Dr. Robert Haney

Dr. Robert Haney

<b>Department: </b>Biology<br><b>Research Area: </b>The application of genomic, transcriptomic and proteomic data to diverse biological questions such as how spider venoms attain their diverse composition and toxicity or what molecular features contribute to the toughness of spider silk, how DNA secondary structures influence gene expression or which mutations contribute to human metabolic disease.<br>


Department: Biology

Research Focus: The application of genomic, transcriptomic and proteomic data to diverse biological questions such as how spider venoms attain their diverse composition and toxicity or what molecular features contribute to the toughness of spider silk, how DNA secondary structures influence gene expression or which mutations
contribute to human metabolic disease.

Potential Student Project(s):

 -Spider venom is a diverse secretion whose secrets are being unveiled through the use of new technologies such as high-throughput RNA sequencing. A potential project involves analyzing sequence datasets to uncover novel toxins contributing to prey capture or defense in the Darwin’s bark spider from Madagascar. This spider is also the target of a collaborative project that seeks to determine the molecular basis of its super-tough silk by investigating the unique spidroin genes in this species and understanding their expression in silk gland tissue.

-Ongoing studies of DNA secondary structures (G-quadruplexes) and their role in gene expression provide potential student projects investigating how G-quadruplex locations throughout the genome are connected to gene regulation by studying the effects of knockout or overexpression of a major enzyme involved in G-quadruplex resolution in cell lines and in mice, or testing the conservation of sequence motifs that contribute to the formation of these structures, which aids in defining which motifs may have functional significance.

-Homocystinuria is an inherited human metabolic disorder involving mutations to a crucial enzyme involved in the metabolism of the amino acid methionine, which lead to a deficiency of enzyme activity and contribute to a suite of symptoms characteristic of the disorder. Identification and characterization of these mutations in cells derived from infected patients will assist in fully characterizing the spectrum of mutations contributing to this disease, and can be used to explore further how genetic variants translate into changes in cell processes.

Attributes/skills/background sought in undergraduate: A knowledge of molecular biology and genetics can be helpful, or alternatively, experience in computational analysis, but the most important qualities for success in these projects are curiosity, a willingness to apply that curiosity and to learn, and an ability to persist through the inevitable challenges of scientific research.

Mentoring Plan: Given that student researchers in this program are early in their research career, I feel that it is important to provide detailed instructions at each stage of the research, including demonstrations of appropriate laboratory protocols, in addition to an outline for the research period that includes a timeline for completion of various stages of the project in order to meet expectations. I believe that it is also important to be supportive of students, and to help guide their burgeoning research career in a way that is suitable for each individual student. This can also mean that students who flourish in their research and take ownership of their project can be given more opportunities to guide the direction of the work. Students will be engaged by weekly one-onone meetings as well as by participating in regular lab meetings. Depending on the time frame and scheduling of academic conferences, as well as results achieved, mentored students will be encouraged to prepare their findings for regional or national scientific meetings.

Contact: 765-286-9208, FSB 330