Full-Time Faculty

Jennifer Dever

Department Chair
(415) 422-5481

Jennifer A. Dever is Professor in the Department of Biology. She received her PhD from Texas Tech University. Professor Dever studies the genetics of threatened and/or endangered populations of vertebrates, including crocodiles and foothill yellow-legged frogs. She employs molecular markers to assess the genetic structure of these populations, with the goal of species conservation. Several graduate and undergraduate students are collaborating with Professor Dever on this research. Watch her NPR...


PhD, Texas Tech University

Leslie Bach

Assistant Professor

Leslie Bach is an assistant professor in the Department of Biology. She received a BS in animal science from Michigan State University and a PhD in genetics from the University of California, Davis. Her graduate research focused primarily on control of the hair growth cycle in the domestic cat and the construction of a high-resolution radiation hybrid panel to aid the correct assembly of the full cat genome. She currently teaches general biology, human anatomy, and human physiology.

Louise Goupil

Assistant Professor
(415) 422-4081

Louise Goupil is an assistant professor in the Department of Biology. She received a BS in chemical biology from the University of California, Berkeley, and a PhD in chemical biology from the the University of California, San Francisco. Her graduate research focused on the role of cysteine proteases in the free-living flatworm Schmidtea mediterranea as a potential model system for parasitic flatworms. Professor Goupil teaches general biology I/II, cell physiology, and molecular biology courses...


PhD in Chemical Biology, University of California, San Francisco, BS in Chemical Biology, University of California, Berkeley

Deneb Karentz

(415) 422-2831

Dr. Karentz's research focuses on the ultraviolet photobiology of marine organisms: identifying strategies for protection from UV exposure and understanding mechanisms for repair of UV–induced damage. Her work has focused on investigating the ecological implications of Antarctic ozone depletion.


PhD, University of Rhode Island, MS, Oregon State University

Sangman Kim

Assistant Professor
(415) 422-3938

Professor Sangman Kim is broadly interested in the interaction between hosts and microbes. His current research focuses on a family of receptors called toll-like receptors (TLRs) that are used by host immune systems to distinguish between different classes of microbes, in order to drive a tailored immune response. He is utilizing a variety of molecular methods to dissect signaling downstream of TLR activation, and investigating the impact of commonly-occurring TLR polymorphisms on microbial...


PhD, Immunology, University of Chicago, MS, Biological Sciences, Seoul National University, BS, Biological Sciences, UC Davis

Leslie King

(415) 422-5704

Leslie King is an instructor in the Department of Biology. She received her BS in zoology from the University of California, Davis in 1989 and her MA in physiology and behavioral biology from San Francisco State in 1993. Professor King's graduate research focused on hemoglobin-oxygen affinities in adult and fetal swell sharks (Cephaloscyllium ventriosum) and she participated in field studies of shark behavior and feeding in the Bahamas. She is interested in science and health communication,...


MA in Physiology and Behavioral Biology, San Francisco State University, 1993, BS in Zoology, University of California Davis, 1989

Cary Lai

Associate Professor
(415) 422-6643

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.

Mary Jane Niles

(415) 422-2354

Professor Niles received her BS from San Francisco State University in 1985 and her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley in 1992. She 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.


PhD, University of California, Berkeley, BS, San Francisco State University

Scott Nunes

(415) 422-5645

Scott Nunes is Professor in the Department of Biology. He earned his BA from the University of California, Santa Cruz and his PhD from Michigan State University.  His research focuses on the behavioral ecology of mammals.  His recent work with Belding’s ground squirrels in the Sierra Nevada has examined breeding dispersal in adult males, and short- and long-term benefits of play behavior for young animals.


PhD, Michigan State University, BA, UC Santa Cruz

John Paul

Associate Professor
(415) 422-4915

John R. Paul, Assistant Professor, earned his BS degree from The Evergreen State College and a Masters in Zoology from the University of Florida. He earned a PhD in Biology from the University of Pittsburgh, working on the phylogenetics and ecology of the tropical plants in the lab of Stephen J. Tonsor. He held two postdoctoral researcher positions at Colorado State University, and also served as a general biology lecturer there for three semesters. His research program at USF focuses on the...


PhD, Biology, University of Pittsburgh, MSc, Zoology, University of Florida, BSc, Evergreen State College

James Sikes

Associate Professor
(415) 422-6367

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.


PhD, University of Maryland, BS, Furman University

John Sullivan

(415) 422-5975

John Sullivan holds the Fletcher Jones Endowed Chair. He received his AB from Dartmouth College, and his MS and PhD from Lehigh University. Prof. 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.


PhD, Lehigh University, MS, Lehigh University, BA, Dartmouth College

Sevan Suni

Assistant Professor

Professor Suni is interested in how environmental change and ecology influence the evolutionary trajectories and conservation status of populations. Her current research focuses on how drought and deforestation affect plant-pollinator interactions, and how we can increase positive feedback between human-dominated and natural areas.


PhD, Biology, Stanford University, BA, Biology, Colorado College

Nicole Thometz

Assistant Professor
(415) 422-4083

Dr. Nicole Thometz is a broadly trained physiological ecologist who specializes in marine mammal physiology, ecology, and behavior. She has spent her career studying the ontogeny of energy demands, development of diving capacities, reproductive energetics, and foraging behavior of southern sea otters. In addition, Dr. Thometz has studied the physiology and behavior of Weddell seals in the Antarctic, the metabolic demands and diving capacities of Hawaiian monk seals, and the physiology of sound...


PhD, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, UC Santa Cruz, 2014, BS, Biology, University of Portland, 2008

Brian Thornton

Associate Professor
(415) 422-4478

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.

Christina Tzagarakis-Foster

Full Professor, Associate Dean for the Sciences
(415) 422-6820

Prof. 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.

Brian Young

Assistant Professor
(415) 422-4738

Professor Young’s research has focused on understanding the mechanism of macromolecular machines, and the application of this to developing more effective protein drugs. His PhD work involved understanding how RNA polymerase is able to melt promoters to gain access to the template strand for RNA synthesis. As a postdoctoral fellow at Berkeley, he sought to isolate actomyosin cytokinetic rings to better understand how this complicated apparatus divides cells. Following his postdoc, he...


PhD, University of California, San Francisco

Naupaka Zimmerman

Assistant Professor

Professor Naupaka Zimmerman is broadly interested in the intersection of microbial community and ecosystem ecology. His lab research focuses on the ecology of plant-microbe interactions, with a particular focus on asymptomatic foliar fungi (also known as fungal endophytes). Born and raised on the Big Island of Hawai'i, Professor Zimmerman continues to conduct some of his research there, focusing on the endemic Hawaiian tree Metrosideros polymorpha. At USF, he has expanded his research to...


PhD, Biological Sciences, Stanford University, BA, Environmental Science, Public Policy, Cultural Anthropology, Harvard University

Emeriti Faculty

Paul Chien

Professor Emeritus
(415) 422-6345

Paul K. Chien is Professor of Biology. He received his BS in both Biology and Chemistry from Chung Chi College, N.T., Hong Kong, and his PhD from the University of California, Irvine. Prof. 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.