SFSU Teaching Mentors

Dr. Teaster Baird, PhD, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. The Baird lab researches protein structure-function relationships, particularly substrate specificity, catalysis and inhibition in serine proteases. They use trypsin as a model system because its scaffold is representative of a number of other serine proteases making our results potentially applicable to more than 100 other enzymes. Because there is so much already known about it, it an excellent system for protein engineering experiments in this family of enzymes and it is relatively easy to mutagenize, express, purify and characterize. Dr. Baird teaches courses in Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Dr. Jennifer Breckler, PhD, Department of Biology. Dr. Breckler is the teaching coordinator for the STRIDE program at the SFSU campus and teaches the spring teaching workshops for the STRIDE scholars. Breckler had a cell biology research laboratory at SFSU for over twenty years, studying motor proteins in retina and muscle. Currently, she conducts science education research and specializes in learning preferences of college science students, with a focus on kinesthetic learning. She has over twenty years of classroom teaching experience at all levels of the curriculum, and most recently has taught courses in introductory biology, human physiology, cardiorespiratory physiology, pharmacology, vertebrate histology, and six different graduate seminars. Dr. Breckler currently designs new hands-on conceptual teaching modules for medical and pre-medical education.

Dr. Laura Burrus, PhD, Department of Biology. Dr. Burrus researches mechanisms underlying vertebrate Wnt gradient formation, and investigates the role of Porcupine in neural tube closure birth defects. Her lab is also developing a biochemical assay for Wnt palmitoylation.

Dr. Diana Chu, PhD, Department of Biology. At the Chu lab, undergraduate and graduate students use the model organism C. elegans to understand how chromosome architecture and dynamics influence gene expression and male fertility. Chu Lab has identified a histone H2A variant in C. elegans which they have named HTAS-1. Initial analysis has revealed that HTAS-1 is a sperm-specific histone H2A variant. The lab is using genetic analysis to determine if mutant worms are infertile. They have shown that HTAS-1 is indeed required for optimal fertility and are currently investigating the role of HTAS-1 in chromosome compaction. In a second project, the lab is investigating chromosome segregation during sperm meiosis, and how this differs from oocyte meiosis and mitosis. Dr. Chu teaches courses in Molecular Genetics and Genetics. She has also designed a new course in Research Skills for undergraduate students, which includes a wide variety of practical skills for beginning researchers.

Dr. Karen Crow-Sanchez, PhD, Department of Biology. In her research, Dr. Crow-Sanchez uses molecular approaches to understand the evolutionary forces that generate biological diversity, novelty, and reproductive isolation in fishes. She is particularly interested in a family of genes, called Hox genes, that specify body plan features.

Dr. Wilfred Denetclaw, PhD, Department of Biology. Dr. Denetclaw and his lab members use the chicken embryo to study signaling processes during vertebrate development. The lab investigates the ectoderm–dermomyotome signaling connection and the role of membrane micro-domains, or lipid rafts, in the regulation of myotome formation in somites. They are examining the connection between filopodia development and the formation of the myotome. Dentclaw lab uses a variety of techniques such as live somite imaging by confocal microscopy and by high resolution imaging using the transmission electron microscope. They also use embryo microsurgery, tissue transplantation, and animal cell culture. Dr. Denetclaw also collaborates with Dr. Walter Holleran at the San Francisco Veteran Affairs Hospital, where his students receive electron microscopy training and have research opportunities in Holleran's laboratory. Dr. Denetclaw teaches Cell Biology lecture and laboratory courses.

Dr. Carmen Domingo, PhD, Department of Biology. The Domingo lab investigates the cellular and molecular pathways that underlie pattern formation in the vertebrate embryo. They are particularly interested in how cells begin to acquire specific cell fates and morphologies early in development. A recent focus has been on the formation and differentiation of the musculature system. The vertebrate model system they work with is the African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis. This system lends itself well to the study of embryology because the aquatic frog can be easily reared in a laboratory environment, the females lay hundreds of eggs, the eggs are easily fertilized and development can be observed in a culture dish.

Dr. A. Alegra Eroy-Reveles, PhD, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Dr. Eroy-Reveles studies the motivation(s) guiding students who want to pursue a career in chemistry and science. By identifying experiences (such as group exercises, research, mentoring, leadership, community service, etc.) that help students to persist in science, we can develop programs and strategies that enhance learning in chemistry classes and promote the development of scientists. She is particularly interested in engaging students in community-based projects as a mechanism to apply course-based chemistry education to societal questions and needs. Dr. Eroy-Reveles is a former UCSF IRACDA postdoctoral scholar.

Dr. George Gassner, PhD, Department of Chemistry. The Gassner lab focuses on the study of structure-function relationships in redox, and metalloproteins with particular emphasis on heme proteins. Areas of study include enzyme mechanisms, electron transport, protein-protein interactions, and protein engineering for altered specificities/activities. Techniques used include side-directed and semi-random mutagenesis, UV/Vis, EPR and FTIR spectroscopies, and stopped-flow spectrophotometry as well as standard heterologous protein expression and purification techniques. Current areas of study are cytochrome P-450 enzymes and soluble guanylyl cyclase. Dr. Gassner teaches courses in Biochemistry and Enzymology.

Dr. Nancy Gerber, PhD, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. The Gerber lab is interested in the mechanisms of action of metalloproteins with particular emphasis on heme proteins. General areas of study include mechanisms of enzyme regulation, control of enzyme specificity including specificity of protein-protein interactions, and the role of conformational changes in the activation of allosteric enzymes. Techniques used include UV/Vis, Fluorescence, and CD spectroscopies, as well as standard heterologous protein expression and purification techniques and cell culture techniques.

Dr. Julia Lewis, PhD, Department of Psychology. Dr. Lewis is currently the Co-coordinator of the Clinical Psychology Training Program, and has taught most of the clinical graduate courses over the last several years. Currently, Dr. Lewis is Director of the Psychology Clinic and serves as a primary supervisor for first and second year clinical graduate students. Dr. Lewis's primary teaching and research interests concern individuals and families who are at risk for the development of psychopathology and more specifically the long-term effects of divorce on families.

Dr. Leticia Márquez-Magaña, PhD, Department of Biology. In her role as the Professor of Biology in the Health Equity Institute for Research, Practice and Policy, Dr. Márquez-Magaña works with other scientists, health professionals, and policy makers to make changes that will bring equality in health access and outcomes for all members of our society. Her current research interests lie in disentangling the biologic, sociopolitical and economic causes of cancer disparities in the US. Currently, her research team is working on two projects. As part of a transdisciplinary team including UCSF researchers, they are working to better understand the cultural beliefs of Latinos with regard to biospecimens. They are also interested in gathering information about the beliefs of physicians with regard to clinical studies. In a second project they are studying the feasibility of using saliva as a culturally-acceptable biospecimen for breast cancer research, and analyzing its reliability as a marker for early cancer detection using NMR spectral analysis. Dr. Márquez-Magaña also teaches courses in Health Disparities and Undergraduate Research Skills.

Dr. Ezequiel Morsella, PhD, associate professor of neuroscience, Department of Psychology. The basic nuts and bolts underlying human action remain mysterious from a mechanistic point of view. The Morsella lab investigates action control from an integrative cognitive neuroscience perspective, focusing on both unconscious brain mechanisms and conscious mechanisms (e.g., voluntary action and cognitive conflict, urges, working memory, impulse control).

Dr. Sally Pasion, PhD, Department of Biology. Dr. Pasion’s research specialties include DNA replication, DNA repair, telomere biology, cell cycle regulation, and genetics. In her lab, they use fission yeast to study conserved processes in eukaryotic DNA replication, DNA repair, telomere biology, and cell cycle regulation. Dr. Pasion teaches courses in Biology and Genetics.

Dr. Blake Riggs, PhD, Department of Biology. The Riggs lab examines the role of intracellular membrane in mitotic events including bipolar spindle assembly, chromosome segregation, and cytokinesis. They use the model organism, the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster for in vivo cellular imaging and genetic analysis.

Dr. Ravinder Sehgal, PhD, Department of Biology. Dr. Sehgal's research program focuses on the biology of avian blood parasites. The work encompasses many aspects including molecular parasitology, ecology, evolution, and conservation genetics. Sehgal lab has ongoing research projects in Africa, California, and Central America and significant collaborations with the Center for Tropical Research at UCLA, the Institute of Ecology at Vilnius University, and the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory. There are projects amenable to both graduate and undergraduate research. Dr. Sehgal teaches General Parasitology, Parasitology Lab, and Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Dr. Kimberly Tanner, PhD, Department of Biology. Dr. Tanner is director of The Science Education Partnership and Assessment Laboratory (SEPAL). The SEPAL group explores how people learn science, especially biology, and how teachers and scientists can collaborate to make science teaching and learning in classrooms – kindergarten through college – more like how scientists work. SEPAL researchers are studying a variety of issues in biology education and science education, with a special emphasis on developing novel assessment tools to better understand how people from children to practicing scientists conceptualize the biological and physical world.

Dr. Raymond Trautman, PhD, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Dr. Trautman’s research interests include photochemistry and photophysics of organometallic compounds, especially metal alkyl and metal alkenyl compounds; reaction mechanisms in solution related to homogeneous catalysis; and intercalation chemistry of zeolites, adsorption of heavy metals by zeolites and iron oxides.

Dr. Steven L. Weinstein, PhD, Department of Biology. Dr. Weinstein's research seeks to elucidate the molecular mechanisms that regulate the production of cytokines in macrophages. A fuller understanding of these of mechanisms is a critical ingredient in efforts to generate new insight into human disease and to develop more effective therapeutic interventions. He is also director of the CCSF/SMCCD/SFSU Bridges to the Baccalaureate Program, an NIH funded initiative which partners community colleges and four-year institutions with the aim of encouraging students from groups underrepresented in the biomedical sciences to earn their PhD degree and become biomedical scientists.