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“In fiscal year 2009, Boise State’s research funding jumped 32 percent to a university record $37 million, making this the fastest growing research program in Idaho. The upswing accelerated into the first quarter of fiscal year 2010, when we recorded our highest quarterly total in school history with $16.1 million in research funding – a 77 percent increase from the $9.1 million in the first quarter last year.”  —President Kustra

Investigators and their focuses:

Abdelkrim Alileche

Abdelkrim Alileche — Cancer and Chemotherapy, Infectious Diseases, Biochemistry

Tim Andersen

Tim Andersen — Bioinformatics

Eric Brown

Eric Brown — Biochemistry

Henry Charlier

Henry Charlier — Cancer and chemotherapy, Biochemistry, Bioinformatics

Ken Cornell

Ken Cornell — Cancer and chemotherapy, Infectious Diseases, Biochemistry, Bioinformatics

Antibiotic Development Targeting Bacterial Communication. Bacteria secrete a variety of small molecule autoinducers that are used to com-municate population wide changes in gene expression that govern such things as virulence factor production and biofilms. We are examining small molecule inhibitors of the enzyme 5’ Methylthioadenosine/S-adenosylhomocysteine nucleosidase (MTN) from a variety of bacterial pathogens for their ability to block enzyme activity and subsequent autoinducer signaling events. A variety of techniques are being used including molecular modeling, spectrophotometry, gene cloning, confocal microscopy and mass spectrometry. Dr. Cornell has two graduate students aiding in research.

Jennifer Forbey

Jennifer Forbey — Cancer and chemotherapy, Infectious Diseases, Biochemistry

Various Wildlife

Ecology Guided Drug Discovery and Development. BSU researchers use knowledge of the ecological and chemical interactions between plants and herbivores to discover biologically active chemicals in plants and to understand the mechanism of action of these chemicals for potential drug development. Ecological systems being investigated include the interactions between sage-grouse and sagebrush in Idaho, snoeshoe hares and birch in Canada, butterfish and brown algae in New Zealand and brushtail possums and eucalyptus in Australia.

Greg Hampikian

Greg Hampikian — Cancer and chemotherapy, Infectious Diseases, Biochemistry, Bioinformatics

The Hampikian lab studies DNA and protein sequences that are rare or absent in nature. Several of these small molecules are being used in medical and forensic research projects in the lab. One application of these “Nullomer” sequences is to label forensic reference samples. Other applications include anticancer and antimicrobial activities of synthetic peptides based on these sequences. The laboratory, which currently includes an MD, an MD/Ph.D., and three graduate researchers also works on the discovery and taxonomy of new ciliate species isolated in Boise, and human population genetics studies of Northwest populations.

Amit Jain

Amit Jain — High Performance Computing for Biological Applications

Cheryl Jorcyk

Cheryl Jorcyk — Cancer and chemotherapy, Diseases of Aging, Musculoskeletal, Biochemistry, Bioinformatics

Breast Cancer Cell

Studies to understand the process of cancer metastasis at the molecular level are essential in developing effective treatments and detection methods.  Work at Boise State indicates that Oncostatin M facilitates angiogenesis and metastasis, an observation that is likely to change the present view of this compound as a potential therapeutic drug.  Dr. Jorcyk has four graduate students aiding in research.

Byung Kim

Byung Kim — Biophysics
Boise State is home to three Atomic Force Microscopes; two housed in Materials Science Engineering and one in Physics.  They are integral to interdisciplinary research at Boise State into the development of biomaterials and nanotechnology.

Bill Knowlton

Bill Knowlton — Cancer and chemotherapy, Musculoskeletal, Infectious Diseases, Biomaterials

Jeunghoon Lee

Jeunghoon Lee — Biomaterials, Biophysics


Many inorganic materials in nanometer size scale exhibit unique properties that are not only scientifically intriguing but also technologically significant. These nanoparticles, however, have to be incorporated into architectures that provide specific functionality. Goal of my research is to 1) synthesize and fabricate nanoparticles with high degree of architectural control, 2) investigate fundamental physical and optical properties of the nanoparticles, and 3) devise methodologies to assemble functional structures from nanoparticle building blocks. Combining these capabilities new tools for biological sensing and analysis can be developed.

Owen McDougal

nuclear magnetic resonance data

Owen McDougal — Diseases of Aging, Biochemistry, Biophysics, Bioinformatics

Computational modeling can be used to investigate structure activity relationships for comparison with experimental nuclear magnetic resonance data. Show to the left is the penicillin binding protein 2a from methicillin resistant Staphylocaccus aureus with a box around the ligand binding domain. Proposed antibiotics are tested for vailidity in silico prior to more rigorous and expensive experimental validation.

Rajesh Nagarajan

Rajesh Nagarajan — Biochemistry, Enzymology, Infectious Disease Research, Bacterial Quorum Sensing

x-ray structure of Last AHL synthase enzyme
x-ray structure of Last AHL synthase enzyme

The projects in my laboratory are at the interface of chemistry and biology spanning the areas of organic chemistry, biochemistry and microbiology. Students working on these projects will have the opportunity to learn one or more of these tools including small molecule organic synthesis, protein purification, enzyme assays, HPLC, UV-Visible spectroscopy, NMR spectroscopy and gel-electrophoresis. Our research program is focused on developing chemical tools to understand the specificity of the language spoken by P. aeruginosa and other related AHL synthesizing bacteria. The knowledge gained from these studies will shed light on designing small molecules to curb chemical communication between these bacteria. We believe that this approach will curb pathogenic effects in bacteria, thereby improving the efficacy of existing antibacterial therapies.


Julia Oxford

Julia Oxford — Cancer and chemotherapy, Diseases of Aging, Musculoskeletal, Biomaterials, Biochemistry, Biophysics, Bioinformatics

Extracellular matrix assembly and organization is key in biological materials structure and function.  Age-related changes to the composition and organization of cartilage contribute to arthritis; changes in the vitreous of the eye may lead to retinal detachment and lens cataracts. Dr. Oxford currently has one graduate student aiding in research.

Troy Rohn

Troy Rohn — Diseases of Aging, Musculoskeletal, Biochemistry

The primary focus of my laboratory is involved in the research involving neurodegenerative diseases including to a large extent, Alzheimer’s disease (AD). During the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, many neurons die particularly in the area of the hippocampus. Because the hippocampus is an area of the brain involved in memory, AD is primary a disease where afflicted individuals lose their capacity for memory. A primary question in this field is how are neurons dying during the progression of AD.

Recently, we have began to investigate whether caspase-cleavage of APOE4 underlies its pathogenesis in AD. The APOE4 allele, if inherited greatly increases the risk of AD, but how it contributes to disease progression is not known.  We believe this protein may be susceptible to proteolytic cleavage by caspases and this inactivates the ability of this protein to function properly in the brain.  This could contribute to disease progression by allowing for the accumulation of the toxic protein, beta-amyloid, that is normally removed from the brain, in part by functional APOE4.  We are currently seeking funding from NIH to support these studies.

Marion Scheepers

Marion Scheepers — Bioinformatics


Dr. Scheepers’ research interests include Set Theory and its relatives, Game Theory, Cryptology, Elementary number theory and Algorithmic phenomena in Biology. One algorithmic phenomenon Dr. Scheepers has been examining is related to a process occurring in ciliates (single celled eukaryotes with two types of nuclei). The one type of nucleus is an encrypted version of the other type. Some events in the cell’s life cycle trigger decryption of the encrypted version, while the previously unencrypted nuclei present during the decryption process are degraded. Currently very limited data is available about this whole process, and the process is not yet understood. Models for parts of the process suggest that the ciliate micro nuclear decryption apparatus has highly nontrivial computational capabilities.

Susan Shadle

Susan Shadle

Shawn Simonson

Shawn Simonson — Diseases of Aging, Musculoskeletal

Jennifer Smith

Jennifer Smith  — Bioinformatics


Non-coding RNA gene search requires specialized statistical models that take secondary structure into account due to the low level of sequence conservation as compared to protein-coding genes. The use of these covariance models in gene search algorithms is still not very highly developed and they are also extremely computationally demanding. Non-coding RNA bioinformatics research at Boise State focuses on three topics: Covariance model parameter estimation improvement using experimental thermodynamics data, computational intelligence methods to generate fast approximate partial covariance models for ncRNA gene search, and special-purpose computing hardware to accelerate the standard search algorithms.

Juliette Tinker

Juliette Tinker — Infectious diseases, Biochemistry, Bioinformatics

Bacterial enterotoxins are potent mucosal immune stimulators.  Boise State researchers are fusing the non-toxic subunit of Cholera Toxin to a protein from a pathogen of interest to create a mucosal vaccine.  Under development are potential vaccines against Vibrio cholerae, Helicobacter pylori and Yersinia pestis.  Vaccines also have the potential to fight autoimmune disease and cancer.

Don Warner

Don Warner — Cancer and chemotheraphy, Biochemistry

Anthracyclines are cancer chemotherapeutics that have irreversible, cumulative cardiotoxic side effects.  Structural analogs of anthracylcines with reduced cardiotoxicity are being developed at Boise State.  Basic research into the mechanism of cardiotoxicity includes focus on enzymatic pathways and on calcium regulation by calsequestrin in the heart.  These efforts may lead to prevention of cardiotoxicity.

Merlin White

Merlin White

Denise Wingett

Denise Wingett — Cancer and chemotherapy, Infectious Diseases, Biomaterials, Biochemistry, Bioinformatics

BSU researchers study how regulators of the immune system contribute to the pathogenesis of asthma.  β-adrenergic agonists found in common asthma medications alter the regulation in asthma subjects compared to healthy control subjects.

Dong Xu

Dong Xu

The Xu computational research lab at Idaho State University College of Pharmacy focuses on computer aided drug design, advanced biomolecular and biophysical simulations, and novel computational methods development.

Bernard Yurke

Bernard Yurke — Cancer and chemotherapy, Biomaterials, Biophysics, Bioinformatics


Research interests are varied, but currently my focus is on DNA nanotechnology and the use of DNA self-assembly to fabricate electrical and optical devices and circuits with a few nanometer feature size.  Dr. Yurke currently has two graduate students aiding in research.

Grant Number P20RR016454 funded by NIH NCRR