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I moved between colleges in New York as an undergraduate, until I settled into the Biology program at the State Unversity of New York College at Cortland. I initially expected to pursue exercise science (and had a minor in this field), but began to grow more interested in my biology courses and research. I moved to Syracuse University to pursue a PhD studying telomeric retrotransposons in fruit flies. Telomeres are ends of linear chromosomes, and fruit flies use mobile DNA elements (retrotransposons) to maintain their chromosomes ends, rather than the enzyme telomerase. Becoming fascinated with retrotransposons, I took a postdoctoral position at the Wadsworth Center to study the regulation and impact of these elements in budding yeast (focusing on yeast cells lacking telomerase activity). I then became interested in whether retrotransposons could influence cellular aging, and accepted a faculty position at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to develop a research program on this topic and to teach genetics. After several years, I returned to the Wadsworth Center as a visiting scientist to continue my research in yeast on retrotransposons and aging. Two years later, in 2019, I joined the Biology department at Siena to continue my research and teach in the areas of cell and molecular biology.

Degree Program University
Ph.D. Molecular Biology Syracuse University
B.S. Biology State University of New York College at Cortland

My Siena Experience

My Teaching Philosophy

I think that I need to keep adjusting and modifying my teaching style to find the approaches that work best in different contexts. I think of this much the same way as natural selection is taught - vary what I do (presence of variation), see what is working based on how well students achieve learning outcomes and feedback I receive (selection pressure and certain variants succeed), and continue to do the things that are working (evolve a more adapted style). Two core aspects of my teaching that have developed from this approach are for me to work hard to guide students to think independently about course material, including providing detailed feedback, and to make students frequently practice explaining and applying what they are learning. My goal is to help students learn to apply information to different problems/scenarios, explain how experimentation can be used to address specific questions, analyze and interpret data, effectively communicate concepts using specific examples, and effectively compare/contrast different types of biological information.

What I Love About Siena

I am very happy that class sizes are small so that I can more easily include a variety of activities in classes and engage all my students. I also enjoy the friendly and respectful atmosphere that makes it easy to talk to my peers outside my department.

My Favorite Courses to Teach

Whatever course I am teaching at the moment. That may seem to be a way to avoid answering the question, but consider this story I was told a number of years ago. Once a music professor was not impressed with how well a student was conducting a piece of music and asked if the student liked the particular piece of music. The student answered "No." The professor responded, "Wrong answer, whatever piece of music you are conducting at the moment is your favorite piece of music." The point was that conducting well required some connection to the music. I feel the same about my teaching - to teach a course well, I have to treat it as if it is my favorite course to teach. Currently, I am mostly teaching Cell Biology and Biochemistry, but have also taught General Biology and Writing and Research Skills for Biologists.

My Professional Experience

Year Title Organization
2019 - Now Assistant Professor in Biology Siena College
2017 - 2019 Visiting Scientist Wadsworth Center, NY State Department of Health
2010 - 2010 Adjunct Instructor in Biology Union College
2010 - 2017 Assistant Professor in Biology Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
2008 - 2008 Adjunct Instructor in Biology University at Albany
2002 - 2010 Postdoctoral Researcher Wadsworth Center, NY State Department of Health

Current Research

I work on retrotransposons and aging. Retrotransposons are a type of mobile DNA element present in the genomes of many organisms, meaning that their sequences can move to new positions in a genome, but these elements are not infectious like viruses. In the case of retrotransposons, reverse transcription of an RNA copy of the retrotransposon produces a new DNA copy that can be inserted at a new chromosomal location in a genome. Therefore, the mobility of these elements can change the sequences present at different sites in genomes. I am interested in the regulation and impact of these elements, particularly as it relates to cellular aging. Many factors have been associated with cellular aging, but work from my lab and several other research groups has shown that retrotransposons are one such factor. I have also studied how mild stresses can lead to longer cellular lifespans, and this general effect of a low dose of a stress producing a beneficial outcome is called hormesis. 

Articles & Book Reviews

  • Diverse transposable element landscapes in pathogenic and nonpathogenic yeast models: the value of a comparative perspective.
    Mobile DNA
  • Low doses of DNA damaging agents extend Saccharomyces cerevisiae chronological lifespan by promoting entry into quiescence.
    Experimental Gerontology
  • Preferential Ty1 retromobility in mother cells and nonquiescent stationary phase cells is associated with increased concentrations of total Gag or processed Gag and is inhibited by exposure to a high concentration of calcium.
  • Growth conditions that increase or decrease lifespan in Saccharomyces cerevisiae lead to corresponding decreases or increases in rates of interstitial deletions and non-reciprocal translocations.
    BMC Genetics
  • What might retrotransposons teach us about aging?
    Current Genetics
  • Preferential retrotransposition in aging yeast mother cells is correlated with increased genome instability.
    DNA Repair
  • Combining magnetic sorting of mother cells and fluctuation tests to analyze genome instability during mitotic cell aging in Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
    JoVE (Journal of Visualized Experiments)
  • Extension of Saccharomyces paradoxus chronological lifespan by retrotransposons in certain media conditions is associated with changes in reactive oxygen species.
  • Retrotransposition is associated with genome instability during chronological aging.
  • Rrm3 protects the genome from instability at nascent sites of retrotransposition.
  • Developmental and tissue-specific accumulation pattern for the Drosophila melanogaster TART ORF1 protein.
  • Incorporation of Y'-Ty1 cDNA destabilizes telomeres in Saccharomyces cerevisiae telomerase-negative mutants.
  • Host factors that control LTR-retrotransposons in Saccharomyces cerevisiae: implications for the regulation of mammalian retroviruses.
    Eukaryotic Cell
  • Retrosequence formation restructures the yeast genome.
    Genes and Development
  • Identification of multiple transcription initiation, polyadenylation, and splice sites in the Drosophila melanogaster TART family of telomeric retrotransposons.
    Nucleic Acids Research
  • Ty1 mobilizes subtelomeric Y' elements in telomerase-negative Saccharomyces cerevisiae survivors.
    Molecular and Cellular Biology