I’m a member of the Biology department and the program in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at Dickinson College. I’m also affiliated with the Environmental Studies Department and have held a variety of positions at other institutions, including at the University of Queensland, the Smithsonian Institution, and the College of Charleston. I am a broadly-trained biochemist who studies the natural products of plants and marine organisms. Many of these serve as anti-microbials, herbivore deterrents, or chemical cues. Some are potential new medicines or dietary supplements. We start by seeking to understand the role of these substances in nature.
We aim to understand how plants respond to stress by re-configuring primary and secondary metabolic pathways in a way that alters the production of these substances. We have focused on how plants respond to attack by pests and pathogen and how they adapt to climate change, including ocean acidification. Environmental change can have a large impact on plant types of natural substances produce – altering their taste, nutritional quality, pest resistance, growth rates, and survival.
We also study these plant natural products as potential drugs. I am particularly interested in plant substances that act as histone deacetylase inhibitors to correct defects in cholesterol metabolism and those which may inhibit protein misfolding and aggregation in Alzheimer’s Disease. We are interested in the roles of genetics in making individuals more or less sensitive to PM 2.5 air pollution, a risk factor for late onset Alzheimer’s disease.