Faculty & Staff

Department Chairs

Brian Thornton (415) 422-4478 view profile
Scott Nunes (415) 422-5645 View profile



Program Assistant Jeremiah Maller (415) 422-6755
Lab Manager John Damascus (415) 422-4403
Tech. Ops. Manager Andy Huang (415) 422-6419
Instrument Specialist Jeff Oda (415) 422-6004



Tel: 415-422-6345

Paul Kwan Chien


Professor Chien is interested in the physiology and ecology of inter-tidal organisms. His research has involved the transport of amino acids and metal ions across cell membranes and the detoxification mechanisms of metal ions.

Tel: 415-422-4707

Ammon Corl

Assistant Professor

Professor Corl's graduate research focused on studying the behavior altering effects of alcohol (ethanol) on the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. One major focus of his project was to examine how specific genes contribute to the alcohol response in Drosophila, and how mutations of these particular genes could cause fruit flies to become more resistant, or more sensitive to, the intoxicating effects of alcohol.

Tel: (415) 422-5481

Jennifer A Dever

Associate Professor

Professor Dever studies the genetics of threatened and/or endangered populations of vertebrates, including crocodiles and foothill yellowlegged frogs. She employs molecular markers to assess the genetic structure of these populations, with the goal of species conservation.

Tel: (415) 422-2831

Deneb Karentz


Dr. Karentz is a marine biologist with expertise in ultraviolet photobiology and plankton ecology. Much of her work has focused on the physiological and ecological consequences of Antarctic ozone depletion.

Tel: (415) 422-5704

Leslie A. King


Professor King’s graduate research focused on adult and fetal hemoglobin-oxygen affinities in the oviparous shark Cephaloscyllium ventriosum.  In addition, she participated in field studies of shark behavior and feeding in the Bahamas through Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, FL.  Although she is still fascinated by shark behavior and physiology, her interests have shifted to human cardiovascular physiology and exercise physiology.  In addition, she is interested in science and health communication, specifically in exploring the use of in-class technology to teach concepts in physiology.  

Tel: (415) 422-6643

Cary Lai

Assistant Professor

As a graduate student, Professor Lai performed a biochemical and structural analysis of the enzyme telomerase. Following graduate school, he worked in early-stage research at Genentech where he investigated the Hedgehog signing pathway and its role in tumorigenesis. Most recently, Prof. Lai served as the head of commercial operations at the biotechnology start-up company LakePharma.

Tel: (415) 422-2354

Mary Jane Niles


Professor Niles is interested in the regulated development of B-lymphocytes, a population of cells critical to adaptive immunity. Her research focuses on defining the molecular events that promote the assembly, transport, and secretion of antibodies.

Tel: (415) 422-5645

Scott L Nunes

Associate Professor

Professor Nunes is interested in questions at the interface between physiology, behavior, and ecology. His studies have examined hormonal and energetic regulation of dispersal, play, and parental behaviors in mammals.

Tel: 415-422-4915

John R. Paul

Assistant Professor

Professor Paul's research program at USF focuses on the ecology and evolution of plants and integrates molecular phylogenetics, population and functional genomics, and greenhouse and field experiments. He has particular interest in using evolutionary history to help explain variation in the abundance of distribution of plant species.

Tel: (415) 422-6367

James Sikes

Assistant Professor

Professor Sikes is interested in the evolution and development of regeneration and asexual reproduction in invertebrates, particularly marine and freshwater flatworms. Current research focuses on understanding developmental mechanisms that allow some flatworms to regenerate and the molecular developmental processes that lead to diversification of asexual reproductive strategies.

Tel: (415) 422-5470

Juliet Spencer


Professor Spencer studies herpes viruses and their mechanisms for evading host defenses and establishing lifelong latency. Research in her lab involves modern cell, molecular, and imaging techniques to investigate the function of viral cytokines, chemokines, and chemokine receptors encoded by human cytomegalovirus.

Tel: (415) 422-6276

Gary L Stevens


Professor Stevens' research centers around small mammal demography and environmental monitoring. His studies have included research in the Arctic, California, and Papua New Guinea.

Tel: (415) 422-5975

John T Sullivan


Professor Sullivan investigates the role of the molluscan immune system in responding to parasitic infection and foreign tissue transplants. He is specifically interested in the interaction between the schistosome parasite, a major cause of human disease, and the snail intermediate host.

Tel: 415-422-4478

Brian Robert Thornton

Assistant Professor

Professor Brian Thornton is interested in the molecular control of cell division in eukaryotes. His past research has focused on cell division in the budding yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, through the application of genetic, biochemical, and cell techniques to study the role of the Anaphase Promoting Complex in the cell cycle.


Tel: (415) 422-6820

Christina Tzagarakis-Foster

Associate Professor

Professor Tzagarakis-Foster studies the transcription factor, DAX-1, which is a member of the nuclear hormone receptor family and is linked to the human disease X-linked Adrenal Hypoplasia Congenita (AHC). Specifically, her research explores the role of DAX-1 in human development as well its involvement in the initiation of breast cancer.