Associate Professor of Biology
My scientific goals center on characterizing the functional and morphological changes associated with neuronal plasticity. I currently employ both electrophysiological and histological/immunocytochemical techniques to investigate these changes. Uncovering the mechanisms that regulate circuitry reorganization will elucidate not only the processes underlying learning and memory but also the processes underlying pathogenesis, especially for disease states such as epilepsy. My research program is designed to be both engaging and accessible to undergraduate students.
Current Projects in the Knight Research Lab
the Knight research lab is grateful for funding from the National Science Foundation, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Danisco Sweeteners Oy (a subsidiary of DuPont Corp), and Whitman College.
Betaine_an osmolyte & a neuroprotectant?
In collaboration with Dr. Paul Yancey and his research team, the Knight lab is investigating the role of betaine--an organic osmolyte--in neuroprotection under conditions of osmotic stress.
Neurochemical Research 42(12), 3490-3503. 2017.
Altered Inhibition and Epilepsy
The role of altered inhibition and interneuron physiology has long been linked with seizure disorders and the Knight continues to investigate this relationship using animal models of temporal lobe epilepsy.
Epilepsia 53 (Suppl. 1): 161-170. 2012.
The role of neuropeptides in the pathogenesis of neurological disorders
Neuroscience 216: 143-157. 2012.
The Knight lab is investigating changes in signaling/circuitry of key neuromodulators such as noradrenalin, insulin and Substance P in the pathogenesis of neurological disorders such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Epilepsy and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. We work in collaboration with colleagues at the Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center (MIRECC) at the VA Puget Sound Hospital in Seattle.
Overview of Courses
Biological Principles (BIOL 111)
Biological Principles is an introductory level course for majors designed to:
Teach basic principles of Cell Biology, Molecular Biology, and Animal Physiology;
Encourage experience-based learning of these principles via laboratory experimentation, discussion, and communication (written and spoken);
Promote critical analysis skills and an understanding of how biological research is performed and communicated;
Help you to develop basic laboratory and analytical skills for use in research.
Cell Physiology & Signaling
This class is designed to provide students a detailed understanding of primary cellular processes found in eukaryotic cells and will incorporate biochemical and biophysical principles to fully explain them. Cell physiology relies on accurate signal transduction pathways that allow the cell to alter its physiology in response to internal and external (environmental) cues. The ability to respond is essential for complex organismal processes, e.g., directed root growth requiring coordinated cell division, targeted movement by bacteria based on chemical signals (chemotaxis), or immunologic response following identification of a pathogen. Therefore, this class will also emphasize the machinery of cellular communication that is used to regulate or modify these processes.
This course will introduce students to the multidisciplinary field of neurophysiology from cellular processes to integrated central and peripheral nervous systems functions. The course will examine core principles of neuroanatomy, membrane excitability, neuronal signaling, sensory and motor function, neuroendocrine regulation of integrated organismal physiology (e.g., cardiovascular), and abnormalities that give rise to neurological disorders. Laboratory exercises will emphasize core concepts and methodology, and will incorporate lectures/demonstrations by clinicians/patients and integrative case studies. This course is team taught with Dr. Thomas A. Knight (Associate Professor of Biology).
Anatomy and Physiology
I often team teach courses with Dr. T. Knight on human anatomy and physiology, e.g., BIOL 272 (Human Anatomy and Physiology) and BIOL 330 (Human Physiology). These courses introduce students to principles of physiology from the cellular to the organismal level and provide an overview of integrative body functions such as control of movement, hormonal regulation of metabolism, fluid/electrolyte balance, etc.
Public Health and Policy
This cross-disciplinary course introduces students to leading global health issues and works to link our understanding of the biological/physiological bases for these disorders and current medical practices for their treatment with public policies and programs designed to address them. Students will be urged to identify links between environmental health and human health and will be challenged to explore policies that govern both. Specific topics include: obesity-related disorders (such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes) and mental health disorders; policy interventions designed to promote prevention and wellness; and critical responses to these programs. The course facilitates interdisciplinary and global thinking by bringing together students from varying disciplines and challenging them to develop a foundation in human physiology and policy-making from which to assess current public health programs and policies.