Thomas Shea

Tom Shea

I teach Life Science (Intro Biology for students majoring in other fields) to over 1,000 UML students each academic year.  This places me in the unique position of being the last scientist that many of our students will ever hear from.   In this regard, I make an extreme effort to discuss scientific topics that will play a role in these students lives, such as human genetic disorders, evolution, genetically-modified crops, and the impact of climate change on our future.   

Such topics are often points of political contention.  Towards this end, I spend a considerable amount of time educating these students about the Scientific Method – not to encourage them to pursue a career in science, but empower them to call for, and scrutinize, the evidence (or lack of it) supporting statements and headlines.  In doing so, they will be capable of distinguishing factual information from unsubstantiated opinion, and live and vote smart.

In my laboratory researchers are examining the roles played by axonal cytoskeletal proteins in nervous system development, and in the etiology of Alzheimer's and other related neurodegenerative diseases. For these studies we use neurons that are maintained in cell culture as well as genetically-modified strains of mice that are at increased risk for developing neurodegenerative conditions analogous to those observed in humans. Our studies indicate that Alzheimer's disease can arise from a combination of genetics, poor diet, and environmental stress, under conditions where no single one of these factors would induce the disease. My research center collaborates with a number of other nationally and internationally recognized laboratories. I am happy to discuss research opportunities in my laboratory with motivated undergraduate and graduate students.