B.S., Biology, College of William and Mary, 1994
M.A., Molecular Biology, Princeton University, 1997
Ph.D., Molecular Biology, Princeton University, 2000
Postdoctoral Research, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Michigan State University, 2001-2004
BIO 118 Concepts of Biology: Genes, Genomics, and Society
In this course, the impact of genetic and genomic information on both individuals and various aspects of society is considered, with a particular focus on human health and disease. The course begins with an introduction to human genetics, which will serve as background for discussion of many conditions that have a genetic basis as well as consideration of medical and other uses of human (and other organisms') genome sequence information.
This course is designed for non-science majors who have an interest in the human condition. It is intended to equip students to better appreciate and evaluate medical and other scientific issues raised in the news and popular press. In addition to learning the underlying biology, much emphasis will also be placed on discussion of related societal, ethical, and policy topics.
BIO 152 Principles of Biology III: Molecules and Cells
This course seeks to explore life at the molecular and cellular levels. Topics covered are Mendelian and molecular genetics including the central dogma as well as basic biochemistry of cells, including structure and function of nucleic acids, proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids. Cellular organelles will be examined with respect to their roles in physiology and energetics. Technological applications of molecular and cellular biology will also be discussed.
BIO 283 Wearing Our Genes: DNA and Determinism (part of the cluster The Changing Human Condition)
In this course, we will review foundational background in genetics and new approaches to investigating our DNA while asking questions about the potential of our genome to define who we are. We will consider how scientific advances are made and utilized in this course designed for non-science majors to help fulfill the SC general academic requirement. I hope to encourage you to consider science as a process that all can engage in and to recognize the role of science in your lives and in society.
BIO 220 Biochemistry
Biochemistry represents the study of organisms, cells, and cellular components at the chemical and molecular level. In this intermediate-level course we will consider the structure and function of both nucleic acids and proteins, including an introduction to enzyme kinetics and regulation. We will also review carbohydrates and lipids and discuss aspects of metabolism and signal transduction.
This course is intended for science majors who have had an introduction to general and organic chemistry as well as introductory biology (including, but not limited to, topics in genetics and cell biology). It is designed to be of interest to those students who may pursue scientific research as well as those interested in a career in the health professions. Many of the topics discussed and examples used will relate to human health and disease.
BIO 472 Genomes and Gene Evolution (GGE)
A central question that remains in biology is the relationship between changes at the DNA level and evolution of organismal form and function. This capstone course focuses on modern comparative and regulatory genomics. The class emphasizes bioinformatic approaches in genomic science and will include review of primary literature in addition to novel data analysis. Discussions and writing assignments will be centered on student projects in distinct areas of genomics.
FYS 236 Foods, Broods, and Moods: The Impact of Genetics on Society
Declarations and questions about science and its connection to individuals and society appear weekly as headline news. However, the real question is what are we taking away from these stories? How does presentation influence our perceptions of what is true or ethical? And how does this affect the choices we make as consumers or citizens? In this course, we will explore the presentation and role of science in our society. Topically, we will focus on the impact of recent genetic advances such as genetically modified food, reproductive and therapeutic technologies including stem cells, and links between genes and behavior. Through weekly readings, writings, and discussions these topics, we will critically and analytically evaluate scientific information in relation to societal, ethical, and policy issues.
My scientific research interests involve studying the regulation of gene function: how are genes controlled so that they are active only in the appropriate types of cells and developmental stages? In particular, I am interested in how factors such as packaging of DNA into chromatin and DNA methylation may affect gene expression in eukaryotic organisms.
We use the plant Arabidopsis thaliana as an experimental model to explore gene regulation in the context of its effects on development. My research investigates the biological roles of proteins known to covalently modify chromatin structure, including the histone acetyltransferase GCN5 and the associated transcriptional activators ADA2a and ADA2b. Disruption of these genes' functions results in dramatic effects on plant growth and development. Further research investigating the function of these genes in plants will be carried out using a variety of approaches, allowing students to develop projects in the areas of molecular biology, genetics, and developmental biology.
Students in my lab are also engaged in a comparative genomics project that uses in silico (computer-based) analysis to annotate genes in Drosophila species (defining their start/stop sites, exon/intron boundaries, etc.). The underlying biological question is how genome and chromatin organization impacts gene function, which connects to my basic research interests and work of other members of the Hark Lab. This line of experimentation is a collaborative effort of the Genomics Education Partnership, which has been supported by Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the National Science Foundation.
For more information, please see the Hark Lab Research Page.