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Faculty & Student Research

The laboratories within the Department of Biology are thriving with research and discovery! Students have the opportunity to work closely with faculty on their research, and are invited to attend professional conferences where they present their research. Their research results are frequently published in professional journals. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to explore advanced labs and study of biology in our facilities such as our cadaver lab, one of the few in the state!

Learn more about our faculty members, their areas of interest, and more about the current research students are working on with faculty:

Dr. David Bowne's Lab

Title:  Spatial population dynamics of aquatic turtlesBowneTurtleResearch

Dr. Bowne and his students are conducting long-term studies of painted turtles in northern Virginia and on the Elizabethtown College campus to determine what factors influence the populations of these animals.Amphibian use of agricultural streams: They are determining the factors that influence the presence and abundance of salamanders in agricultural streams in Lancaster County, PA.Antibiotic resistance in the environment: Dr. Bowne and Dr. Wohl are conducting a landscape-level analysis of the factors that contribute to antibiotic resistance in soil bacteria. They are investigating the role of land use and soil metals in causing antibiotic resistance.Ecological Research as Education Network (EREN): Dr. Bowne is a founding member of a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded collaborative network of ecologists at primarily undergraduate institutions. The mission of this network is to enhance ecological research and teaching at undergraduate colleges.

Title: A Landscape Perspective on Antibiotic Resistance
(Please see description and details under Dr. Debra Wohl's Lab)

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Dr. Diane Bridge's Lab

Title:  Using the invertebrate Hydra to study stem cells
           and diseases of aging

Hydra species are morphologically simple  invertebrates with relatively few identifiable  cell types. Surprisingly, many genes  important for understanding human  diseases are also present in Hydra. Dr.  Bridge and the students working with her  are currently using Hydra to study the  biology of aging. Previous studies suggest  that members of the species Hydra vulgaris  can survive indefinitely without declines in  health, while members of the species Hydra  oligactis experience increasing physical  deterioration and eventually death following reproduction. Dr. Bridge and her students are working to determine  the causes of the extreme difference in lifespan between the species. Using approaches including analysis of gene expression, modification of gene expression, and elimination of specific cell types, they are investigating the roles of several genes which could potentially be involved in maintaining Hydra stem cell populations and extending lifespan. Future research plans include use of next-generation DNA sequencing techniques to identify genes involved in protecting cells from stress-induced damage.

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Dr. Jane Cavender's Lab

Title:  Investigation of Simian Virus 40 (SV40)
           Induced Tumorigenesis


Our lab focuses on elucidating the mechanisms of cellular transformation by the SV40 T antigen oncoprotein. Student groups are investigating how this oncoprotein binds to specific host proteins; how the protein is able to block differentiation; or which of the protein's functions/activities cause increases in nucleolar number and size. These properties are then correlated to T antigen's ability to transform cells. If the specific functions that are necessary and sufficient for transformation can be identified, then more appropriate chemotherapeutics can be designed to target these critical activities.

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Dr. Aaron Cecala's Lab

Title:  Sensorimotor Control


An animal's ability to maintain its sense of the world around it and be able to interact with its environment depends in large part on the nervous system's ability to perform a few basic functions. The nervous system must reliably convert physical energy into neural activity, integrate various types of sensory information to construct a veridical representation of the external world, and be able use this information to generate accurate movements of various effectors (e.g. arm or eyes) in order to interact efficiently with the surrounding environment. For example, humans use a specialized receptor sheet (the retina) to convert photons into neural activity. This visual information, combined with information from other sensory modalities (e.g. sense of balance and limb position), is used to generate commands for future movements (e.g. a reaching movement towards a coffee cup). The veridicality of information at each stage of this sensory to motor transformation can make the difference between coffee ending up in your mouth or on your shirt!

I am a behavioral neuroscientist whose interests revolve around the neural mechanisms underlying sensorimotor transformations required for producing and maintaining accurate movements throughout an organism's lifetime. As a graduate student at the University of Rochester, I became interested in the neural mechanisms underlying the control of rapid, coordinated eye and head movements used to shift the line of sight towards visual objects of interest. By combining psychophysical and neurophysiological techniques I have been able to study human and monkey subjects' ability to adjust motor output, the amplitude of eye and head movements, based on changed visual inputs. Students in my lab at Elizabethtown College will use human eye movements as a model to test a variety of hypotheses describing motor learning during orienting movements in young, elderly and disease (e.g. Huntington's, Parkinson's, the cerebellar ataxias) populations.

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Dr. Jon Coren's Lab

Title:  A Human Genomic Library for Genome-Wide
          Association Studies and Gene Therapy

The Human Genome Project has identified the sequence of several human beings. The technology of constructing human genomic libraries was central to completing this project. My lab has constructed an 115,000 member human genomic library in the expression vector pJCPAC-Mam2.

This library is a valuable resource for validating candidate genes identified in GWA studies since individual members can be rapidly grown in bacteria to obtain large quantities of DNA and then introduced into human cells to determine their function.

My lab is currently studying the tumor suppressor gene p53. This gene is mutated in 50% of all cancers. We are in the process of studying the gene expression of p53 at the levels of transcription and translation in a p53 null Saos-2 human cancer cell line. We are also investigating if the expression of this gene will cause the cells to commit suicide. Eventually we would like to microinject this p53-containing PAC clone into homozygous p53 knockout rats to see if it can cause tumor regression.

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Dr. Tom Murray's Lab

Title:  Stream Restoration in the Conewago Creek Watershed

Dr. Murray's lab is involved in a variety of water quality projects involving lakes and streams. He and his students study the role of wetland and littoral zone plants on downstream water quality, particularly their role in reducing nitrate in surface waters. In addition, the lab is part of the Conewago Initiative ( , a long term, multiagency program to restore and monitor the Conewago Creek watershed. In that project, he and his MurrayLab2students are in the field monitoring the success of best management practices throughout the watershed as they are installed. He is also a member of EREN, the Ecological Research as Education Network ( ) and he and his students have been conducting research through the EREN RBAST (Riparian Buffer and Stream Temperature Project) along with faculty and students from 11 other institutions in the U.S. and Canada. The first manuscript from that project is currently in review.

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Dr. Deb Wohl's Lab

Title:  Study of Atopic Dermatitis and Hospital
           Delivery Practices

WohlLabThe overall aim of this study is to determine whether there is a significant positive relationship between the administration of antibiotics during a vaginal delivery and the development of atopies (e.g., eczema, asthma, or allergies) in children under the age of 2. Specifically, we are conducting a retrospective cohort study to analyze medical records of women who gave birth by vaginal delivery either with or without intrapartum antibiotics and the medical records of their children. The study will determine whether children delivered by vaginal delivery with intrapartum antibiotics have a greater risk of developing atopic dermatitis than their counterparts.


Title:   A Landscape Perspective on Antibiotic Resistance

Dr. David Bowne and I are collaborating on this study of antibiotic resistance in the environment. The presence of antibiotic resistance in bacteria is a pressing public health problem. The fight against antibiotic resistance is primarily focused on clinical settings. However, antibiotic resistant bacteria are found in the environment for a multitude of reasons. As part of a large-scale study of antibiotic resistance in soil inhabiting bacteria (i.e., Enterobacter spp.), we are currently studying variables such as metal pollution and land-use that may specifically contribute to the threat of antibiotic resistance.

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Dr. Jodi Yorty's Lab

Title:  Neuroendocrine modulation of the immune response
           to cancer

YortyLabPsychological stress-induced and clinically-administered glucocorticoids suppress the immune system resulting in increased susceptibility to human disease and decreased responses to vaccination. The overall goal of my research program at Elizabethtown College is to assess the effects of stress hormones on immune function and cancer progression. More specifically, I am interested in defining the cellular and molecular effects of stress hormones on the anti-tumor CD8+ T cell immune response and the in vitro and in vivo progression of cancer. My research program is highly integrative and involves both cellular and molecular biological techniques. This provides an opportunity for undergraduate students interested in a wide range of disciplines to participate in research.

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