Maximizing Access to Research Careers Program

Faculty Mentors

Faculty mentors are available in all of the scientific disciplines at Fort Lewis College. Contact Dr. Les Sommerville, Program Director, for a listing.

Dr. David Blake, Professor of Biology

Phone: (970)-247-7570

B.A., 1999, University of Pennsylvania
M.S., 2005, University of Montana
Ph.D., 2007, University of Montana
Post Doctoral Fellow, 2007-2009, Johns Hopkins University, Maryland

MARC Involvement:
Dr. Blake started working with Serena Mancha fist as a Pre-MARC student and then as a MARC awardee. Their research is on Herpes simplex virus type 3 (HSV3), commonly known as the Varicella zoster virus (VZV), which is a DNA virus within the Herpesviridae family. Infection with VZV in children results in chickenpox (varicella), and reactivation of the virus in the elderly or in immunocompromised adults leads to shingles (zoster). Due to the aging population in the United States, new compounds against VZV infection must be developed and tested for anti-viral efficacy. They hypothesize that sattabacin, a natural related compounds product recently synthesized by Dr. Kenny Miller in the Chemistry Department at FLC and other structurally related compounds will have anti-viral activity against VZV infection in human fibroblast cells.

Dr. Melissa Knight-Maloney, Professor of Exercise Science

Phone: (970) 247-7632

B.A., 1989, Fort Lewis College
M.S., 1993, University of New Mexico
Ph.D., 1999, University of New Mexico

MARC Involvement:

Dr. Knight-Maloney is working with MARC scholar Jacob Montoya, who is an exercise science major. Their research is examining the effects of age and activity level on heart rate variability (HRV). HRV has previously been defined in the literature as the variations in cardiac rhythm as a response to Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). HRV can be measured using an ECG (Electrocardiogram) and calculated by determining the R to R interval. Research subject’s HRV will be measured using a 3 lead ECG and grouped according to age and hours spent exercising. Jacob anticipates that older, less active individuals will a have decreased HRV.

Dr. Sue Kraus, Professor of Psychology

Phone:(970) 247-7659

B.S., 1988, Penn State University
M.A., 1991, University of Colorado
Ph.D., 1993, University of Colorado

MARC Involvement:
Dr. Krause serves on the MARC Steering Committee in addition to her role as a MARC mentor. Dr. Kraus has developed a new line of research centering on historic trauma in Native American populations. This is a new area of research for Dr. Kraus, and all of the work has been done as a team with Noel Altaha, MARC Awardee (2011-2013). During the academic year of 2011-2012, they conducted an in-depth look at the existing literature and design and implemented a preliminary study of historic trauma for current Native American students at FLC. The effects of historical trauma in Native Americans have been researched previously, but only within older generations. Previous research found clear evidence that past generations of Native Americans suffer significant effects from their history of trauma stemming from the loss of land and culture. This study examined the effects of historical trauma in current Native American college students. Seventy Native American students from 28 tribes (56% identified Navajo as their primary tribal affiliation) were surveyed on psychological measures including depression, anxiety, resilience, coping abilities, compassion towards oneself and towards others, and historical trauma. Noel and Dr. Kraus found that the current generation of Native American college students continues to experience levels of historical trauma similar to older generations. Native American students who experience historical loss have higher levels of depression, anxiety, negative feelings towards oneself and lower levels of resilience. They found that historical trauma was not correlated with blood quantum, gender, SES, or drug and alcohol use. These findings suggest a need for more research on the effects and potential treatment to increase resilience and reduce the impact of historical trauma.

Dr. Erin Lehmer, Professor of Biology

Phone: (970) 247-7024

B.S., 1997, Fort Lewis College, Colorado
M.S., 2000, Colorado State University
Ph.D., 2004, Colorado State University

MARC Involvement:
Dr. Lehmer serves on the MARC Steering Committee and has mentored a MARC student. The objective of Dr. Lehmer’s research is to determine the role that immunocompetence plays in the susceptibility of wild mammals to simultaneous infection with multiple pathogens. Her research group is working on determining 1) the extent to which maintaining a chronic infection with Sin Nombre virus (SNV) affects the immune system function of wild deer mice and 2) the extent to which immunocompetence influences the susceptibility of deer mice to co-infection with the bacterial pathogen, Bartonella. They are conducting a field and lab-based study in which they compare the innate, inflammatory and virus-specific immunity of SNV-infected deer mice to their uninfected counterparts. Likewise, the immunity of deer mice who are co-infected with both Bartonella and SNV are being compared to individuals who are either uninfected or infected with only 1 of these pathogens. Results of this research will provide much needed information regarding the regulation of both bacterial and viral disease in wild animals, ultimately improving the ability to predict patterns of zoonotic disease transmission among animals and from animals to humans.

Dr. Sharon Sears, Professor of Psychology

Phone: (970) 247-7141

B.A., 1996, Smith College, Massachusetts
Ph.D., 2003, University of Kansas

MARC Involvement:
Dr. Sears and Kristina Bell, MARC trainee (2012-2014), worked together for two years on Health Psychology research. Projects included 1) Co-authoring a chapter in a Health Psychology textbook, 2) Collaborating with Mercy Regional Medical Center to conduct a study to evaluate an integrative care program aimed at managing pain and anxiety in patients undergoing surgery, and 3) Kristina taking the lead on a study of the effect of guided imagery on student cortisol and anxiety related to test-taking. This project was also in collaboration with Dr. Shere Byrd (Biology).

Dr. Les Sommerville, Professor  and Chair of Chemistry

Phone: 970-247-7370


B.S., 1980, Fort Lewis College, Colorado
Ph.D., 1985, University of Minnesota
NIH Postdoctoral Fellow, 1986-1988, University of Arizona
Faculty, 1988-1989, Bates College, Maine
Faculty, 1989-1991, St. Lawrence University, New York

MARC Involvement:

Dr. Sommerville is the Director of the MARC U*STAR Program at Fort Lewis College. He has been mentor to two MARC trainees since 2010 and a mentor to three pre-MARC students since 2013. The research projects in Dr. Sommerville’s lab are genome-directed studies done to understand glucose metabolism and enzymology in an organism, Acidobacterium capsulatum, which is prevalent in soil and aquatic environments around the globe. Students in Dr. Sommerville’s lab are currently working on NMR-based metabolic profiling with glucose as a sole carbon source, cloning key enzymes involved in glucose metabolism and developing cell lysis techniques to retrieve active enzymes from cell lysates. The long-term goal is to understand how these organisms acquire energy from the environment around them, regulate energy consumption and control glucose utilization for energy and biomass production.