Biology

Biology

Spotlight on Student Research

Megan AgajanianMegan Agajanian is studying breast cancer—how cells from this class of solid tumors divide and move. Previously, the Kelber lab found that the protein PEAK1 was associated with several aspects of human cancer progression and resistance to anti-tumor therapies. Now, Megan is working with breast cancer cells in which she has modified PEAK1 protein levels to test its function in more detail. She has discovered that increased levels of PEAK1 in these cells promotes cell motility/movement—an approximation of cell invasion potential. Her studies have also revealed that PEAK1 mediates transforming growth factor (TGF) signaling and the ability of this class of growth factors to induce a regulated, orderly transition from one cell type to another: PEAK1 promotes a more aggressive cellular phenotype. Megan's results are the first to provide evidence that PEAK1 is involved in TGF signaling in cells. more Spotlights...

Department Introspection

The Department of Biology is particularly proud of our lab and field courses. We offer a wide variety of hand-on opportunities in which students practice technique, gather data, and draw conclusions from those data. Many of these classes are very small. They use real laboratories and study organisms in their natural habitat. As a complement to these intimate classes, Biology majors also take a few large lecture classes, which are taught by rock-star lecturers. The faculty are remarkably open to exploring new and (hopefully) better teaching methods. For example, we adopted teaching with tablets and have done so as a group so as to make the tablet pay for itself thorugh savings on eTexts over paper books. Students often write reports and give spoken presentations. Reading the scientific literature is part of many classes. We believe in a tight interplay between teaching and research. The faculty are deeply involved in research training through doing research with students. The examination of our subject matter through our courses often inspires our research, and much of our research feeds back to make us better teachers. The variety and field-orientation of our course offerings are, we think, superior to those of any other university in the region. For example, we offer about 20 sections of field courses for majors per year, as well as one integrated field semester. Our graduates have had great opportunities to learn the skills used by professional biologists. Our newsletter tells more...