Emeriti & Former Faculty

Peter AbramoffPeter Abramoff

Faculty 1955-1989

Professor Emeritus



Abramoff's Biography

Dr. Abramoff, a native of Quebec, Canada, received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Western Ontario. In 1952, he completed his master’s degree in zoology at the University of Detroit. Dr. Abramoff joined Marquette University in 1955 after graduating with his Ph.D. in immunology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Abramoff succeeded Dr. John W. Saunders as Department Chair in 1966. Dr. Abramoff held the chair position for nearly 25 years, the longest tenure of any College of Liberal Arts Chair to date.  

Dr. Abramoff was regarded as an excellent and innovative instructor. In 1971, he was selected as an Outstanding Educator for America. He was known to go to extraordinary lengths to obtain support for graduate students in the department, and he mentored over 40 graduate students himself. Dr. Abramoff often solicited funding for new teaching equipment to excite and motivate the department’s students. In 1978, he requested funds to purchase a new teaching tool, “Multi-Image Lectures in Introductory Biology." These presentations included taped narration, music and sound effects, and projected images from several slide projectors. During the 1980s, Dr. Abramoff was pioneered the separation of lecture and laboratories. Creating stand-alone laboratory classes allowed for greater flexibility in course offerings, increased student-faculty contact, provided specialized facilities and more sophisticated equipment for each laboratory course, and reduced the overall number of courses taught by the department faculty.

Dr. Abramoff was also recognized as a highly-capable administrator. Many of our current faculty joined the department during Abramoff’s tenure, including Dr. James Courtright, Dr. Robert Fitts, Dr. Gail Waring, Dr. Stephen Munroe, Dr. Dale Noel, Dr. Kathy Karrer, Dr. James Buchanan, and Dr. James Maki. 

Dr. Abramoff’s impressive scholarly pursuits are evident in his extensive library of published material. Between 1956 and 1990, he published more than 35 peer-reviewed papers, multiple lab manuals, and two textbooks. Dr. Abramoff was awarded many prestigious research grants to fund his work, including large grants from NIH, NSF, US Public Health Service, and the National Heart and Lung Institute, among others. His research program attracted a large number of graduate students to the department and focused national attention on the quality of research potential in the Milwaukee area. In 1978, Dr. Abramoff received the Wehr Distinguished Professorship, recognizing his breadth of scholarly activities, devotion to Marquette University, and vigorous leadership of the Biology Department. 

Primarily, Dr. Abramoff was an immunologist, but his research program covered many areas. During his tenure at Marquette, he made advancements in several areas of biology. His early work considered the immunological implications of antigen competition at receptor sites. In the late 1950’s, Dr. Abramoff examined the effects of x-irradiation on exteriorized blood to determine if anti-body producing tissues, such as the spleen and lymph nodes, are affected if the blood is the only tissue in the body that is exposed to x-ray radiation. During this period, he also conducted cancer research attempting to isolate and utilize tumor-specific antibodies. Other research examined the evolutionary origin and possibility of transplants in the genetically identical amazon molly, an unusual tropical fish that evolved as a female species. From the late 1970’s to the early 1990’s, much of Dr. Abramoff’s work was on the immunobiology of the lung. 

In addition to his academic and scholarly successes, Dr. Abramoff was an influential member of a number of national and international professional organizations and societies. He was a twenty year member of the Reticuloendothelial Society, and served in various roles through the years, including President in the early 1980s. The society focused on the system of cells and tissues involved in host defense mechanisms that protect the body against disease. Dr. Abramoff organized large events for this society in Milwaukee in the early 1980s. 

In 1984, Dr. Abramoff established the Distinguished Lecture Series with the goal of bringing six internationally renowned speakers to campus each academic year through annual symposium during spring break. The first Marquette Life Sciences Symposium brought 200 attendees to Milwaukee to discuss the topic, “Genetic Transformation of Eukaryotes.” In 1985, the Oliver Smith Memorial Lecture and endowment fund was established to recognize Dr. Smith’s 24 years of service to the Biology Department. The seminar series and Smith lecture continue today with additional support by the Scholl endowment.

In 1982, Dr. Abramoff proposed a Marquette Biology Visiting Committee for improved interaction with local industry and to serve as a presidential advisory committee in the matters of long-term growth of biological training and research at Marquette. In 1983, the proposed committee held its first meeting as the Advisory Council to the Biology Department with Dr. Jack M. Siegal of P-L Biochemicals and Dr. Gary W. Sanderson of Universal Foods as first chair and vice chair. By 1985, the board was providing basic support for existing department activities, and also acted as a catalyst for new activities and developments for the department.  

Throughout his career, Dr. Abramoff regularly served as a consultant on scientific panels, biology education, and to biotechnology companies. As the biotechnology industry in Wisconsin took off in the 1980s, Dr. Abramoff’s expertise as a consultant was sought by Governor Tommy Thompson. Dr. Abramoff was appointed to the Governor’s Council on Biotechnology, created to identify Wisconsin’s strengths and weaknesses of the biotechnology industry infrastructure, formulate policy, enhance programs of research, and to formulate a cohesive strategy to stimulate economic development in biotechnology.  

Dr. Abramoff stepped down as department chairman in 1989, and retired from Marquette shortly thereafter. In the early 1990s, Dr. Abramoff joined FOTODYNE Inc., a worldwide leader in the manufacture and sales of laboratory instruments, located in Hartland, WI, and eventually was named president and CEO of the company in 1994. Dr. Abramoff and his wife live in Brookfield, WI.  

BuchananJames Buchanan

Faculty 1989-2019

Professor Emeritus



Buchanan's Biography

Dr. Buchanan was inspired to study the nervous system in a linguistics class he took while earning his bachelor's in Biology at Colorado College in 1976. He thought that perhaps the unique behavior of human speech could be better understood by studying the basic principles of motor systems. He received his PhD in Neural Sciences from Washington University in St. Louis in 1981 in the lab of Carl Rovainen. There, Jim was introduced to the lamprey, a primitive jawless vertebrate, which diverged from other vertebrates some 550 million years ago. The lamprey has a nervous system organized like our own but is small enough to survive when isolated in a dish of saline, and the isolated nervous system can exhibit the neural correlates of several behaviors. It amazed him to witness the beautifully-coordinated, clock-like rhythm of swimming activity in motor nerves of the isolated spinal cord of the lamprey in the absence of brain, muscles, and sensory feedback. The motivation for his research was that by studying this simpler, more elemental form of the locomotor network in lamprey, we could have a better chance at understanding the cellular mechanisms underlying locomotion in all vertebrates, and perhaps the fundamental principles of motor patterns in general. 

Following graduate school, Dr. Buchanan did postdoctoral research at Colorado State University in Ft. Collins from 1982 to 1985, where he examined spinal regeneration in rodents. He then returned to my main research interest in lamprey locomotion in the lab of Sten Grillner at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden from 1985-1987.  When he completed his postdoctoral position in Sweden, he spent 3 months backpacking across Europe, Russia, and China. Upon returning to the US, Dr. Buchanan worked as an Instructor and researcher at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in Galveston, TX, where his met his wife, Maria Isabel Noguerón, an accomplished scientist and teacher from Mexico City.

Dr. Buchanan came to Marquette in 1989. At Marquette, he enjoyed the energy and talent of both the undergraduate and graduate students. He worked with dozens of undergraduates to complete significant research in his lab as part of independent study projects, as summer research projects, as part of the McNair summer program, and as paid student workers.  Many of these students have gone on to successful careers in medicine and research. 

For Dr. Buchanan, one of the great appeals of working at Marquette in the Department of Biological Sciences was the balance of research with teaching. He enjoyed teaching both lab and lecture courses, including physiology and neurobiology.  

Outside the lab and classroom, Dr. Buchanan enjoys a variety of locomotor pursuits including hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, and canoeing here in Wisconsin and back in Colorado. 

CourtrightJames Courtright

Faculty 1970-2014

Professor Emeritus



Courtrights' Biography

Dr. Jim Courtright received his bachelor’s degree from Yale University and his PhD from Johns Hopkins University in 1967. Jim came to Marquette in 1970 as an Assistant Professor, was promoted to Associate Professor in 1976, and to Professor in 1982.

Dr. Courtright turned his interest from research to teaching in the late 1980s. He taught a wide variety of courses at the introductory level and to non-science majors. He used new information, review, and revision of course materials and upgrades to his lectures and labs to make this happen. He was involved in the authorship of and received external grants totaling $258,352 for instructional equipment. As Dr. Robert Fitts writes, "I do believe that Jim's excitement about research has been transferred to multiple students over the years, and that this has been one of his most important contributions to our department's research program." Prior to 1991, he had been a consistent researcher with a good record of publication, conference participation, and grantsmanship. He continued conference participation throughout his career.

Dr. Courtright excelled in service to the department, the college, and the university. He chaired the Institutional Biohazard Committee from 2003-2014, and served on numerous university committees including Core Curriculum Review, Patent Policy Advisory Committee on Research, Biomedical Ethics Committee and the University Academic Senate, to name a few. Dr. Robert Fitts states, "...Jim has been a terrific department citizen. As the department chair for nine years, I cannot remember a time when [he] did not take on and complete with excellence a service assignment."

DownsStephen Downs

Faculty 1987-2019

Professor Emeritus



Downs' Biography

Dr. Stephen Downs grew up in suburban Minneapolis, Minnesota. He received his bachelors degree at Augustana College, where he majored in biology and chemistry. He then received his PhD degree in anatomy from the University of Iowa in the lab of Dr. Frank Longo, studying the role of prostaglandins in ovulation in mice. Moving further east to Bar Harbor, Maine, he spent five years in the lab of Dr. John Eppig at the Jackson Laboratory, carrying out postdoctoral work on the role of purine metabolism in mouse oocyte maturation. Dr. Eppig would go on to become perhaps the best known oocyte physiologist in the world. Dr. Downs loved living a stone’s throw from the ocean and on the doorstep of Acadia National park, and both of his children were born in Bar Harbor. 

Dr. Downs joined the Biological Sciences department in 1987. He continued his work with purines and interconnected pathways of energy metabolism, first involving carbohydrates and more recently fatty acids. Along the way, he carved a small research niche in examining how energy metabolism helps regulate meiotic maturation in mammalian oocytes and has thoroughly enjoyed the journey.  It has been a privilege for him to mentor seven graduate students to their PhDs and to provide research experiences in his lab for countless undergraduates. Upon his arrival at Marquette, Dr. Downs reopened the undergraduate developmental laboratory course that had not been offered for several years.  Dr. Downs also developed an additional undergraduate lab course in anatomy that was taught for the first time in 2011. 

Some of Dr. Downs’ fondest experiences in the field have been with collaborators, including Dr. Henry Leese, one of the world’s foremost authorities on both egg and embryo energy metabolism. Downs and Leese worked together in York, England from 1994-1995. They obtained data that greatly advanced the understanding of mouse oocyte physiology, and Dr. Downs traveled extensively in England, Wales, and Scotland, pursuing a newfound love of castles. 

Outside of science, Dr. Downs enjoys spending time with his granddaughters and his dogs. He loves music and has written many songs, usually of a sacred nature, that he sometimes performs with his brother. He also plays trombone and for many years was a member of the Wauwatosa Community Band and the Wauwatosa Community Jazz Band. He has been working on a novel for several years that he hopes to finish before he lands in that other place. He has a serious addiction to hiking, and the more spectacular the backdrop, the better. He retired from Marquette in 2019. 

FittsRobert Fitts

Faculty 1976-2016

Professor Emeritus



Fitts' Biography

Dr. Bob Fitts has had a lifelong interest in human performance, and has participated in athletics for as long as he can remember. As the youngest of six children (only 2 minutes younger than his twin sister Marj), he played “knee football” with his brothers who were 7 and 11 years older (they were on their knees while Bob played standing). His interest in running as a sport took off following high school while he served in the US Army from 1960-63. After discharge from the service, Bob entered the State University of New York (SUNY) at Cortland where he earned his B.S. in 1967. While at Cortland, he was fortunate to meet Dr. Dave Costill, who at the time was a young instructor, and assistant professor of exercise science, and the cross-country coach. Dave’s enthusiasm about exercise physiology jump started Bob’s interest in that field. In 1967, he entered the master’s program in physiology at the University of Buffalo where he was fortunate to study with some of the leading physiologist of that era including Dr. Herman Rahn (a noted respiratory physiologist) and Dr. Don Rennie. The latter had an interest in exercise physiology and he recruited Bob to a project studying the aerobic fitness of the Alaskan Eskimo. Bob’s master’s thesis centered on the question of whether or not Eskimos with an active life style would have superior aerobic power to the general US population. The research included spending two summers on the Arctic Ocean in Wainright, Alaska. Bob, an energetic but naïve young scientist, intended to open his lab for testing each morning at 8 am, but what he rapidly learned was due to constant daylight,the time of day was of no consequence in Wainright. The town’s inhabitants stayed up to 2 am and got up around 11 am, so Bob adjusted his work day to run 3-11 pm. What Bob discovered was that the Eskimos did not have superior aerobic power to other Americans, and this was attributed to the incorporation of motorized snowmobiles which led to a more sedentary life style. Bob’s two year stay in Buffalo changed his life not because of the science, for while that was important to his career, it was in Buffalo that he met his future wife Mary Ellen Marasi. Bob earned his M.S. in August of ’69, and married Mary Ellen on January 24, 1970 during a blizzard that produced heavy snow even by Buffalo’s standards. 

After completing his M.S. in ’67, Bob went to the University of Wisconsin Madison to study with Dr. Bruno Balke who was credited with being the first exercise physiologist to chart the precise relationship among oxygen consumption, exercise and cardiovascular health.  Bruno was considered one of the pioneers in the field of exercise science, and Bob learned from him some of the principles of physiology that he still uses today in his teaching and research at Marquette. While Bob learned much through course work and conversations with Bruno, he ended up doing his Ph.D. thesis research with two other scientists, Drs. Fran Nagle and Bob Cassens. His work, carried out at the Muscle Research Institute, was directed at determining the effects of endurance exercise-training on the cellular properties of limb skeletal muscle. At that time very little was known about the benefits of regular exercise and the evidence on muscle was restricted to the observation that exercise increase mitochondrial number and tissue oxygen uptake. Bob’s work focused on exercise adaptations in muscle performance, and his thesis work was the first to demonstrate that regular exercise increased muscle velocity and power, and reduced fatigue. The latter observation would lead to one of Bob’s long time research interest at Marquette and that is elucidating the cellular mechanisms of muscle fatigue and the role of exercise-training in its prevention. 

Bob completed his Ph.D. in 1972, and accepted a postdoctoral position in the laboratory of Dr. John Holloszy at Washington University School of Medicine. At the time, John had recently published the first paper demonstrating that all muscle fiber types (both slow and fast) increased their mitochondrial number in response to regular endurance exercise. The lab was at the forefront of muscle research, and Bob joined a group of postdoctoral fellows that included Ken Baldwin, Frank Booth, Ron Terjung, Mike Rennie, and Will Winder -all of whom went on to distinguish themselves as independent investigators in the field of exercise science. With this group of scientist as a stimulus and sounding board, Bob continued his studies on the role of exercise in improving contractile function, and began a series of studies on muscle fatigue that formed the background for his work at Marquette. One of his publications during this time uncovered the relationship between the amount of daily training, glycogen utilization, and tissue respiratory adaptations that was widely read and quoted, and in 2007 was awarded a classic paper award by the American Journal of Physiology. 

After four years in St. Louis (which included the birth of his first child Ryan in 1974), Bob accepted a tenure-track faculty position in the Department of Biology at Marquette. He inherited a lab in the basement of WLS that had not been used for a few years and that had been designed for fish rather than muscle biology. His first year, he barely kept his head above water developing a new four credit physiology course and setting up his research lab. Going was slow at first with small research funds coming from Marquette’s Committee on Research, and start-up funds. But in 1978, the lab began to take off with Bob’s first NASA grant (a funding source he was able to maintain for 30 consecutive years)  to study the effect of inactivity on muscle structure and function. Early on, this work was carried out in collaboration with Drs. Courtright and Unsworth, colleagues in the department. NASA’s interest in muscle research was stimulated by the observations on Skylab in the mid-1970’s that muscle atrophy was a big problem associated with microgravity. Bob realized that microgravity represented the other end of the activity spectrum from what he had been studying -that being exercise-training adaptations, and so his first grant with NASA centered on using an animal model to mimic inactivity, and determine the organelle within muscle most effected. This work led to a series of papers in the early 1980’s that uncovered cell and molecular changes in the protein myosin (published with Dr. Unsworth), alterations in sarcoplasmic reticulum function (published with Bob’s first two graduate students Do Han Kim and Frank Witzmann), and contractile function published with Do Han and Frank. When Bob’s first student Do Han entered the lab he had recently arrived from Korea and spoke very little English. As Bob tells it, one of Do Han’s few English words was muscle, and Bob’s response was “you are in the right lab”. When it came to work ethic, few could match Do Han, and in this period of the late 1970’s Bob and Do Han would frequently be in the lab past 2 am. The arrival of Bob’s second student Frank Witzmann from Ball State University (where Dave Costill was a professor) marked the beginning of a fruitful connection with Ball State for Ph.D. and Postdoctoral students. Frank was a natural in the lab, able to do what few can and that is carryout multiple experiments at the same time. Both Do Han and Frank went onto successful careers in academia with Do Han eventually becoming a medical school dean, and Frank a professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine. This period of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s was capped by Bob’s first R01 NIH grant in 1979 and an NIH Research Career Development Award in 1980.  

In 1982, Bob’s third Ph.D. student Joe Metzger arrived also coming from Ball State with a M.S. degree. Joe continued the tradition of hard working graduate students that Do Han and Frank had begun. He obtained his Ph.D. in three years and in the process published five first and two second author manuscripts. His work led to the important discovery that changes in the surface membrane action potential were important contributor to muscle fatigue during high intensity contractions, and he also conducted ground breaking studies on the effects of regular exercise on respiratory muscle function. Joe’s success continued and today he is a world authority in the field of heart physiology, and Professor and Chair of Integrative Biology and Physiology Department at the University of Minnesota Medical School.  

The late 1980’s and early 90’s brought an interesting group of grad students to the Fitts lab beginning with Paul Gardetto (currently a Colonel in the US Air Force) who was the first student to use single fiber technology in his research, Jane Schluter, LaDora Thompson (Professor, Univ. of Minnesota), Carol Vergoth, and Kerry McDonald (Professor, Univ. of Missouri). LaDora made important contributions to understanding the role of low cell pH in fatigue work that Bob’s current student, Cassie Nelson, is pursuing, while Kerry carried out studies documenting for the first time that periods of inactivity can affect tissue blood flow, and used single cell technology to study the effect of inactivity on fiber velocity and power. In the 1986-87 year, Bob was awarded an NIH National Research Service Award which he used to study excitation-contraction coupling in the lab of Dr. Eduardo Rios (current grad student Carmela Rios’ father) in the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Physiology, Rush University, Chicago. This work resulted in a series of papers in the late 1980’s on the biophysical mechanisms of the t-tubular membrane activation of calcium release in skeletal muscle, and the start of a friendship and collaboration with Eduardo that has continued to the present. The last student of the early 1990’s era was Ed Balog (Associate Professor, Georgia Tech Univ.) who took up challenging studies on the role of intracellular sodium and hydrogen ions in muscle fatigue, and continued the action potential studies initiated by LaDora. In late 1993 and throughout much of 94, Bob concentrated on writing a review article on muscle fatigue which was published in Physiological reviews in 1994. This work has since become a citation classic having been cited more than 795 times. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, three additional students earned their Ph.D. in the Fitts lab with Kris Norenberg (1998), Shannon Knuth (2000), and Ed Debold (2002, now an Assistant Professor at Univ. of Massachusetts). Kris studied the role of high intensity exercise in improving muscle function, while both Shannon and Ed continued studies elucidating the role of hydrogen and inorganic phosphate as causative agents in fatigue. 

From the late 70’s up to the early 1990’s, the microgravity research in the Fitts’ lab had made many advances in understanding disuse induced muscle wasting and the detrimental effects on muscle function, but it was not until 1993 that opportunities to fly experiments in space occurred. This work began with collaborations with French and Russian scientist on cellular studies on monkeys flown for 18 days on the Russian Soyuz space craft, continued with a 17 day Life and Microgravity Science (LMS) human mission on the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1996, and cumulated with a series of studies on the effects of long duration (6 mo.) space flights in humans on the International Space Station (ISS) from 2002 through 2008. The short duration LMS flight resulted in a cover story photo and article in the Journal of Physiology, while the long duration ISS studies were published in Journal of Applied Physiology and Journal of Physiology. All of these studies were carried out with Bob’s good friend and colleague Danny Riley at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and the human studies with Dave Costill and his colleague at Ball State, Scott Trappe. Bob describes the labs space involvement as a real team effort and one that could not have been carried out without a host of superb scientist including research associates Cheryl Brimmer (1979-1985), Anne Heywood-Cooksey (1986-1992), Cindy Blaser (1993-1999), Janell Romatowski (1990-2005), and Patti Colloton (2000-2005), and postdoctoral fellows Vavara Grichko (1992-1997), and Jeff Widrick (1995-2000). The magnitude of Jeff’s contribution can be appreciated by the fact that he published eight first author and four second author papers during his time in the lab.  

Throughout his career, Bob has taught the department’s human physiology course and exercise science. The former is an upper division undergraduate course with majors from Biological Sciences and Physiological Sciences as well as many of the students in the Physical Therapy program. Bob relates that he has truly enjoyed teaching and interacting with students in lecture as well as with undergrads and grads who have conducted research in the lab. Undergrads have been an important fabric of the lab, and this has been particularly true over the last eight years while Bob served as Chair of the Department. Since 2000, some of the undergrads who have worked and contributed to the lab include Amy Stephens, Ben Beran, Brooke Rogers, Bria Meyers, Cathryn Krier, and current students Laura Mark, Connor Callahan, and Joe Rehfus. In the last nine years as department chair Bob has worked hard for a new Life Sciences building and developed a program statement for the building in 2007 with the then College Dean Mike McKinney. While the building has not yet been built, it will be. As chair, Bob worked to improve the current infrastructure by developing an imaging lab including acquiring an NSF grant for a confocal microscope, developing a new undergrad support lab, and renovating the second floor to include new labs, as well as temperature and cold rooms. Bob worked hard to improve/develop communication with students and alumni by working with staff to update the website and develop the newsletter. Working hard to promote the faculty in the department, Bob is most proud of their accomplishments. As he puts it, they have made the job of chair enjoyable and rewarding. Besides great students and research associates throughout his career, he relates that the job of chair was made easier and progress possible in large part due to Sandra Hughes and Patti Colloton who have served as Assistant to the Chair. 

Bob’s interest in exercise extends outside of his university research and teaching to include a lifelong participation as a competitive runner, a sport where he has had considerable success from his college days as an NCAA champion in track and cross country, post-college as a US champion in the marathon, and even today as an age group runner, although he relates that there are very few runners left in his age group. His interest in sport carried over to his children as well (boys Ryan, Eric, and Paul, and a daughter Lara- see family photo) where Bob coached their soccer teams for 15 years, and cheered them on in their other activities. All four of Bob’s children worked in his lab either as a summer job (Eric and Lara) or as students at MU (Ryan and Paul). All are married with children of their own, and the grandkid total is five with two on the way. Family is all important to Bob, and Mary Ellen is his great love and best friend. On sabbatical next year, plans include travel and quality time with the grandkids. 

Notable awards: 

2007 American Journal of Physiology Classic paper Award 

2001 Lawrence G. Haggerty Faculty Award for Research Excellence 

1998 American College of Sports Medicine Citation Award for Research Excellence 

1997-2003 Wehr Distinguished Professor 

1986-87 NIH National Research Service Award 

1980-85 NIH Research Career Development Award 

1980-present American College of Sports Medicine Fellow 

FredricksWalter Fredricks

Faculty 1966-2000

Professor Emeritus



Fredricks' Biography

As chair of the biology department for nine years and a faculty member for 34, Dr. Walter Fredricks helped guide the department to the modern era.  

A Magna Cum Laude graduate of LaSalle College (Philadelphia, PA), Dr. Walter Fredricks earned his doctoral degree at Johns Hopkins University, where he studied the Hill Reaction of photosynthesis in cyanobacteria. He went on to a post-doctoral fellowship at the National Heart Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, and started his career as a professor at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy in 1964. Fredricks came to Marquette in 1965, where he taught biochemistry and immunochemistry as an assistant professor in the Marquette University School of Medicine. In 1966, Fredricks was appointed to the Biology Department, where he stayed for nearly 35 years. 

Dr. Fredricks’ research career started by studying low potential electron transport reactions in photosynthetic bacteria, anaerobic bacteria and the chloroplast of higher plants. In the 1970’s, his research was directed toward isolating and characterizing the antigens involved in  hypersensitivity pneumonitis, which eventually led to an interest in the evolution of antibody molecules.  

Known affectionately as “Big Wally” by his students, Dr. Fredricks touched the lives of hundreds of students that passed through his biochemistry course entitled The Molecular Basis of Biology. He wanted his students to be able to clearly identify the questions asked by scientists as they entered their labs, and would introduce lectures by asking his students to consider questions like, “What is the Molecular Basis of… muscle contraction? energy production? the genetic code?” Along the way, Fredricks was fortunate to have a whole series of answers provided by investigators, some of whom won the Nobel Prize for answering these fascinating questions. In this way, he was able to make his lectures into a series of stories where he could connect the rigorous science of biochemistry with real people. In 1998, Dr. Fredricks’ talents for teaching and inspiring his students were rewarded with the Rev. John P. Raynor, S.J. Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence.  

Dr. Fredricks earned his nickname Big Wally early on in his tenure in the department, and bore the title proudly. As a young assistant professor (not too many years older than his students) students would try to test his authority by anonymously calling out, “Wally” in the middle of a lecture. Fredricks told his wife about this, and she told him she’d get him something to solve the problem. A few days later she came home with a navy blue tee-shirt with BIG WALLY in big white letters on the front. The next time someone called out, “Wally” during a lecture, he stopped, turned around, and confronted his anonymous challenger. He said, “I am Dr. Fredricks, a professor in a major university, and I expect to be shown proper respect.” He added, “I do not want my students to call me Wally,” he opened his shirt with a flourish to reveal the tee-shirt, and shouted, “because my name is Big Wally”. The place erupted in applause and laughter, and he never heard those cat calls again. 

In 1989 Dr. Fredricks was elected chair of the Biology Department, following the nearly 25 year tenure of Dr. Peter Abramoff. Just prior to Fredricks’ election, the Biology faculty created a document that revised and modified the mechanisms of governance and administration of the department, including procedures not only for the orderly transfer of responsibility but clearly outlining the duties, responsibilities and perquisites of the department chair. The document also provided greater faculty input to departmental decisions, and greater control over the person occupying the position. 

This new mode of operation was a delight for Dr. Fredricks because he knew that the department’s faculty were a bright, creative, collegial, and dedicated group of teachers and researchers. Fredricks placed high emphasis on listening to the faculty, as he thought they should define how the department should develop. He saw his role as chair as to facilitate the faculty’s’ teaching and research activities, to create a robust academic environment for our undergraduate and graduate students, as well as to act as an effective liaison between the department, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the University administration.  

During Dr. Frederick’s first year as chair the department added three new assistant professors: Drs. James Buchanan, Thomas Eddinger and Kathy Karrer (who had received her B.S. degree from the Department). An external review in the early 1990’s found the department lacking in organismal and evolutionary biology and ecology. The department, led by Dr. Fredricks, took this very seriously, and addressed the issue by filling faculty lines as they opened with professors who could strengthen the department. Between 1992 and 1995, Drs. James Maki (ecologist), Michael Schlappi (plant biologist), and Michele Mynlieff (neurobiologist) were recruited and hired. Dr. Fredricks was elected to serve three terms as chair, and retired with a well-deserved Emeritus in 2000. 

Dr. Fredricks is also a newly published novelist. The Sea of the Morning Sun -1493 is his first full-length novel, which takes place during Christopher Columbus’ second voyage to the Caribbean.  He worked on the novel for 8 years, finishing the manuscript in 1985. That same year, Fredricks and his wife won an all-expense paid cruise around Europe on ABC-TV’s Love Boat. On this trip, he was able to achieve his dream to visit some sites that were pertinent to his book. Fredricks planned to publish the book in 1992 (the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s first voyage), but the celebrations that he anticipated for that year never materialized, and interest in Columbus’s voyages was practically nonexistent. The book sat in a drawer until this past year when he finally decided to get it into print. Find out more about Dr. Fredricks’ book at https://www.facebook.com/TheSeaOfTheMorningSun.

KarrerKathleen Karrer

Faculty 1989-2014

Professor Emeritus



Karrer's Biography

Dr. Kathleen Karrer and her three younger sisters were raised in Michigan by very supportive parents who encouraged all of their career goals.  Dr. Karrer's inclination towards teaching appeared early, when she and her sisters played "school" after school, and she always got to be the teacher.  Her earliest experiments were performed in the kitchen with her Dad and were along the lines of putting a balloon on top of a bottle and observing that when the air in the bottle was heated the balloon would expand.  When the bottle was placed in the freezer...  

After discovering in high school that she liked biology, she came to Marquette as an undergraduate, where she enjoyed the laboratory courses, especially Experimental Cell Biology and Experimental Developmental Biology.  In the Cell Biology lecture course with Dr. Anthony Mahowald, she became interested in the general question of how the germ line of an organism differs from the soma.   

At the advice of her Professors at Marquette, she went to Yale University to do her graduate work in the laboratory of Dr. Joseph Gall.  The lab was a fantastic environment, where she met many great scientists and made good friends.  The most unusual characteristic of the lab was that while its members all thought about chromosomes, they worked on an astounding array of organisms, including protozoa, flies and amphibians.  It was there that she was introduced to the ciliated protozoan, Tetrahymena, which was to be the subject of her life's work.  In the course of her dissertation project she made the surprising discovery that the extrachromosomal rDNA molecules were giant, 20kb, inverted repeats.   

For her postdoctoral studies she went to the lab of Dr. Anthony Mahowald, who by this time was at Indiana University.  Again, she met some wonderful people and scientists, including Dr. Gail Waring, who was to become a lifelong friend and scientific colleague at Marquette.  Over the years they have shared a lot scientifically, and some also some great vacations including a raft trip through the Grand Canyon and a night scuba dive with manta rays in Hawaii.  At Indiana, Dr. Karrer was interested in the nuclear bodies of Drosophila melanogaster germ cells.  The morphology of nuclear bodies varies with the species and corresponds to the species type of the cytoplasm rather than the nuclear genome.  Her goal was to isolate nuclear bodies and determine whether the nuclear body protein was the translational product of polar granule RNA.  However, the quantity of the nuclear bodies was too low to recover enough of them to complete this project.   

Upon starting her first faculty position at Brandeis University in 1979, she maintained her interest in the germ line vs. the soma, but decided to return to Tetrahymena as an experimental organism.  These fascinating single celled organisms have two nuclei, the germ line micronucleus and the somatic macronucleus.  During sexual reproduction, the parental macronucleus is destroyed and a new one develops from a mitotic product of the micronucleus.  Macronuclear development includes massive genome remodeling, including elimination of about 15% of the genome by removal of interstitial genomic sequences, breakage of the 5 micronuclear chromosomes into 181 macronuclear chromosomes, de novo methylation of adenine residues in the DNA and endoreduplication of the genome to a copy number of about 50.  At Brandeis her graduate students began studies on DNA methylation, determining the timing of methylation and showing that methylation was a stochastic process and that the maintenance methylase must have a de novo activity (Gail Harrison, Elizabeth Capowski).  In addition, they initiated studies on some of the DNA rearrangements that occur in the genome (John Wells, Bernice Allito, Susan Gavens), and identified a new stage in the development of sexual maturity (Melissa Rogers). 

In 1989, Dr. Karrer came to Marquette University as a Clare Boothe Luce Professor.  There she was again fortunate to attract some talented and hardworking graduate students.  Among other things, they showed that DNA methylation was dependent on chromatin structure, as opposed to DNA sequence (Teresa Van Nuland) and continued the work on eliminated sequences.  They showed that many of the eliminated sequences were homologous to transposable elements (Jill Gershan, Jeff Wuitschick) and continued the work on the mechanism of DNA elimination (Jay Ellingson, Namrata Patil). Jeff Wuitschick identified the first example of the Maverick elements as an eliminated DNA element in Tetrahymena, and made the surprising discovery that elimination could be induced by any part of these 20 kb elements, and did not require specific flanking sequences.  More recently, the work in the lab has been focused on a gene, ASI2, which is required for endocycling in the developing macronucleus (Rupa Udani, Shuqiang Li, Lihui Yin and Susan Gater).  Dr. Karrer has also enjoyed mentoring undergraduates in their first independent research projects.  Six of them, Michelle DiTomas, Stacia Pfeiffer, Paula Hempen, Paul Lindstrom, Alison Meyer and Andrew Lochowicz had their work published in peer-reviewed journals. 

In her spare time, Dr. Karrer enjoys gardening (perennials are best), attending plays at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater and Marquette men's basketball games.  

Notable Awards: 

Clare Boothe Luce Professor, (1989-94) 

Fr. John P. Raynor Faculty Award in Teaching Excellence, 1999 

Nora Finnigan Werra Faculty Achievement Award, 2009 

DownsA. Krishna Kumaran

Faculty 1969-1997 

Professor Emeritus



Kumaran's Biography

It is by serendipity, a confluence of independent events, that Dr. A. Krishna Kumaran joined the Marquette faculty in 1969. In 1968, the Marquette Biology Department received funding from National Science Foundation (NSF) to expand its potential for research in Developmental Biology.  In that same year, Dr. Kumaran emigrated from India and joined the Developmental Biology Center of Case Western Reserve University as a research associate of Prof. Howard A. Schneiderman, who encouraged him to seek an independent faculty position. At this time, Marquette University was recruiting for three faculty positions in developmental biology. Dr. Kumaran applied for one of these three positions. He sent a copy of his vitae to Jay Barr, a friend at UW Madison, who happened to be collaborating with Prof Ellen M. Rasch of Marquette University, on DNA content in cells. Dr. Rasch knew of Kumaran’s research on nucleic acid metabolism in insects and endorsed his candidature. He was invited for an interview and was offered an Associate Professor position beginning September, 1969.  

The three newly recruited developmental biology faculty members were to teach undergraduate level lecture and laboratory courses, and a graduate course in the field. They decided to jointly teach the courses with one person in charge for each course. Dr. Kumaran chose to be in charge of the lecture course, Brian Unsworth, the laboratory course, and Sally Hennen, the graduate course. This cooperative teaching lasted only year or two, before each professor took full charge of the courses. Kumaran felt that developmental biology should be taught as an experimental science, rather than mere descriptive embryology. Thus his lectures included the progression in our understanding of developmental phenomena, i.e. the hypotheses and the experiments that yielded the current view of the development of the organism from the single cell to the zygote. 

Dr. Kumaran’s testing methods were consistent with this view. He used short essay questions, rather than multiple choice questions to evaluate knowledge of the rationale underlying the experiments that supported or negated a hypothesis. In his opinion, short essay questions help students to enhance their organized presentation and writing skills. The objective of the final comprehensive examination, encompassing the entire course material, was for the student to gain an integrated picture of apparently diverse topics covered in individual groups of lectures. 

Teaching assignments to most Marquette Biology faculty represented 50% of the time, and the remaining time was allocated for research. Before the end Dr. Kumaran’s first year, he had obtained NSF funding to carry out research on the differences in DNA synthetic patterns in early embryos with two different types of early embryonic development- namely, the determinate and the indeterminate type of eggs. The next research grant was a joint grant with the other two developmental biologists and a chemistry faculty Prof Norman Hoffman (This may have been the first interdepartmental cooperative grant).  During Kumaran’s tenure at Marquette he obtained several grants from NSF, NIH and USDA as well as private foundations. One particular grant was a cooperative grant with James B. Courtright of Marquette Biology department and Professor Fotis Kafatos of Harvard University to investigate the potential application of genetic engineering technology to produce female sterile insects in order to alleviate the damage caused by insect pests.  

The Marquette biology department was awarded a five year Howard Hughes Undergraduate Biology grant based on a proposal prepared by Dr. Kumaran to improve undergraduate biology education as well as prepare High School teachers of biology in the region for improving quality of biological studies. For the first time at Marquette, faculty from the Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics and Biomedical Engineering departments were co-opted in preparation of this grant proposal.  

In order to celebrate the Marquette University Centennial, Dr. Kumaran spearheaded the initiative to conduct a developmental biology symposium with several outstanding scientists in the field. This symposium served as a model for several annual Marquette symposia on different biological topics.  

Dr. Kumaran served for six years as the chief editor of an international scientific journal, Archives of Insect Biochemistry and Physiology, with its main office at Marquette.  He also served as host for scientists sponsored by the Fulbright Foundation, Czech and Polish Academies. For two months during his sabbatical he volunteered teaching at two North Carolina minority educational institutions at Greensborough and Fayetteville.  

Dr. Kumaran’s most memorable experience from his years at Marquette was the kindness and consideration he received. When the department received a NIH Biomedical Research grant, the faculty unanimously chose him to head that program covering biology and chemistry departments. He felt honored and humbled when he learned the department organized a special symposium followed by a banquet in the last week of his tenure at Marquette. 

 After retiring from Marquette, Dr. Kumaran worked for a short time at NIH as a program director at the Minority Biomedical Research Support Division. Kumaran was a Fulbright visiting professor at the University of Philippines, and received an honorary doctorate from University of Madras, his alma mater. 

MakiJames Maki

Faculty 1985-2021

Professor Emeritus



Maki's Biography


B.S. 1975, Whitworth College, Spokane, WA
Ph.D. 1982, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Research Associate, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

Research Interests: Microbial Ecology

The research in Dr. Maki's laboratory involved the study of microorganisms and their interactions with their biotic and abiotic environments. These studies generally used a combination of molecular techniques and traditional culture/enrichment microbiology to examine microbial and/or gene diversity, abundance and activity. Dr. Maki and his students also conducted research on the microbiome of rice plants, particularly those bacteria that are considered plant growth promoting and are found either on the root surface (rhizoplane) or inside the plant itself (endophytic). Dr. Maki's lab also studied biofilm formation by oral microorganisms and its control in collaboration with investigators from the Marquette University School of Dentistry to find better methods to prevent infection and re-infection of teeth and tissues.

MunroeStephen Munroe

Faculty 1978-2013

Professor Emeritus



Munroe's Biography

Dr. Stephen Munroe was an active member of the Department of Biological Sciences’ faculty from 1978-2013. The Munroe Laboratory made significant advancements in study of RNA with its many, often surprising roles in the cell. 

Stephen majored in chemistry as an undergraduate.  For graduate work he went to Indiana University, where there was a well-established biochemistry program within the Department of Chemistry.  However, his interests quickly turned to molecular biology as he studied the biosynthesis of tubulin on polysomes isolated from rat brain.  This marked the beginning of his career-long interests in RNA and RNA protein complexes. Following completion of his Ph.D., Munroe spent three years at the Genetics Division of Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Boston, studying changes in chromatin structure associated with DNA replication, a fascinating problem in light of the recent discovery of nucleosome structure.  A final post-doctoral year at the Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research outside Boston provided an opportunity to study RNA-protein interactions associated nuclear RNA, a timely undertaking that coincided with the unexpected discovery in 1977 of mRNA splicing  in adenovirus-infected cells.  With the encouragement of his post-doctoral mentor,  Dr. Thoru Pederson, Munroe devoted the last several months of his post-doctoral work to learning methods for isolating nuclear ribonucleoprotein complexes associated with adenovirus RNA.  So it was with stocks of virus and HeLa cell cultures packed in dry ice that he arrived at Marquette University on a very hot Labor Day weekend in 1978.   

The timeliness of the project Munroe brought with him to Marquette led to early funding by the NIH and later the NSF.  Munroe was joined in the lab by several graduate students: Michael Banker, Cynthia Mengle and Mark Maffitt who help develop various molecular methods for characterizing RNA-protein interactions in the cell nucleus.  Another associate of Munroe at this time  was Deborah Meuler, a graduate of Marquette who had recently completed her Ph.D. at Indiana University .  Together Munroe and Mueler succeed in establishing the in vitro cell-free system for splicing radiolabeled RNA, recently pioneered by Adrian Krainer while working with Dr. Thomas Maniatis at Harvard.  Munroe used this system to study structural requirements for splicing of adenovirus mRNA with the addition of a complementary antisense RNA. These experiments had two interesting results: first the antisense RNA complementary to exons proved to be an efficient inhibitor of splicing suggesting that exon sequences as well as those at splice sites themselves were critical for splicing.  The additional observation that proteins within the nuclear extract, including those associated with nuclear pre-mRNA, rapidly catalyzes RNA-RNA base pairing also proved very interesting and was the precursor to studies in many other laboratories on RNA chaperones. Both observations were expanded during a year-long sabbatical at Cold Spring Harbor where he worked closely with Adrian Krainer and Richard Roberts, one of the original discoverers of mRNA splicing (and in 1993 a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Medicine).   

On returning to Marquette, Munroe continued this work with Xiaofan Dong, a graduate student who received a MS degree for her work on protein-catalyzed RNA-RNA annealing.  At the same time he began to investigate the role of naturally occurring antisense mRNAs associated with the expression of mRNA for the thyroid hormone receptor (TRα)  and Rev-erbα, the latter a nuclear receptor protein discovered by Dr. Mitchell A. Lazar in Dr. William W. Chin’s laboratory at Harvard.  Munroe and Lazar thus began a collaboration that has extended to the present time.  Major contributions to this work were made by Michelle L. Hastings and Hema Ingle, two graduate students.  On receiving her Ph.D., Michelle joined Krainer’s lab at Cold Spring Harbor, where Munroe had worked a decade before.  After a long and productive stay in the Krainer lab, Michelle returned to the Midwest to establish her own, very active lab at Rosalind Franklin University in North Chicago, not far from Milwaukee.   

Other graduate and undergraduate students have since contributed to the study of splicing and antisense RNA.  These include Valerie Salato who now works at Medical College of Wisconsin and Chao Zhang as well as undergraduates Brandon Rindfleisch and Michael Scott Brown who spent two years characterizing TRα/Reverbα expression in marsupial mammals. This evolutionary approach was recently extended by Chris Morales and Cynthia Aguilar, who help sequence these genes in the platypus. 

Another line of work includes collaboration with Dr. Jun Zhu, another former associate of Adrian Krainer, who Munroe worked with during a sabbatical year in Dr. George Church’s lab at Harvard.  Zhu and Munroe investigated the expression of antisense RNAs throughout the genome using a custom-designed microarray.  These genome-wide investigations with Dr. Zhu, now at the NIH, has recently led to a three-way collaboration with Dr. James  Anderson’s laboratory. Anderson’s pioneering work at Marquette on RNA-turnover via the TRAMP complex in yeast has provided novels insights into the metabolism of non-coding RNAs.    

Munroe’s interests in RNA and RNA-protein interactions are reflected in his regular participation in the annual meetings of the RNA Society.  This meeting frequently include a number of Marquette graduates, not least Dr. Cindy L. Will, a native of Milwaukee who has worked on the mechanism of mRNA splicing in Germany for many years.  Cindy was an undergraduate majoring in Biology at Marquette when Munroe first arrived in Milwaukee.  Recent meetings have included a number of other former Marquette biology students: Dr. Frank Rigo, now a researcher at Isis Parmaceuticals, a biotech company specializing in the developmental of antisense therapeutics, as well as Will Mueller and Megan Meyer, graduate students at U.California-Irvine and Johns Hopkins, respectively. 

Members of the RNA Society often refer to the RNA World, both as a hypothetical step in the evolution of life on Earth and as an association of “ribo-philes,” scientists who enjoy the study of RNA in its many, often surprising roles in the cell. 

PiacsekBela Piacsek

Faculty 1968-2002, University Compliance Officer 2000-2007 

Professor Emeritus



Piacsek's Autobiography

I received B.S. and M.S. degrees in the Department of Biology at the University of Notre Dame. It was the height of the cold war and doomsayers were predicting a nuclear war at any time. As a result interest in the effects of exposure to acute doses of ionizing radiation were in the forefront. Since the breakdown of the intestinal immune barrier and the subsequent invasion by resident microbes has been shown to be a component of the post exposure morbidity/mortality, we had the ideal facilities to further investigate this aspect of the radiation syndrome. Utilizing the germfree/gnotobiotic animals born and raised in germfree chambers at the LOBUND institute, we were able to further expand on this problems. The results of these studies were presented by my mentor R.Wilson at the 2nd Int. Congress Radiation Research. Although the results were fascinating and I was encouraged to stay and continue my research in this area, I wanted to expand my background in physiology and moved on to the Dept. of Physiology at Michigan State University. After I received my degree, I received a NIH postdoctoral fellowship and went to Harvard to work with Roy Greep and David Armstrong, where I was able to learn techniques for steroid hormone isolation and measurements.   

After two and a half years of postdoctoral work, I was offered academic appointment at three different institutions. I chose Marquette for more than one reason. The most important was the fact that the department had an NSF Centers of Excellence grant and was able to set up my laboratory with everything I needed to start research immediately. At the other two, I would have had to obtain funds externally after arrival. That would have set me back at least a year. Other reasons concerned with teaching. One course per semester, all in my area of expertise and no teaching duties the first semester gave me a good start in applying for grants and setting up my lab.    


The fact that external and internal environment can influence endocrine function was well established when I entered the field of endocrinology. This was especially true for reproduction. How the environmental information is transmitted to the anterior pituitary gland was a hot topic since the anterior lobe has no neural inputs. Through the pioneering work in this country and in England, the role of hypothalamic regulatory factors transmitted to the pituitary by a portal circulation, was established. When their chemical structure was defined (Guillemin, Schally 1972, Nobel prize 1977), they were designated as hormones rather than factors.  I dedicated the rest of my professional career to studying the role of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis in mediating the role of internal and external environment in the control of reproduction and other related questions.                    

The most obvious internal control is the negative feedback control by gonadal steroids. We utilized in vitro studies with rats to show that the removal of the ovaries and subsequent estradiol treatment resulted in increased and decreased hypothalamic luteinizing hormone releasing factor activity (GnRH) respectively. Subsequently, I turned my attention to light exposure, one of the most potent regulator of reproduction in many mammalian species.   

The year after I arrived, I received my first NIH grant from Child Health and Human Development.  I already had three graduate students and the grant enabled me to hire a fulltime technician. My previous studies have shown that continuous light exposure can increase pituitary gonadotropin release and that this effect is mediated through the basal hypothalamus.   

Our initial studies at Marquette were undertaken by my graduate student Gail Hautzinger to investigate the potential role of photoperiod, light intensity and light spectrum in adult cycling female rats.  Another graduate student, Ann Hardy chose to study the effect of altered photoperiod on the maintenance of corpora lutea in the ovary. Undergraduate student Bill Streur chose to do a project in my lab involving the effect of altered photoperiods on estrogen-induced precocious sexual maturation.  We also explored the potential role of increased photoperiods in the sexual maturation of male rats.  This study was conducted by Michael Goodspeed, a graduate student who also contributed to other studies in my lab. 

Ambient temperature is another external environmental component that can influence both maturation and adult reproductive function.  My graduate student Stan Nazian (now Professor Emeritus at U. South Florida Medical School) tackled the problems with thermal effects.  He evaluated the endocrine components of the sexual maturation of both female and male rats raised in 10oC ambient temperature.  His studies explored the pituitary-gonadal-axis as well as the accessory organ sensitivity to testosterone in the pubertal male rat raised at 4oC.  Stan co-authored with me an invited chapter in Environmental Factors in Reproduction (B. Cook and D. Gilmore, eds., Macmillan, London, pp.214-231, 1981). 

The last, but not least, environmental factor that we explored was nutrition and energy balance.  This had greater relevance to human health, because of the increased presence of anorexia, particularly in adolescent females.  We explored the effects of caloric deficiency in both premature and adult female and male rats.  Although previous studies have shown the detrimental effects of reduced food intake on reproductive/sexual function in several species, including primates, the mechanisms mediating this effect have not been elucidated.  My graduate student, Sherry Sprangers (now a professor at the U. of Maine), successfully investigated the hypothesis that caloric reduction increases the negative feedback potency of ovarian estrogens in adult female rats. By contrast, she also found an increase in the positive feedback efficacy of estradiol. The work of Kathy Lively, another graduate student, extended these studies by exploring the altered pituitary sensitivity to hypothalamic GnRH in prepubertal female rats.   At this point, we were already aware of the fact that pituitary LH secretion is not tonic, but occurs in distinct pulses.  My graduate student, Patricia Spillar, performed some technically difficult sequential sample collections for LH measurements.   

When it came to pulse analysis, we needed advice.  Fortunately I found it in the family.  Kristina Ropella, my daughter, is a biomedical engineer and an expert in signal processing of short term phenomena.  Two talented and hardworking undergraduates, Rose Tan and Tom Bonifer explored the question of reduced food intake in prepubertal male rats, again with the increased feedback efficacy of testicular androgens hypothesis in mind.  Tim Pater, an undergraduate and Jennifer Schmidt researched the role of Neuropeptide-Y in mediating the effects of caloric deficiency.  

In addition to our studies of environmental control, we also addressed some questions of reproductive endocrinology that were not directly connected to environmental input.  Tom Schneider, one of my first graduate students clearly established the ovary and not the adrenal cortex as the source of the preovulatory rise of progesterone secretion.  Mike Goodspeed constructed a systematic analysis of the endocrine changes during maturation in the male rat.  Jim Huth, one of the top graduates from the college, studied the increase in ovarian blood flow following the preovulatory LH surge, clearly demonstrating the role of histamine.  Murray Hostetter, another one of my first group of graduate students used various approaches to study the role of prolactin in the maturation of male rats as well as in pseudopregnant females.  In a separate project, he explored the imprinting of neonatal androgenization on the adult reproductive system of male rats.   I also collaborated with Archie Vomachka, a member of our faculty on a project in hamsters.  At this point I should mention the dedication and valuable contributions of my technicians, Don Martinson, Nancy Statham and Marian Robb.  Our studies were published in the following journals: Endocrinology, Neuroendocrinology, J. Endocrinology, Biol. Reprod., Am. J. Physiology, J. Andrology, J. Exper. Zoology, J. Reprod. Fertil.    


I started my teaching with an experimental physiology course.  Besides some of the standard protocols with nerve, muscle, heart and blood pressure control, we also asked the students to select and individual project to research.  They did come up with some real interesting ones, some involving the use of licensed chemicals and radioactive iodine for radioimmuno assays.   

When Art Houston, professor and assistant chair, left the department and went back to his native Canada, I took over the lecture course in comparative physiology. Although I continued the comparative design, I also mentioned clinical examples whenever they were appropriate.  It was appreciated by the pre-professional students.  Since students in Biology complain frequently about the number of math courses they have to take, I also introduced mathematical explanations, including differentials and integrals to illustrate the relevance.  Both of the above courses were offered in the fall semester.  In the spring semester I alternated between a graduate course in Endocrinology and a special topics graduate seminar.  Some of the topics included metabolism, circulation, interpretation of statistical results, etc.  Occasionally I taught a summer course in radiation safety as needed to satisfy NRC and State requirement for the use of radioactive isotopes in research. 


All research, whether or not government sponsored, must comply with federal/state guidelines when the project involves the use of human subjects, vertebrate animals, radioactive isotopes, recombinant DNA and genetically modified organisms.  For many years, the administrative aspects of the oversight of the four areas was handled by the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (ORSP).  Each area has a committee composed of faculty with the needed expertise to evaluate submitted proposals.  Some require at least one member who is not affiliated with the University.  By the end of the millennium, it became obvious that the existing arrangement was inadequate.  We lost the accreditation of our animal facilities and there were non-reviewed studies being done with human subjects under the wrong protocol number, to mention just a couple of areas.  Since I was already Radiation Safety Officer, I was asked by the Academic Vice President, Dr. David Buckholdt to take over the supervision of research compliance.  We moved the administration out of ORSP and established a separate Office of Research Compliance (ORC).  Eventually, I convinced the administration to provide two fulltime positions and a part time student help for this office.  We were also authorized to hire a fulltime animal facility supervisor.  I was fortunate to find some talented and dedicated individuals to fill these positions.  One was Michelle Van Gheem, who handled the administration in ORSP along with several other duties. Now she could devote 100 % of her time to compliance. She was familiar with the records and the review requirements.  The other I must mention was Javier Foronda, a talented and innovative man, who headed and organized the animal care facilities.  It took sometime but we regained full accreditation for our animal facility, passed unannounced inspections by the federal veterinarian.  We audited all questionable protocols with human subjects, successfully renewed all of our federal registrations, including our isotope license with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and later from the State when Wisconsin became the 33rd agreement state.  After I retired, I continued on a “part time" basis as compliance officer for five more years.                                                   

UnsworthBrian Unsworth

Faculty 1969-2004 

Professor Emeritus



Unsworth's Autobiography

Early Career 

I received my undergraduate B.Sc Zoology Honours degree from London University in 1961, and earned a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from University College, London in the summer of 1965. My thesis was titled “Nitrogen metabolism in Xenopus laevis, the South African clawed toad.” The research was carried out using a stable isotope of nitrogen and required a mass spectrometer, and a high performance liquid chromatography system. 

With the insouciance that can only come with youth I spurned the offer of a lectureship in Biochemistry, and applied for a project associate position in the Physiological Chemistry department at UW-Madison. The grass seemed greener on the other side of the pond. A faculty member at UCL, who hated America, had the prescience to advise me to get a Green Card to hedge my bets. 

Fall of 1965 found me suitcase in hand in the office of Dr. Phillip Cohen. I was greeted with the news that there were more cows in Wisconsin than people. He recognized a town boy when he saw one. I spent two fruitful years researching the effects of thyroxine during tadpole metamorphosis, and also adjusting to the idioms inherent in our “common” language. 

My thoughts turned to a future in academic research and teaching. My undergraduate studies left me with a fascination for Embryology, recently re-born as Developmental Biology.  

I was awarded a NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship to study organ formation during mouse embryonic development. I joined Dr. Clifford Grobstein’s group in UCSD’s  Biology Department in Fall 1967. There, I learned in vitro culture of mouse kidneys and other embryonic organ rudiments.  

Dr. Grobstein, a member of the NSF site visit team that awarded a Center of Excellence grant to the biology department, highly recommended Marquette University. 

MU’s department of Biology offered me a perfect balance between teaching and research.  One semester teaching an undergraduate class, one semester teaching a graduate lecture, and one semester teaching a graduate level seminar. This sequence allowed for serious research without slighting teaching. The opportunity to form a Developmental Biology group, together with Drs. Hennen and Kumaran, proved irresistible. I joined the department in August 1969, and set up my research laboratory with generous departmental funds. 

Research and Teaching at MU 

My first order of business at Marquette was to establish a breeding mouse colony, and snare external funding for my research program. Three years of toil produced a NIH RO1 grant to investigate organogenesis during mammalian embryonic development. In the 1970’s funding agencies started to favor multidisciplinary research. I teamed with a neurobiologist and in 1975 we secured NIH 3 year funding to investigate biochemical parameters in aging rodent brain. From 1977 to 1988 I collaborated with Bob Fitts. Grants from the NIH and NASA supported our research into alterations in skeletal muscle with use and disuse. 

Gary Mullin’s 1983 discovery of the polymerase chain reaction for the in vitro amplification of DNA hit molecular biology research like a ton of bricks. If a developmental biology grant did not include the use of reverse transcription PCR (RT-PCR) for quantitative measurement of RNA it was pretty well dead on arrival. In 1989 I received funding to assess the application of RT-PCR for quantitating differential gene activation. 

I sponsored Dr. Lelkes for an adjunct professorship in the department, and the faculty ratified the appointment. This enabled him to offer graduate level courses, and mentor students in our joint research projects. 

My early research collaboration with Peter Lelkes incorporated cell culture and RT-PCR to investigate the assembly of neuro-endocrine organoids (adrenals) in vitro. Over the following ten years we were steadily funded by both NASA and the NIH. We used Rotating Wall Vessel (RWV) Bioreactors as an innovative In Vitro tool to study instructional cues and mechanisms involved in organogenesis. We were also involved in space research. We examined avian blood vessel formation in space, on the MIR. In separate studies we examined adrenal medullary function during space flight, and also under conditions of simulated micro-gravity in RWV’s. 

The culmination of our work is summarized in four invited publications.   

  • “The use of rotating wall bioreactors for the assembly of differentiated tissue-like organoids.” In: Advancements in Tissue Engineering: New Developments in Cartilage, Skin, and Bone Engineering. L. Savage (ed). IBC Library Series, Boston MA, pp 113-132, 1998. 
  • “Growing Tissues in Microgravity.”  Nature Medicine vol 4,901-7, 1998. 
  • “Tissue assembly in microgravity.” In: Principles of Tissue Engineering. 2nd ed. R.P.Lanza, R.Langer and J. Vacanti (eds). Academic Press, pp 157-164. 2000. 
  • “Neuroendocrine tissue engineering in RWV Bioreactors. In: Methods in Tissue Engineering. A. Atal (ed). Academic Press, pp 371-381, 2002. 

Mentoring intellectually stimulating, motivated students is a gratifying aspect of academia. Here, I single out students from my laboratory for special mention. Carol Gossens, my first graduate student discovered that the Head of a Medical School department can be a super demanding boss, even if we did publish the results in Science. Phillip Caron, from Baaston, gained a MD/PhD from Columbia Physicians and Surgeons. Mike Shaw, a fiercely competitive squash player, earned a DDS and then an MD degree. Max McGee, realized that his unique talents would not be fulfilled in research. James Urban published a paper with me, won the Arts and Sciences gold medal, and earned a MD/PhD from the University of Chicago. James Russell, discovered that it is never too late to fire up the after burners. He earned a MD degree, accepted a residency at the Mayo Clinic, and then joined his father in a dermatology practice in town. Joseph DiMario, one of our undergraduates, completed a beautiful project for his M.S. degree. I counseled him to attend UC Berkley for a Ph.D. in muscle development. He pursued postdoctoral studies at Stanford University, and then secured a faculty position in Chicago. 

This brief list would be incomplete without including Lynda (with a Y) Fleming, an undergraduate with a gift and love for research. As technician, she provided the enthusiasm needed to keep the laboratory humming. After she had her son I persuaded her that she deserved a guaranteed salary. She found employment at Mount Sinai, and thereby introduced me to Dr. Peter Lelkes, a gifted cell biologist/tissue engineer.  Peter and I shared a productive collaboration and a warm friendship. 

I found fulfillment and pleasure in the close interaction with undergraduates offered by a Development Laboratory course. Kathy Karrer was a participant, as we explored the vagaries inherent in accommodating the developmental time tables of various animal species to the classroom. There was even time for fun, like getting students’ to demonstrate the impossibility of breaking a hen’s egg shell with their hands (you needed to take the course!). 

I later offered a lecture course in Human Embryology which emphasized teratology, congenital malformations, and metabolic disorders. In 1992 I assumed the Animal Development lecture course, and continued to do so until my retirement in 2004. 

My longtime friend, Eugene Laczniak professor of Marketing, approached me with the idea that I should fill in my new found leisure time by offering a course in Bioethics. This appeared to be a natural for us, since he knew no biology and I knew no ethics. For three glorious semesters we taught in the University Honors Program administered by the College of Arts and Sciences. It was a most rewarding experience for us both, coming to an end because of unresolved scheduling problems. 

Department Chair  

In 1998, I inherited from Wally Fredricks a smoothly operating department. We continued to recruit exceptionally strong teaching/research faculty to fill tenure track lines. New hires were selected to provide expertise in underrepresented research areas. We took pride in a focused, collegial faculty with a commonly agreed purpose. 

During my six years as Chair the department recruited seven assistant professors: Drs. James Anderson, Edward Blumenthal, Jane Dorweiler, Gale Schuman, Rosemary Stuart, David Wagner and Pinfen Yang. Instructors or part-time faculty were only hired for our summer program or to cover sabbaticals. 

I believed that sincere listening and positive action could frequently head off potential troubles. I tried to shoulder as many of the administrative duties as possible, to avoid over burdening our hard working faculty. I transmitted the opinions of the faculty to the College and to the University administration. When called upon the needs of the College were held paramount. For instance when the Dean requested that senior faculty teach our introductory undergraduate courses, faculty members selflessly volunteered. 

Faculty voted to rename the department, to better reflect our academic offerings. This lead to some good natured joshing encapsulate by the refrain, “The Chair of Biology is dead, long live the Chair of Biological Sciences!” 

It was becoming increasingly apparent that our motivated faculty were hampered by space restrictions. The facilities, adequate to support biological research and teaching in the mid 1960’s, were now woefully inappropriate for science in the late 1990’s. We also lacked, a conference room large enough to accommodate faculty for meetings, a place where support staff could take breaks, and access to mail boxes without causing congestion in the departmental office. 

In 1998, after a tour of WLS, the president convened a Space and Facilities Committee charging them to draw up a master plan for WLS. Lengthy discussion produced a two-pronged approach. Plan A was an entirely new building. Plan B was a band aid approach until Plan A could be realized.   

Plan B was achieved through timely collaboration with Buildings and Grounds personnel and infrastructural issues were tackled. 

Plan A revealed the unresolved devil in the details. Should it be a stand-alone building for biology? Should it include a state-of-the-art teaching facility shared with chemistry?  

It is impossible for me to overstate my gratitude for the warmth extended to me by colleagues, and friends at the symposium and banquet held to mark my retirement. I shall always treasure the honor and privilege of representing a most remarkable group of faculty members. 

WaringGail Waring

Faculty 1978-2013

Professor Emeritus



Waring's Biography

Dr. Gail Waring earned both her B.S. and M.S. from San Francisco State University where she worked with Dr. S.T. Bowen on brine shrimp hemoglobins collected from the local salt flats in Palo Alto, California. Interested in biological phenomena at the molecular level, Dr. Waring completed her doctoral studies at the University of Oregon with Dr. Charles Kimmel as a NIH pre-doctoral trainee in the Institute of Molecular Biology. Intrigued with the power of combining genetics and biochemistry to understand cellular processes, Dr. Waring accepted a postdoctoral position in Dr. Anthony Mahowald’s laboratory at Indiana University. 

Dr. Waring joined Marquette in 1978. Much of her work in the 1980s focused on identifying, cloning, and characterizing eggshell genes. With the discovery of means to genetically transform Drosophila using transposable elements in the early 80’s, Dr. Waring’s lab entered the transgenic organism arena. These studies paved the way for many of their subsequent studies on structure/function analyses of eggshell genes and proteins. During the 90s, the lab began to focus on how the eggshell assembles. This ushered in a period in which they used fusion proteins to make a library of antibodies against selected regions of a variety of eggshell proteins. These antibodies were instrumental in uncovering several post-translational cleavage events that occur within the vitelline membrane layer of the eggshell as well as revealing trafficking of selected proteins between the different layers as eggshell assembly progresses.  Reverse genetics has been the mantra of Dr. Waring’s lab since the turn of the century. These studies have included functional conservation of rapidly evolving eggshell genes (Jim Badciong and Jeff Otto) as well as genetic dissection of the dec-1 (Debra Mauzy Melitz and Dan Spangenberg) and sV23 eggshell genes (Anita Manogaran and Tianyi Wu). In addition to the aforementioned graduate students, countless undergraduates have participated in these studies over the years. Most recently undergraduates Jessica Beauchamp and Tyler Harvey have been indispensable players in the lab.  

As a teacher/scholar, involving undergraduates in her research has been a passion of Dr. Waring’s for several years. Her involvement at the Department level began in the 1990s when as part of an HHMI-sponsored undergraduate education initiative she organized and directed a multi-disciplinary summer research program that involved investigators from six different departments at Marquette as well as mentors from the Medical College of Wisconsin. She served as co-PI of an NSF-REU site directed by Dr. Stephen Munroe from 2001-2004. From 2005-2008, she directed an internally funded summer research program, and more recently (2009-present) has been Director of a NSF-REU site on Cell and Molecular Biology. 

Beyond working with students in the laboratory, one of the most enjoyable aspects of Dr. Waring’s tenure at Marquette has been classroom teaching. Helping students stretch their minds and begin to recognize their potential never gets old. She had the pleasure of engaging students in experimental science from 1978-1996 in the Cell Biology lab, since then has been exposing students to the wonders of cell biology through the lecture course.   

Outside of science, Dr. Waring is an amateur violinist, and a longtime patron of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and Broadway theater. She is also an avid sports enthusiast, ardently supporting Marquette’s Warriors/Golden Eagles basketball and Brewers baseball. Dr. Waring is a retired 2nd baseman and catcher for the MU Biology Department Softball team.  

Dr. Waring can also brag of a strong family connection to the Marquette Biological Sciences Department. Her husband, Michael Goodspeed is a graduate of the biology department, and of Marquette Dental School. He worked with Dr. Bela Piacsek (Professor Emeritus) and was lab partners with Dr. Kathleen Karrer. Dr. Waring’s daughter, Lauren Goodspeed, is a familiar face to many as well. She worked in our office for 4 years (2007-2011). Lauren is also an MU grad, with degrees in Public Relations and French.  

Notable awards: 

2005 Association Marquette University Women Faculty Achievement Award 

1995 Robert and Mary Gettel Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence, Marquette University  

1983-88 NIH Research Career Development Award