Robin Wright, PhD
Microscopy, including electron microscopy; Classical genetics; Molecular genetics; Genomics; Biochemical analyses; Assessment strategies for undergraduate classes
The story of life on Earth is likely to be a story of cold. The first organic molecules and cells may have arisen on Earth in icy conditions, providing an evolutionary “cold start” to life. As recently as 500 million years ago, all life has had to survive through global glaciations. Even today, Earth’s biosphere is largely cold, with as much as 80% having an average temperature of less than 5oC. Clearly, understanding how organisms adapt to cold temperature is important for a variety of disciplines, from the evolution of life to the ecology of arctic environments to cellular biology and physiology. However, surprisingly large gaps exist in our exploration of the biology of cold adaptation. Most notably, investigations of cold adaptation are nearly non-existent in fungi, one of the five classical kingdoms of life. In addition, the roles of sterol metabolism in cold adaptation in any organism are similarly unexplored. Current research in my lab focuses on laying the foundations for deep exploration of the genetics, molecular and cellular biology, and physiology of cold adaptation in yeast, a unicellular fungus. It is likely that results of these studies will have relevance to other fungi, and perhaps to other kingdoms of life.
In a search for genes required for ER biogenesis in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the Wright lab discovered that mutations in a subset of genes involved in ER-associated degradation (ERAD) result in cold sensitivity. In collaboration with co-PI Martin Bard (IUPUI), they also discovered that these genes are required for proper regulation of sterol metabolism. These observations lead to the foundational hypothesis that they explore: ERAD regulates key aspects of sterol metabolism in yeast and this regulation is required for cold adaptation. To test this hypothesis, they use genetic, biochemical, and cell biological approaches to determine both the molecular mechanisms by which ERAD regulates sterol metabolism and also whether this regulation underlies the role of ERAD itself in cold adaptation. To examine the ecological and evolutionary relevance of sterol metabolism in cold adaptation, experiments in S. cerevisiae will be coordinated with analyses of sterols in psychrophilic yeast species isolated in Antarctic environments. In addition, the genes in S. cerevisiae that are necessary for cold adaptation have been identified using global genetic screens and are being analyzed using genomics approaches. The results of these studies will provide specific insights into the role of sterol metabolism and ERAD in cold adaptation, as well as create a framework for long-term investigations of cold adaptation in yeast.
At the core, I see myself as both a teacher and a researcher. Consistent with this vision, undergraduate education is inextricably woven into essentially all of my activities. For example, all of my research has involved undergraduates, some of whom presented their work national meetings and/or co-authored research papers. In addition, I spend considerable effort on activities that promote innovation and improvement of undergraduate education. Based on experiences in the classroom, national discussions, and workshops, what I do in the classroom has been transformed over the years from a traditional teacher-centered model of “lecture-and-test” to a learner-centered model that promotes building of life-long skills. This transformation has been accompanied by the realization that sharing teaching innovations and solutions is important. As a result, I have participated in a variety of workshops and seminars and published several papers that deal with teaching issues. Students interested in gaining significant teaching experiences and learning how to effectively integrate teaching and research would be very welcome in my lab.
Parrish, M., E. Cadera, L. Larson, C. Cho, P. Garrett-Engele, C. Armour, P.Y. Lum, D. D. Shoemaker, and R. Wright. 2003. Parallel analysis of tagged deletion mutants efficiently identifies genes involved in endoplasmic reticulum biogenesis. Yeast.
Larson, L.L., M.L. Parrish, A.J. Koning, and R. Wright. 2002. Proliferation of the endoplasmic reticulum occurs normally in cells that lack a functional unfolded protein response. Yeast 19:373-393.
Koning, A.J., L.L. Larson, E. J. Cadera, M.L. Parrish, and R. Wright. 2002. Mutations that affect vacuole biogenesis inhibit proliferation of the endoplasmic reticulum in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Genetics 160:1335-1352.
Profant, D., C. Roberts, and R. Wright. 2000. Mutational analysis of the karmellae-inducing signal in Hmg1p, a yeast HMG-CoA reductase isozyme. Yeast 16:811-827.
Profant, D. A., C. J. Roberts, A. J. Koning, and R. Wright. 1999. The role of the HMG-CoA reductase cytosolic domain in karmellae biogenesis. Mol. Biol. Cell 10:3409-3423.
Articles about Teaching
Wright, R. 2006. “Dear Abbot” article on teaching mitosis and meiosis, in Genetics Newsletter.
Robin L. Wright, Aaron Charlson, and Carrie F. Olson
A 15-Year Study of 63 Teachers at 24 Institutions Reveals: "What the Best College Teachers Do<>
Cell Biology Education 2005 4: 279-280.
Robin L. Wright
Points of View: Content versus Process: Is This a Fair Choice?: Undergraduate Biology
Courses for Nonscientists: Toward a Lived Curriculum
Cell Biol Education 2005 4: 189-196.
Wright, R. and J. Boggs. 2002. Learning cell biology as a team: a project-based approach to upper-division cell biology. Cell Biology Education 1:145-153.
Wright, R. 2001. The Art of Teaching, Session 1: Reading the Audience. Science’s Next Wave.
Wright, R. 2001. The Art of Teaching, Session 2: Using portfolios to improve and evaluate teaching. Science’s Next Wave.
To view these and other publications visit http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/PubMed
search menu should say PubMed
type Wright R in the avaliable line. Note: There are several people who use "Wright R"