Biology

Notable Faculty & Student Achievements

January 2018

November 2017

  • Professor of Biology and Lillian Nelson Pratt Chair Ben Pierce gave an invited seminar on his research titled “Evolution and Ecology of the Georgetown salamander” to biology students and faculty at Richland College in Dallas, Texas, on Nov. 8, 2017.





August 2017

  • Professor of Biology Romi Burks attended the Ecological Society of America meetings in Portland, Ore., with three of her research students, Carissa Bishop ’17, Madison Granier, class of 2019, and Sophia Campos ’16, Aug. 6–11. All three presented their own research posters at this national meeting attended by over 4,000 ecologists. Bishop shared her experience mentoring her peers in an Invertebrate Ecology lab taught by Burks. Her poster “Turning an RA into a TA: Case study in utilizing undergraduate research expertise to improve a molecular ecology course undergraduate research experience” evaluated a module made possible by funds from the Keck Foundation. Granier presented her poster titled “Snail Slime in Real Time: qPCR Detection of Environmental DNA from Apple Snails”  which includes a collaboration with SU alumni Dr. Matthew Barnes ’06. This project extends her SCOPE research from the summer of 2016. Campos added the final samples to her analysis and presented a poster titled “Cryptic Yet Curiously Common: Population genetic structure and diversity of a cryptic Pomacea sp. and its better known congeneric P. canaliculata.”  Co-authors include Dr. Ken Hayes from Howard University and Cristhian M. Blavijo and Fabrizio Scarabino from Uruguay.





May 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.





April 2017

  • 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.





March 2017

  • 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.