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The faculty of the Department of Biological Sciences are engaged in cutting edge research. They mentor graduate students and undergraduates who work in their laboratories. These students often appear as coauthors on scientific publications. Much of this work is supported by external funding agencies such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The items in this submenu can be used to browse the research interests of each faculty member. These are oganized into several broad cartegories: ecology and evolutionmicrobiology and immunologymolecular and developmental biologyanimal physiology, and science education and student development. However, the research of many of the faculty members straddle two or more areas. The table below lists the faculty laboratories and specific research interests of each. Clicking on the research interests will bring you to the appropriate web page.

Faculty Research Interests

Laboratory Location Research Interests
Aguilar ASCB 346 Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics
Cohen ASCL 331 Molecular Microbiology
Desharnais ASCB 342 Theoretical Population Biology
Diaz ASCL 309 Evolutionary Develomental Biology of Vertebrates
Eivers ASCL 350 Developmental Biology and Cell Signaling
Fisher ASCL 351 Bryophyte Ecology and Evolution
Heers ASCL 328 Ontegeny and Evolution of Vertebrate Locomotion
Krug ASCL 325 Evolutionary Ecology of Marine Invertebrates
Lanning ASCL 330 Mitochondrial Systems Biology
Narguizian ASCB 341 Evolution Education and Inquiry Learning
Nerenberg BIOS 139 Computational Biophysics
Nissen ASCL 210 Mechanisms in Vertebrate Development
Park ASCL 348 Fungal Pathogenesis
Porter ASCL 333 Innate Mucosal Immunity
Russo-Neustadt ASCL 212 Neurophysiology of the Brain
Salmassi ASCL 327 Environmental Microbiology
Scoffoni ASCB 341 Plant Physiology, Anatomy, Ecology, and Evolution
Sharp ASCL 328 Regulatory Mechanisms of Development
Torres ASCL 311 Taxonomy & Evolution of Marine Ostracodes
Wood ASCL 312 Avian Ecology and Conservation
Wright ASCL 315

Plant Community Ecology, Ecophysiology

Xu ASCL 337 Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
Yamazaki ASCL 309 Cardiovascular Metabolism

Note: ADM = Administration Building, ASCL = Wallis Annenberg Integrated Science Complex-Wing A (La Kretz Hall), ASCB = Wallis Annenberg Integrated Science Complex-Wing B.

Science Education and Student Development

Faculty research interests in the areas of science education and student development include support of science, engineering, and mathematics students through the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Programs (Jefferson) and evolution education and the nature of science (Narguizian).

LSAMP Programs

CSULA LSAMP Logo     Contact:  Margaret Jefferson, Ph.D.
Office:  ASCB 323B, ext 3-2059
LSAMP:  ASCB 323A, ext 3-2095
E-mail:  [email protected]
Logo for the Cal State LA Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Program.

LSAMP Overview
Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation is a comprehensive, statewide program for undergraduates who are majoring in science, engineering, and mathematics (SEM) at one of the campuses of the California State University (CSU). Initiated in 1994, the CSU-LSAMP Alliance currently consists of 22 campuses of the CSU. LSAMP at Cal State LA is currently one of the largest LSAMP programs in the country with about 500 students participating each year. The primary objectives of LSAMP are to increase the numbers of students who graduate in a SEM-discipline and ultimately go on to graduate school to pursue the PhD in a SEM field. Activities include research training, academic year workshops, summer preparation activities, travel to national and statewide conferences, and international activities. LSAMP at Cal State LA is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the CSU Office of the Chancellor, and Cal State LA. LSAMP-BD (LSAMP-Bridge to the Doctorate) is the graduate-level component of LSAMP funded by NSF. Each fall a new cohort of 12 graduate students (who formerly graduated in a SEM field as LSAMP undergraduates) joins the LSAMP-BD program for two years of support. Sites rotate through different CSU campuses. Cal State LA has been the site for four of the seven funded cohorts since the program started in 2003.

Selected Presentations
Jefferson, M.C. 2008. Louis Stokes Alliance–Bridge to the Doctorate Program for 2008-2010. San Jose State University Student Research Conference, May 8-9, San Jose State University, San Jose CA.
Jefferson, M.C. 2008. GRE Preparatory Program for STEM Undergraduates. Annual Meeting of the CSU-LSAMP Alliance, May 1-3, Renaissance Hotel, Long Beach, CA.
Jacobsen, S.E., Jefferson, M.C., Buchanan, C., Streit, D., and Weiss, R. 2008. STEM Talent Expansion Program for Underutilized Populations (STEP-UP). STEP Grantees Meeting, March, Washington, D.C.
Ainsworth, R., O'Neal, A., Jefferson, M.C., and Jacobsen, S.E. 2007. Review of the Joint UCLA-CSULA STEM Talent Expansion Program for Underutilized Populations (STEP-UP), NSF Grant #0431697. STEP Grantees Meeting, March, Washington, D.C.
Jefferson M.C., and Garcia, R.E. 2007. Success of Students in Undergraduate Research Training Curriculum. Annual Meeting of the CSU-LSAMP Alliance, January, Sacramento, CA.


Evolution Education and the Nature of Science


Galapagos marine iguana     Contact:  Paul Narguizian, Ed.D.
Office:  ASCB 323C, ext: 3-2054
Laboratory:  ASCB 341
E-mail:  [email protected]
On the Galapagos island of Fernandina, a marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) with a lava lizard (Microlophus albemarlensis) sunbathing on top of its head.

Research Summary
There is a critical need for effective evolution education. Our lab investigates some of the evidence that demonstrates that need and analyzes several aspects of the nature of science and how it can be illustrated during the course of evolution instruction, primarily at the high school and college level. Biological evolution is a critical component to understanding the biodiversity of life on earth. Teachers and students of science alike, address the topic of evolution as a series of facts which tend to focus greatly on definitions and descriptions about life on earth while missing the underlying nature of science (NOS) which was and is currently being used to explain how living things have evolved over time.

Representative Publications
Richardson, D., and Narguizian, P. 2012. Incorporating captive animal behavior into the conservation of threatened species, Hippocampus ingensInternational Journal of Applied Science and Technology 2: 17-23.
Narguizian, P. 2012. Evolution education and the nature of science: Strategies for the classroom. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science 2: 1-4.
Narguizian, P., and Desharnais, R. 2012. Virtual courseware: Web-based simulations for promoting inquiry-based teaching and learning. California Classroom Science 24
Narguizian, P. 2008. Biology, chemistry, medicine, and nature study. In The Routledge International Encyclopedia of Education, D. Crook and G. McCulloch (eds), Routledge Taylor & Francis Group Publishers, London, England.
Esterle, R., Black, S., and Narguizian, P. 2006. The arithmetic of evolution. In Investigating Evolutionary Biology in the Laboratory, W.F. McComas (ed.), Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, Dubuque, Iowa, pp. 263-269.


Note: ASCB = Wallis Annenberg Integrated Science Complex-Wing B. When calling from off-campus, the area code and prefix for all telephone extensions is (323) 343-XXXX.

Student Support Programs

Financial Assistance and Support Programs for Student Research

Your first stop in looking for financial assistance should be the Cal State LA Center for Student Financial Aid. The Center for Student Financial Aid is committed to assisting current and prospective students with financial assistance available from federal, state and institutional sources for their attendance at Cal State L.A. They can provide information of grants, scholarships, loans, and federal work-study opportunities. The Center for Student Financial Aid is located in Student Affairs 124 (SA-124) and their phone number is 323-343-3166. You should also check out FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

On-Campus Scholarships Related to the Biological Sciences

The University has a large number of on-campus scholarships. Many of these are general scholarships, but some are directed towards students who major in the life sciences. Some of these are

Alpha Therapeutics
• Upper division Biochemistry or Microbiology major
• 3.0 undergraduate GPA; full-time status

Anthony J. Andreoli Scholarship
• Biochemistry or Microbiology major, upper division standing
• Research potential in Biochemistry or Microbiology

Lupe Elias-Exposito
• Microbiology major
• 3.0 GPA

David Cameron Fisher Memorial Fellowship (Emeriti)
• Undergraduate student, junior or senior
• Biology major
• 3.0 GPA
• full-time status
• preference to students interested in marine biology or environmental studies

Elizabeth Tamblyn Memorial Scholarship
• Undergraduate student, upper division standing
• Microbiology major
• 3.0 GPA
• full-time status
• U.S. citizen

Robert Shuffer Memorial Scholarship
• Biology or Microbiology major, undergraduate or graduate
• 3.0 GPA
• full-time status
• preference to students interested in plant biology

Ron and Nan Okum Scholarship
• Biology major
• 3.0 GPA
• full-time status
• demonstrate financial need
• have completed at least 12 units at CSLA

Contact the Center for Student Financial Aid for more information.

Research Training and Career Development Programs

There are a variety of programs at Cal State LA which are designed to support students who are interested in pursuing careers in science. Many of these programs are funded by external agencies such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). These programs vary in the types of activities they sponsor and their levels of student support. Several of these programs are listed below, but there is a turnover as existing programs end and new programs are established.

Bridges to the Future
There are two Bridges to the Future Programs. The Bridges to the BS Program targets community college students. It is a collaboration among four schools: East Los Angeles College, Los Angeles City College, Pasadena City College, and Cal State LA. The goal is to prepare minority science students for transfers to a four-year university where they will successfully complete the bachelor's degree and be prepared to enter advanced degree programs in the biomedical sciences. The second program is the Bridges to the Ph.D. Cal State LA, USC, UCLA and UC Irvine offer a cooperative program leading to the MS degree at CSLA and the Ph.D. degree at either of the other three schools. Visit the Bridges to the Future web site for more information on these two programs.

The Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Program offers a variety of student support activities including summer training programs, year-round research training programs, a competitive year-round scholars program, and a Bridges to the Doctorate (LSAMP-BD). It is a comprehensive, statewide program dedicated to increasing the number of underrepresented minority groups graduating from campuses of the California State University (CSU) with baccalaureate degrees in the science, engineering, and mathematics disciplines. The level and type of support vary by program activity.

The Minority Access to Research Careers-Undergraduate Student Training in Academic Research (MARC-U*STAR) Program is an undergraduate honors research training program for juniors and seniors. The objective is to increase the pool of well-prepared minority undergraduate students who can successfully compete for positions in top graduate programs leading to the Ph.D. Visit the MARC-U*STAR web site for more information.

The Minority Biomedical Research Support-Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (MBRS-RISE) Program is designed for talented and motivated students interested in developing professional careers as research scientists. It provides support for research participation and career enhancement of freshman-through-senior undergraduates, and graduate students pursuing the masters degree, with the expectation that student participants will pursue education to the Ph.D. following graduation from Cal State LA. There are three components of MBRS-RISE. The first is the President James M. Rosser Research Undergraduate Science Honors (RUSH) Program. This program targets new freshmen. The second component is the MBRS-RISE Undergraduate Scholars Program. This program targets undergraduates. There are also funds available for research supplies and travel to scientific conferences. The third component is the MBRS-RISE MS-to-Ph.D. Program. It involves a collaboration between Cal State LA and UCLA, UC Irvine, UC San Diego, and the University of Southern California. The program vertically integrates the M.S. at Cal State LA in chemistry, biochemistry, biology and microbiology and psychology with the graduate programs at the doctoral institutions. This program targets graduate students. Visit the MBRS-RISE web site for more information.

Teacher Training and Career Development Programs

California, as is true for most states, continues to face a serious crisis due to inadequate supply of properly credentialed middle and high school science and mathematics teachers, and continued attrition from teacher ranks due to retirements and early to mid career drop outs. This crisis is particularly acute for high needs school districts. A number of programs exist to encourage science majors to consider careers as middle school or high school teachers.

The Cal State LA Math and Science Teacher Initiative (MSTI) Program is funded by the CSU Chancellor's office to address the serious shortage of math and science teachers. MSTI strives to increase the number of competent credentialed math and science teachers graduating from Cal State LA. The MSTI program offers students who plan on becoming math or science teachers one time scholarships and forgivable loans. Visit the MSTI web site for more information.

Faculty Research Grants

In addition to the programs described above, many individual faculty members have research grants that support graduate students and/or undergraduates who work in their laboratories. Sources of funds include the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and other government agencies. Contact individual faculty members in the Biological Sciences to inquire about the availability of student support.

Graduate Student Teaching Assistantships

The Department of Biological Sciences employs graduate students who lead laboratory sections, particularly in general education biology courses and introductory biology courses for majors. Most teaching assistants teach lab sections twice a week and earn a salary which is based on the number of units that they teach. Inquire at the Department of Biological Sciences Office after you are enrolled in the MS program.

Financial Aid Resources for Graduate Students

Several programs are available which provide financial assistance for graduate students. These include the Graduate Equity Fellowship Program, the California Pre-Doctoral Program, the California Forgivable Loan/Doctoral Incentive Program, and the International Graduate Student Tuition Waiver Program. Support is also available for graduate students to present research at professional conferences and meetings. Visit the web site for the Office of Graduate Studies for more information.


The Department of Biological Sciences is housed in the recently completed LaKretz Hall, part of the new Annenberg Science Complex, and the original Biological Sciences building. New facilities in LaKretz Hall include a teleconferencing room complete with video capability, digital projectors and screens, and a hospitality center.

Major Instrumentation

A Perkin-Elmer DNA microarray scanner, and a Biacore Model X surface plasmon resonance spectrometer for studying the interactions of proteins and small molecules, are housed in the BEAMS (Biological and Environmental Analysis and Micro-Sampling) lab, a core facility funded by Research Infrastructure in Minority Serving Institutions grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Biology faculty were co-investigators on a major research instrumentation grant from the National Science Foundation that brought a proteome analyzer to CSULA, housed in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, including 2D protein gel capability and a MALDI-TOF mass spectrometer. Using this collection of instruments, researchers can detect and visualize all proteins expressed in a tissue sample, and identify specific proteins of interest through their mass spectrometric fragmentation patterns.

The Omnilog enables testing and identification of aerobic Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria. In addition, its Phenotype Microarrays application for mammalian cells can reveal information on metabolic pathway activities, and cellular sensitivity to nutrients, hormones, cytokines, anti-cancer agents, and ions. Also, the Omnilog performs analysis for genotype-phenotype characterization as well as for determining optimal conditions for cellular growth, sporulation and germination, production of secondary metabolites, or enzymatic activities of microbial cells.

The Accuri C6 flow cytometer is equipped with two lasers and four detectors to support cell analysis for up to six parameters. Some of its applications include measurements of apoptosis and cell cycle, and detection of cell surface and intracellular protein expression.

DNA Analysis

LaKretz Hall houses a molecular ecology core facility featuring shared equipment for student and faculty research and includes a sample concentrator, Fotodyne workstation for digital photographs of gels, and water baths. A Nanodrop spectrometer is used to quantify and assess purity of nucleic acids and proteins. Multiple real-time PCR instruments and thermal cyclers are available for PCR amplification and sequencing reactions. We also have a Versadoc Gel Imaging System.

Electron and Fluorescent Microscopy

For confocal microscopy, an Olympus Fluoview FV500 point-scanning, point-detection confocal laser scanning unit is mounted on an Olympus IX-71 inverted, motorized microscope. Lasers offer a range of excitation wavelengths (multi-line argon, Helium Neon, and Blue Diode), while image acquisition and processing software allow digital image analysis, time course studies, and 3D image reconstruction.

A Nikon inverted epifluorescent microscope is used to visualize intracellular structures of cells using up to four different fluorescent signals at a time. The microscope is used in classes to image mitochondria, vacuoles and chromosomes, and in student research to monitor the subcellular localization of specific proteins.

Freezers and Cold Rooms

LaKretz Hall features a range of growth chambers and environmental rooms for temperature-controlled work. Faculty share several –80C freezers for sample storage as part of the molecular ecology core facility.


All faculty members and staff are provided baseline computers or baseline notebooks and research-active faculty maintain computers in their laboratories for student use and/or specialized research applications. Internet access is provided by the University. There are also two computer classrooms (BS 236 and BS 241), each with 24 networked student workstations, with priority availability for courses in the Biological Sciences. The popular Virtual Courseware Project web site was also developed and is maintained by faculty and staff in the Department. This web site hosts several interactive simulation activities for K-12 and college science education.

Greenhouse and Culture Facilities

The Department of Biological Sciences maintains an aluminum-glass greenhouse facility adjacent to the Biological Sciences building. There are two connected rooms with 2,135 sq ft of floor space. The facility includes heating, cooling, plumbing, and fluorescent lighting. There are fixed and movable plant benches. The greenhouses are currently used for instruction and plant collections and are available for research use.

Department faculty maintain a 1,200 gallon re-circulating salt water aquarium system, used for culture of marine invertebrates for instructional purposes and for research. Animal care facilities are also available.

Museum and Herbarium

The department also houses the CSULA Zoological Museum and Herbarium Collections, used in both teaching and research. The natural history collections include extant and fossil plants, birds and their eggs and nests, insects and marine invertebrates, mammals and fish. The extensive entomological holdings comprise seven orders of Insecta and three orders of Arachnids. The botanical collections comprise approximately 37,000 vascular plant specimens representing 245 families.