Biology Research

The biology department maintains an active biological research program along several lines of scientific inquiry. The department emphasizes the participation of undergraduate students in research projects and such involvement is supported annually by competitive intramural scholarships.

Jeff Duerr: Bioenergetics and mitochondrial physiology (research lab)

Professor Duerr is currently working on two projects examining the role of mitochondria in cellular metabolic and bioenergetic profiles. One project examines the effect of Angiotensin II (originally recognized as a vasoactive hormone) on mitochondrial respiratory activity in the continuous prostate cancer cell line LNCaP in an effort to understand the role of ACE inhibitors on prostate cancer progression and prognosis. The other project focuses on developmental regulation of mitochondrial activity during entry and exit from hypometabolic states in the annual killifish Austrofundulus limnaeus whose embryos enter diapause and exhibit extreme tolerance to environmental insult. Results from such studies can potentially be applied to advances in organ cryopreservation. 

Don Powers:  Animal physiological ecology (research lab)

My current projects include:

  • Hummingbird flight energetics and biomechanics. This work includes experiments on birds flown in wind tunnels (in collaboration with Dr. Bret Tobalske, University of Montana) and free-living birds both in Oregon and Arizona (in collaboration with Dr. Susan Wethington, Hummingbird Monitoring Network).
  • Reproductive energetics in red-sided garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis).  Field work for this project is done in Manitoba, Canada in collaboration with Dr. Robert Mason from Oregon State University.
  • The role of aquaporin water channels in cutaneous water absorption and water regulation in rough-skinned newts (Taricha granulosa). Upcoming experiments include distribution of water channels in tissues in aquatic vs. terrestrial acclimated newts, studies of water uptake and water loss, and exploration of signaling pathways involved in regulating water channel insertion into cell membranes of tissue surfaces.  This work is being done in collaboration with Dr. John Schmitt (George Fox University).

John Schmitt: Cell and Molecular Biology of Cancer

The Schmitt laboratory has a research program that focuses on the cellular, molecular and biochemical events that control and regulate cell growth and survival. In particular, the research laboratory focuses on how hormones regulate calcium and CaM Kinase signaling in various cancers and cell types. The Schmitt laboratory utilizes several technical approaches to evaluate the signaling mechanisms that cancer cells use to grow and survive including confocal microscopy, cell culture, blotting, and gene silencing.

Current projects in the lab include:

  • Examining the signaling mechanisms used by Estrogen to activate CaM Kinases and breast cancer cell growth. Similarity, the lab is also evaluating the ability of certain compounds and hormones to inhibit CaM Kinase activity, gene expression and cancer growth.
  • The laboratory is also evaluating how the hormones vitamin D and testosterone regulate the survival of prostate cancer cells.
  • The examination of bone cell growth and differentiation as a result of hormone, calcium and CaM Kinase signaling is an area of investigation.

Jim Smart: Molecular genetics, Neuroscience

Matthew StumpResearch interests include the identification of mechanisms that underlie the normal and abnormal expression of the hERG potassium channel as related to long QT syndrome, a life-threatening cardiac disorder.

Kathy Weiss: Biomedical science

Kathy continues to practice medicine, working in a free-clinic on a regular basis. Students from GFU also work there and have the opportunity to shadow physicians.

See Murdock Collaborative Undergraduate Research Program for a list of previous awardees and where they are now.