Four of our alumni write about their current careers and research below.
Dr. Gregory Skomal
Marine Biology Program
Dr. Gregory Skomal is an accomplished marine biologist, underwater explorer, photographer, aquarist, and author. He has been a senior fisheries biologist with Massachusetts Marine Fisheries since 1987 and currently heads up the Massachusetts Shark Research Program (MSRP). He is also adjunct faculty at the University of Massachusetts School for Marine Science and Technology in New Bedford, MA, a guest investigator at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, MA, and an adjunct scientist with the Center for Shark Research in Sarasota, FL. He holds a master’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and a Ph.D. from Boston University. Through the MSRP, Greg has been actively involved in the study of life history, ecology, and physiology of sharks. His shark research has spanned multiple fish habitats around the globe taking him from the frigid waters of the Arctic Circle to coral reefs in the tropical Central Pacific. Much of his current research centers on the use of acoustic telemetry, satellite-based technology, and animal-borne imaging to assess the physiological impacts of capture stress on the post-release survivorship and behavior of sharks. He has written dozens of scientific research papers and has appeared in a number of film and television documentaries, including programs for National Geographic, Discovery Channel, ESPN, and numerous television networks. He has been an avid SCUBA diver and underwater photographer since 1978. Although his research passion for the last twenty-five years has centered on sharks, he has been an avid aquarist for over thirty years having written eleven books on aquarium keeping. His most recent book, The Shark Handbook, is a must buy for all shark enthusiasts. His home and laboratory are on the island of Martha’s Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts.
Dr. Peter August
Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution Program
I received my Ph.D. from the BU Biology Department in 1981 and studied under Dr. Tom Kunz and the other faculty in the ecology and behavior section. I took my first job as an Assistant Professor at the University of Rhode Island and have been at URI since. I am now a Full Prof in the Department of Natural Resources Science and Director of URI’s Coastal Institute. My research and teaching is in geographic information systems (GIS) and landscape ecology. My students study a range of topics – whale distributions in the North Atlantic, Loon habitat modeling, land use change and estuarine water quality, and conservation planning. The thread that weaves these projects together is they require clever GIS analysis at landscape scales and address practical issues in environmental conservation. My grad training in the BU EBE program left a strong watermark on all aspects of my career. Some of the big lessons that have served me well over the decades include: don’t hide your enthusiasm for your science, it is a strong motivator; basic and applied science complement each other; statistics is your best friend, not your worst enemy; and finally, don’t be afraid to try something new, you learn a lot more in your failures than you do in your successes!
Cell and Molecular Biology Program
Originally from Germany, I came to Boston to study the neurological disease Neurofibromatosis type 2 with Dr. MacCollin at Massachusetts General Hospital. Having left Germany with a Masters in Biology from the University of Hamburg, I found a perfect match in Boston University to obtain my PhD, which I received in October 2008.
During my time at BU I worked in Dr. Deshler’s Lab on the mechanism of RNA localization. This area of research fascinated me since it underscored the important role RNA plays in many biological processes. I investigated how mRNA molecules find their way to distinct areas in the cytoplasm of a cell. Specifically, I was studying the involvement of molecular motor proteins in the transport of mRNAs to the vegetal pole of frog eggs. Dr. Deshler is a highly motivated mentor whose enthusiasm for science provides a continuous source of energy for all Lab members. I especially enjoyed the endless discussions over newly obtained data and other recent findings in the field. The support and guidance I received from Dr. Deshler and many other professors at BU helped me to perform my research in the most efficient way and to learn as much as possible during my time as a graduate student. For my research achievements I received the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Award (2008).
During my doctoral work, Boston University also proved to be an invaluable source of support. I received funding through the George R. Bernard Jr. Travel Grant Award to attend scientific meetings. This often resulted in new collaborations and provided me with important information, which helped me to orient my research. I also gained tremendous experience learning how to pass on my scientific knowledge to upcoming generations of young students through my work as a Teaching Fellow and as a mentor of High School students during the summer semesters here at BU. I am hoping to become a professor of biology myself and these experiences will, without a doubt, greatly help me to obtain my career goal.
I recently started a postdoctoral position with Dr. Whelan at Harvard Medical School, where I am studying the biology of the non-segmented negative-sense (NNS) RNA viruses. These viruses include significant human pathogens such as rabies, Nipah, measles, respiratory syncytial, Ebola and Marburg viruses.
Dr. Daniel Starczynowski
Cell and Molecular and MCBB Program
Although originally from Vancouver, Canada, I received all my post-secondary education in the US. I graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson University (Teaneck, NJ) with a Bachelor’s of Science and a concentration in Chemistry. I also played varsity tennis on an athletic scholarship.
My brief exposure to research as an undergraduate unequivocally convinced me to obtain a PhD. I joined the Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, and Biochemistry (MCBB) program at Boston University for several reasons: 1) Location - Boston is arguably the epicenter of biomedical research and ideal for collaborations with nearby institutions; 2) The MCBB program consists of comprehensive research interests, a collaborative research environment, and a supportive social network; and 3) The opportunity to study in Dr. Thomas Gilmore’s Lab.
I joined the Gilmore Lab and studied the role of the human transcription factors, NF-kB, which are implicated in lymphomas. My experience in the Gilmore Lab was extremely favorable. Dr. Gilmore is an extremely effective, committed, and devoted mentor. In addition, I received valuable scientific and technical knowledge that has benefited me in my current research. My doctoral dissertation was awarded the Belamarich Award (2006) for outstanding scholarship and performance in graduate studies.
I am currently a postdoctoral fellow at the BC Cancer Research Centre (Vancouver, Canada). My research focuses on a prevalent group of heterogeneous blood diseases called Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). The objective of my research project is to identify novel genomic mutations in patients with MDS and extend these findings to model MDS in rodents.