B.A. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Lewis and Clark College, 2007
Ph.D. in Molecular and Cell Biology from University of California Berkeley, 2013
Areas of Interest:
Gene Regulation, Epigenetics, Genome Editing (CRISPR), Cancer Biology, and mentoring undergraduates through research.
Usual Courses: Energy of Life: Cells to Ecosystems (Bio 111); Cell Biology (Bio 331) Molecular Biology (Bio 335); Research Seminar I, II, and III (Bio 351, 495, and 496).
Other Courses: Introduction to Biology (Bio 101); Special Topics - STEMinar (Bio 271); Biomedical Research Seminar (Bio 395).
The most recent estimate suggests that human cells contain ~19,000 genes (Ezkurdia et al., 2014). That means that each of the billions of cells in a human body have the instructions necessary to construct the same set of ~19,000 different proteins, each of which has a distinct sequence, shape, and function. However, while each cell has identical access to this wealth of information, no cell actually utilizes all of it. Each cell individually engages in a series of decision making events that carefully and precisely determine which genes should be activated and which kept silent. This means that the cell has to be able to make ~19,000 independent decisions, all of which must be constantly updated in response to new environmental cues.
For more than fifty years, scientists have studied how the cell is able to rapidly and continually make these decisions, as well as the factors the cell weighs when coming to a decision. While tremendous progress has been made, we remain unable to accurately predict how individual genes will respond to a given circumstance. What is clear is that the cell employs a multitude of methods to regulate the activity of any single gene, meaning that the activation or silencing of a gene is the result of a careful synthesis of many diverse signals.
We are still very much in the process of discovering new and significant sources of regulatory information. Experiments in the last several decades have increasingly demonstrated that the physical location of a gene within the nucleus, the compaction of the surrounding fiber of DNA (called chromatin), and the organization of nearby fibers can all be significant determinants of a gene’s expression. However, the consequences of specific chromatin configurations and the mechanisms that generate them are only beginning to be understood.
My lab studies several different proteins that influence the architecture and organization of chromatin fibers to better understand how these differences change the regulation of affected genes. We do so by tagging and tracking large regions of DNA in living cells with fluorescence microscopy. Example images from my lab are shown below.
Peer Reviewed Publications while at Doane:
*indicates undergraduate co-author
Wilson, C., Brigham, B.*, Sandoval, J.*, Sabatka, D., Wilson, E., Sebest, C., Willoughby, M., Schofield, B., Holmes, A.E., and Sutlief, A.L. (2018). The Quantitative Assessment of Pseudomonas aeruginosa (PA)14 Biofilm Surface Coverage on Slippery Liquid Infused Polymer Surfaces (SLIPS). International Journal of Nanotechnology in Medicine & Engineering. 3:3, 35-42.
Sutlief, A.L., Valquier-Flynn, H.*, Wilson, C., Perez, M.*, Kleinschmidt, H.*, Schofield, B.J., Delmain, E., Holmes, A.E., and Wentworth, C.D. (2018). Live Cell Analysis of Shear Stress on Pseudomonas aeruginosa using the Automated High-Throughput BioFlux 1000Z System. Journal of Visualized Experiments, in press.
Laungani, R., Tanner, C., Brooks, T.D., Clement, B., Clouse, M., Doyle, E., Dworak, S., Elder, B., Marley, K., and Schofield, B. (2018). Finding Some Good in an Invasive Species: Introduction and Assessment of a Novel CURE to Improve Experimental Design in Undergraduate Biology Classrooms. Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education 19.