Biology & Biotechnology

The work of the Biology and Biotechnology Department at WPI goes far beyond the theoretical. Students, faculty, and industry collaborate in research and discovery to solve problems that affect us all. Their goals: to help treat and cure common, dread diseases, like Alzheimer’s and cancer; heal wounds faster; create a greener world through science; and use computer science techniques to solve flesh-and-blood problems.

And we’ve only scratched the surface of what the Biology and Biotechnology Department is doing. Its state-of-the-art new research center, the Life Sciences and Bioengineering Center at Gateway Park, is practically bursting at the seams with fundamental and applied research, conducted with cutting-edge instrumentation and tools. Here, graduate and select undergraduate students work across disciplines and with companies in the field.

Graduates of the Biology and Biotechnology Department at WPI go on to myriad careers in industry and academia, across organizations large and small. And the research interests of our faculty encompass a similarly large range.

It’s an exciting time for the life sciences. We invite you to learn more about how the Biology and Biotechnology Department can help you reach your educational and career goals.


Click on the play button to play video.

Biology Meets Physics

Assistant Professor Luis Vidali describes his collaboration with Assistant Professor Erkan Tuzel of the Department of Physics to investigate cell biology and help develop a more active biophysics program at WPI.

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  • Srinivasn

    Faculty Profile

    Name: Jagan Srinivasan
    Department: Biology & Biotechnology
    Title: Assistant Professor

    Prof. Srinivasan’s work focuses on how the brain processes external sensory signals to enable social interactions in the model system C. elegans.

  • Adams

    Faculty Profile

    Name: David S. Adams
    Department: Biology & Biotechnology
    Title: Professor

    In 2008, Adams was named fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, largely for his work in biology. Adams replicated Alzheimer’s disease in a mouse model.

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  • buckholt-rotating-profile

    Faculty Profile

    Name: Mike Buckholt
    Department: Biology & Biotechnology
    Title: Instructor/Director, Project Lab

    Buckholt is principal investigator of The Connected Lab, an academic technology suite developed via a Davis Educational Foundation grant, which lets students share data.

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  • Tanja Dominko

    Faculty Profile

    Name: Tanja Dominko
    Department: Biology & Biotechnology
    Title: Associate Professor

    With one of the first NIH EUREKA Awards--only one of 38--Dominko is exploring ways to turn adult skin cells into stem-like cells to replace tissue lost to injury or degenerative diseases.

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  • Joseph B. Duffy

    Faculty Profile

    Name: Joseph B. Duffy
    Department: Biology & Biotechnology
    Title: Associate Professor/Interim Department Head

    Duffy joined WPI in 2006. He was lead author of the paper “Kekkon5 is an extracellular regulator of BMP signaling," published in the journal Developmental Biology.

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  • Robert J. Gegear

    Faculty Profile

    Name: Robert J. Gegear
    Department: Biology & Biotechnology
    Title: Assistant Professor

    Gegear’s research is on evolutionary ecology & behavioral neuroscience, studied through insect models like butterflies and bees. He discovered the molecular basis of animal magnetoreception.

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  • Mathews

    Faculty Profile

    Name: Lauren M. Mathews
    Department: Biology & Biotechnology
    Title: Associate Professor

    Mathews, an ecologist, came to WPI in 2003. Her research focuses on genetics in conservation biology and molecular ecology in areas such as phylogeography and evolutionary processes.

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  • Karen K. Oates

    Faculty Profile

    Name: Karen Kashmanian Oates
    Department: Biology & Biotechnology
    Title: Dean, Arts & Sciences

    As Dean, Oates oversees seven academic departments. She helps promote WPI's life sciences endeavors, including Gateway Park and the Life Sciences and Bioengineering Center.

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  • Overstrom

    Faculty Profile

    Name: Eric Overström
    Department: Biology & Biotechnology
    Title: Professor/Provost ad interim

    Overström’s leadership helped create the Life Sciences & Bioengineering Center (LSBC) at Gateway Park, WPI's life science and bioengineering education and research facility.

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  • Samuel M. Politz

    Faculty Profile

    Name: Samuel M. Politz
    Department: Biology & Biotechnology
    Title: Associate Professor

    Politz worked with assistant professor Reeta Prusty Rao to develop a model system to study fungal infections. It can be used to screen potential drug targets for hard-to-treat conditions.

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  • Reeta Prusty Rao

    Faculty Profile

    Name: Reeta Prusty Rao
    Department: Biology & Biotechnology
    Title: Associate Professor Chair, Grad Programs Member, CFAR at UMMS Visiting Scientist, Broad Institute

    Her research focuses on understanding and managing fungal diseases at the genomic and molecular levels.

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  • jillirulfs-rotating-profile

    Faculty Profile

    Name: Jill Rulfs
    Department: Biology & Biotechnology
    Title: Associate Professor/Associate Department Head/Pre-Health Director

    Rulfs teaches Heal the World, part of Great Problems Seminars for first-year students, with Professor Helen Vassallo.

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  • Elizabeth F. Ryder

    Faculty Profile

    Name: Elizabeth F. Ryder
    Department: Biology & Biotechnology
    Title: Associate Professor

    In March 2010, Ryder received a three-year, $228,000 NIH award to study how nerve cells develop from a fertilized egg and then begin forming an organism’s nervous system.

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  • Luis Vidali

    Faculty Profile

    Name: Luis Vidali
    Department: Biology & Biotechnology
    Title: Assistant Professor

    Vidali joined WPI in 2009. His research, which garnered a major award from the National Science Foundation, focuses on the molecular mechanisms underlying plant cell growth.

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  • Pamela J. Weathers

    Faculty Profile

    Name: Pamela J. Weathers
    Department: Biology & Biotechnology
    Title: Professor

    Weathers coauthored a paper discussing her research on creating interleukin-12, a naturally occurring protein essential to immune system function, from genetically modified tobacco plants.

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  • Whitefleet

    Faculty Profile

    Name: JoAnn Whitefleet-Smith
    Department: Biology & Biotechnology
    Title: Instructor/Senior Laboratory Instructor

    Whitefleet-Smith focuses on isolation and purification of natural products, as well as structure/function of clotting proteins and clot-dissolving proteins.

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