Biology Faculty
Research Interests

Department of Biology

Learning by doing

We truly believe that the best way to learn science is by doing science, and motivated students will find ample opportunities to participate in active research programs at FMU. It is increasingly apparent that basic biological processes will provide the foundation upon which solutions to some of the world’s most significant challenges will be built. In answer to these challenges, it is the Biology Department’s mission to produce scientifically literate graduates who display robust knowledge of biological principles across a broad spectrum of sub-disciplines. To that end, we train our undergraduate students to use their critical thinking skills and mastery of biological principles to perform inquiry into the biological world and effectively convey biological information. This is why we are fully committed to provide students with options for experiential learning including laboratory, field, and research experiences. As you learn which areas of biology that interest you, take some time to study the information below to identify faculty members that share your particular interests.

Anatomy & Physiology

Research in this area focuses on comparative anatomy in fish and reproductive anatomy and physiology in reptiles and amphibians.

Faculty: Dr. Tamatha Barbeau, Dr. Jason Doll

Biodiversity & Conservation

Research projects are varied and include the monitoring of biodiversity in neotropic cloud and rainforests (specifically at the Wildsumaco Biological Station in Ecuador), beta-diversity and species turnover in montane regions, fish distribution in the Great Pee Dee River basin, and effects of invasive species on biodiversity in aquatic environments.

Faculty: Dr. Jeff Camper, Dr. Jason Doll, Prof. Travis Knowles, Dr. Jeremy Rentsch, Dr. Jeff Steinmetz, Dr. Paul Zwiers

Cancer Biology

Research projects in this area focus on expression of the enzyme acid ceramidase.

Faculty: Dr. Lori Turner, Dr. Janay Vacharasin

Cell & Molecular Biology

Research in this area investigates cellular, biochemical, and biophysical aspects of plant growth and development, the use of adeno-associated viral vectors for gene therapy, and interactions between vector components and host cell machinery.

Faculty: Dr. Jennifer Lyles, Dr. Jeremy Rentsch, Dr. Tim Shannon, Dr. Henry Slone, Dr. Lori Turner, Dr. Janay Vacharasin

Ecology & Population Biology

Generally, projects in this area investigate questions at the community, population and organismal levels, some using non-vertebrate model species. Specific studies investigate parasitic infections of host populations, acoustic communication in freshwater fish, effects of megafauna on landscape and vegetation structure, and female preference of male sexually selected traits in manakins.

Faculty: Dr. Jason Doll, Prof. Travis Knowles, Dr. Jeff Steinmetz, Dr. Ann Stoeckmann, Dr. Paul Zwiers

Education & Outreach

Efforts in this area involve the development of professional modules and life science curriculum activities for K-12 preservice and in-service teachers.

Faculty: Dr. Nathan Harness, Prof. Lisa Pike

Evolutionary Biology

Research projects include the use of molecular techniques such as barcoding and phylogenetics to investigate the adaptive nature of organisms, as seen in morphological traits in fish, behavioral traits in birds, and host/parasite and plant/pollinator coevolution.

Faculty: Dr. Jeremy Rentsch, Dr. Paul Zwiers


Some of the research in this broad area includes characterizing the microbial profile of commercial probiotics and understanding the relationship between the human microbiome and overall health.

Faculty: Dr. Jennifer Lyles, Dr. Greg Pryor, Dr. Lori Turner


Research in this area investigates the behavioral and neural factors that underlie helping behavior in rats, as well as aspects of human social interaction. Various projects also study how these neural disorders occur and neurotherapeutics.

Faculty: Dr. Janay Vacharasin, Dr. Shayna Wrighten

Organismal Biology

Many projects investigate organismal biology within the subfields of botany, mammology, ornithology, herpetology, ichthyology, invertebrate zoology, and mycology.

Faculty: Dr. Jeff Camper, Dr. Jason Doll, Dr. Nathan Harness, Prof. Travis Knowles, Dr. Gerald Long, Dr. Jeremy Rentsch, Dr. Ann Stoeckmann