Fall 2015 Newsletter | Biology | Marquette University






Dr. Thomas EddingerI earned my undergraduate degree in Biology Education from Purdue University in 1980, with certification to teach Biology and Chemistry at the high school level. I studied under Robert Cassens in the Meat Science and Muscle Biology laboratory at the University of Wisconsin for my Masters and PhD degrees. I used primarily histological techniques to study changes in muscle senescence. Then, in collaboration with Richard Moss in the Physiology department, I expanded this work to investigate the mechanical changes that also occurred with muscle senescence.

Following my PhD, I continued my mechanical studies of single muscle fibers with Richard Moss in the Physiology Department in the Medical School at the University of Wisconsin for one year. Looking to expand my muscle training, I then moved to the University of Virginia, where I used biochemical and mechanical approaches to study contractile protein expression and function in smooth muscle with Richard Murphy. Building on the work of a graduate student in the lab, I extended our understanding of the myosin heavy and light chain isoform expression in smooth muscle.



I began my independent research and teaching career at Marquette University in the fall of 1989, along with two other new colleagues to the department, Drs. James Buchannan and Kathleen Karrer. I taught Experimental Physiology, developed a graduate-level Muscle Biology course, and established my lab. Building on my earlier postdoctoral work, my first graduate student (Allen Tsao, MS, 1991) published a study on how several of the unique myosin heavy chain isoforms associate in vivo to form multiple myosin molecules. Dan Meer (Ph.D., 1996) joined the lab shortly thereafter and helped develop a long-term goal of mine to make mechanical measurements of single smooth muscle cells. He then took this one step further by developing methods to perform RT-PCR on these individual cells so that we could correlate myosin message (via mRNA content) with individual smooth muscle mechanical properties. Interestingly, during this time Dan fielded a call from Klements Sausage Co. asking if our lab could determine whether their pork suppliers had adulterated sow meat they purchased with boar meat—a matter of economic and organoleptic concern regarding the sausage they were making. Dan worked out the experiments to use PCR to identify a male-specific 158 base pair fragment from the Y chromosome. The experiments worked (regardless of whether spices were added or the product was cooked), and the case was resolved!


Eddinger Lab 1999
Eddinger Lab in 1999. From left to right: Dan Meer, Donna Bizub, Kelly Willis, Elizabeth Beaulieu, Tom Eddinger, Leah Carrbonneau, Michelle Kadar, and Joe Meehl

Jennifer Sherwood joined the lab (Ph.D. 2001) and extended our single cell mechanical/protein expression work, helping to resolve an ongoing controversy involving smooth muscle myosin light chain isoform function. Building on work done with multiple talented undergraduates and technicians, Yu Zhang (MS, 2010) showed that redistribution of second messenger pathway proteins (PKC and CPI17) does not occur in intact tissue, suggesting that other published studies of isolated tissues were observing an artifact of the cell isolation procedure. My most recent graduate student (Qian Huang, Ph.D., 2012) used a SMB myosin heavy-chain knock-out mouse model to further elucidate the functional role of this isoform in smooth muscle function.

EddingerFor about five years, I have also been collaborating with Dr. John LaDisa, in the Biomedical Engineering program here at MU, in an ongoing project. John developed a rabbit animal model for studying aortic coarctation (a constriction of the aorta), and, with lots of help from numerous undergraduates, graduate students, and multiple other colleagues, we have been able to identify changes in gene expression, fluid dynamics, mechanical and regulatory function, and protein expression resulting from this disease. We are currently expanding these studies to try to determine the critical factors causing the cellular and system changes that occur in the vascular system as a result of having a coarctation. All of this work was also supported by technicians and undergraduates who were interested in advancing our understanding of smooth muscle regulation and function. Many of these individuals made significant contributions in the laboratory and are co-authors on related abstracts and manuscripts. In addition, I have enjoyed ongoing collaboration and publishing with many of the postdoctoral fellows that I trained with at UW – Madison and the University of Virginia.

I have taken three sabbaticals while at Marquette University. The first was in 1997, when I spent a semester at the University of Pennsylvania working in H. Lee Sweeny’s lab. While there, I worked on an expression system for the myosin isoforms. In 2005, I spent a semester working at the Medical College of Wisconsin with Danny Riley, where I studied vibration injury in vascular smooth muscle. Most recently (2013), I used my sabbatical semester to learn new techniques and expand our coarctation studies in rabbit.




EddingerIn 2003, I began teaching a section of the introductory biology series (001, now 1001). After a year or so of traditional lecturing in the large enrollment course (reduced to <300 from the single 500-600 person section previously taught), Dr. Michelle Mynlieff and I began investigating better ways to help our students learn. We attended the National Academies UW – Madison Summer Institute on Undergraduate Education, and were National Academies Education Fellows for 2006-2007. This, in combination with the initiation of an on-line writing program (Calibrated Peer Review, CPR), was the beginning of a continuing transition to improve learning in this course and throughout the entire biology program. The transition was a move to an “active learning style” for our students. With the support of the Biology Department faculty, we focused on promoting “active learning” for our students. In 2011, we (TJ Eddinger, M Mynlieff, and M St. Maurice) were awarded the Marquette University Way Klingler Teaching Enhancement Award to study the effectiveness of changes we had been implementing in the introductory Biology series for Transforming Undergraduate Education in Biology. Our pedagogical techniques (active teaching, the use of CPR, and exam regrades) were shown to significantly improve short- and long-term learning (over the semester); Dr. A Manogaran also participated in this study). We published our work in Cell Biology Education. I continue to focus on improving education in our program with many of my hard-working and dedicated colleagues in the department.




The Biology Department at Marquette University has been a good fit for me with my interests in research and teaching. I have been blessed to have received numerous Federal, National, University, and departmental awards to support my research and teaching efforts. At the same time, I have been able to enjoy time with my family and pursue my other interests, including personal spiritual growth, carpentry, gardening and traveling.













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