Swank Laboratory

from left to right: Chris, Gemel, Doug, Amy, Joy, Leah, and Bernie
not shown: Andrew, Kaylyn
Principal Investigator
Douglas M. Swank
   Dr. Swank received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania where he investigated the role of different muscle fiber types in powering locomotion by studying with Dr. Larry Rome. He gained expertise in Drosophila genetics and the molecular biology of myosin from Dr. Sandy Bernstein at SDSU and insect flight muscle mechanics from Dr. David Maughan at the University of Vermont. Dr. Swank's primary teaching responsibilities at RPI are Human Physiology and the Biology Graduate Student Core Course.
Graduate Students
Chris Newhard
   Chris joined the lab as undergraduate in 2011 as a part of RPI's Accelerated BS/PhD Program and characterized a Drosophila model of pediatric restrictive cardiomyopathy. He has also developed a protocol to measure the wing stroke amplitude of Drosophila. One of his pictures has placed at a few scientific image contests, click here to see the winning photograph. His current project is determining the mechanism for how the myosin converter domain influences load-dependent properties of myosin and muscle. In addition to his research, Chris has been involved in RPI student government and enjoys several intramural sports. Chris is funded by a graduate research fellowship from the National Science Foundation.
Kaylyn Bell
   Kaylyn is studying Biochemistry and Biophysics in RPI's accelerated BS/PhD program. She joined the lab in 2013 and is investigating how mutations in myosin cause human heart diseases, such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, using muscle fiber mechanics experiments. She is currently collaborating with Dr. Anthony Cammarato at Johns Hopkins University and Dr. Sanford Bernstein at San Diego State University. Outside the lab, Kaylyn is on the Relay For Life Committee and is a member of the RPI Dance Club.
Andrew Mason
   Andrew joined the Corr lab in 2013, pursuing his Phd in the biomedical engineering program. He completed his BS at Union College in 2006, majoring in biology and psychology. He worked for six years in industry, studying drug pharmacokinetics for BD biosciences, Contract Research Services. His major line of research is skeletal-muscle, tissue engineering. By using a differentially adherent growth channel, single muscle fibers are grown and then studied by varying mechanical, electrical, and biochemical stimuli. In collaboration with the Swank lab, Andrew is studying the biomechanics of the Drosophila jump muscles (a model for mammalian skeletal muscle).
Amy Loya
   Amy joined Dr. Swank's lab in 2014. She is a graduate student in the Biomedical Engineering PhD program, as well as the community service chair for the Biomedical Engineering Graduate Council. Prior to RPI, Amy was a Bioengineering major with a minor in Electrical Engineering at Union College, and she was the captain of the women's basketball team. Her current projects focus on the proteomic characterization of the Drosophila jump muscle, in order to help elucidate the thin filament mechanism behind stretch activation. With the help of Dr. Brian Foster from Johns Hopkins University, she is investigating the expression patterns of various isoforms within the troponin complex, and she is examining their roles using fiber mechanics experiments.
Gemel Joseph
   Gemel joined the lab in 2016 as a graduate student in the Biology Department. She earned her BS degree in Biology at the University of the Virgin Islands in 2014 where she was a MBRS-RISE and NSF HBCU-UP student of the Emerging Caribbean Scientists and president of the Rho Omicron chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha. In collaboration with the Barquera lab at RPI, Gemelís current work involves using Drosophila as a model organism to study and characterize the roles that membrane proteins involved in the central metabolism of Pseudomonas aeruginosa play in infection. Outside of the lab, Gemel is active with the Black Graduate Student Association and the Albany graduate chapter of AKA.
Senior Research Specialists
Bernadette Glasheen
   Bernie joined the lab in 2010 with a background in molecular biology and Drosophila genetics. Her current projects involve flight assays and fiber mechanics of a fly with a mutation responsible for a human muscle disease known as inclusion body myopathy-3. She is also involved in the investigation into the role of the myosin heavy chain converter region, asking how the alternate converter exons affect the mechanical properties of flight muscle. She created a construct that contains the cDNA version of the indirect flight isoform of myosin heavy chain to use for transgenics and a version of this construct that is labeled with a FLASH tag. Bernie has a MS degree from Rutgers University and has past experience at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey and the New York State Department of Health as well as four years of experience using Drosophila to study developmental biology.
Leah Sullivan
   Leah joined the lab as a research technician in 2015. She received her BS in Chemistry with a minor in Biology from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, where she was involved in STEM peer tutoring and was a member of the womenís lacrosse team. Leah is currently learning dissection and will be running muscle mechanics experiments for multiple projects in the near future.
Undergraduate Students
Alice Huang
   Alice is a Biology major at RPI, pursuing a BS/MD in the Accelerated Physician-Scientist Program combined with Albany Medical College. She began working in the lab in 2014 under the guidance of Kaylyn. Her work involves the characterization of mutant and wild type Drosophila flies in order to quantify and better understand the effects of myosin mutations on their flight muscles. These myosin mutations are found in diseases such as Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy and Distal Arthrogryposis. Alice is also a Rensselaer Science Ambassador, teaching middle and high school students about the fascinating applications of science and math.
Joy Puthawala
   Joy is a junior at RPI majoring in pre-medical Biochemistry & Biophysics. She recently joined the Swank lab in Spring 2016 under Chris's mentorship. Her work included investigating improvements into the wing stroke amplitude techniques. Her current project explores the effects of the R249D mutation associated with familial hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Outside of the lab, Joy is an active member in Greek life, Global Medical Brigades and RPI's Weightlifting Club.
Click here to see previous lab members.


Contact Info: Dr. Douglas Swank: swankd@rpi.edu
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Updated 6/7/2016
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