Biology Faculty Research Interests

Our faculty in the Biology Department pursue excellence in scholarship—guiding, mentoring and challenging their students to, likewise, explore the questions that intrigue them. Here you can read about the wide range of biology faculty research interests; you can also access some recent publications to get a better understanding of the type of research our faculty are doing.

Dr. Brett Berke, PhD
University of Iowa
Brett Berke Research Interests

Research in our lab uses the genetic tool kit of fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) to identify molecular mechanisms of synapse formation, animal behavior, and neurodegeneration. We study how mutations alter development of the larval neuromuscular junction and how they affect distinct aspects of larval crawling behavior. We also use mutations to address how neurons die in fly models of neurological illness.

Check out these papers to learn more about research in the Berke lab:

A. Galbraith, S. Leone, K. Stuart, J. Emery, M. K. Renkemeyer, N. Pritchett, L. Galbraith, H. Stuckmeyer, and B. Berke. 2021. Reducing the expression of the Numb adaptor protein in neurons increases the searching behavior of Drosophila larvae. microPublication Biology.

M. Thies and B. Berke. 2020. A role for the Fem-1 gene of Drosophila melanogaster in adult courtship. bioRxiv.

E. M. McNeill, C. Thompson, B. Berke, V. T. Chou, J. Rusch, A. Duckworth, J. DeProto, A. Taylor, J. Gates, F. Gertler, H. Keshishian, and D. Van Vactor. 2020. Drosophila enabled promotes synapse morphogenesis and regulates active zone form and function. Neural Development 15: 1-13.

B. Berke, L. Le, and H. Keshishian. 2019. Target-Dependent Retrograde Signaling Mediates Synaptic Plasticity at the Drosophila Neuromuscular Junction. Developmental Neurobiology 79: 895-912.

B. Berke, J. Wittnam, and H. Keshishian. 2013. Retrograde BMP Sign.aling at the Synapse: A Permissive Signal for Synapse Maturation and Activity-Dependent Plasticity. Journal of Neuroscience 33: 17937-17950.

I.F. Peng, B. Berke, Y. Zhu, W. H. Lee, W. Chen, and C. F. Wu. 2007. Temperature-Dependent Developmental Plasticity of Drosophila Neurons: Cell-Autonomous Roles of Membrane Excitability, Ca Influx, and cAMP Signaling. Journal of Neuroscience 27: 12611-12622.
Dr. Sarah Berke, PhD
University of Iowa

Sarah Berke research interests

My research interests include the scholarship of teaching and learning, science education, and teacher professional development strategies. I also study science anxiety, motivation and attitude.

Check out these papers to learn more about research in the Berke lab:

Udo M.K., G.P. Ramsey, J.V. Mallow. 2004. Science Anxiety and Gender in Students Taking General Education Science Courses. Journal of Science Education and Technology 13: 435-446.

Mallow, J.V. 2006. Science anxiety: research and actionHandbook of college science teaching, pp.3-14.

Dr. Laura Fielden, PhD
University of Natal, Pietermaritzberg, South Africa

Laura Fielden-Rechav - research interests
I study the evolution of host-parasite associations and work with collaborators at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel. Our model system uses nine different species of desert fleas that are parasites of various desert rodents in Israel. We are particularly interested in how the type of host effects parasite fitness which is assessed by measuring the feeding and reproductive efficiency of the fleas. This work is funded through the Israel-US Binational Science Foundation.

Check out these papers to learn more about research in the Fielden lab:

Khokhlova I.S., L.J. Fielden, A. Degen, and B.R. Krasnov. 2012. Ectoparasite fitness in auxiliary hosts: Phylogenetic distance from a principle host matters. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 25: 2005-2013.

Khokhlova I.S., L.J. Fielden, J.B. Williams, A. Degen, and B.R. Krasnov. 2013. Energy expenditure for egg production in arthropod ectoparasites: The effect of host species. Parasitology 140: 1070-1077.

Khokhlova I.S., S. Pilosof, L.J. Fielden, A. Degen, and B.R. Krasnov. 2014. A trade-off between quantity and quality of offspring in haematophagous ectoparasites: the effect of level of specialization. Journal of Animal Ecology 83: 397-405.

Dr. Stephanie Foré, PhD
University of Miami

Stephanie Fore research interests
Students and I have been monitoring tick populations on small mammals and ticks off-host since 2006. These two data sets are used by students to ask questions about what drives the number of ticks collected. Currently, we are developing statistical models to describe the environmental variables that affect the number of ticks. These models are presenting new research questions that students are currently addressing. I am also the curator for the mammal research collection ( This collection offers learning opportunities for students (

Check out these papers to learn more about research in the Foré lab:

Kaizer A.M., S.A. Foré , H.-J. Kim, and E.C. York. 2015. Modeling the biotic and abiotic factors that describe the number of active off-host Amblyomma americanum larvae. Journal of Vector Ecology 40: 1-10.

Bouzek, D.C., S.A. Foré, J.G. Bevell, and H.-J. Kim. 2013. A conceptual model of the Amblyomma americanum life cycle in northeast Missouri. Journal of Vector Ecology 38: 74-81.

Dallas, T.A., S.A. Foré, and H.-J. Kim. 2012. Modeling the influence of Peromyscus leucopus body mass, sex and habitat on immature Dermacentor variabilis burden. Journal of Vector Ecology 37: 338-341.

Dr. Lisa Hooper PhD
University of Kansas
Plant taxonomy; Missouri flora; biosystematics and evolution of ferns; reproductive biology of epiphytes; herbarium curation

Check out these papers to learn more about research in the Hooper lab:

Haufler, C.H., E.A. Hooper, J.P. Therrien. 2000. Modes and mechanisms of speciation in pteridophytes: implications of contrasting tempos in temperate and tropical habitats. Journal of Plant Research 15: 223-236.

Hooper, E.A. and C.H. Haufler. 1997. Genetic diversity and breeding system in a group of neotropical, epiphytic ferns (Pleopeltis; Polypodiaceae). American Journal of Botany 84: 1664-1574.

Dr. Joey Hubbard, PhD
University of Colorado Boulder

Joey Hubbard research interests
In my lab, we address research questions aimed at understanding genetic and environmental impacts on traits. To address these questions we study wild populations of birds and because feather color is an important trait for mate choice, much of our work focuses on how color variation is affected by genetic and environmental variation. More broadly, I am interested in studying behavioral ecology in birds and welcome students with similar interests to get in touch. Social media: @HubbardBirdLab

Check out these papers to learn more about research in the Hubbard lab:

Safran, R.J., Y. Vortman, B.R. Jenkins, J.K. Hubbard, M.R. Wilkins, R.J. Bradley, A. Lotem. 2016. The maintenance of phenotypic divergence through sexual selection: An experimental study in barn swallows Hirundo rustica. Evolution 70: 2074-2084.

Hubbard, J.K., J.A.C. Uy, M.E. Hauber, H.E. Hoekstra, R.J. Safran. 2012 Vertebrate pigmentation from underlying genes to adaptive function. Trends in Genetics 26: 231-239.

Hubbard J.K. B.R. Jenkins, R.J. Safran. 2015. Quantitative genetics of plumage color: Lifetime effects of early nest environment on a colorful sexual signal. Ecology and Evolution 5: 3436-3449.

Dr. Stephen Hudman, PhD
University of Vermont

Stephen Hudman research interests

Students working in my lab use PCR-based data collection techniques and modern statistical methods to address questions about natural populations. Examples include describing contemporary genetics structure in natural populations using DNA fingerprints and presence/absence of disease-causing fungi in local populations.

Check out these papers to learn more about research in the Hudman lab:

Pasachnik, S.A. and S.P. Hudman. 2016. Conservation genetics of Roatán spiny-tailed iguanas, Ctenosaura oedirhina. Herpetological Conservation and Biology, 11: 187-196.

Lennon C., S.P. Hudman, C.E. Montgomery. 2014. Assessment of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis infection level in amphibians of Wakonda State Park, Missouri, USA. Herpetological Review, 45: 40.

Hudman S.P. and K.B. Gido. 2013. Multi-scale effects of impoundments on genetic structure of creek chub (Semotilus atromaculatus) in the Kansas River basin. Freshwater Biology 58: 441-453.

Dr. John Ma, PhD
Penn State University


John Ma research interests

My current research interest centers on plant mineral nutrition in a changing climate, with a focus on mechanisms of plant nutrient uptake in response to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.

Check out this paper to learn more about research in the Ma lab:

Zhong, M.A., J. Flynn, G. Libra, Z. Shi. 2018. Elevated CO2 accelerates depletion of phosphorus by common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) in association with altered leaf biochemical properties. Pedosphere 28: 422-429.

Dr. Stephanie Maiden, PhD
University of Wisconsin Madison

Stephanie Maiden research interests
Microtubules are essential for cell viability, providing the basis for intracellular transport, controlling the separation of chromosomes during cell division, and contributing to the overall shape of cells and resistance to force. Microtubule-associated proteins (MAPs) can determine the particular structural or functional roles of microtubules depending on the needs of the cell. Using Caenorhabditis elegans as a model organism, my long-term goals are to understand how various MAPs interact cooperatively during embryonic development to organize microtubules in epithelial cells and how that will ultimately affect tissue form and function.

Check out these papers to learn more about research in the Maiden lab:

Maiden, S.L., N. Harrison, J. Keegan, B. Cain, A.M. Lynch, J. Pettitt, and J. Hardin. 2013. Specific conserved C-terminal amino acids of Caenorhabditis elegans HMP-1/α-catenin modulate F-actin binding independently of vinculin. Journal of Biological Chemistry 288: 5694-5706.

Maiden, S.L., Y.I. Petrova, and B.M. Gumbiner. 2016. Microtubules inhibit E-cadherin adhesive activity by maintaining phosphorylated p120-catenin in a colon carcinoma cell model. PloS one 11: e0148574.

Dr. Chad E. Montgomery, PhD
University of Arkansas-Fayetteville

Chad Montgomery research interests
I am working with students to examine questions related to the natural history, physiological ecology, and conservation of reptiles and amphibians. Specifically, I am interested in how these organisms interact with their environment and what factors may be negatively impacting populations. I work with students on local northern Missouri projects and internationally (Cayos Cochinos, Honduras and Gran Canaria, Spain).

Check out these papers to learn more about research in the Montgomery lab:

Muelleman, P.J., O. DaCunha, and C.E. Montgomery. 2018. Crotalus horridus (Timber Rattlesnake) maternal scent trailing by neonates. Northeastern Naturalist 25: 50-55.

Taylor, H.L., A.J. Wilmes, C.E. Montgomery, L.J. Livo, and J.M. Walker. 2017. Recent northward range expansion of parthenogenetic Aspidoscelis tesselata in Colorado, a latitudinal baseline for the species, and a new hypothesis for the allopatry of pattern classes C and D at the northern periphery of the range. Southwestern Naturalist 62: 179-186.

Montgomery, C.E. 2017. Dwarfism in the Cayos Cochinos Boa Constrictor, Boa imperator. Serpens, 5: 4-5.

Dr. Joyce Patrick, PhD
Indiana University Bloomington

Abstract for research by Dr. Joyce Patrick

I study the regulation of gene expression in Bacteria. I am most interested in the genes controlling the processes of swarming motility, biofilm formation, and sporulation in the bacterium Bacillus subtilis. I also study how pesticides and other substances influence these processes.

Check out these papers to learn more about research in the Patrick lab:

Patrick, J.E. and D.B. Kearns. 2012. Swarming motility and the control of master regulators of flagellar biosynthesis. Molecular Microbiology. 83: 14-23.

Newton, R., Amstutz, J. and Patrick,  J.E. 2020. Biofilm formation by Bacillus subtilis is altered in the presence of pesticides. Access Microbiology.

Dr. R. Drew Sieg, PhD
Georgia Institute of Technology

Drew Sieg - research interests

Prior to arriving at Truman I studied marine chemical ecology, namely how phytoplankton and salt marsh plants utilized chemical defenses to protect themselves against competitors, pathogens, and grazers. At Truman, I will be shifting gears to study how climate change and latitude affect the intensity of plant-herbivore and plant-pathogen interactions. Specifically, I will quantify how two common weeds (Plantago lanceolata and P. major) upregulate chemical defenses in response to herbivory by generalist pests or fungal infection by powdery mildews along the Mississippi River.

Check out these papers to learn more about research in the Sieg lab:

Poulson K.L.*, R.D. Sieg*, E.K. Prince, J. Kubanek. 2010. Allelopathic compounds of a red tide dinoflagellate have species-specific and context-dependent impacts on phytoplankton. Marine Ecology Progress Series 416: 69-78. (* denotes joint first authorship).

Sieg R.D., D. Willey, K. Wolfe, J. Kubanek. 2013. Multiple chemical defenses produced by Spartina alterniflora deter farming snails and their fungal crop. Marine Ecology Progress Series 488: 35-49.

Dr. Tony Weisstein, PhD
Washington University in St. Louis

Tony Weisstein - research interests
My work focuses on developing course materials, particularly simulations and Excel files, that illustrate how to apply core mathematical principles to understand biological questions. These principles range from simple arithmetic to linear algebra and game theory; the biological systems range from chemical reactions within a cell to the structure of ecosystems.

Check out these papers to learn more about research in the Weisstein lab:

Weisstein, A.E., E. Gracheva, Z. Goodwin, Z. Qi, W. Leung, C.D. Shaffer, and S.C.R. Elgin. 2016. A hands-on introduction to hidden Markov models. CourseSource 3.

Weisstein, A.E. 2011. Building mathematical models and biological insight in an introductory biology course. Mathematica Models of Natural Phenomenon 6: 198-214.

Weisstein, A.E. 2010. The case of the protective protein: Using a population genetics simulation in an undergraduate lab course to test hypotheses for the evolution of an HIV resistance allele. Biology International 47: 109-116.

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