B.S., College of William and Mary; M.S., Ph.D., University of Massachusetts (Amherst)
Professor of Biological Sciences
Comparative animal physiologist; focused on the role of ion channels in tolerating low oxygen; teaching physiology, introductory biology.
My research focuses on the environmental physiology of cold-blooded animals; in particular, I am interested in the ionic and genetic mechanisms that promote tolerance of low-oxygen and low temperature conditions in aquatic ectotherms, especially fishes. Many fish, reptiles and amphibians can withstand prolonged exposure to environmental conditions that would prove lethal to mammals. My students and I use physiological and molecular techniques to characterize alterations in ion channel activity and gene expression in the heart that might underlie tolerance of environmental extremes. Our long-time focus has been an ion channel found in the hearts of all vertebrate that is increasingly active as oxygen levels (and ATP synthesis) are reduced—the ATP-sensitive K+ channel. We are currently involved in a project aimed at characterizing alterations in gene expression that accompany acclimation to low oxygen in goldfish and zebrafish.
I have taught at all levels of the curriculum; in a typical year I will offer a section of our introductory course in organismal biology (BISC 111), and teach courses on the physiology and anatomy of vertebrate animals (BISC 203) and on human physiology (BISC 302). I have also conducted various senior seminars in the field of physiological ecology. In 2007 I was awarded the Anna and Samuel Pinanski Teaching Prize.
My work has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association. I have served as Principal Investigator for three different grants to the College from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, including our most recent $1.2 million award that helps to support student-faculty research collaboration, curricular innovation, outreach and more. Professional affiliations include the American Physiological Society and the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, among others. I have been a member of the Wellesley faculty since 1984, and have served as department chair (1991-94) and as academic director of the Science Center (1995-99).