Dr. Lise Wilson
Lise D. Wilson
B.S. Biological Sciences, University of Massachusetts, Lowell (1977)
Ph.D. Microbiology, University of Virginia (1983)
Postdoctoral Positions at Tufts University Medical School and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (1983-1986).
Courses: Immunology, Genetics, Molecular Biology, General Biology Laboratory and Scientific Writing
My major areas of interest in biology lie in the microbial world. Since taking microbiology as an undergraduate, I have been fascinated by this most abundant and resilient group of organisms. Microbes have adapted their metabolic processes to allow their survival and reproduction in the most diverse environments imaginable including soil, salt ponds, deep-sea hydrothermal vents, and the human intestinal tract. Very few microbes are pathogenic; most are beneficial and indeed, essential for human life. In graduate school, I studied the capacity of the vertebrate immune system to recognize and respond to those microbes capable of causing infectious disease. The aim of my graduate research was to understand how immune system cells recognize foreign substances and cooperate in their elimination. In particular, I was interested in identifying genes which affect the ability of an animal to produce an effective and appropriate immune response. In my postdoctoral work I became interested in the evasive strategies developed by viruses to avoid or alter immune recognition by the infected host. I used recombinant DNA techniques to describe how cancer viruses that infect immune system cells of mice alter their hosts' production of immune recognition molecules by interfering with gene expression.
My current research focuses on rare and unusual genes of bacteria and bacterial viruses characterized by introns - interruptions in the information-containing sequences of genes. Although virtually all genes of eukaryotic organisms such as humans contain multiple introns, only six intron-containing genes have been discovered among all bacteria and bacterial viruses to date. These introns are remarkable in that they can catalyze their own removal from pre-mRNAs. In addition, many of these introns contain embedded genes which encode proteins required for the insertion of the intron into an intronless version of its gene - a process termed "intron homing." I have discovered and characterized a new catalytic intron in a gene of the soil bacterium Bacillus subtilis. My research students and I are now characterizing the chromosomal location of this gene in an attempt to explain its origin within the bacterial genome. This research is supported by a Career Advancement Award from the National Science Foundation.
My position at Siena gives me the opportunity to transfer my experiences from each of these research projects to my courses. In my Molecular Biology course, students study gene structure, expression, and regulation, followed by numerous special topics in molecular biology including: cancer genes; the molecular biology of HIV; gene therapy and the mapping and isolation of human disease genes. In the laboratory, students learn a variety of techniques including PCR, Southern Hybridization, and DNA Sequencing. Much of the equipment used in the course laboratory was purchased from an Instrumentation and Laboratory Improvement Grant from the National Science Foundation with matching funds from Siena. Because our department has steadily improved and updated our facilities and instrumentation to keep up with technological advances in the cell and molecular biology fields, our students have the opportunity to become proficient with the equipment and techniques they will encounter in graduate or professional school or as biologists in academic or biotechnology research.