2017 SURF Faculty and Research Areas

2016 SURF Faculty and Research Areas Professor JP Baird's research focuses on the biochemical processes governing appetite. His research team conducts experiments on rats to explore neural networks and brain chemicals that impact eating behavior. Watch this video of Professor Baird discussing his obesity research here

Bishop Professor Anthony Bishop studies the interface between organic chemistry and molecular biology. His research team uses a combination of chemical and biochemical approaches to examine two central biological processes: cellular signal transduction and protein synthesis. Learn more about Bishop's research here.

Carter Professor Ashley Carter's lab team studies the mechanical properties of biological molecules or cells. Her research tracks the Brownian motion of injected particles using laser optic techniques. Students in her lab examine the motion of small micron-sized polystyrene beads that are attached to a biological specimen of interest. By tracking the movement or binding of the bead researchers are able to infer the trajectory of the specimen. Learn more about Professor Carter's research here.

Clotfelter Professor Ethan Clotfelter's research is in the area of behavioral ecology and environmental toxicology. His students conduct experiments with birds and fish to understand physiological constraints imposed by sexually selected traits, and behavioral and physiological consequences of exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals in aquatic vertebrates. Learn more about Professor Clotfelter's research here.

2016 SURF Faculty and Research Areas Professor Jonathan Friedman’s lab studies chemically synthesized magnetic materials to learn how their magnetic moments reverse direction and to explore their potential use as processing elements in quantum computers. His group also studies the properties of superconducting devices that exhibit macroscopic quantum phenomena and that can be made into “Schrödinger Cats.” Learn more about Professor Friedman's reseach here.

2016 SURF Faculty and Research Areas Professor Caroline Goutte studies Notch signaling, a conserved molecular mechanism of cell communication.  We use genetic and molecular approaches on the C. elegans model system to decipher how the Notch signaling pathway is regulated.  We use GFP-tagged reporters as indicators of cell induction and specification.  Our current focus is on the gamma secretase complex and its pivotal role in Notch activation. Learn more about Professor Goutte's research here.

  Follette Professor Kate Follette’s research focuses on identification and characterization of planets in the process of forming around young stars. She and her team use high-resolution images taken with some of the world’s largest telescopes to search the environs of young stars. They search both for asymmetries in the disks of gas and dust that surround these stars (circumstellar disks) and for light directly emitted from young planets embedded in those disks. Learn more about Professor Follette’s research on her website


Professor David Hall and his research team experimentally study aspects of Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs). His lab focuses on experimental atomic physics, laser spectroscopy, laser trapping and cooling, and Bose Einstein Condensation. Students in Hall's lab may investigate the peculiar manifestations of superfluidity in BECs, including topological structures such as vortices and monopoles. Learn more about Professor Hall's research here.

2016 SURF Faculty and Research Areas Professor David Hanneke studies individual atoms, molecules, and sub-atomic particles to test fundamental physics principles and to develop detailed control techniques for quantum systems. His students use low-energy atomic-physics techniques for precision measurements and detailed control of quantum systems.Students have developed an atom trap, lasers, and radiofrequency electronics. Learn more about Professor Hanneke's research here.

2016 SURF Faculty and Research Areas

Professor Larry Hunter’s laboratory engages in precision experimental investigations that might reveal new physics beyond the Standard Model of particle physics.  Current projects include 1) A searches for anomalous long-range interactions between spins, 2) an investigation of the viability of laser cooling of a molecule (Tl-F) to potentially improve the measurement of a nuclear electric-dipole moment, and 3) A search for time dependence in the decay of a nucleus.  Recent publications can be found here. 

Jaswal Professor Sheila Jaswal's research team focuses on understanding the link between protein folding, structure and function. By better exploring the diversity of mechanisms coupling protein-folding landscapes to biological function and disease, we seek to inform novel protein design strategies for engineering and therapeutic purposes. We are developing more universal fluorescence and hydrogen exchange mass spectrometry methods that allow us to monitor protein folding and dynamics of non-traditionally stabilized and “folding-challenged” proteins. We are comparing the proteolytic activity, longevity, and folding landscape of acidophilic and thermophilic homologues of alpha-lytic protease, the founding member of a growing class of kinetically stable proteins. Learn more about Jaswal's research here.

Jeong Professor Jeeyon Jeong studies cellular metal homeostasis.  We are especially interested in metals that serve as essential micronutrients, such as iron and zinc.  Despite playing vital roles in numerous metabolic processes, these metals are potentially toxic.  Our main focus is to understand how metals are regulated at the cellular level.   We use approaches based on molecular genetics, cell biology, and biochemistry with the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana and yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae.  Current projects include 1) functional characterization of an Arabidopsis mitochondrial iron transporter, ferroportin 3, and 2) identification of suppressors that rescue the low zinc growth defect of a yeast ubiquitin mutant, ubi4. Learn more about Professor Jeong's research here.

  Kanamaru Professor Kinuyo Kanamaru’s research focuses on reconstructing prehistoric climate change along with identification of natural disasters including tropical storms, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis in Japan and Korea. Further, her research expands to answer the question of what is the impact on recent climate change to our ecosystems. Particularly, she focuses on the anthropogenic effect on trees using tree growth rings 

Leise Professor Tanya Leise is an applied mathematician who studies the circadian clock that governs our daily internal rhythms. Her research team examines molecular and behavioral rhythms through differential equations modeling and time-frequency analysis of experimental data, with the goal of gaining insight about the underlying mechanisms that generate and regulate the internal clock. Learn more about Professor Leise's research here.

Leung Professor Helen Leung studies intermolecular interactions due to van der Waals forces between nonchemically bonded molecules. Her research team employs a high resolution, pulsed molecular beam, Fourier transform microwave spectrometer to obtain the rotational spectrum of a complex that can then be analyzed to yield molecular information. Leung's researchers may collaborate with researchers in Mark Marshall's lab. Learn more about Professor Leung's research here.

Loinaz Professor Will Loinaz’s research is in theoretical elementary particle physics and related topics.  He compares theoretical models of new physics beyond the Standard Model to data obtained from many types of experiments to see what sorts of new physics are favored or ruled out by experiments.  In addition, he performs Monte Carlo simulations of simple quantum field theories and equilibrium and non-equilibrium statistical mechanical systems, and he looks at subtle and interesting mathematical features of very simple quantum mechanical systems. Learn more on Professor Loinaz's webpage.

Marshall Professor Mark Marshall studies the nature of intermolecular forces, and his research has focused on characterizing the complex formed between the OH radical and the acetylene molecule. Students conducting research in his lab seek to apply the detailed molecular information obtained from high resolution spectroscopy to address questions concerning these forces. Marshall's researchers may collaborate with researchers in Helen Leung's lab. Learn more about Professor Marshall's research here.

Miller Professor Jill Miller's research group studies the ecology and evolution of plant reproductive systems, especially the evolution of separate (as opposed to combined) sexes and the evolution of physiological mechanisms that prevent self-fertilization in hermaphrodites.  They use a combination of field experiments, molecular genetics, and analytical techniques to learn how natural selection and other evolutionary forces affect reproductive adaptations and population genetic structure. Learn more about Professor Miller's research here.


 Professor Pat O’Hara’s research, using fluorescence has studied the binding of pesticides and environmental toxins to the estrogen receptor, structural changes in the oligomerization of the protein alpha crystallin in the lens of the eye, signal transduction in the calcium binding protein, calmodulin, and affinity maturation in antibodies. In addition her lab has built and is using a single molecule spectrometer to gain even more information in these systems since individual molecules can be imaged instead of ensembles of molecules.

On a slight tangent to this research, her interest has recently been drawn to the chemistry of olive oil and in particular to understanding some of its many health benefits such as its antioxidant properties and the links to cancer, cardiovascular disease and dementia.   Her lab also hopes to develop consumer ready assays to detect the quality and age of olive oil, some 80% of which is mislabeled as extra virgin oil in the US. Towards that end we are exploring chlorophyll clocks and antioxidant assays. Learn more about Professor O'Hara's research here.

Palmquist Professor Carrie Palmquist's research focuses on how children learn through social interactions. Specifically, her lab explores how children use previous interactions with, and characteristics of, other individuals to determine whether someone will be a reliable or unreliable source of information in the future. Research assistants work in lab and community settings to recruit families to participate in research, run preschool-aged children through research protocols, and code and analyze data. You can learn more about Professor Palmquist's research here.

Prasad Professor Aarathi Prasad’s research focuses on mobile and wearable devices and Internet-of-Things, usable security and privacy and wireless network. Her research involves conducting interviews or surveys to understand privacy and security perceptions of device users, building usable authentication schemes, designing privacy-preserving network protocols, finding security flaws in existing devices, exploring privacy issues regarding big data and cloud computing as well as building applications for health and well-being. Read more about Professor Prasad's research here.

2016 SURF Faculty and Research Areas Professor Alexandra Purdy’s lab studies interactions between bacterial pathogens and their arthropod hosts using genetic, genomic, and biochemical approaches.  We are currently focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms that allow Vibrio cholerae to colonize and damage the gastrointestinal tract of Drosophila melanogaster, a model organism for studying survival and persistence of the cholera pathogen in the environment.  Projects in the lab could range from bacterial genome annotation to genetic studies of signaling pathways that control biofilms and metabolic pathways that influence virulence in new ways. Learm more about Professor Purdy's research here.

  Sosa Professor Gabriel Sosa Castillo"s research involves commutative algebra and its interactions with computational algebra, combinatorics and algebraic geometry, and mathematics education. His work in the field of Commutative Algebra concerns the algebraic and combinatorial properties of monomial ideals, Koszul algebras and toric rings and ideals, using Gröbner bases and monomial orders. Sosa is interested in how the understanding of algorithmic processes over the integers improves algebraic manipulation of polynomials and rational functions, how collaborative/competitive environments affect learning and the effect that the use of audiovisual resources, in particular animations, has on the effectiveness of teaching in Calculus courses.

Stage  Professor Michael Stage is an astronomer whose research focuses on the X-ray astrophysics of supernova remnants. He is currently investigating non-thermal emission from accelerated electrons in the Cassiopeia A Supernova Remnant (SNR), using data from the Chandra X-Ray Observatory and the MIT Kavli Institute.

2016 SURF Faculty and Research Areas Professor Josef Trapani's research explores sensory transduction and neuronal encoding of sensory information. Using the lateral-line system of the zebrafish, his lab studies these processes using molecular biology, fluorescence microscopy, and electrophysiology. Learn more about Professor Trapani's research here.