Biology Faculty and Staff


Pamela M. Brannock
Visiting Assistant Professor
Bush Science Center, room 118B

B.S. Roger Williams University, 2002 
Ph.D. University of South Carolina at Columbia, 2011 

I am interested in understanding and exploring the genetic composition, connectivity, and variation of aquatic invertebrates populations (mainly marine). For my doctoral research,  I researched the geographic distribution and hybridization levels between Mytilus spp. (blue mussels) in northern Japan. More recently I have used high-throughput sequencing approaches to examine meiofaunal community composition and variation in Antarctica as well as the Gulf of Mexico in responses to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Through my research I use a variety of molecular approaches to obtain a better understanding of questions from distribution of organisms to functioning of aquatic ecosystems. I am also interested in exploring environmental factors that may cause distribution or variation within communities to occur.  

Bobby Fokidis
Assistant Professor
Bush Science Center, room 312B
(407) 646-2452
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B.S. University of Toronto,  2001
M.S. Arkansas State University,  2004
Ph.D. Arizona State University,  2010

Food security is a term we use to describe both the availability of food and the ability of an individual to access food. Food insecurity activates various endocrine systems which can impact health, and alter behaviors, such as inducing aggressive conflict over access to a limited resource. My research investigates the biological mechanisms that link an individual’s perceptions of food security, their energetic status, and their physiological and behavioral responses. Specifically the goals of my research program are to: (1) Characterize the neuroendocrine interactions between steroids and neuropeptides that integrate formation about energetic state with behavior; (2) Investigate how natural or human-induced fluctuations in food alter these neuroendocrine signals; and (3) Understand how physiological and behavioral responses to food availability have influenced the evolution of life-history traits. This novel research integrates a reductionist perspective with a broader understanding of the organism in the context of its environment, and provides a physiological basis for a topic of increasing social importance.

Zak Gezon
Adjunct Professor
Bush Science Center, room 333

B.S. University of California San Diego, 2002 
Ph.D. Dartmouth College, 2015  

I am an ecologist and evolutionary biologist broadly interested in conservation biology, community ecology, and pollination.  I am particularly interested in the ways that human activities affect plants, pollinators, and their interactions. As an avid naturalist and outdoorsman I love fieldwork and field experiments, but I don't feel that research is complete without rigorous data analysis and mathematical modeling. My research tends to focus on the potential consequences of climate change for pollinator communities and pollination services, and my fieldwork has primarily taken place in Colorado and Florida. As a conservation program manager for the Walt Disney Company, I am working to create butterfly habitats around the world and engage kids and families with nature along the way. My projects include raising rare butterflies for kids to release into restored habitats, developing artificial caterpillar diets for species of conservation concern, determining which species of ornamental plants best support butterfly abundance and diversity, and developing citizen science programs simple enough for young kids to collect meaningful data in under five minutes.   

Fiona Harper
Associate Professor and Chair
Bush Science Center, room 218C
(407) 646-2613

BSc University of Guelph, 1995
MSc Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1998
Ph.D. Dalhousie University, 2004

I am a marine evolutionary biologist. I am particularly interested in how speciation in the marine environment occurs, hybridization between species, and population genetics of marine organisms. While I am continuing to investigate hybridization between two sister species of sea stars in the Northwest Atlantic (Asterias forbesi and A. rubens), I am also collaborating on a population genetics study of the white mangrove in the Caribbean. I have also worked on hybridization and population genetics studies of blue mussels and sea urchins. The type of studies I conduct range from morphological studies of live animals, to fertilization studies between sperm and eggs in vitro, to molecular studies of the nuclear and mitochondrial DNA.

Kathryn H. Hickman
Adjunct Professor
Bush Science Center, room 187
(407) 646-2427

A.B. Rollins College, 1980
Ph.D. Emory University, 1987

My Ph.D. is in the areas of molecular and developmental biology and my research involved the isolation and characterization of muscle protein genes and their transcripts. I first came to Rollins as a student in 1976 and returned as a Visiting Assistant Professor in 1989. I have taught here since then. Because of the broad biology background I attained as an undergraduate student at Rollins and because of the diversity of courses that I have taught over the years, I have evolved into a “General Biologist” and enjoy teaching a wide range of biology courses. I particularly enjoy the challenge of trying to communicate an understanding and appreciation of science to non-science majors.

Karen E. Jackson
Visiting Assistant Professor
Bush Science Center, room 273
(407) 646-2453

B.A. Jacksonville University, 1989
Ph.D. University of Florida, 1995

I currently have two research interests - the Florida manatee and the Greek god Thanatos.  

One of my first research projects involving undergraduates was understanding the immunogenetics of the Florida manatee, Trichecus manatus latirostris.  These gentle giants have suffered from the toxins released during algae blooms and it is suspected that the toxin may be a super-antigen. Understanding the major histocompatibility locus and T cell receptor molecule could potentially be used to prevent sickness and death from these blooms by the design of vaccines or other protective treatments. And given that the MHC locus is typically the most polymorphic in the genome, genetic testing could provide insight into the genetic health and inbreeding risk that this species faces.
I first got involved with the anti-microbial peptide thanatin because my student at the time had always been interested in Greek mythology, Thanatos is the personification of death. Thanatin is secreted by the soldier bug, Podisus maculiventris, in response to infection. Only a few research groups are actively working on this antimicrobial peptide, but we do know that it has very broad specificity (gram positive, gram negative and fungal species). With the overuse of antibiotics and the rise of antibiotic resistance, we must once again look to nature to prevent illness and death from pathogens. The numerous and diverse collection of antimicrobial peptides are likely the future of infectious disease management.

Jay Pieczynski
Assistant Professor
Bush Science Center, room 363
(407) 646-2433

B.S. University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse, 2004
Ph.D. University of Michigan, 2010

One of the major roles of the cytoskeleton is to act as the cellular interstate system, moving cargo efficiently over long distances.  One of the most basic scientific questions is how proteins, cargos, and even the cytoskeleton itself move, change, and respond to facilitate signal transduction.  Defects in microtubule-associated cell signaling dynamics can be directly implicated in such pathologies as cancer, neurodegenerative disease, infertility, and polycystic kidney disease.  My research involves understanding the in vivo dynamics of microtubules and microtubule motor proteins in cell signaling and behavior Using the model system Caenorhabditis elegans, I use a combined genetic, cellular, and organismal approach to studying these processes at physiologically relevant levels in the entire organism.  

Brendaliz Santiago-Narvaez
Assistant Professor
Bush Science Center, room 369

B.S. University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus, 2006
M.S. University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, 2010
Ph.D. University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, 2012 

I’m a Microbiologist whose work focuses in the area of Oral Microbiology.  We have more than 700 bacterial species in our mouth! Out of all of them, I study the etiological agent of human dental caries, Streptococcus mutans. S. mutans is capable of forming a thick acidic biofilm on the tooth surface known as dental plaque. Its acid tolerance and biofilm formation are major virulence properties that enable it to colonize the oral cavity, even under fluctuating conditions (feast-famine!).  I am interested in the study of genes that affect S. mutans physiology and acid adaptation.  I am also interested in studying S. mutans biofilm formation as well as its interactions with oral commensal species associated with health.  I use a genetic and physiological approach to study how genes, pathways and regulators are utilized by S. mutans in acid adaptation and virulence.  By studying S. mutans’  physiology we can have a better understanding of the adaptive mechanisms this bacterium relies on and develop ways of targeting these essential pathways used for survival in the oral cavity.


Paul T. Stephenson
Associate Professor
Bush Science Center, room 214B
(407) 646-2481

B.A.  Hartwick College, 1984
M.S. Johns Hopkins University, 1992
Ph.D. University of Massachusetts-Amherst, 1998

My current research interests include investigating the regulation of hydrolytic enzyme secretion in carnivorous pitcher plants (particularly Nepenthes ventricosa), cloning and characterizing candidate enzymes, using fluorescent in situ hybridization to identify their presence in specific tissues, and Real Time PCR to assess their expression.  In 2007 I began a new research project investigating hydrolytic enzymes involved in mixotrophic metabolism of toxic, algal bloom causing dinoflagellates.  Most recently I have begun a population genetics study of White Mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa).  In the past I have worked on projects studying programmed cell death during floral senescence and vascular tissue differentiation.

Kathryn P. Sutherland
Bush Science Center, room 114A
(407) 691-1075

B.A. Wellesley College, 1994
M.S. University of Georgia, 1997
Ph.D. University of Georgia, 2003

I am a coral reef ecologist and a coral disease microbiologist.   I specialize in both field identification and laboratory investigation of coral disease. As a field biologist, I monitor reefs for change in coral cover over time and I assess coral health through quantification of coral disease prevalence.  In the laboratory I am investigating the prevalence and origin of the pathogen, the bacterium Serratia marcescens, that causes the white pox disease of the Caribbean elkhorn coral, Acropora palmata. White pox disease has contributed to the decimation of this coral species in Florida, with losses averaging 87% since 1996. I am also interested in the identification of other coral disease pathogens and the mechanisms of pathogenesis of these pathogens.

Susan Walsh, (currently on sabbatical)
Associate Professor
Bush Science Center, room 273
(407) 646-2534

B.S. Cedar Crest College, 1999
Ph.D. Duke University, 2005

My research focuses on mitochondrial trafficking in the nervous system during zebrafish development. Surprising to many students, mitochondria are not the static kidney beans typically shown in electron micrographs but rather, are dynamic organelles that form elegant networks in a cell. Their motion is dependent on signaling molecules and microtubule-binding proteins. Using transgenic zebrafish with fluorescent mitochondria allows me to watch these events in a living animal. 


Gail Jones
Administrative Assistant
Bush Science Center, room 110
(407) 646-2494
Ana Rodriguez
Lab Manager
Bush Science Center, room 161
(407) 646-2100
Alan Chryst
Greenhouse Manager
(407) 646-2399

Work Study Students

Celena Diaz
Biology Lab Assistant since Fall of 2015
Marine Biology Major and Environmental Studies Minor, College of Liberal Arts, Class of 2018
Rachel B. Deena
Biology Office Assistant since Fall 2014
Environmental Studies Major, College of Liberal Arts, Class of 2018
Morgan Mueller
Biology Lab Assistant since Fall of 2016
Marine Biology Major and Environmental Studies Minor, College of Liberal Arts, Class of 2018
Elexsa Perello
Greenhouse Assistant since Spring of 2018
Sociology major and double minor in Political Science & Women's Studies, College of Liberal Arts, Class of 2018
Johann Peralta
Greenhouse Assistant since Fall of 2017
Biology major and Chemistry minor, College of Liberal Arts, Class of 2019

Department of Biology
Rollins College
Bush Science Center
1000 Holt Avenue
Winter Park, FL 32789
T. 407.646.2494