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Joseph Stukey Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology
My long time research interest is in better understanding the molecular mechanisms regulating the production of unsaturated fatty acids and sterols in eukaryotic cells. A critical aspect of this regulation is how cells control unsaturated fatty acid and sterol production in response to a dietary supply of substitutable lipid compounds. This is a joint research project with Dr. Virginia M. McDonough. A second and much newer area of interest follows from the success of the Phage Genomics Research course at Hope College and concerns the biology of mycobacteriophage-host cell interactions. Mycobacteriophages are viruses that infect bacteria of the genus Mycobacterium. Students in the Phage Genomics Research course isolate mycobacteriophages that infect the common non-pathogenic laboratory species, M. smegmatis, but their findings may have broader significance as the genus Mycobacterium is also phylogenic home to two important human pathogens, M. tuberculosis (tuberculosis) and M. leprae (leprosy). I am interested in identifying and understanding the function of those mycobacteriophage gene products that play a role in hijacking the host bacterial cell's molecular machinery during the viral infection process. Both projects have potential human health implications through better understanding of the interaction of dietary lipids and cellular fat metabolism and in the knowledge of mycobacteriophage-host cell interactions that may potentially point to new therapeutic targets in the fight against tuberculosis and leprosy.
I can point to several experiences or times of my life that were extremely influential and I think critical to me pursuing a career in science. The first came early in my life, as a child with a microscope and a wonder about the world and things too small to see. The first small things I observed with my microscope-aided eye were the strange little creatures found in pond water. And although they were all quite small, some time later I learned that they were composed of something even smaller - cells. At the time, very little was actually known about how cells work or of the details of how they are constructed. I can remember trying to imagine what it would be like to swim inside a cell and to wonder at what I would see. That interest remains with me today. Also influential in my early life were the manned space missions to the moon. I believe my vicarious participation in those adventures helped instill in me a desire to explore, an attribute I have found useful as a scientist. Finally, but perhaps most importantly, I had a several great and inspiring science teachers in high school and in college, the first of which introduced me to the exciting field of genetics. That experience, which came in the form of a small paperback book on the history of Gregor Mendel, occurred at a critical time in my education - my first year of high school in Introductory Biology class - and it more than fed my general interest in science, I believe it was my first real step on the path to becoming a scientist.
After completing high school and taking as many science classes as possible, I enrolled at Rutgers College in New Brunswick, New Jersey, where I continued to focus on the sciences tacking courses in microbiology, molecular biology, genetics, and biochemistry. Another great teacher, my Microbiology professor, helped keep my interest in science alive and inspired me to declare microbiology as my major field of study. After graduation, I worked for several years as a microbiologist in the pharmaceutical industry before returning to Rutgers University for postgraduate studies. There I was fortunate to come under the excellent tutelage of Dr. Charles E. Martin who first taught me the scientific way of finding things out. After earning my Ph.D. in Microbiology in 1990, I completed two post-doctoral study opportunities before moving to Holland, MI and Hope College with my wife Dr. Virginia M. McDonough. I continue to do research work in collaboration with Dr. McDonough and contribute to the teaching of undergraduate students at Hope College as part of the Biology Department.
Please make an appointment to see me.
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