Faculty Research


Research is an important part of faculty life at Rhodes.  If you are a student interested in research, these summaries of faculty research interests may serve as a guide to direct you to a particular faculty member. If you see a possible match, contact the faculty member to discuss what opportunities may exist for you to be involved.




Sarah Boyle

Dr. Boyle studies how human actions impact the distribution, ecology, and conservation of fauna and flora. Her research also addresses the extent to which a species modifies its behavior when living in areas of high disturbance.  Dr. Boyle conducts research in Central and South America, as well as locally in Memphis. Current student projects involve behavioral research at the Memphis Zoo and the analysis of local forests using GIS. 



Michael Collins ResearchMichael Collins

Dr. Collins’ research interests are broad but center on examining the determinants and consequences of species diversity at local, regional, and global scales. His research employs observational, field, computational, statistical, and GIS approaches to understand issues in community ecology, conservation biology, avian ecology, and invasive species. Dr. Collins is excited to begin field studies in the Memphis area and encourages students to swing by his office to meet him, especially if they have an interest in avian conservation biology or field ecology.  More about Dr. Collins′ research 


 Mary Doherty

Dr. Doherty′s research is in the areas of environmental microbiology, particularly in aquatic ecosystems. She uses molecular tools to study microbial diversity and distribution in relationship to and in response to environmental changes. She is also interested in the role of microbes in transforming the environment as ecosystem engineers, in the diversity of metabolic pathways in microbes, and in the transfer of nutrients from microbes to higher trophic levels. She is involved in research on the succession of microbial communities in the seasonally anoxic estuarine waters of the Chesapeake Bay, the transformation of carbon in the plume of the Amazon River, and the diversity of microbes in a Georgia estuary.



Jonathan Fitz Gerald

One of the agriculturally significant aspects of plant growth is seed size. This is largely determined by the development of the seed endosperm. Dr. Fitz Gerald′s work focuses on the Arabidopsis gene AtFH5, a formin involved in the development of the posterior endosperm. Using a combination of molecular biology, genetics and microscopy, his aim is to understand both the role of AtFH5 in endosperm development and the pathways that regulate AtFH5 expression. Interestingly, after fertilization AtFH5 is expressed only from the maternal genome. Paternal silencing is regulated by a homologue of the animal Polycomb group complex. In animals, Polycomb complexes maintain cell identity during development. In Arabidopsis, is Polycomb maintaining male and female identity of the parental genomes? Ongoing projects include the examination of mutant plants where AtFH5 expression is altered and molecular screening for AtFH5 interacting proteins. More about Dr. Fitz Gerald′s research 



Terry Hill

Dr. Hill’s research deals with the genetic determinants of cell wall integrity in fungi. The cell wall is an essential component of fungal growth and morphogenesis, whose structure and metabolism are insufficiently understood. In collaboration with Dr. Darlene Loprete and Dr. Loretta Jackson-Hayes (Department of Chemistry), this laboratory is generating and characterizing mutant strains of the filamentous fungus Aspergillus nidulans, which have defects in cell wall structure. Among genes so far identified as being able to affect wall integrity in these mutants are two that code for novel (not previously characterized) proteins – the first is a probable Golgi apparatus transporter of nucleotide sugars and the second is a probable plasma membrane structural protein. The specific functions of these proteins is under investigation. More about Dr. Hill′s research



 zetakiAlan Jaslow

Dr. Alan Jaslow′s research interests are in the areas of vertebrate functional morphology and animal behavior. His research in behavior focuses on animal communication and mainly acoustics. He is working with the vocalizations made by Giant Pandas at the Memphis Zoo. Research projects in functional morphology have focused on both the evolution of middle ears in amphibians, and the functional significance of leg bone diameter and thickness in different sized mammals. He has also looked at these scaling phenomena in the growth patterns in tarantulas. More about Dr. A. Jaslow′s research



Carolyn Jaslow

Dr. Carolyn Jaslow′s research has focused on the structure and function of skeletal structures in mammals, particularly investigations of teeth and cranial sutures in rodents. Recently, she has begun working in reproductive biology, specifically sperm ultrastructure and granulosa cell surface proteins. More about Dr. C. Jaslow′s research



Rachel Jabaily

Dr. Jabaily studies the evolutionary relationships between plants by generated molecular sequences and building phylogenetic trees. She is interested in discerning patterns in the great diversity of plants, particularly within the Australian family Goodeniaceae and South American genus Puya (Bromeliaceae). Other research collaborations involve studying the development of floral form and interactions of plants and pollinators in the field. Dr. Jabaily′s work has implications for the naming and conservation of species and she is excited to incorporate undergraduates into her research program. Dr. Jabaily is also head of the Rhodes College herbarium, which serves to document the plant diversity of the greater Memphis area.


David Kabelik

Dr. Kabelik′s research examines the neural circuits that regulate social and conversely aggressive behaviors, and how steroid hormones modulate these circuits and behaviors. He conducts this work in the Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis) model system, as well as in several Sceloporus species (Spiny/Fence lizards) that vary in aggression levels, thus allowing for evolutionary comparisons of brain circuitry. Dr. Kabelik is excited about integrating students into this research, and about his upcoming Animal Physiology and Neuroscience courses.



Gary Lindquester

Dr. Lindquester studies the role of a protein known as interleukin 10 (IL-10) which is produced by the human pathogen, Epstein Barr virus (EBV). He has generating a recombinant murine gammaherpesvirus containing the EBV IL-10 gene to study its effects on infection, latency, and pathogenesis in a mouse animal model and found that the gene leads to a mild increase in pathogenicity in that model. 



Laura Luque de Johnson

Dr. Luque de Johnson investigates the molecular mechanism of tight junction formation during plasmodium invasion of red blood cells. The plasmodium organism is the causal agent of Malaria, a disease of which more than 1 million people die every year and 2.5 billion people are at risk of contracting. Tight junction formation is believed to be the irreversible step in the invasion of red blood cells by the plasmodium organism. My lab focuses on EBA-175, a plasmodium surface protein believed to play a crucial role in tight junction formation. In my lab, we are characterizing the role of EBA-175 dimerization in tight junction formation. Through mutational analysis we disrupt EBA-175 dimerization and study the effects on tight junction formation and red blood cell invasion. Understanding the molecular mechanism that governs the morphological changes that take place inside the red blood cell during plasmodium invasion will improve our ability to control malaria.   



Mary Miller

The growth and division of eukaryotic cells is a highly regulated process. A variety of events important for successful division must be carried out in the proper order, at the proper time, and in the proper location. This coordinated series of events is described as the “cell division cycle” or “cell cycle”. Successful regulation of the cell cycle is paramount to the survival of single and multi-celled organisms ranging from budding yeast to man (Movie of dividing yeast courtesy of M. Tyers). Errors in this process usually result in cell death, and at times trigger the accumulation of oncogenic properties, leading eventually to cancer. In Dr Miller′s lab, three critical aspects of regulated cell division are studied using the model system Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

  • Dr. Miller uses genetic, genomic, and biochemical approaches to understand regulated cellular division in her studies of cyclin proteins.  The Miller lab studies the regulated movement of cyclin proteins that are important for the transition from the G1 to the S phase of the cell division cycle.
  • Genome wide transcriptional and phenomic approaches are used to understand the mechanism of action and the impact on regulated cellular division of the anti-cancer drug KP1019.  KP1019 is a ruthenium based agent that has shown promising performance in phase I clinical trials.  In yeast, the Miller lab (the collaboration with Pam Hanson and Laura Stultz, BSC) find that KP1019 triggers a DNA damage response and cell cycle specific growth arrest.
  • Subnuclear structures impact and couple transcriptional activity in the nucleus to the physical structures critical to cell division.  The nucleolinus is such a structure that appears conserved in yeast.  The role that this structure might play in spindle formation and regulated cell division across many species is another ongoing project in the Miller lab.


Oliver Sturm

Dr. Sturm is interested in the application of mathematical modeling to study the dynamic behavior of biological systems. Biological processes are extremely complex. Even in a simple bacterium we find complex chemical structures that spontaneously assemble and perform elaborate biochemical functions virtually without errors despite the fact that they are under thermal noise and embedded in a dense molecular soup composed of thousands of different entities. Systems biology is a an attempt to discern the design principles underlying complex biological processes such as for instance biochemical signal transduction. To understand the dynamic properties of a biological process we attempt to model the system using a suitable mathematical formalism and to simulate its behavior by running computational simulations. The actual “model building” requires an interdisciplinary approach and is usually done in collaboration with mathematicians, as it requires mathematical and computational skills. Ideally the model generates insights in the design principles of biological systems and helps us to understand and predict its dynamic properties. The final goal is to verify the model by testing modeling predictions experimentally in the actual biological system.