Contact: Ellen Sterner
SMU News & Media Relations
(214) 768-7650

Dec. 6, 2001

BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES RESEARCH AT SOUTHERN METHODIST UNIVERSITY

The new Dedman Life Sciences Building will become home to the research projects being conducted by faculty members in SMU’s Department of Biological Sciences. These faculty members currently bring in about $1 million in research grants each year from such agencies as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. Ongoing research projects use the latest in molecular, biochemical and cellular approaches to examine diverse topics. Current SMU biology researchers and their work include:

  • Professor Christine Buchanan, who investigates penicillin-binding proteins (PBPs) of bacteria. Her research might ultimately contribute to the rational design of more effective forms of this antibiotic.
  • Associate Professor Rick Jones, who is studying the role of chromatin structure in the regulation of gene expression during development. Insight into these processes elucidates how cells differentiate and may shed light on how cells become cancerous.
  • Professor William Orr, who investigates regulated gene expression during development in fruitflies (Drosophila melanogaster). His research allows a direct evaluation of the relationship between oxidative stress and aging.
  • Professor and Department Chair Larry Ruben, who investigates signal pathways in the pathogenic protozoan Trypanosoma brucei. His research examines novel components of calcium- and lipid-based signals with the ultimate goal of identifying pathways that might be targeted in the design of new therapies.
  • Professor John Ubelaker, who investigates the ecological factors involved in host-parasite interactions. He is examining ecological factors involved in parasites and rodents and is writing a paper on the parasites of rodents. Laboratory models under study include Acanthomoeba spp and Angiostrongylus costaricensis. Ubelaker also is completing a book on the ferns of north central New Mexico.
  • Professor Steven Vik, who investigates the structure, function and assembly of the membrane-bound enzymes that are involved in synthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Virtually every cell function, from the building of bones to the contraction of muscles and the transmission of nerve impulses, relies upon energy stored as ATP.

With the opening of the new Dedman Life Sciences Building, the department plans to recruit additional faculty members with expertise in molecular biology. The new building also is expected to attract more high-caliber students to SMU, such as those participating in the University’s Biomedical Researchers in Training Experience (BRITE) program with UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

Under this program, a small number of students interested in biomedical research are provided with summer research opportunities at UT Southwestern or at SMU. Students who meet established academic criteria will be admitted into the Ph.D. program at UT Southwestern’s Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Six SMU students currently are participating in the BRITE program.

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