Engaging Minds, Transforming Lives



Spring 2017

  • Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Maha Zewail-Foote gave an invited seminar at the University of North Texas. Her talk included work from her sabbatical on the consequences of damage to non-B DNA structures including its role in causing human genetic diseases such as cancer.

  • Retired Associate Professor Rebecca Sheller and Professors of Biology Maria Cuevas and Maria Todd published an article in Biological Proceedings Online titled “Comparison of transepithelial resistance measurement techniques: Chopsticks vs. Endohm.” Measurement of transepithelial resistance (TER) is frequently used to determine the strength of tight junctions between epithelial cells in culture. However, the use of different technical approaches to measure TER sometimes results in inconsistent reports for TER readings within the same cell lines. To address this discrepancy, they compared two frequently used approaches (Chopsticks and Endhohm) and two types of polymer inserts (polycarbonate vs. polyester) to measure the TER values of three mammalian cell lines. Their study demonstrated the importance of using a single approach when seeking to measure and compare the TER values of cultured cell lines.

  • 2015 graduate Paul Glasheen’s thesis appeared in an advance, online version in the highly respected, peer-reviewed journal Freshwater Science. The study, “Survival, recovery, and reproduction of apple snails (Pomacea spp.) following exposure to drought conditions,” resulted from work that Glasheen conducted in Uruguay as part of a National Science Foundation International Research Experiences for Students (IRES) program co-directed by Professor of Biology Romi Burks and Howard University colleague Dr. Kenneth Hayes. Uruguayan partners Dr. Mariana Meerhoff and M.Sc. Clementina Clavo followed the recovery of the snails after the U.S. team returned in January of 2015.  A close-up photo of the field habitat will grace the cover of the journal when published in June.

  • Twenty-two Southwestern students traveled to the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor to attend the 120th meeting of the Texas Academy of Science (TAS), March 4–5. Collectively, Southwestern students gave four oral presentations and presented 12 posters in numerous sections of the Academy including Conservation Biology, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, Computer Science, Environmental Science, Physics, Systematics and Evolution, Freshwater Science, and Science Education. Much of the work presented at TAS took place in past summer SCOPE programs. Several students and alumni received awards:

    • Victoria Gore, Class of 2017, received the Best Oral Presentation Award in the Environmental Science Section for her work, “Extreme Precipitation: Changes in Rain Frequency from 1895-2015 in Central Texas.”  Gore worked on this project during SCOPE with her mentor Part-Time Assistant Professor of Physics Rebecca Edwards.

    • Bella Ferranti, Class of  2017, received the Best Oral Presentation Award in the Physics Section for her talk, “Laser Frequency Combs and the Search for Exoplanets.”  This is the second presentation that Ferranti has given at the Texas Academy of Sciences.

    • Lauren Gillespie, Class of 2019, received the Best Poster Presentation Award in Mathematics and Computer Science for her work entitled “Evolving Tetris Players Using Raw Screen Inputs,” which she worked on with Assistant Professor of Computer Science Jacob Schrum.

    • Sofia Campos ’16 took the Best Poster prize in the Systematics and Evolution Section and also won 2nd place overall for her presentation, “Cryptic yet curiously common: Population genetic structure and diversity of a cryptic Pomacea sp. and its better known congeneric P. canaliculata,”  which summarized her work in Uruguay with Professor of Biology Romi Burks.

    • Madison Granier, Class of 2019, received the Best Poster prize in the Conservation Biology section and also received a $1500 grant from the Academy to support her undergraduate research titled “Snail Slime in Real Time: qPCR Detection of Environmental DNA using Apple Snails.”  This work involves a collaboration between Granier, Burks and alumni Matthew Barnes ’06, now an Assistant Professor at Texas Tech University.

    • Carissa Bishop, Class of 2017, won two presentation awards: Best Oral Presentation in Freshwater Science, for her talk entitled “Applying Band-Aids: Challenges associated with molecular detection of Angiostronglyus cantonensis infection within Uruguayan and Brazilian apple snails,” and a Poster Award in Science Education for a collaborative project titled “Innovating molecular art: Communicating the true cost of science through repurposed materials.” Campos ’16, Shannon Walsh and Hugo Cepeda, both Class of 2018, all made contributions to the molecular art piece based on research that they have done with Burks. All of the molecular work has been made possible through a grant awarded to the Natural Sciences by the Keck Foundation.

    Other TAS presenters included Alex Taylor, Renee Walker, Morgan O’Neal, Jillian Bradley, Daniel Gonzalez, Eris Tock, Alex Rollins, and Jiawen Zhang, all Class of 2017, Ramesh Nadeem, Dakota Butler, Diana Beltran, Susan Beltran, and Madelyn Akers, all Class of 2018. Additional faculty mentors included Professor of Chemistry Kerry Bruns, Assistant Professor of Chemistry Michael Gesinski, Professor of Biology Ben Pierce,  and Part-Time Assistant Professor of Biology Airon Wills.

  • Professor of Biology Ben Pierce was featured in the article “Untangling the Social Web of Frog Choruses” in the March 2017 issue of The Scientist.

Fall 2016

  • Professors of Biology Maria Todd and Maria Cuevas received a $15,000 grant from the Joe and Jessie Crump Foundation for Medical Research. The funds will support their research aimed at elucidating the role of tight junction destabilization in the development and progression of endometrial cancer. This project will offer research opportunities for undergraduate students majoring in Biology.

  • Southwestern alumna Bianca Perez ’16 published her undergraduate research titled “First record of the Japanese Mystery Snail Cipangopaludina japonica (von Martins, 1861) in Texas” in the online, open-access journal Checklist. This work represented the first state record of this non-native mollusk and the first molecular ecology contribution from Professor of Biology Romi Burks’ lab. Alumna Averi Segrest ’16 and current student Sofia Campos, Class of 2017, co-authored the manuscript by contributing to the field work and molecular identification, respectively. Funds from the HHMI Inquiry Initiation and the Keck Foundation grant for molecular biology made the work possible.

  • Professor of Biology Maria Todd and her co-authors, Dr. Thomas Langan and Dr. Robert Sclafani (both of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center), published an article in The Journal of Cancer titled “Doxycycline-Regulated p16MTS1 Expression Suppresses the Anchorage-Independence and Tumorigenicity of Breast Cancer Cell Lines that Lack Endogenous p16.” Their study demonstrated the mechanisms by which the p16 gene is inactivated in breast cancer and how replacement of the functional gene results in the suppression of breast tumor growth.

Spring 2016

  • Professor of Biology Romi Burks attended the Society for Freshwater Science meeting in Sacramento, Calif. from May 21–25 where she gave an invited talk entitled “Worldly Science: Developing Undergraduate Research and Mentoring Activities to Train Diverse Global Scientists: An NSF-IRES Case Study.” The talk featured her international research program involving Southwestern students and host scientists from Uruguay. It took place in a special session focused on broadening participation of undergraduates in freshwater science.

  • Director of First Year Biology Laboratories Stacie Brown, in collaboration with Dr. Richard Meyer of University of Texas, has secured a contract with American Society for Microbiology (ASM) Press to co-write a lab manual for sophomore/junior level introductory microbiology students. The lab manual will include guided-inquiry and inquiry-based modules that conform to ASM curriculum recommendations. The expected publication date is 2017.

  • The Board of Trustees approved the following recommendations regarding promotion of faculty:

    Associate Professors promoted to the rank of Professor:

    • Dr. David Gaines, Professor of English
    • Dr. Katy Ross, Professor of Spanish

    • Dr. Maria Todd, Professor of Biology

Fall 2015

  • Stacie Brown, director of first year biology laboratories, has been selected to participate in the Prevalence of Antibiotic-Resistant microbes in the Environment (PARE) project, a program through Yale University that provides undergraduates the opportunity to do research and contribute data to a national database. This is in alignment with the Biology Department’s efforts to transform the laboratory exercises into research, which has been partially supported by the HHMI grant.

Spring 2015

  • Stacie Brown, director of first year biology laboratories, is a co-author for a paper published in Microbiology titled “Indole inhibition of N-acylated homoserine lactone-mediated quorum signaling is widespread in Gram-negative bacteria.”

  • Associate Professors of Biology Maria Cuevas, Maria Todd and Rebecca Sheller have an article in press in the International Journal of Oncology titled “Estrogen-dependent expression and subcellular localization of the tight junction protein claudin-4 in HEC-1A endometrial cancer cells.” This work was done in collaboration with Jonathan King, associate professor of biology at Trinity University, and two former SU biology students: Jenna Gaska ’13, currently pursuing a Ph.D. at Princeton, and Dr. Andrea Holland Gist ’11, currently doing her residency in family medicine.

  • Associate Professors of Biology Maria Cuevas, Maria Todd and Rebecca Sheller published a paper in Oncology Letters titled “Overexpression and delocalization of claudin-3 protein in MCF-7 and MDA-MB-415 breast cancer cell lines.”

  • Ben Pierce, professor of biology and holder of the Lillian Nelson Pratt Chair, was recently awarded a $27,691 grant from the Williamson County Conservation Foundation to carry out research on the ecology of the Georgetown salamander. In the past five years, Pierce has received a total of $131,557 for his research on the Georgetown salamander.

Fall 2014

  • Associate Professor of Biology Maria Cuevas and Tracey Lindeman ’09 published an article in the January 2015 issue of the journal “Oncology Reports.” The article, titled “In vitro cytotoxicity of 4’OH-tamoxifen and estradiol in human endometrial adenocarcinoma cells HEC-1A and HEC-1B.

  • Associate Professors of Biology Maria Todd and Maria Cuevas were awarded $10,000 from the JP Morgan Crump Foundation to support their collaborative cancer research project with Associate Professor of Biology Rebecca Sheller. The aim of the project is to study the deregulation of tight junction proteins in female reproductive cancers. 

  • Ben Pierce, professor of biology and holder of the Lillian Nelson Pratt Chair, published an article in Herpetological Conservation and Biology titled “Population size, movement, and reproduction of the Georgetown salamander,Eurycea naufragia.” The paper was co-authored with 2013 graduate Kira McEntire and 2012 graduate Ashley Wall.

Spring 2014

  • A paper written by Romi Burks, professor of biology, and seven others who have been involved with the SMArT program was published in Science Education and Civic Engagement: An International Journal. The paper is titled “Staying SMArT: Introduction, Reflection, and Assessment of an Inquiry-based Afterschool Science Program for Elementary School Students.” Other authors of the paper were Anna Frankel, Meredith Liebl, Megan Lowther, Amanda Mohammed, Erica Navaira, Kate Roberts and former staff member Suzy Pukys. The paper is available here.

  • Junior biology major Carson Savrick has received a $500 Grants-in-Aid from the Sigma Xi Research Society to support her molecular ecology undergraduate research project. Only about 20 percent of the hundreds of proposals submitted received funding and the competition does not distinguish between undergraduate and graduate student work. In collaboration with Kenneth Hayes at Howard University and with the research mentoring of Romi Burks, professor of biology, Carson has developed a project that investigates the direction in which exotic, invasive apple snail (Pomacea maculata) populations spread across the southeastern United States. In addition, Carson will use molecular tools (DNA extraction and PCR) to screen a subsample of snails from different populations for a parasite, Angiostrongylus cantonensis, which can pose a human health concern. Carson will present preliminary results of this work at The Texas Academy of Science meeting in March and at the Research and Creative Works Symposium at Southwestern in April.

  • December graduate Heather Petty presented a poster titled “Suppression of abnormally overexpressed claudin-3 protein decreases motility of MCF-7 breast cancer cells” at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium held Dec. 10-14. The symposium, which is sponsored by the American Association for Cancer Research, is the largest international meeting devoted to breast cancer. The poster was based on research Petty conducted with Maria Todd, associate professor of biology. Todd collaborates on a project aimed at elucidating the molecular basis of breast cancer metastasis with Maria Cuevas, associate professor of biology, Rebecca Sheller, associate professor of biology, and Jonathan King, associate professor of biology at Trinity University. 

Fall 2013

  • Ben Pierce, professor of biology and holder of the Lillian Nelson Pratt Chair, recently received a $25,927 grant from the Williamson County Conservation Foundation for research on the ecology of the Georgetown salamander. Over the past four years, Pierce has received a total of $104,069 for his research on the Georgetown salamander.

  • Romi Burks, professor of biology, and Therese Shelton, associate professor of mathematics, had an article titled “Count Your Eggs Before They Invade: Identifying and Quantifying Egg Clutches of Two Invasive Apple Snail Species (Pomacea)” published in the online journal PLOS ONE. Former students Allyson Plantz and Colin Kyle were co-authors on the paper. Read the article here.

  • Romi Burks, professor of biology and co-chair of Environmental Studies and Animal Behavior, is serving as a senior mentor at the Women Evolving the Biological Sciences Symposium being held in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., Oct. 16-19. Along with 14 other mentors, Burks participated in two panel discussions (Navigating Tenure and Promotion and Establishing a Research Lab at a PUI) and also partnered with Laura Katz of Smith College in a two-hour teaching workshop. WEBS is an annual three-day symposium supported by the National Science Foundation that is aimed at addressing the retention of female scientists and issues related to the transition of women from early career stages to tenure-track positions and leadership roles in academic and research settings. The symposium targets early career women in the biological sciences with an emphasis on ecology and evolutionary biology.  

  • Ben Pierce, professor of biology and holder of the Lillian Nelson Pratt Chair, published an article in Herpetological Conservation and Biology with Alex Hall, a 2011 graduate who is now a Ph.D. student at The University of Texas at Arlington. Their article was titled “Call latency as a measure of calling intensity in anuran auditory surveys.”  

  • The new issue of Bioscope (Fall 2013) – the Biology Department’s newsletter – is now available for download.

Spring 2013

  • Ben Pierce, professor of biology and holder of the Lillian Nelson Pratt Chair, was the invited speaker for Scholars Day at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton. The title of his talk was “The Ecology and Natural History of the Georgetown Salamander.” The talk included the contributions of Southwestern University undergraduate students who have assisted with research on the Georgetown salamander.

  • Martín Gonzalez, associate professor of biology, has been profiled on the website of the American Society for Microbiology-Burroughs Wellcome Fund Science Teaching Fellows Program. The program is designed to strengthen the science teaching skills of the fellows participating in this program. Read the profile here.

Fall 2012

  • Biology professors Maria ToddMaria Cuevas and Rebecca Sheller presented research they did in collaboration with Jonathan King from Trinity University at the 2012 Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas Conference held in Austin Oct. 24-26. Their presentation was titled “Sub-cellular Localization of Overexpressed Versus siRNA-Suppressed Claudin-3 Protein in Breast Cancer Cell Lines by Cell Fractionation and Indirect Immunofluorescence.” Students Browyn Tyler and Amanda Tompkins were co-authors on the paper. StudentsHeather Petty and Shannon Spears also attended the conference.

  • Senior biology and environmental studies major Kira McEntire gave several presentations over the summer. She gave an oral presentation at the EuryceAlliance meeting held May 25 at Texas State University, a poster presentation at the Ecological Society of America meeting Aug. 5-10 in Portland, Ore., and a poster presentation at the World Congress of Herpetology meeting Aug. 9-13 in Vancouver, Canada. Ben Pierce, professor of biology, presented the poster with her at the meeting in Vancouver.