While teaching is the primary focus of Waldorf University, all Biology professors maintain externally-funded research programs. Research provides many advantages to the Biology program: 1) because the professors involve students in their work, research is their most effective teaching tool; 2) by allowing professors to practice their discipline and remain current, their courses remain current and exciting; 3) because the professors frequently publish their work, it strengthens both their and the University’s credibility in the wider scientific community. Their multiple grants have ranged from $2,500 to over $100,000 from federal and state agencies (e.g., National Academy of Science, U.S. Geological Survey, Iowa Academy of Science), universities (e.g., University of Iowa), and private corporations (e.g., Colgate-Palmolive, Inc.).

Research Topics

Biology professors pursue a wide variety of research topics. Waldorf’s biology department is represented by faculty with research interests in three different areas of biology.

Dr. Paul Bartelt is a Wildlife Biologist and Physiological Ecologist. He uses remotely sensed (satellite) data, field observations, and biophysical model data with a Geographical Information System to understand how changes in climate and land cover might affect the movement of amphibians and the persistence of amphibian populations. He has completed research in the Black Hills of South Dakota, central and southeastern Idaho, Yellowstone National Park, and north central Iowa.

Dr. Gary Coombs is a Molecular Biologist and Biochemist. He uses the tools of genetics and molecular biology to provide greater insights into the genetic control of cancer and muscular dystrophy. For example, certain cancers appear to be “addicted” to the signaling activity of Wnt family protein hormones, and mutations in nuclear lamin proteins in the cell’s nucleus are linked to muscular dystrophy. A better understanding of how cancers rely on Wnt signaling, and what processes are affected by mutant lamins will lead to better therapies for these diseases. Dr. Coombs collaborates with colleagues at the Carver College of Medicine (University of Iowa) on these topics.

Dr. Carol Fischer has multiple interests, including physiology, microbiology, and medical entomology. Her research established the positive effects of lipids activity against a variety of microorganisms found on skin and in the oral cavity. She plans to expand her research into the effects of environmental stressors on physiologic responses and behavior of aquatic organisms. Elevated environmental pollutants associated with anthropogenic events can affect the growth, reproductive patterns, and host-parasite relationships among aquatic organisms.