Swank Laboratory
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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, using both the jump muscle of the fruit fly and molecular dynamics simulations. 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 and skeletal muscle diseases through a collaboration with Dr. Sanford Bernstein at San Diego State University, by using muscle fiber mechanics experiments. She is also investigating the role of different myosin isoforms in setting properties of stretch activation. Outside the lab, Kaylyn is a member of the RPI Dance Club.
Amy Loya
   Amy joined Dr. Swank's lab as a graduate student in the Biomedical Engineering PhD program in 2014. Prior to RPI, Amy was a Bioengineering major with a minor in Electrical Engineering at Union College, where she was also 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 and shortening deactivation. 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, Gemel's current work involves using Drosophila as a model organism to study and characterize Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection and virulence as influenced by sodium ion transport membrane proteins. 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 women's lacrosse team. Leah is testing the muscular effects of actin point mutations in collaboration with Lab of Dr. Anthony Cammarato.
Undergraduate Students
Joy Puthawala
   Joy is a senior co-terminal at RPI majoring in pre-medical Biochemistry & Biophysics. She 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 S532D mutation associated with the development of dilated cardiomyopathy in humans. Outside of the lab, Joy is an active member in Greek life, Global Medical Brigades and RPI's Weightlifting Club.
Emily Dunn
   Emily is a junior at RPI majoring in Biomedical Engineering. She started working in the lab in Summer 2017 under Amy's mentorship. Emily is currently learning dissections and working on improvements to the jump assay. Additionally, she will be assisting Amy in analyzing data related to stretch activation and shortening deactivation. Emily is a member of the RPI Women's soccer team and a BMES mentor.
Click here to see previous lab members.

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Contact Info: Dr. Douglas Swank: swankd@rpi.edu
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Updated 9/15/2017
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