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Research in biochemistry and molecular biology

There are a large number of faculty, post doctoral fellows, graduate students and undergraduate students engaged in research related to the mission of the Biochemistry Program.

The following faculty are members of the Biochemistry Program and conduct research in biochemistry and molecular biology. Click on a researchers name to link to a fuller description of their research.

Researcher Description of research
Marc Aucoin Process dynamics of virus-based systems for the production of complex biologics such as viral vectors and vaccines, and the development of strategies using multiple viruses to obtain recombinant products in cell culture.
Michael Beazely How growth factor receptors and G protein-coupled receptors modulate ion channels involved in excitatory neurotransmission, neuroprotective mechanisms, and neuronal development; intracellular signaling pathways downstream of GPCRs such as the 5-HT7 receptor and growth factor receptors such as the PDGF receptor.
Niels C. Bols Animal cell culture, in vitro toxicology, and biotechnology. Differentiated fish cell lines and culture systems. Hormones and polypeptide growth factors. Toxicology of dioxin-like compounds and polycyclic aromatic to cultured cells.
Barb Butler Undergraduate teaching in microbiology, the way microorganisms function and interact with surrounding habitat; microbial ecology; biodegradation of organic contaminants, particularly in groundwater and soil environments.
Trevor C. Charles Molecular genetic studies of plant-associated bacteria. Rhizobium carbon metabolism. Genetics of polyhydroxyalkanoate metabolism. General environmental microbiology.
Jeff Z.Y. Chen Computer simulations of protein folding and protein-protein interaction. Specialization in molecular dynamics and Monte-Carlo simulations.
C. Perry Chou Recombinant protein production, biofuel production, and bioprocessing technology. Applied biological sciences and engineering theories to develop novel and effective bioprocesses for the production of recombinant proteins (including industrial enzymes and therapeutic proteins) and metabolites (including biohydrogen, biodiesel, and biobutanol). Such bioprocess development includes upstream technology for biological strain construction, midstream technology for bioreaction (i.e. cultivation), and downstream processing for bioproduct recovery and purification.
Thorsten Dieckmann NMR-spectroscopy, RNA and protein structure, RNA-protein interactions, RNA catalysis, viral infections, cellular defense mechanisms.
Brian Dixon Characterization of fish immune system at the molecular level. Cytokines and receptors in fish immune systems. Defining fish populations using polymorphism of immune system genes. Cold-blooded vertebrate immunotoxicology.
D. George Dixon Effects of toxic chemicals on aquatic organisms. Biotic modifying factors of toxicity. Development of methods for environmental effects monitoring. Physiologically based pharmacokinetic modelling of contaminant levels in fish.
Gary I. Dmitrienko Enzyme structure and function.
Bernard P. Duncker Genetics and DNA replication. Use of the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae to investigate protein factors that control the initiation of DNA replication.
Heidi Engelhardt The dialogue between the developing fetus and the mother during mammalian pregnancy, and the role of the placenta as the mediator; the ability of the placenta to protect the developing organism from sub-optimal maternal environments through adaptive changes in structure, vasculature or functional exchange capacity.
Moira Glerum Mitochondrial myopathies, mitochondrial biogenesis, assembly of cytochrome oxidase in yeast and humans, mitochondrial copper transport, mitochondrial peroxide metabolism, heme A biosynthesis.
Bernard R. Glick Isolation and manipulation of microbial genes involved in microbial stimulation of plant growth. Use of bacteria as biocontrol agents. Biochemical consequences of the genetic transformation of plant growth-promoting bacteria.
Bruce M. Greenberg Environmental Chemistry and Biology: Photochemistry and photobiology of xenobiotic contamination and ultraviolet radiation.
Frank Gu Nanotechnology, Nanomedicine, Cancer Therapy, Drug Delivery, Biomaterials, Bioconjugated Chemisry and Bioinformatics.
Guy Guillemette Nitric Oxide Synthase: Function, structure, catalysis, and regulation. Analysis of enzyme activity, mechanism and inhibition. Cytochrome c: Function, structure, stability, redox potential, and protein folding.
John J. Heikkila

The use of recombinant DNA methodology to examine the molecular response of amphibian embryos and tissue culture cells to environmental stress. Isolation and expression of heat shock genes.

Todd Holyoak

My laboratory’s research interests lie in the areas of enzyme structure, mechanism, inhibition and allostery. In light of these general interests our research currently focuses on the role that conformational plasticity plays in these areas of enzymology and how these dynamic aspects of enzyme structure can be exploited in the regulation of enzyme function.

John F. Honek Protein structure and function, protein engineering.  Enzyme mechanism and catalysis. Metalloenzymes. Recombinant DNA, biophysical methods and molecular modeling. Carbon-sulfur biochemistry.
Eric Jervis Development of image-based lineage tracking tools for examining cell division symmetry and cell potential maintenance in stem cell cultures - a "lineage informatics" approach to cell culture analysis; Development of multiphoton-based methodologies for cytoanalysis and photoactivation of caged molecules for drug delivery; Development of improved high density bioreactor protocols and optical bioprocess monitoring instrumentation.
Jamie Joseph Ascertaining how the β-cell senses glucose and searching for ways to reduce the number of islets required for islet transplantation. These two themes are connected in that the first theme provides novel targets to enhance islet function in the second theme. Long-term goals are to discover novel drug targets for enhancing islet function to treat type 2 diabetes and to develop a renewable source of β-cells (e.g., cell therapy) to treat both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Vassili Karanassios Direct elemental analysis of micro-samples, analytical atomic spectrometry, inductively coupled plasma optical emission and mass spectrometry, chemometrics, artificial intelligence via neural networks, intelligent spectrochemical instrumentation.
Raymond L. Legge Protein and biomimetic engineering with a focus on the purification of enzymes, use of enzymes in non-conventional media and coupled enzymatic reactions. Research interests in environmental biotechnology include soil bioremediation, wastewater treatment and the development of separation processes for the treatment of waste effluents.
Zoya Leonenko Biophysics of lipid membrane and lipid-protein interactions, the role of structural changes and physical properties of lipid template in controlling biological processes and diseases, application of lipid films in biomedical nanotechnology. Current projects include the study of structure and function of lung surfactant; amyloid fibril formation and toxicity in relation to Alzheimer’s disease; interaction of nanoparticles with lipid membrane, and development of applications of lipid films in biomedical nanotechnology. Methods: optical, fluorescence and scanning probe microscopy - atomic force microscopy (AFM), magnetic force microscopy (MFM) and Kelvin probe force microscopy (FM-KPFM).
Juewen Liu In vitro selection of catalytic DNA, aptamers, and screening of functional phospholipid compositions for selective detection of metabolites, proteins, cells, and targeted drug delivery. DNA-directed assembly of functional nanomaterials.
Susan J. Lolle How epidermal cell fate is determined and how the epidermal state is maintained. Used a genetic approach to identify a collection of loci inArabidopsis thaliana that affect epidermal function and specifically modulate contact-mediated adhesion events. These studies have helped establish a direct connection between the biological properties of the cuticle, cell adhesion and reproduction. Genetic analyses have also uncovered a novel type of genetic instability that is manifested by plants harboring lesions at one specific locus.
Qing-Bin Lu Medical biophysics and biochemistry, particularly molecular reaction mechanisms of anticancer drugs for chemotherapy, radiotherapy and photodynamic therapy. Molecular pathways regulating DNA damage and cell death. Ultrafast electron transfer reactions in biological, environmental and medical systems. Femtochemistry, femtobiology and femtomedicine: Application of ultrafast biophotonics technology to biomedical studies.
Kesen Ma Physiology and enzymology of hyperthermophilic microorganisms: sulfur-dependent energy metabolism; thermostable dehydrogenases; alcohol metabolism; electron transfer proteins; relationship between structure and function of enzymes from hyperthermophiles.
Mungo Marsden Molecular mechanisms that mediate changes in biological form; modulation of cell adhesion states that allow for the complex three dimensional rearrangements that characterize early embryogenesis; two families of cell adhesion molecules: integrins and cadherins.
Brendan J. McConkey Development of methods for prediction of protein structure from amino acid sequence using a combination of computational and biochemical techniques: scoring functions and search algorithms, mass spectrometry data to extract structural information from proteins.
Vivek Maheshwari Atomic ion mediated targeting of cells. Synthesis of ion-nanomaterial for interfacing with cells. Development of an electronic cell i.e. a bio-electronic hybrid for cellular electronic devices. Study of cellular processes using the electronic cell. Developing disease screening methods with ion-nanomaterial. Amino-acid functionalized nanomaterial. Dynamic tactile sensors. Ion based currents in solid state devices.
Elizabeth M. Meiering Protein structure, dynamics, folding, and function. High resolution NMR. Spectroscopy. Biocomputing and Protein Engineering. Proteins under invesigation: hisactophilin; dihydrofolate reductase; HIV ribonuclease; SOD.
Susan R. Mikkelsen Molecular and Biomolecular Recognition for Selective Analytical Sensors and Assays. Detection of extremely low concentrations of analyte species. Novel recognition elements in chemical sensors, biosensors and bioassays.
Barbara A. Moffatt Plant molecular biology: isolation and analysis of mutants of Arbidopsis thaliana that affect plant metabolism and development.These studies incorporate biochemical and molecular techniques as well as microscopy and physiological analyses. Pathways currently under study include those maintaining methylation activities, adenine/adenosine recycling and cytokinin metabolism.
Kirsten M. Muller Bioinformatics. Evolution and origin of plastids within the various algal divisions utilizing ribosomal RNA gene sequences. Utilization of secondary structure of rRNA genes to delimit taxonomic groups. Development of sequence alignment algorithms for ribosomal RNA.
Praveen Nekkar Explore rational drug design aided by molecular modelling techniques; small molecule synthetic organic/medicinal chemistry, including method development; solid phase peptide synthesis of bioactive peptides / peptidomimics; modern analytical techniques such as nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, mass spectroscopy and high performance liquid chromatography; and development of high-throughput biochemical screening protocols to discover lead candidates.
Josh Neufeld Research spans three complementing research areas: Microbial diversity and ecology; Carbon and nitrogen cycling in the environment; Revealing the rare biosphere
Janusz Pawliszyn Our focus is the development and application of state-of-the-art, integrated and automated analytical methods and instrumentation, for on-site analysis and monitoring.
Michael Palmer Research Interests: Biomembranes; protein-membrane interactions; bacterial pore-forming proteins.
William P. Power NMR spectroscopy. Multinuclear, gas phase, high-resolution and solid-state NMR. Transition metal NMR of bioinorganic systems. Chemical shielding and nuclear quadrupolar coupling of metal sites in complex materials.
Bruce Reed Green fluorescent protein (GFP)-based methods of live imaging in Drosophila (fruit fly) to study how cells are genetically programmed to die when they lose contact with their surroundings. The failure of this type of cell death – known as anoikis, contributes to cancer metastasis and tumour invasiveness in humans.
David Rose Structural Biology, X-ray crystallography. Structural Studies of Glycoside Hydrolases especially glycosidases involved in the protein glycosylation pathway and the process of starch digestion.
James Rush Vascular and skeletal muscle physiology. How the vascular cell pro- and anti-oxidant balance (oxidative stress) is altered by diet, exercise, gender, and drugs and how these factors alter endothelium-dependent NO-mediated function in otherwise healthy individuals and in those with CVD risk factors such as hypertension and atherosclerosis. Skeletal muscle research focuses on the roles of nitric oxide, reactive oxygen species and AMP-activated protein kinase on skeletal muscle function and gene expression.
David Spafford Voltage-gated calcium channels. Calcium channels participate in essential brain functions, such as synaptic transmission, neuronal plasticity, patterned nerve activity underlying rhythmic behaviours, outgrowth of neurons and synapse formation.
Scott D. Taylor Bioorganic chemistry, Catalytic antibodies, enzyme mechanisms, drug design and evaluation, prodrug design and activation, polymer supported synthesis of small molecules.
Owen P. Ward Microbial Biotechnology: microbial growth and production of enzymes and primary metabolites; biotransformations using cells and soluble enzymes; advanced fermentation methodology; stability of recombinant microorganisms.