structures with scanning electron microscopy.

Stephanie Carmicle, Ph.D.

Most of our research focuses on extracts obtained from Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium, a traditional medicine plant, that produces important biologically active compounds. These phytochemicals include various flavones that are capable of inhibiting cellular proliferation and activating apoptosis in tumorigenic and cancerous cells. Certain extracts contain antioxidants known to protect cells by neutralizing DNA-damaging free radicals.  We are working to characterize the bioactive extracts through assays and use of bioinformatics tools. We are using Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a model eukaryotic organism, for screening of the effects of extract phytochemicals on eukaryotic cells. We are also exploring anti-carcinogenic flavonoid properties of the extracts and apoptotic signaling pathways in extract-treated MCF-7 breast ductal adenocarcinoma cells and Caco-2 colorectal adenocarcinoma cells.  Additionally, our research includes using PCR and other techniques for detection of Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) in mitochondrial DNA. SNPs are nucleotide sequence variations called haplotypes and they are used to define specific populations known as haplogroups.

Angela Reiken, Ph.D.

My research involves bridging gaps between behavior and cellular and molecular events occurring within the human brain. Her primary interests include utilizing neurochemical research methods to relate expression of specific proteins in the human brain to the pathology of psychiatric illness including Major Depressive Disorder and alcoholism.

Ted Snazelle, Ph.D.

My research interests include investigating the biodiversity of gram-negative bacilli in both surface water and soil utilizing both the Biomérieux API 20E system and the Biolog Microstation™. A second research interest is biotyping urine culture isolates of Escherichia coli using the Biomérieux API 20E system. A new research interest is studying carbohydrate metabolism in previously identified urine culture E. coli bio types using the Biolog Microstation™. Last, determining the prevalence of Staphylococcus aureus from environmental surfaces in the workplace is also a new research interest.

Frank Hensley, Ph.D.

My research focus is on vertebrates that are difficult to study due to low population density or cryptic habits. This includes not only endangered species but also common species such as bats and snakes. I am interested in activity patterns, particularly habitat use and spatial ecologies such as movement and migration patterns.  I am also particularly interested in how amphibian and reptile populations are influenced by invasive species of plants and animals.

Jerry Reagan, Ph.D.

Our laboratory has two lines of investigation. The first uses Drosophila melanogaster as an animal model to test the hypothesis that changes in the overall nutritional status of Drosophila larvae provide a set of temporally distal cues that form the basis for adult phenotypic plasticity and the developmental origins of health and disease. We are especially interested in nutritional parameters that affect energy balance in the adult fly. This line of investigation will provide insight into two important topics related to human health and disease. First, it will shed light on the regulation of metabolic pathways that affect energy balance including adaptive responses that lead to excessive fat storage (obesity). Second, the experimental design allows us to address the role of fetal programming in establishment of adult phenotypes.  The second line of investigation in our lab aims to determine how cholesterol or byproducts of endogenous cholesterol biosynthesis affect enzyme transport and activation within the secretory pathway of cultured mammalian cells. These studies will provide insight into basic mechanisms that regulate inter-organelle protein transport. In addition, they will shed light on the potential adverse effects of excess intracellular cholesterol accumulation in specific subcellular compartments.   

Erin Norcross, Ph.D.

Dr. Bourassa’s lab currently focuses on neurocognitive abnormalities associated with anxiety disorders. By linking biomarkers of stress (such as cortisol, catecholamine release, and electrocardiographic data), psychological assessments of anxiety, assessments of cognitive function (such as attention and memory), and measurements of neurological function using electroencephalography (EEG), his lab is elucidating the mechanisms underpinning abnormal function in patients with anxiety disorders. Current projects include developing a diagnostic test for test anxiety that is neurocognitive-based and identifying neurological markers of attentional and memory biases to threatening information in patients with test anxiety and generalized anxiety disorder.

Hanna Broome, Ph.D.

My research is centered on the mating behavior, reproductive output and gene expression related to mating/reproduction in the model system Drosophila melanogaster, the fruit fly. Fruit fly research has provided tremendous advancement in the fields of developmental and circadian clock biology, but this organism is recently gaining traction as a model for human metabolism. In my lab, we are particularly interested in reproductive changes that occur following prolonged alteration of dietary composition, such as sodium and carbohydrate content.

Erick Bourassa, Ph.D.

Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the bacterium responsible for gonorrhea infection, causes a reported 300,000 cases each year in the United States, although the actual incidence is likely closer to 750,000 cases per year. Until recently, a single dose of a penicillin or a macrolide antibiotic was curative. In recent years, a number of cases of untreatable gonorrhea have been reported and the CDC currently recommends only one drug for the treatment of gonorrhea due to antibiotic resistance. The mechanism(s) by which N. gonorrhoeae has developed this antibiotic resistance in recent years is unknown. My current research efforts are focused on understanding how N. gonorrhoeae has developed this antibiotic resistance and developing strategies to reduce the spread of antibiotic resistance in N. gonorrhoeae.

John Piletz, Ph.D.

The Piletz Lab has a unique 3-dimensional cell culture model system to study intestinal lumen-to-neuron signaling.  So far, they have primarily focused on the signaling of agmatine, a decarboxylated metabolite of arginine that is a neurotransmitter.  Agmatine is enriched in the lumen due to its production by enteric bacteria and sometimes gets ingested in gram quantities by body builders.  Another project involves kale juice applied to the same 3D cell culture model system.  The interest is whether digestible kale molecules also stimulate neurons.  Another project aims to determine if probiotics modulate enteric neurons.  Collaborators in the Chemistry department (HPLC analyses) and our own Biology faculty (applying in vitro findings to animal studies) make the Piletz Lab multidimensional.

Courtney Haycraft, Ph.D. 

Primary cilia are found on most eukaryotic cells and play an important role in mammalian development and diseases including cystic kidney disorders, retinal degeneration, and neurological deficits.  In lower organisms, such as the nematode C. elegans, they are required for detection and response to the external environment.  Despite their diverse functions, all cilia are generated using a conserved group of proteins.  My research uses the simple nematode, C. elegans, as a model to study the proteins and process of cilium formation and its function in behavior.