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Russ Feirer

Associate Professor of Biology

B.S., University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire 
M.S., Iowa State University 
Ph.D., University of Wisconsin

Programs: Biology

My primary teaching responsibilities relate to the areas of genetics and cell biology, offering courses for both the science major as well as non-majors.  By their nature, biology courses can be ‘content heavy’ and while mastery of a body of information is important, one of my goals is to impart a genuine interest in the subject.  This is done by keeping the course content relevant and current in these rapidly advancing areas.  I also feel that it is very important to engage our students in collaborative research work in our laboratories.  Students working in our labs gain a deep understanding and appreciation of the field, and I find these experiences to be very rewarding.

Work in my lab includes the study of polyamines, a group of compounds derived from the amino acids ornithine and arginine. These compounds are known to be important in several cellular functions including cell division, response to stress and the development of most higher eukaryotes.  The role of polyamines and their related enzymes on cellular proliferation and metabolism has been the focus of my lab for over 20 years. 

Currently, students in my lab are characterizing the effect of experimental compounds on the enzymes responsible for the biosynthesis (ODC - ornithine decarboxylase) and degradation (SSAT - spermidine-spermine acetyl transferase) of polyamines in cancer cell lines.  The abilities of compounds such as resveratrol to affect polyamine metabolism, cell viability and apoptosis of breast cancer and melanoma cell lines are being studied.   Our work is being extended to study the effects of other plant-derived compounds and extracts on cancer cell lines.  Past work investigated changes in polyamine metabolism during the response of cells to abiotic stress, specifically, the induction of arginine decarboxylase in osmotically stressed Arabidopsis cells and the signals mediating this response.

BIOL 120 General Biology I
BIOL 244 Genetics
BIOL 371 Cellular Physiology
BIOL 373 Molecular Biology
BIOL 353 Biotechnology in a Global Society
BIOL 489 Biology of the Cancer Cell
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