Jean-Paul Armache, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, focuses his research on understanding dynamic macromolecular assemblies, using a powerful imaging technique called cryo-electron microscopy (cryoEM) to identify their structures at the atomic level. He is currently studying how chromatin, the complex of DNA and proteins that forms chromosomes, is made accessible for gene expression and other functions. Specifically, he is studying ATP-dependent chromatin remodeling protein complexes, work that builds on his postdoctoral research investigating the SNF2h-nucleosome complex. Armache is also interested in standardizing and automating the sometimes complex and often iterative process of preparing samples for cryoEM.
Prior to joining the faculty at Penn State, Armache was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, from 2013 to 2018 and at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich in Germany from 2011 to 2013. He completed a master’s degree in computer science at the Technical University of Lodz in Poland in 2006 and a doctoral degree in chemistry and pharmacy at the Ludwig Maximilian University in 2011.
Yifei Huang, assistant professor of biology, combines state-of-the-art machine learning techniques and statistical evolutionary models to understand how variation within the genome contributes to human disease and evolution. He hopes to categorize the large number of previously identified genetic variants—differences among individual’s genetic codes due to mutations, deletions, duplications, or other changes—by their cellular, evolutionary, and clinical significance. Huang’s research team has developed multiple frameworks to identify detrimental variation in the human genome associated with severe genetic disorders and continues to develop models to explore the function of genetic variants in humans and other species.
Prior to joining the faculty at Penn State, Huang was a postdoctoral researcher at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory from 2015 to 2018 and at the University of British Columbia from 2014 to 2015. He completed a bachelor’s degree in biotechnology at Zhengzhou University in China in 2006, a master’s degree in bioinformatics at Beijing Normal University in China in 2009, and a doctoral degree in bioinformatics at McMaster University in Canada in 2014.
Janine Kwapis, assistant professor of biology, uses a combination of behavioral techniques, molecular analyses, and genetic and epigenetic manipulations to understand how long-term memories are formed, stored, and updated in the brain as well as how these processes may change during aging. She is currently exploring how epigenetic regulation—changes to genes or how they are expressed that do not alter their genetic sequence—of a circadian clock-related gene can alter age-related impairments in long-term memory and how enzymes that modify a complex of DNA and protein called chromatin influence long-term memory. She is also studying the mechanisms underlying memory modification.
Prior to joining the faculty at Penn State, Kwapis was a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Irvine, from 2014 to 2018. She completed a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Alma College in 2006 and master’s and doctoral degrees in behavioral neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2010 and 2013.
David Toews, assistant professor of biology, uses techniques from evolutionary biology, genomics, molecular ecology, biogeography, and animal behavior to understand how new species of birds evolve. He studies New World warblers, wrens, and other birds to identify genes that may underlie important ecological traits, such as migration behavior and plumage, and to understand the genetics and consequences of hybridization between bird species.
Prior to joining the faculty at Penn State, Toews was a postdoctoral researcher at Cornell University and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, where he held a National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Postdoctoral Research Fellowship and a Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship. He completed a bachelor’s degree in biology at Acadia University in Canada in 2005 and master’s and doctoral degrees in zoology at the University of British Columbia in Canada in 2007 and 2014.