Meet Our Faculty

Biological Sciences

Professor Susan Braunhut
Professor Susan Braunhut received her Master’s and Ph.D. in Pathobiology from Columbia University. She then completed two Postdoctoral Fellowships, one in the Department of Biophysics and Physiology and one in the Department of Surgical Research at Harvard Medical School and became a tenure-track Assistant Professor at HMS. She taught Reproductive Physiology and Human Physiology and was inducted into the Cannon Society of Professors at HMS.  The research she began while a faculty member at HMS has continued since she joined the faculty at UMass Lowell and involves radiation biology and the development of novel chemotherapeutics for the treatment of cancer.  Braunhut’s lab is developing new synthetic compounds to protect normal tissue during therapeutic radiotherapy and new delivery systems to target human tumors and new compounds for the treatment of human cancer.

Associate Professor Peter Gaines
Associate Professor Gaines obtained a Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics from Yale University, and was an Associate Research Scientist in the Hematology Department at Yale Medical School prior to joining the Dept. of Biological Sciences at UMass Lowell. His research focuses on analyzing molecular signaling pathways that control blood cell differentiation, in particular those that are aberrantly active or blocked in leukemic cells. His training includes the use of multiple molecular and physiologic analyses of blood cell differentiation, proliferation and function. His research utilizes cell culture models ranging from primary blood cells, ex vivo manipulated bone marrow-derived stem cells, immortalized leukemic cell lines and transformed fibroblasts. Many of the drugs used to treat or manipulate bone marrow-derived cell lines are pharmaceutical agents designed to promote differentiation, and therefore Gaines’ research and courses incorporate multiple concepts on the testing of pharmaceutical agents and growth factor derivatives. He also collaborates with multiple faculty members in the Departments of Chemistry, Plastics Engineering, Physics and Work Environment. Gaines’ laboratory uses cell culture technologies to test novel nanometer-sized products (e.g. hydrogels, nanospheres, quantum dot-labeled antibodies, etc), and environmentally hazardous nanoparticles.

Assistant Professor Jessica Garb
Assistant Professor Garb obtained her Master’s degree at the University of Hawaii, her Ph.D. at UC Berkeley, and received postdoctoral training at UC Riverside and at the University of Arizona, as an NIH postdoctoral fellow. Her background and expertise are in the areas of molecular evolution, focusing on spider silk and venom proteins. Venom toxins have important pharmacological applications as drug leads and cellular probes. Garb’s lab is actively characterizing venom peptides and proteins with neurotoxic function using genomic approaches. Spider silks exhibit a variety of superior mechanical properties, along with biodegradability and are also lightweight, making them suitable for a variety of biomedical applications. Garb’s lab is studying diverse spider silk proteins using molecular methods.

Professor Hwai-Chen Guo
The long-term goal of Professor Guo’s research group is to study how the macromolecular assemblies carry out a wide range of specialized cellular functions. Their work encompasses both fundamental and translational areas of research, primarily focuses on molecular/structural analyses of protein-nucleic acid interactions in gene regulation, and enzyme mechanisms. Guo’s previous trainings, both in biochemistry/molecular biology (Ph.D. studies at Cornell) and in biophysics/X-ray crystallography (postdoctoral studies at Harvard) have made him well-suited to lead biophysical and biochemical studies of various critical enzymes. These include the aminopeptidases involved in antigen processing and immunity, the reverse transcriptase required for hepatitis B virus infection, and glycosylasparaginase (GA) involved in an inherited lysosomal storage disorder aspartylglycosaminuria (AGU). In particular, his lab has been the leading group on structure-function studies of GA and AGU-related mutant enzymes during the past decade. They have begun a High Throughput Screening (HTS) of small molecule activators for rescuing AGU, in collaboration with the Harvard-MIT Broad Institute. This further strengthens his qualifications to participate in the Pharmaceutical Sciences Program at UMass Lowell.

Associate Professor Garth Hall
Associate Professor Hall received his Ph.D. in Biology at Yale University and was a Research Associate at Harvard Medical School and Research Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania prior to joining the Department of Biology at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. His research interest and expertise is in the cell biology of neurodegenerative diseases associated with the cytoskeletal protein tau a group that includes Alzheimer’s Disease. He has designed, implemented and published studies using pharmacological manipulation of tau-induced neurodegeneration in in situ cellular and transgenic model systems both as part of his basic research program and in collaboration with biopharmaceutical firms. Hall teaches Physiology and Neurobiology to Biology undergraduates at UMass Lowell. His courses cover areas directly relevant to pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, and various aspects of neuropharmacology, including the solubility of endocrine and neuronal receptor ligands, the physiological basis of renal threshold and synaptic physiology.
Professor Matthew Nugent

Professor Nugent received his Ph.D. from Brandeis University. His research focuses on how the composition and mechanical state of the extracellular matrix control protein growth factors.  He and his team are particularly interested in how the complex polysaccharide heparan sulfate controls growth factor storage, release and activity within the extracellular space. They study the mechanisms by which structural heterogeneities within heparan sulfate mediate specificity of growth factor binding and activity. They apply a combination of biochemical, molecular, biophysical, and computational approaches in conjunction with cell culture and animal studies to generate a systems biology view of growth factor regulation that incorporates the influence of multiple factors on one another.

Professor Thomas Shea

Professor Shea’s research is based upon development and degeneration of the nervous system. This includes studies from cell cultures, transgenic mouse models and clinical studies. His studies with cultures and mice have utilized a number of pharmacological inhibitors of signal transduction pathways that are widely applicable to multiple aspects of nervous system health, and are readily amenable to studies of novel pharmacological agents and methodologies. Over 10 doctoral students have completed thesis in these areas.  His clinical studies, conducted in collaboration with UMass Lowell’s Nursing and Clinical Laboratory Sciences Departments, have been thus far confined to nutritional supplements, but these supplements are designed to augment pharmacological approaches; doctoral students also completed thesis work in these clinical trials. His group studies in detail promotion of nervous system development (which prevents mental retardation and/or paralysis), Alzheimer's disease and motor neuron disease (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis).