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Jennifer Kennell Associate Professor of Biology and Director of Biochemistry

My teaching and research interests include genetics, cell biology, molecular biology, genetic engineering, stem cell biology, and epigenetics. All cells in an animal contain the same set of genes, yet each cell has unique characteristics based on how those genes are actually used. My research is fundamentally focused on answering questions about how gene expression is regulated in different cell types and tissues throughout animal development and in response to environmental conditions, such as temperature and food availability. Most recently my research has focused on the role of a family of haloacid dehalogenase phosphatases in regulating metabolism and development in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster). Vassar students are involved in all aspects of my research.

  • BA, Luther College; PhD, University of Michigan
  • At Vassar since 2008

Contact

Research and Academic Interests

  • Genetics
  • Cell Biology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetic Engineering
  • Stem Cell Biology
  • Epigenetics

Courses

  • BIOL 238. Molecular Genetics
  • BIOL 393. The Biochemistry and Microbiology of Beer-making

Selected Publications

Asterix after name indicates Vassar student author

  • Sinha, A., Fan, V.B., Ramakrishnan, A., Engelhardt, N.*, Kennell, J., and Cadigan, K.M.  2021. Repression of Wnt/ b-catenin signaling by SOX9 and Mastermind Like Transcriptional Coactivator 2.  Science Advances.  In press.
  • Lopatto D* et al., 2020. Facilitating Growth through Frustration: Using Genomics Research in a Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experience.  J Microbiol Biol Educ. Feb 28;21(1). pii: 21.1.6. Link to paper
  • Laakso, M.M., Paliulis, L.V., Croonquist, P., Derr, B., Gracheva, E., Hauser, C., Howell, C., Jones, C., Kagey, J.D., Kennell, J., Silver Key, S.C., Mistry, H., Robic, S., Sanford, J., Santisteban, M., Small, C., Spokony, R., Stamm, J., Van Stry, M., Leung, W. and Elgin, S.C.R. 2017. An undergraduate bioinformatics curriculum that teaches eukaryotic gene structure. CourseSource, 4: 1-9. Link to paper
  • Elgin, S., Hauser, C., Holzen, T.M., Jones, C.J., Kleinschmit, A., and Genomics Education Partnership. 2017. The GEP: Crowd-sourcing big data analysis with undergraduates. Trends in Genetics, 33: 81-85. Link to paper
  • Bolin, K., Rachmaninoff, N., Moncada, K.*, Pula, K.*, Kennell, J., and Buttitta, L. 2016. miR-8 modulates cytoskeletal regulators to influence cell survival and epithelial organization in Drosophila wings. Developmental Biology. 412:83-98. Link to paper
  • Shakhmantsir, I.*, Massad, N.L.*, and Kennell, J.A. 2014. Regulation of cuticle pigmentation in Drosophila by the nutrient sensing Insulin and TOR signaling pathways. Developmental Dynamics. 243: 393-401. Link to paper
  • Kennell, J.A., Cadigan, K.M., Shakhmantsir, I.*, and Waldron, E.J.* 2012. The microRNA miR-8 is a positive regulator of pigmentation and eclosion in Drosophila. Developmental Dynamics. 241: 161-168. Link to paper.
  • Kennell, J.A. and Cadigan K.M. 2009. APC and β-catenin degradation. Chapter in APC Proteins, eds. Nathke I.S., McCartney B.M. Landis Bioscience, Austin. 1-12. PubMed
  • Kennell, J.A., I. Gerin, O.A. MacDougald, K.M. Cadigan. 2008. The microRNA miR-8 is a conserved negative regulator of Wnt signaling. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. 105: 15417-15422. Link to paper.
  • Kennell, J.A. and O.A. MacDougald. 2005. Wnt signaling inhibits adipogenesis through β-catenin dependent and independent mechanisms. Journal of Biological Chemistry. 25: 24004-24010. Link to paper
  • Kennell, J.A., E.E. O’Leary, B.M. Gummow, G.D. Hammer, and O.A. MacDougald. 2003. T-Cell factor 4N (TCF-4N), a novel isoform of mouse TCF-4, synergizes with β-catenin to coactivate C/EBPα and Steroidogenic Factor 1 transcription factors. Molecular and Cellular Biology. 23: 5366-5375. Link to paper
  • Longo K.A., J. A. Kennell, M.J. Ochocinska, S.E. Ross, W.S. Wright, and O.A. MacDougald. 2002. Wnt signaling protects 3T3-L1 preadipocytes from apoptosis through induction of insulin-like growth factors. Journal of Biological Chemistry. 277: 38239-38244. Link to Paper
  • Douglas, K.R., M.L. Brinkmeier, J.A. Kennell, P. Eswara, T.A. Harrison, A.I. Patrianakos, B.S. Sprecher, MA Potok, R.H. Lyons Jr, O.A. MacDougald, and S.A. Camper. 2001. Identification of members of the Wnt signaling pathway in the embryonic pituitary gland. Mammalian Genome. 12: 843-851. Link to paper

Photos

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Photo: Buck Lewis / Vassar College

BA 1998 Biology, Luther College, Decorah, IA

PhD 2005 Cellular and Molecular Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Posdoctoral Fellow 2005 - 2008 Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, University of Michigan

Research Interests

All cells in an animal contain the same set of genes, yet each cell has unique characteristics based on how those genes are actually used. My research is fundamentally focused on answering questions about how gene expression is regulated in different cell types and tissues throughout animal development and in response to environmental conditions, such as temperature and food availability.  Most recently my research has focused on the role of a family of haloacid dehalogenase phosphatases in regulating metabolism and development in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster).

Vassar students are involved in all aspects of my research. Previous studies have identified an important role for a haloacid dehalogenase phosphatases (PGP: phosphoglycolate phosphatase) in cleaning up toxic by-products of glycolysis and other metabolic processes.  For one current project in my lab, we have identified a possible ortholog of this gene in D. melanogaster and have used mutational analysis to study the role of this previously uncharacterized enzyme in flies.  Students in my molecular genetics course have also annotated this gene in multiple Drosophila species to help us better understand the evolution of this gene.  We are also studying other predicted family members of this gene in flies.  Another project in my lab involves studying how changes in nutritional status during development affects adult cuticle pigmentation. We have found that activation of the Insulin/Insulin-like and TOR signaling pathways leads to increased melanin production and we are currently exploring how these pathways might directly regulate key enzymes involved in melanin biosynthesis. 

Teaching Interests

Genetics, Cell Biology, Molecular Biology, Genetic Engineering, Stem Cell Biology, Epigenetics

Courses taught: BIOL 105 Genetically Modified Organisms, BIOL 106 Introduction to Biological Investigations, BIOL 107 Energy Flow in Biological Processes, BIOL 238 Molecular Genetics, BIOL/CHEM 272 Biochemistry Laboratory, BIOL 323 Seminar in Cell and Molecular Biology (Focus on Epigenetics), BIOL 393 The Biochemistry and Microbiology of Beer-making & STS 131 Genetic Engineering: General Principles and Ethical Questions