Steven B. Oppenheimer

Steven Oppenheimer
Professor of Biology, Emeritus
(818) 677-3336
Office location:
Chaparral Hall 5433


Fellow, AAAS
CSU System Trustees Outstanding Professor
United States Presidential Awardee
Director, Center for Cancer and Developmental Biology, CSUN

Ph.D. The Johns Hopkins University
Postdoc, University of California, San Diego

About 200 published papers, abstracts/presentations and books with about 700 student co-authors resulted from our work. Our success with student research accomplishments was recognized in 2009 by a U.S. Presidential Award from the White House and National Science Foundation.

Overview PDF icon

Editorial - Acta Histochemica - Improving Science Education Worldwide


During the Brooklyn-born professor's 41 years at CSUN, he has communicated his joy in life and learning to battalions of students who have carried it into research, medicine, teaching, forensics technology, pharmacology, dentistry and many other fields of science.

Oppenheimer has co-authored with more than 700 students—most of them undergrads—about 200 peer-reviewed papers, abstracts and presentations. He has mentored some 200 long-term student researchers, many of them women and underrepresented ethnic minorities. In any given semester, from 50 to more than 100 students are at work in his lab, treated to his famously corny jokes and a greeting, "How's it going, Professor?" which signifies his faith in their academic futures. They also are treated to the elusive opportunity to do research.

Fresh out of UCLA with A's all over her transcript, a young grad student recently gravitated to Oppenheimer's lab. "She'd been interested in a Ph.D. program at UCLA but didn't get in. The reason? No research experience," he said. "She did a beautiful piece of work here, published it, and is now getting honors in Yale's Ph.D. program. What that says—and this is a typical situation—is that a good research experience plays a major role in getting into an advanced program."

Not all, however, come to Oppenheimer as academic heavy-hitters. "I like to give every student who is interested the chance to do some research," he said. "I've seen too many cases where the GPA may not be that good; the kid may look a little disheveled. Some of those turn out to be the best."

His method for mentoring and managing hundreds of student researchers? "First of all, my office is in the lab. In fact, I don't have an office. I'm right in the middle; no glass, no wall. I'm sitting here every day; I can see what's going on." He checks students' lab notebooks daily. "It's a very well-defined and organized operation with lots of controls." He appoints a team of student leaders to help train the new students and set up the experiments, a practice Oppenheimer considers key to the system's success.

"I couldn't do it alone," said Oppenheimer, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, who for years has partnered with committed CSUN faculty peers on student research work.

The payoff is evident. One product of Oppenheimer's mentorship, a minority scholar who earned a Ph.D. in cell developmental biology from Harvard, is now a senior scientist at Washington University. "Dr. Oppenheimer," said Claudia Garcia, "continues to be a great mentor to me and to many other students interested in science."

In addition to 24 local, statewide and national awards and honors, Oppenheimer received a U.S. Presidential Award for Mentoring at the White House, in January 2010. He was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for "distinguished" research on cell surface carbohydrates in morphogenesis and malignancy.


Steven Oppenheimer seated with other recipients of the U.S Presidential Award. President Obama is standing in middle of group.

Steve Oppenheimer receives U.S. Presidential Award from President Obama. Blue Room of White House, January 6, 2010. Steve is seated front row second from left. President Obama is standing, center. Arden Bement, Director of the National Science Foundation is standing far left with yellow tie.

1969-71 American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellowship, University of California
1977 Cal State Northridge Distinguished Professor Award
1980-90 Certificates of Merit, Appreciation and Special Recognition, American Cancer Society
1983 Cal State Northridge President’s Associates Distinguished 25th Anniversary Award
1984 Phi Kappa Phi Scholar 1984 Sigma Xi Distinguished Research Award, CSU Northridge
1984 Trustees Outstanding Professor Award of the 20 campus California State University system (system’s highest honor)
1985 Public Education Award, American Cancer Society
1985-90 Board of Directors, American Cancer Society, San Fernando Valley Unit 1985 Panel Member, National Science Foundation, DSEE
1987 Study Section Member, NIH Division of Research Grants, Special Review Section and Site Visit Team
1988 American Cancer Society Certificate of 10 Years Notable Service
1992 Elected Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
1994 National Institutes of Health, National Center for Research Resources, Special Review Committees (2)
1996-97 National Institutes of Health, National Center for Research Resources, Special Emphasis Panel 2000 National Science Foundation, Signal Transduction and Regulation Program, grant evaluator
2000 National Science Foundation, Grant Review Panel, CCLI Program 2003 Senator Richard Alarcon Award of the California State Senate
2003 California State Board of Equalization Resolution on Senator Alarcon Award
2003 Appointed to the Editorial Board Acta Histochemica, Elsevier
2003 National Institutes of Health, NIGMS SCORE, Grant Evaluation Panel 2005 Appointed Regional Editor, Acta Histochemica, Elsevier, out of Oxford Brookes
2006 Appointed Participating Investigator, Consortium for Functional Glycomics
2007 Grant Review Panel, National Science Foundation, SBIR/STTR Phase 1, Disease Diagnostics a Prognostics
2007 Grant Review Panel, National Institutes of Health, R13 applications
2007-09 Reviewer for Pharmaceutical Research, BBA Reviews on Cancer, Molecular Reproduction and Development, Nature’s Modern Pathology
2008 Grant Review Panel, National Institutes of Health, National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, Developmental Biology Subcommittee, Model Systems and Research Focus
2008 Grant Review Panel and Chair of Panel, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of General Medical Sciences, Office of Scientific Review, R13 applications
2009 Grant Review Panel and Chair of Panel, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of General Medical Sciences, Office of Scientific Review, R13 applications, Reviewer for Molecular Biotechnology
2009 U.S. Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring
2010 Grant Review Panel, NSF PAESMEM
2011 Grant Review Panel, NSF PAESMEM
2014 Grant Review Panel, NSF PAESMEM

Research Interests

Mechanisms of adhesive interactions in development and cancer; role of surface sugars


Recent Contributions to Science

RECENT CSUN STUDENT CO-AUTHORED WORK The following are 2013-2015 papers from Oppenheimer lab and explanations of the contributions they make to science.

Liang, J., Aleksanyan, H., Metzenberg, S., Oppenheimer, S.B., Involvement of L(-) Rhamnose in Sea Urchin Gastrulation, Part II: Alpha-L-Rhamnosidase, Zygote, Accepted May 15, 2015, in press.

Oppenheimer, S.B., Simple Novel Assays in Glycobiology. Journal of Glycobiology 3:112. (2014)

Ghazarian, A., Oppenheimer, S.B., Microbead Analysis of Cell Binding to Immobilized Lectin. Part II: Quantitative Kinetic Profile Assay for Possible Identification of Anti-Infectivity and Anti-Cancer Reagents. Acta Histochemica 116: 1514–1518. (2014)

Smith, T., Oppenheimer, S.B., Involvement of L-rhamnose in Sea Urchin Gastrulation: A Live Embryo Assay. Zygote 23: 222-228. (2013)

Singh, S., Karabidian, E., Kandel, A., Metzenberg, S., Carroll, Jr., Oppenheimer, S.B., A Role for Polyglucans in a Model Sea Urchin Embryo Cellular Interaction, Zygote 22: 419-429. (2014)

ABOUT THE SINGH ET AL. (2014)., SMITH AND OPPENHEIMER (2013), AND LIANG ET AL(2015). Singh et al. (2014) for the first time used an elegant new assay developed in the Oppenheimer lab that directly discovered a role of polyglucans in a cellular adhesive interaction of interest to biologists for over a century, adhesion of the archenteron tip to the blastocoel roof in the NIH model sea urchin embryo system. What is found in sea urchins is often found in humans. Liang et al. (2015) and Smith and Oppenheimer (2013) found for the first time in animal systems using both enzyme and sugars that L-rhamnose is involved in sea urchin embryo cellular interactions. This sugar has not previously been definitively shown to be involved in cellular interactions in ANY animal system. This is a big first.

ABOUT GHAZARIAN AND OPPENHEIMER (2014) PAPER. Ghazarian and Oppenheimer (2014) found, using new quantitative kinetic profile assays, that D-melezitose was the best inhibitor of yeast binding to lectin microbeads, a model system for identifying agents that could block cancer cell clumping, pathogen binding to cells, biofilm development and thrombocytic events.

K-!2 PUBLISHED WORK All 19 years of the award-winning K-12 student abstracts science journal can be downloaded free of charge by anyone in the world at: This contribution to science education as well as the award-winning CSUN student research programs and and publications helped garner a U.S. Presidential Award and about 26 local, statewide and National Awards and honors, including election as Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). A Fellow of the AAAS is defined as "a Member whose efforts on behalf of the advancement of science or its applications are scientifically or socially distinguished."

Citations:  Over 300 citations of P.I.’s papers have appeared.

Books:  14 book editions – textbooks on embryonic development and cancer.  Some: 


  • Oppenheimer, S.B. and Carroll, E.J., 2004, Introduction to Embryonic Development, 4th Edition, Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.
  • Oppenheimer, S.B., 2004, Cancer A Biological and Clinical Introduction, 4th Edition, Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.
  • Oppenheimer SB, Chao RLC. 1986. Atlas of Embryonic Development. Allyn and Bacon, Inc.


Papers: (selected recent full length papers from a total of about 80; total publications of P.I., about 200 papers, abstracts, book chapters, books). Two Oppenheimer lab papers achieved the most downloads recorded by publisher (Oppenheimer, Acta Histochemica 108, 327-334, 2006; Ghazarian, et al., Acta  Histochemica 113, 236-247, 2011):

Daily, M., Latham, V., Garcia, C., Hockman, C., Chun, H., Oppenheimer, M., West, S., Rostamiani, K., Chao, R., Pollock, E., Oppenheimer, S.  1994, Producing Exposed Coat-Free Embryos, Zygote  2: 221-225.

Spiegler, M., Oppenheimer, S.  1995,  Extending the Viability of Sea Urchin Gametes, Cryobiology 32: 168-174.

Latham, V., Herrera, S., Rostamiani, K., Chun, H., Oppenheimer, S. 1995, Rapid Identification of Lectin Receptors and Their Possible Function in Sea Urchin Cell Systems, Acta Histochemica 97:  373-382.

Latham, V., Ducut, J., Rostamiani, K., Chun, H., Lopez, M., Herrera, S., Oppenheimer, S. 1995, Comparative Evaluation of Sea Urchin Lectin Receptors, Acta Histochemica 97:  89-97.

Roque, R., Herrera, S., Yeh, T., Philip, J., Borisavljevic, T., Brunick, L., Miles, A., Haritunians, T., Addy, C., Bada, R., Vaghefi, H., Matsumoto, S., Piccionelli, G., Rodriguez, L., Oppenheimer, S. 1996, Cell Adhesion Mechanisms:  Modeling Using Derivatized Beads and Sea Urchin Cell Systems, Acta Histochemica 98:  441-451.

Latham, V., Latham, L., Oppenheimer, S. 1996, Desktop Computer-Based Image Analysis of Cell Surface Fluorescence Patterning from Photographic Source, Acta Histochemica 98:  295-300.

Ghoneum, M., Vojdani, A., Banionis, A., Oppenheimer, S., Lagos, N., Gill, G. 1997, The Effects of Carcinogenic Methylcholanthrene on Carbohydrate Residues of NK Cells, Toxicology and Industrial Health 13:  727-741.

Philip, J., Rodriguez, L., Bada, R., Ambroise, F., Hernandez, U., Oppenheimer, S. 1997, Charge Interactions in Sperm-Egg Recognition, Acta Histochemica 99:  401-410.

Latham, V., Martinez, A., Cazares, L., Hamburger, H., Tully, M., Oppenheimer, S. 1998, Accessing the Embryo Interior Without Microinjection, Acta Histochemica 100:  193-200.

Latham, V., Tully, M., Oppenheimer, S. 1999, A Putative Role for Carbohydrates in Sea Urchin Gastrulation, Acta Histochemica 101:  293-303.

Latham, V., Oppenheimer, S. 1999, A Simple Image Analysis Method for Evaluating Cell Binding to Derivatized Beads, Acta Histochemica 101:  263-270.

Salbilla, B., Vaghefi, H., Chhabra, P., Hall, G., Brown, D., Sadoughi, F., Francisco, E., Attas, L., Walker, S., Nguyen, B., Oppenheimer, S. 1999, Analysis of Cell Surface Properties Using Derivatized Agarose Beads, Acta Histochemica 101:  271-279.

Navarro, V., Walker, Badali, O., Abundis, M., Ngo, L., Weerasinghe, G., Barajas, M., Zem, G., Oppenheimer, S. 2002, Analysis of Surface Properties of Fixed and Live Cells Using Derivatized Agarose Beads, Acta Histochemica 104:  99-106.

Khurrum, M., Weerasinghe, G., Soriano, E., Riman, R., Badali, O., Gipson, S., Medina, J., Alfaro, J., Navarro, V., Harieg, C., Ngo, L., Sakhakorn, T., Kirszenbaum, L., Khatibi, D., Abedi, K., Barajas, M., Zem, G., Kirszenbaum, A., Razi, A., Oppenheimer, S.  2002, Analysis of Surface Properties of Human Cancer Cells Using Derivatized Beads, Acta Histochemica 104:  217-223.

Ngo, L., Barajas, M., Weerasinghe, G., Zem, G., Oppenheimer, S. 2003, A New Histochemical Approach for Studying Sperm Cell Surfaces, Acta Histochemica 105:  21-28.

Maldonado, M., Weerasinghe, G., Ambroise, F., Yamoah, E., Londono, M., Pelayo, J., Grigorian, M., Oppenheimer, S. 2004, The Charged Milieu: a Major Player in Fertilization Reactions, Acta Histochemica, 106:  3-10.

Khurrum, M., Hernandez, A., Eskalaei, M., Badali, O., Coyle-Thompson, C., Oppenheimer, S. 2004, Carbohydrate Involvement in Cellular Interactions in Sea Urchin Gastrulation, Acta Histochemica, 106:  97-106.

Coyle-Thompson, C., Oppenheimer, S.B. 2005. A Novel Approach to Study Adhesion Mechanisms by Isolation of the Interacting System, Acta Histochemica, 107: 243-251 (2005).

Heinrich, E.L., Welty, L.A.Y., Banner, L.R., Oppenheimer, S.B. 2005. Direct Targeting of Cancer Cells: A Multiparameter Approach, Acta Histochemica, 107: 335-344 (2005).

Welty, L.A.Y., Heinrich, E.L., Garcia, K., Banner, L.R., Summers, M.L., Baresi, L., Metzenberg, S., Coyle-Thompson, C., Oppenheimer, S.B., Analysis of Unconventional Approaches for the Rapid Detection of Surface Lectin Binding Ligands on Human Cell Lines, Acta Histochemica 107: 411-420 (2006).

Oppenheimer, S.B., Cellular Basis of Cancer Metastasis: A Review of Fundamentals and New Advances, Acta Histochemica, 108:327-334 (2007). This paper garnered the most downloads of all papers in this Elsevier journal, August 06-March 07 (813 downloads).

Zem, G.C., Badali, O., Gaytan, M. Hekmatjou, H., Alvarez, M., Nnoli, J., Katus, E., Oppenheimer, S.B., Microbead Analysis of Cell Binding to Immobilized Lectin: An Alternative to Microarrays in the Development of Carbohydrate Drugs and Diagnostic Tests, Acta Histochemica 108: 311-317 (2006).

Petrossian, K., Banner, L., Oppenheimer, S.B.,  Lectin Binding and Lectin Effects on Human Cancer and Non-Cancer Cell Lines: Examination of Issues of Interest in Drug Design Strategies, Acta Histochemica 109: 491-500 (2007).

Razinia, Z., Carroll, Jr., E.J., Oppenheimer, S.B., Microplate Assay for Quantifying Developmental Morphologies: Effects of Exogenous Hyalin on Sea Urchin Gastrulation, Zygote 15: 1-6 (2007).

Sajadi, S., Rojas, P., Oppenheimer, S.B., Cyclodextrin, A Proble for Studying Adhesive Interactions, Acta Histochemica 109: 338-342 (2007).

Oppenheimer,S.B., Alvarez, M., Nnoli, J.,Carbohydrate-Based Experimental Therapeutics for Cancer, HIV/AIDS and Other Diseases, Acta Histochemica 110: 6-13 (2008).

Alvarez, M., Nnoli, J., Carroll, E.J., Jr., Hutchins-Carroll, V., Razinia, Z., Oppenheimer, S.B., Exogenous Hyalin and Sea Urchin Gastrulation, Part II: Hyalin, An Interspecies Cell Adhesion Molecule, Zygote 16: 73-78 (2008).

Carroll, E.J., Jr., Hutchins-Carroll, V., Coyle-Thompson, C., Oppenheimer, S.B., Hyalin is a Cell Adhesion Molecule Involved in Mediating Archenteron-Blastocoel Roof Attachment, Acta Histochemica 110: 265-275 (2008).

Contreras, A., Vitale, J., Hutchins-Carroll, V., Carroll, E.J., Oppenheimer, S.B., Exogenous Hyalin and Sea Urchin Gastrulation. Part III: Biological Activity of Hyalin Isolated from Lytechinus pictus embryos, Zygote 16: 355-361 (2008).

Ghazarian, H.,Coyle-Thompson, C., Dalrymple, W., Hutchins-Carroll, V., Metzenberg, S., Razinia, Z., Carroll, Jr., E.J., Oppenheimer, S.B., Exogenous Hyalin and Sea Urchin Gastrulation, Part IV: a Direct Adhesion Assay- Progress in Identifying Hyalin’s Active Sites, Zygote 18: 17-26 (2010).

Ghazarian, H., Idoni, B., Oppenheimer, S.B., A Glycobiology Review: Carbohydrates, Lectins, and Implications in Cancer Therapeutics, Acta Histochemica 113: 236-247 (2011).

Idoni, B., Ghazarian, H., Metzenberg, S., Hutchins-Carroll, V., Oppenheimer, S.B., Carroll, Jr.,E.J., Use of Specific Glycosidases to Probe Cellular Interactions in the Sea Urchin Embryo, Experimental Cell Research 316: 2204-2211 (2010).

Smith, T. and Oppenheimer, S.B., 2013, Involvement of L-Rhamnose in Sea Urchin Gastrulation: A Live Embryo Assay, Zygote doi: 10.1017/S0967199413000452.

Singh, S., Karabidian, E., Kandel, A., Metzenberg, S., Carroll, Jr., E., Oppenheimer, S.B., 2013, A Role for Polyglucans in a Model Sea Urchin Embryo Cellular Interaction, Zygote doi: 10.1017/S0967199413000038.

All Major Oppenheimer Papers

Editorial Work

Editor of Acta Histochemica

Editor of New Journal of Student Research Abstracts


About $7 million in research and training grants awarded by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation and local and statewide granting agencies.