Dr. Steven Fenster

Dr. Steven Fenster
Interim Dean, Professor of Biology, & NIH U-RISE Program Director


  • Molecular neurobiology
  • Neural cell biology
  • Molecular genetics


  • Ph.D., Cell Biology, University of Alabama-Birmingham, 2000
  • Bachelor of Arts, Biology, University of California-San Diego, 1991


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About Dr. Steve Fenster

Dr. Fenster joined the college in 2013. His research is focused on characterizing the function of proteins found in synapses, which are communicating junctions between cells in the brain called neurons. With a background in molecular genetics, Dr. Fenster collaborates with researchers from other disciplines as well as students on their thesis projects. In 2015, Dr. Fenster and FLC biology colleague Erin Lehmer studied the spread of fungal diseases that affect bat populations around the world, work funded partially by the Colorado Division of Wildlife. He also studies the Piccolo protein, which functions as a key organizational component of synapses in the vertebrate nervous system, and the impact that inherited changes in this gene may have on human brain development. Dr. Fenster has advised Fort Lewis student researchers under the National Science Foundation Four Corners STEM Success (FOCUSS) program. He is the Faculty-in-Residence at Animas Hall, a program that builds the student-teacher relationship outside the classroom and fosters dialogue about a broad range of topics, including education, social responsibility, civic engagement and personal growth.

Dr. Fenster is the recipient of the New Faculty Teaching Award (2015) and a senator on the FLC Faculty Senate. He is a member of various professional associations, including the American Society for Cell Biology and the Society for Neuroscience. 

In the Media

Dr. Fenster was interviewed by The Durango Herald for an article titled "State lawmakers say marijuana is not responsible for opioid crisis", February 25, 2017.

Selected Publications and Presentations

“Real-Time PCR” in Current Protocols in Essential Laboratory Techniques, John Wiley & Sons, 2015 (updated online edition, prior editions 2008 and 2012)

“DNA Barcoding Identification of the Fungal Flora of the Migratory Bat Species Tadarida Brasiliensis in Colorado,” American Society for Microbiology Rocky Mountain Regional Meeting, 2015

“Alternative Splicing of the Piccolo Gene is Conserved Between Mice and Zebrafish,” American Society for Cell Biology, 2014

“Mexican Free-Tailed Bats: A Possible Transmission Vector for White-Nose Syndrome?” Society for Advancement of Hispanics/Chicanos and Native Americans in Science, 2014

“The role of CD4-dependent signaling in interleukin--‐16 induced c-Fos expression and facilitation of neurite outgrowth in cerebellar granule neurons,” Neuroscience Letters, 2010


Taking a close look at Mexican free-tailed bats

White nose syndrome is a disease that threatens the future of many bat species nationwide.  Which is why Fort Lewis College Biology professors Steve Fenster and Erin Lehmer are spending the month of June at an abandoned mine in the San Luis Valley. Read more and view video

Dr. Fenster Researches the Neuronal Function of the Piccolo Gene

Dr. Steven Fenster of the Department of Biology is researching the importance of Piccolo in brain development. Piccolo is a large multi-domain protein that functions as a key organizational component of presynaptic terminals in the vertebrate nervous system.

About the Research

Recent studies have revealed that inherited changes in the DNA coding sequence for the human Piccolo gene can lead to a variety of neurological disorders including predisposition to major depressive disorders, and in more severe cases, abnormal brain development.

Dr. Fenster Explains the Project

“Research on Piccolo and related genes will provide an important framework for neuroscientists,” says Dr. Fenster. “Scientists can uncover the molecular mechanism involved in normal neurodevelopment and in maintenance of complex neural networks in the human brain.”