Dr. Cheryl Van Buskirk

Profile Summary

In the lab with a beautiful painting of the Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) from jellyfish. Artists: Jessie Lopez and Andrew Hill.My research investigates two things we can all relate to: stress (!) and sleep (zzz...). We study the molecular genetics of stress responses and sleep regulation using the nematode worm C. elegans. This model organism has a very simple nervous system (only 302 neurons) yet it displays many complex behaviors. Further, the signaling pathways regulating some of these behaviors appear to be deeply conserved, and hence studies in the worm have the potential to shed light on behavioral regulation within more complex nervous systems. The major focus of the lab right now is to investigate how these animals respond behaviorally to stress. We have recently found that in response to a wide range of stressful situations, C. elegans will go to sleep, using the EGF signaling pathway and the sleep-inducing ALA neuron. We hypothesize that sleep helps them cope with proteotoxic stress (protein misfolding). Very exciting! I teach non-majors biology most semesters, undergraduate and graduate level genetics, and an undergraduate course called FIRE (BIOL447/L: Full Immersion Research Experience) once every couple of years. Students interested in joining my lab should sign up for FIRE to gain the skills needed for research in molecular genetics, and see if they like working with worms! Alternatively, they can sign up for BIOL495: Directed Research, which gives them academic credit for doing research in my lab.

Contact Information

Education

2000 Ph.D. Molecular Biology, Princeton University 1993 B.S. Biochemistry, University of Calgary