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Biology

Address: 
730 South Church Street
West Chester, PA 19383 


Phone: 610-436-2538 

 

 

Department Chair Assistant Chair Graduate Coordinator Administrative Assistant

Dr. Casotti
Email
610-436-2856

Dr. Auld
Email
610-436-0046

Dr. Turner
Email
610-436-3009

Melissa Griffin
Email
610-436-2538

 The Department of Biology office is located in Room 175 on the first floor of Schmucker Science North.  Faculty office hours for spring 2019 .

News & Highlights Archive

2019 News

Journal Cover

Dr. Michael Rosario and coauthors published the following research article: How do baleen whales stow their filter? A comparative biomechanics analysis of baleen bending. Alexander J. Worth, Diego Rita, Michael V. Rosario, Michael J. Moore, Todd L. Sformo. Journal of Experimental Biology 2018 221:jeb189233 doi: 10.1242/jeb.189233.

The article was highlighted on the front cover of the journal.

 JExpBiol

 Major Awards

Dr. Jessica Sullivan-Brown (Biology) and Dr. Shawn Pfeil (Physics), along with two faculty members at Penn State Brandywine, were recently awarded a Major Research Instrumentation grant (MRI) ($462,940) from the NSF for an Olympus IXPlore SpinSR Confocal Microscopy System with TIRF capabilities. This imaging system will be housed in the Center for Microanalysis and Imaging Research and Training (CMIRT) facility at West Chester University and will enable researchers to perform cutting-edge research, provide transformative undergraduate research experiences and strengthen our already strong STEM pipeline. Examples of research projects include (1) studying how folic acid, an essential vitamin, affects embryonic development and (2) biophysical studies on the folding of a novel nucleic acid structural motif in the presence and absence of molecular crowding. Acquisition this microscope will expand teaching and outreach opportunities and ensure that the affordable high quality education offered at WCU prepares students for successful careers in the sciences.

C.elegans

Dr. Jennifer Chandler was awarded a USDA grant from the APHIS Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program entitled, Assessing the impact of Spotted Lanternfly on forest species in the Mid-Atlantic Area, ($98,923).  

Lanterfly

New Faculty members

Dr. Sean Buskirk will be joining the Department of Biology as an Assistant Professor in August 2019. His research interests center on microbial evolution and the adaptive potential of microbial genomes. The Buskirk Lab will use experimental evolution – the continual propagation of an organism under well-defined conditions – as tool to study the molecular basis of microbial traits. His teaching responsibilities will include General Microbiology (BIO 214) and Pathogenic Microbiology (BIO 314).

Dr. Buskirk received his Ph.D in Infectious Diseases from the University of Georgia ('14) and his B.S in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Penn State University ('08). As a postdoctoral researcher studying microbial evolution, he trained under Dr. Vaughn Cooper at the University of New Hampshire and Dr. Gregory Lang at Lehigh University.

Sean Buskirk

Dr. Jessica Sowa earned her PhD in Human and Molecular Genetics from Baylor College of Medicine, and completed her postdoctoral work in host-pathogen interactions at the University of California San Diego. She is interested in understanding how the innate immune system has evolved to detect and defend against intracellular infections. In her postdoctoral work she investigated mechanisms of virus detection and regulation of the innate immune response in the nematode C. elegans. She intends to expand on this theme in her lab at WCU by studying the host response to viruses and other intracellular pathogens as well as identifying novel natural pathogens of nematodes.  Dr. Sowa will begin a new position as an Assistant Professor of Biology at West Chester University in August 2019.

Dr. Sowa

Dr. Michael Rosario’s training is in comparative biomechanics and computational modeling. By combining techniques in these fields, he asks questions regarding the mechanics of muscle-spring interactions. How do biological structures store the energy responsible for the fastest and most efficient movements in biology? How does elasticity affect the muscles that power these movements? In his graduate work, Dr. Rosario combined materials testing, micro-computed tomography, and computational modeling to understand energy storage in extremely fast mantis shrimp, capable of generating underwater strikes with accelerations up to 104 km/s in less than 3 milliseconds. As a postdoctoral fellow, he applied his knowledge to understanding the dynamics of rat and turkey muscle-tendon units and their ability to dissipate energy. At WCU, Dr. Rosario intends on continuing his work on rat muscle-tendon units by investigating the effects of exercises that require large amounts of energy dissipation. He is also looking forward to developing new research questions regarding the biomechanics of slower “spearing” mantis shrimp, which rely less on elastic mechanisms than other species.

Michael Rosario

 Biology Highlights 2019

Dr. Frank Fish, presented a talk "Investigating sea lion locomotion as the basis for shape changing UUVs" at the ONR Bio-Inspired Autonomous Systems Review held in Arlington, Virginia on May 16, 2019. The talk was presented with collaborators Dr. Megan Leftwich of George Washington University and Dr. James Tangorra of Drexel University.

Dr. Frank Fish, presented an invited seminar “Engineering animals: Bio-inspiration from charismatic marine megafauna” to the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Johns Hopkins University on April 26, 2019.

Dr. O.R. Pagán was interviewed Utah’s Public Radio show “Undisciplined”. https://www.upr.org/post/undisciplined-superlatives-and-survival.

Dr. O.R. Pagán published the paper: The brain: a concept in flux. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2019 Jun 10;374(1774):20180383. This paper is part of a special issue of the journal on the topic of ‘Liquid brains, solid brains: How distributed cognitive architectures process information’, based on the proceedings of a working group at the Santa Fe Institute, New Mexico.

Dr. Frank Fish presented an invited seminar “Biomimetics and the development of advanced technologies from charismatic marine megafauna” to the Department of Biology of the High Point University, High Point, NC on April 12, 2019.

Biology undergraduate student Sarah Polohovich and graduate student Jason Miller presented posters describing their forest carbon cycle research at the recent Pennsylvania Academy of Science Annual Meeting. Both students were supervised by Dr. Jessica Schedlbauer.

Frank Fish presented a talk "Moment of inertia influences spin-leap performance by cetaceans” at the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic marine Mammal Symposium (SEAMAMMS) at Georgetown University, Washington D.C., March 29-31, 2019.

Dr. Frank Fish presented the invited seminar "Bio-inspiration from charismatic marine megafauna: What animals can teach us in the development of new technologies" to the Department of Integrative Biology of the University of California Berkeley on March 11, 2019.

Dr. Oné Pagan published the book chapter, Cotinine as a Possible Allosteric Modulator of Nicotine Effects in Various Models. In: Neuroscience of Nicotine: Mechanisms and Treatment. Edited by Dr. Victor Preedy. Academic Press.

Dr. Jen Maresh and Dr. Larry Udell (Philosophy) received a WCU Campus Sustainability Research and Creative Activity Award for their project, “Moving into Living Spaces, Not Landfills.” Funds from this award will be used in support of an initiative to reduce the amount of “waste” removed during student Move Out Day by providing students alternative, simple options for diverting suitable household items towards recycling or re-sale to incoming students. This will be a collaborative effort among many members of the WCU community that brings the university closer to its Climate Action Plan’s Zero Waste goals while simultaneously providing a service to incoming students with financial need.

Dr. Frank Fish, biology, co-authored the paper, “Body flexibility enhances maneuverability in the world’s largest predator.” in Integrative and Comparative Biology pp. 1-13, doi:10.1093/icb/icy121, 2018.

Dr. Oné R. Pagán was invited to serve as a panelist after the showing of the documentary film "My love affair with the brain: The Life and Science of Dr. Marian Diamond", sponsored by Philly pod of 500 Women Scientists, December 29, 2018. Article.

Fish, F. E. A tale of a dolphin tail: As told by a fish. (Presented to North County Men’s Shed Association, West Palm Beach, FL, January 9, 2019.

Dr. Frank Fish, biology, with co-author Dr. Anthony Nicastro presented a talk, “Spin-leap performance by cetaceans is influenced by moment of inertia” at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, Tampa, FL, January 3-7, 2019.

Dr. Fish was also a co-author with Dr. Maura Sheehan, emeriti professor of health, and former biology graduate students Danielle Adams, William Gough, and Kelsey Tennett on the presentation, “Differential weight support in dogs” presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, Tampa, FL, January 3-7, 2019.

Dr. Fish was a co-author with Abigail Downs, biology graduate student, and Allison Kolpas, mathematics, on the presentation, “Turning performance by bluefin tuna: Novel mechanism for rapid maneuvers with a rigid body” presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, Tampa, FL, January 3-7, 2019.

Dr. Fish was a co-author with Danielle Adams, former biology graduate student, on the presentation “Properties and function of tendons in the peduncle of odontocetes”  presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, Tampa, FL, January 3-7, 2019.

Dr. Fish was co-author with William Gough, former biology graduate student, on the presentation “Comparative kinematics and hydrodynamics of mysticete cetaceans: Morphological and ecological correlates with swimming performance” presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, Tampa, FL, January 3-7, 2019.

Dr. Fish was also a co-author on the presentations, “Evaluating airship drag as a predictor of baleen whale drag” and “Computational fluid dynamics study of baleen whale drag” presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, Tampa, FL, January 3-7, 2019.

Dr. Fish presented an invited seminar, “A tale of a dolphin tail: As told by a fish” to North County Men’s Shed Association, West Palm Beach, FL, January 9, 2019.

Stratton, C., A. Kolpas, & J. R. Auld. 2018. Optimal mating strategies for preferentially outcrossing simultaneous hermaphrodites in the presence of predators. Bulletin of Mathematical Biology 80:2652-2668. 

Auld, J. R. 2018. The effects of diet and mating system on reproductive (and post-reproductive) lifespan in a freshwater snail. Ecology & Evolution 8:12260-12270.

 

Our Primary Mission

The primary mission of the Department of Biology is to provide a high quality educational experience to both undergraduate and graduate students. This is achieved by maintaining small class sizes staffed by full-time faculty. Virtually all courses have a laboratory component, facilitating participatory learning. An integrated core curriculum is intended to strengthen the communication, quantitative and analytical skills of all biology majors. Several focused concentrations within the undergraduate curriculum offer options of either specializing for immediate employment upon graduation, or preparing for postgraduate education. 

Masters students receive training as biological scientists primarily for career advancement. Although most students come from the Delaware Valley region, their educational experience is intended to equip them well for careers anywhere. Biology majors are required to perform independent projects in many courses, and are encouraged to work closely with faculty in collaborative research. The combination of unusually broad course selection and individual attention allows students from very diverse backgrounds to excel within the program. A part of the department's mission is to participate in the process of scientific inquiry.

The department expects its faculty to engage in scholarly activity, and encourages research publication and the acquisition of extramural funding. Scholarship enhances the stature of the Department and University, adds exceptionally current information to lecture material, and has helped to secure technologically up-to-date laboratory equipment. The department's research environment also provides an ongoing framework into which graduate and undergraduate student research projects can beincorporated. A strong record of collaborative faculty-student research is one reason for the successful placement of most Biology Department graduates. 

The Biology Department serves the University by supporting coursework for other disciplines, principally in Nursing, Health, Kinesiology and the Forensic and Toxicological Chemistry program, and is actively involved in maintaining the high quality of the Preprofessional Program. The department is working closely with the School of Education in training Secondary school biology teachers, and is strengthening ties with other departments in environmental science. Department faculty serve the community as consultants to government, non-profit organizations, other schools and industry.

Biology Department Facilities

The Department of Biology occupies ~37,000 ft2 of classroom, office, and research space in Merion Hall and the adjacent Schmucker Science Center. The Biology wing of the Schmucker Science Center has undergone a complete renovation and was re-opened in time for the Spring 2004 semester. Teaching and research laboratories are equipped with state-of-the-art equipment. The equipment available to students includes a single-side band microscope (the world's second), fluorescence microscopes, apparatus for video microscopy, cryostat, tissue culture equipment, liquid scintillation counter, gamma ray counter, patch clamping equipment, ion suppression chromatograph, and scanning and transmission electron microscopes. A fully equipped molecular biology laboratory, funded by the NSF includes equipment for RFLP, PCR, DNA sequencing, and in situ capabilities. Additionally, the department has field inversion electrophoresis equipment for DNA analysis.

Other facilities include: research and teaching greenhouses, a biosafety level 3 facility, a student computer laboratory with full multimedia capabilities, a GIS computer laboratory with a GPS first order community base station and mobile GPS units, the Robert B. Gordon Natural Area for Environmental Studies, the William Darlington Herbarium, the B. Harry Warren Ornithological Collection, and the largest collection of halophilic bacteria in North America.

The Robert B. Gordon Natural Area for Environmental Studies consists of about 120 acres of woodland, old field, and wetland habitat located on the university's South Campus. Dedicated in 1973, the area was named for Robert B. Gordon, faculty member and chair of West Chester University's Department of Science from 1938-1963.

The William Darlington Herbarium (DWC) is the second oldest collection of preserved plant specimens in the United States. The collection is a highly regarded historical collection of specimens dated primarily from 1815 to 1860. Among the more than 20,000 specimens are those collected by such famous explores as Captain John Freemont, Thomas Nuttall, Sir William Hooker, C.S. Rafinesque, and George Englemann. The herbarium was started by Dr. William Darlington, a prominent West Chester physician, educator, banker, historian and botanist.

The B. Harry Warren Ornithological Collection contains approximately 2000 bird specimens dating back to the late 1800's

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