Faculty & Staff

Reeta Rao
Professor & Department Head, Biology & Biotechnology

Phone: +1 (508) 8315000 x6120

A member of the WPI faculty since 2004 and chair of the Department of Biology and Biotechnology since 2022, Reeta Rao is a leader in the field of molecular genetics and genomics. Her primary research activities are focused on emerging infectious diseases, specifically understanding and managing fungal diseases. Students and research associates in her laboratory are trained to use a variety of biochemical, molecular-genetic, and genomic tools to study host-microbe interactions to explore fungal virulence strategies and identify novel therapeutics in a high throughput fashion. ...

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Our Faculty

Marja Bakermans
Associate Teaching Professor, The Global School

I possess a strong commitment to student education, and a goal of mine is to stimulate students' critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. Recently, students and I have been on a journey to open classroom content and discussions in an interdisciplinary and inclusive way. Students are challenged to rethink their role as active knowledge producers beyond the class as students become co-authors of open educational resources. For example, students are co-authors of multiple texts, like Extinction Stories, Climate Lessons, and Current Challenges in Biodiversity and Conservation. More ...

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Chris Collins
Associate Teaching Professor, Biology & Biotechnology

Chris’ teaching focus is biodiversity, ecology, anatomy and physiology. He is excited to teach at WPI, because he believes project-based learning is the most effective and most fun way, to learn. He also believes students learn best by doing, and his goal is to guide students through an exploration of each subject he teaches. One of his interests is service learning, which allows students to learn by engaging in projects that serve their community. Past projects have included river and stream water quality analysis, and biodiversity surveys of local parks and natural areas. In his anatomy and ...

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Tanja Dominko

Phone: +1 (508) 8315000 x4108

Our lab investigates the molecular basis of phenotype switching in human fibroblasts that can be modulated using defined extracellular stimuli. We evaluate the role of oxygen and growth factor FGF2 isoforms independently and in combination in order to identify key molecular mechanisms and pathways, some of which closely mimic mechanisms described in human embryonic stem cells.  Extended lifespan of these cells in culture also offers us a model for investigation of molecular mechanism that are regulating cell cycle in the context of both aging and cancer. Chromatin modifiers from arginine ...

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Joseph Duffy
Associate Professor, Biology & Biotechnology

Phone: +1 (508) 8315000 x5579

Defining signaling pathways that program cellular diversity is one of the foremost problems in biology and is central to my research interests.  In the lab we use molecular, genetic, and biochemical approaches to characterize the function of these pathways and to gain insight into their role in disease.  To date, the lab has focused on the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor network, a principal therapeutic target for a variety of human cancers.  This work involved the characterization of Kekkon1 (Kek1), an archetypal LIG molecule, as a novel feedback inhibitor of the EGFR network. ...

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Natalie Farny
Assistant Professor, Biology & Biotechnology

Phone: +1 (508) 8315000 x6511

My lab works broadly in the emerging field of synthetic biology. Synthetic biology seeks to apply engineering design principles to the understanding and creation of biological systems. I use synthetic biology to design biosensors and bioremediation strategies for various environmental contaminants that impact human health, including lead, arsenic, and other toxic substances. We apply the tools of synthetic biology to address global challenges related to water, soil, and human health. Our water and soil applications focus around understanding how we can use genetically engineered microbes ...

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Jean King
Dean of Arts & Sciences, School of Arts & Sciences

Dr. Jean King is the WPI Peterson family Dean in the School of Arts and Sciences. She also serves as a Professor of Biology and Biotechnology, affiliate Professor in Biomedical Engineering Department, Professor in the Neuroscience Program and Director, NeuroTech Suite at WPI. Prior to joining WPI, she was vice provost for biomedical research at the University of Massachusetts Medical School; a tenured professor of psychiatry, radiology, and neurology; and director of the university’s Center for Comparative Neuroimaging. She retains a lab and Adjunct Professorship at Umass Medical School, ...

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Amity Manning
Associate Professor, Biology & Biotechnology

Work in my lab is focused on defining the cellular mechanisms that maintain genome stability in normal cells and understanding how these pathways are corrupted in cancer cells. Genomic instability is a feature common in cancer that leads to aneuploidy and intra-tumor heterogeneity.  Whole chromosome instability (CIN) results from underlying defects in mitotic chromosome segregation and leads to gains and losses of entire whole chromosomes.  The ability of CIN cancer cells to ‘shuffle’ their genomic content can lead to gains of oncogenes, loss of tumor suppressors, and promotes tumor cell ...

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Lauren Mathews
Associate Professor, Biology & Biotechnology

Phone: +1 (508) 8315000 x5938

Research in my laboratory addresses questions in the field of evolutionary ecology and environmental biology, and typically combines field work and laboratory studies. Current projects focus on two disciplines. One of the major goals of my laboratory is to understand the geographic and evolutionary processes that affect and generate biological diversity, particularly in aquatic habitats. In North America, freshwater faunas are particularly vulnerable to ecological changes because of heavy manipulation of habitats by human activity. In addition, North America harbors a substantial majority ...

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Inna Nechipurenko
Assistant Professor, Biology & Biotechnology

My lab investigates signaling mechanisms of neuronal development. We are particularly interested in studying the role of the primary cilium in this context. Primary cilia are specialized filamentous structures that protrude from the surface of most human cells including neurons and mediate transduction of all major signaling pathways. Due to their central role in signaling, primary cilia are required for development and tissue homeostasis in vertebrates, and cilia defects are causal to a large spectrum of genetic disorders called ciliopathies. One research direction in the lab is centered ...

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Benjamin Nephew
Assistant Research Professor-Biology & Biotechnology, Biology & Biotechnology

I work with Dean Jean King, where our research is broadly focused on identifying and studying neurobehavioral mechanisms of mental illness and developing effective interventions.  We currently use functional MRI (fMRI) to identify the neural correlates of mindfulness based stress reduction as part of a stage IIa randomized clinical trial, and fMRI data combined with related clinical measures to develop machine learning based early predictors of severe depression and suicidality.  I developed a transgenerational social stress based rodent model of postpartum depression/anxiety, and related ...

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Karen Oates

Before joining WPI as the Peterson Family Dean of Arts and Sciences, I was the deputy director for undergraduate education at the National Science Foundation. I was also the founding provost at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, associate dean and director at George Mason University, and the co-P.I. on a large, national dissemination grant entitled Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities (SENCER). I received my BS in biology from Rochester Institute of Technology and my PhD in biochemistry from George Washington University. Nationally, I conduct ...

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Louis Roberts
Associate Professor of Teaching, Biology & Biotechnology

I have developed my teaching interests and philosophy throughout my scientific career, and could not be more excited to (re)join the Department of Biology and Biotechnology at WPI, from which I earned my undergraduate degree!  I truly believe the objectives of the laboratory courses I teach must reflect the necessity of (1) training life sciences majors using the wide array of current procedures used in academic and industrial settings; (2) modeling the ability to troubleshoot procedures and strategies due to unexpected results or unforeseen circumstances; (3) preparing students to be ...

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Elizabeth Ryder

Phone: +1 (508) 8315000 x6011

I have a long-standing interest in applying computer science and mathematics to solve biological problems. I am currently the Associate Director of WPI’s Program in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, and I am always looking for students with interests in this exciting interdisciplinary area. One of my goals in teaching biology is to help students to think more quantitatively about biological questions. A few years ago, my colleague Dr. Brian White of UMass Boston and I were awarded a grant from the NSF to develop a course, “Simulation in Biology”. In this class, students use an approach ...

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Scarlet Shell
Associate Professor, Biology & Biotechnology

Phone: +1 (508) 8315000 x5917

I have a passion for understanding how living systems work, as well as for sharing my love of biology and research with the next generation of scientists and informed citizens. The central goal of my lab is to understand the regulatory mechanisms that underlie mycobacterial stress tolerance. We combine genetics, genomics, transcriptomics and biochemistry to understand how mycobacteria respond to, and ultimately survive, stressful conditions. Our guiding principles are curiosity, respect, and scientific rigor. Together we strive to push the boundaries of knowledge and advance our field by ...

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Jagan Srinivasan
Associate Professor, Biology & Biotechnology

Phone: +1 (508) 8316564

It has been my lifelong dream to become a professor in the field of Biology. Being a faculty member provides a great opportunity to teach and interact with students. Students by nature are highly inquisitive and motivated, and as teachers, we have the responsibility to guide our students to explore and think in new ways. I believe that teaching is a two-way interaction between teachers and students. I come from India and my parents, both of whom were teachers, taught me to strive for excellence in my scholarly pursuits. Science bears no geographical barriers and my academic training has taken ...

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Luis Vidali

Phone: +1 (508) 8315000 x4194

I deeply enjoy teaching, in particular conveying the important roles played by plants. It is a great reward when my students realize that plants are more complex and interesting than they anticipated, and they want to learn more. I enjoy that students at WPI are open about thinking in new ways; this critical thinking is the result of intense project-based learning. My research aims at understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying plant cell organization and growth, with the long-term goal of increasing plant productivity. I am particularly interested in understanding the ...

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Pamela Weathers

Phone: +1 (508) 8315000 x5196

Prof. Weathers is an internationally recognized expert on Artemisia annua and artemisinin, having worked with the plant and its phytochemicals including the antimalarial drug, artemisinin, for >25 years. She is a Fellow of AAAS and SIVB, won many awards, given many national and international presentations, reviews manuscripts for many journals and proposals for many national and international funding agencies. She is an Associate Editor for multiple journals. Her lab was the first to genetically transform A. annua. Of her > 130 peer-reviewed papers, about a third focus on bioreactors and ...

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Floyd Brownewell
Professor of Practice, Biology & Biotechnology

I have enjoyed a blended career spanning research and development, heavy chemicals manufacturing, healthcare single use manufacturing, and academia. This experience has provided a unique interface between the theoretical and the practical. I understand the need for innovation and invention coupled with manufacturability. I bring this perspective to the classroom and the projects I engage.I work closely with the Biomanufacturing Education and Training Center (BETC) with a strong focus on workforce development. I oversee programs and curricula aimed at individuals spanning entry-level ...

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Shane McInally
Assistant Professor, Biology & Biotechnology

Shane McInally will be an assistant professor in the Department of Biology and Biotechnology starting in July 2023. His research focuses on understanding the molecular and physical mechanisms that cells use to control and scale the size of their internal structures with distinct aspects of their geometry. He received a BS from the University of California, Riverside, an MPH from the University of California, Berkeley, and a PhD from the University of California, Davis. Most recently he was a postdoctoral fellow in the Biology and Physics Departments at Brandeis University.

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Our Staff