B.S., Bates College; M.S., Ph.D., University of Massachusetts (Boston)
Gary C. HarrisProfessor emeritus of Biological Sciences
Research on plant cell biology, biochemistry, the chloroplast, photosynthesis; teaching cell biology and proteomics.
I am a plant biologist and throughout my career I have studied the biochemistry, photochemistry, and cell biology of leaves. During my Ph.D. I investigated the most abundant protein on the face of the Earth, an enzyme called rubisco. This enzyme is responsible for the assimilation of carbon dioxide into organic matter, and in eukaryotes it is localized within the chloroplast, the organelle that houses the photosynthetic machinery. Since that time I have been involved in a variety of research projects, most of which have focused on the activities of the chloroplast. One notable area of recent interest has been the effect of high light on the photochemistry and cell biology of the chloroplast. Too much light can be very stressful to leaves and they have evolved a variety of mechanisms to mitigate the potential damage caused by high light–induced oxidative stress. These protective strategies run the gamut from the molecular aspects of gene regulation to the movement of the chloroplasts into regions of the cell where the light intensity is reduced. I am also intrigued by the recent advances in network biology and hope in the future to investigate how the chloroplast is integrated to the cytosolic web of protein-protein interactions.
In recent years my teaching activities have been primarily in courses dealing with the biology of plant and animal cells. I have taught Introductory Cell Biology for many years both during the academic year and in Wellesley's summer school. Cellular Physiology is an intermediate level course that I have also been actively involved with for many years. This course has a very molecular character and I have played an active role in developing an enzymology laboratory series. At the 300 level I have developed a new lecture and laboratory course titled Proteomics. Proteomics is the discipline that encompasses studies that attempt to investigate various aspects of an organism's proteome. In its broadest sense the proteome includes all of the proteins encoded by an organism's genome. This course provides the upper-level biology and biochemistry students with extensive experience in reading and discussing scientific papers drawn from the primary literature. During the laboratory portion of this course the students obtain hands on experience with a MALDI-TOF mass spectrometer and learn how to analyze simultaneously the expressions of thousands of genes using the technology of microarrays.
I enjoy a variety of sports including biking, skiing, and golf. I also very much enjoy travel and photography.