Dr. Linda Hensel

Chair of Biology Department

Professor of Biology

Dr. Linda HenselEducation

  • B.S. in Microbiology and Immunology, University of Washington
  • M.S. Genetics, University of Wisconsin
  • Ph.D. Genetics, University of Wisconsin

Courses Taught

In Biology

Introductory Biology (BIO 212)
Knitting the Coral Reef (BIO 250)
Microbiology (BIO 303)
Genetics (BIO 310)
Biology of Sex and Gender (BIO 361)
Biology of Aging (BIO 390)
Molecular Genetics (BIO 410)
Immunology (BIO 482)
Development (BIO 450)

In Other Programs

Gendered Lives (WGS 180)
Fiber and Culture (WGS 385)
First Year Student Experience (UNV 101)
Upward Bound Summer Program (grades 9-12) Integrated Science


Molecular Genetics in the mustard plant, Arabidopsis, SNP variance in coding and non-coding regions of genomes

Research Interest

In the last four years my research has focused on two projects that allow students to perform authentic research in undergraduate classrooms in lieu of the traditional “cookbook” laboratory protocols that are pervasive throughout a standard curriculum. The creation of these projects required that my undergraduate research team develop and beta test protocols for the classroom, create a database for classroom results, and expand on the findings of interest to produce publishable results.

One project is called the BOMM (an integrated biology, organic chemistry, and mathematical modeling experience). The goal of the project is to produce novel lead compounds that inhibit biofilm formation by competitively inhibiting the molecular signals received during quorum sensing. Small organic molecules are secreted by bacteria and when a certain density of bacteria (and signaling molecules) is reached, the quorum is sensed, and genes that produce virulence factors are expressed. One of those virulence factors is biofilms. Biofilms are matrices of secreted organic polymers that protect bacteria from antibiotics, allow them to attach to substrates like catheters, etc. Most antibiotics target general aspects of bacterial cells, such as the cell wall or the prokaryotic ribosome. Since they have general targets, these antibiotics can harm the millions of normal flora that inhabit our bodies in commensal or mutualistic relationships. Thus, a new wave of antibiotics that are specific for virulence factor inhibition would be beneficial in health care. This project has students synthesizing novel lead compounds in the organic chemistry portion of the course and testing the efficacy of these compounds in the biology portion of the course. Thus far, we have offered the course for two consecutive years and have tested over 250 novel lead compounds. We have found over a dozen candidates of interest. The candidate drugs and then resynthesized in larger and purer quantities for confirmation and additional tests. We have learned that a majority of our compounds of interest that inhibit biofilm formation in one species, enhance biofilm formation in a second (and maybe third) species.

The second project that allows students to perform authentic research in an undergraduate classroom setting is designed for an upper division Genetics course. The students use ultraviolet light to induce topological changes in supercoiled plasmid DNA and assess the rates of transformation in recA+ and recA- species. Initial results indicate relaxed plasmid DNA transforms at a higher rate than either supercoiled or linear plasmid DNA in a recA- species of E. coli.

SoTL research

Collaborative efforts occurred from my work in the Women and Gender Studies (WGS) Program. First, I developed and regularized the BIO 361—Biology of Sex and Gender course after offering the WGS introductory course. The course covers three domains: the evolution of meiosis (sex) and sexual bodies, the development of the female-intersexual-male body (the continuum), and sexual behavior in animals (the non-reproductive pervasive behavior). Large sections of these domains are briefly covered, if at all, in core Biology texts, and students are amazed that these topics have not become part of the core. Students have dubbed the subtitle for this course as “Everything you want to know about biological sex that is not in your regular textbooks.” I use three to five texts and supplemental articles for this course, and bias is still evident in much of these works. My student have continued to ask me to produce a textbook for this course so others can use it, because they deem this course as one of the most important courses in their undergraduate career. The textbook for this course is a work in progress.

My WGS work has also resulted in a collaborative effort with two other colleagues to create a WGS 385—Fiber and Culture. We have added a laboratory component that includes raising silk works, dying fiber, spinning, weaving, and knitting. The course has been fully enrolled and addresses the student learning outcomes for the Creative Expressions block in our General Education program. So, we have been asked to regularize the course and include the offering in Gen. Ed., and a curriculum proposal has been submitted. The originality of this course has resulted in a publication submitted to The Feminist Teacher.

My Research Philosophy encompasses a wide array of projects, from working with undergraduates in a research setting to creating authentic research experiences in a classroom setting. My passion for science and for teaching have resulted in me placing student learning at the forefront with an overarching goal of instilling a passion for learning about science within my students.

Recent Publications

Abstracts (undergraduates in bold)

  • Goode, David, Christina Bure, Shawn Canavan, and Linda Hensel. (2016) “Synthesis and Efficacy Testing of Novel Anti-Biofilm Lead Compounds—Authentic Research in an Undergraduate Classroom.” Presented at the annual meeting of the Association of Southeastern Biologists, Concord, NC.
  • Patel, Priyancka, Kaitlyn Mcbride, and Linda Hensel. (2016) UV-induced DNA Topology Affects Transformation Frequency in E. coli recA- and recA+ Strains—Authentic Research in a Junior-level Genetics Course. Presented at the annual meeting of the Association of Southeastern Biologists, Concord, N.C.
  • Hensel, Linda and Tanya Sharon (2008) “An Interdisciplinary Model of General Science Education” presented at the AACU Engaging Science, Advancing Learning: General Education, Majors, and the New Global Century Nov 6-8, Providence, RI.
  • Salman, Emily and L. Hensel (2005). Reverse Genetics Made Available to Undergraduates: TILLING the Det-2 Gene. Presented at CURs Posters on the Hill. Washington, DC.
  • Yawn, Gary and L. Hensel (2004). A Novel Approach to Undergraduate Research: TILLING the AtCys Gene. Presented at CURs Posters on the Hill. Washington, DC.
  • Yawn, Gary and L. Hensel (2004). A Novel Reverse Genetic Approach to Undergraduate Research: TILLING the AtCys Gene. Georgia Journal of Science 62:35.
  • McIlwain, Hope, J. Burtner, F. Dane and L. Hensel. (2002) A comparison of Mathematics Education Outcome for Elementary-school girls in two environments: A Single-sex Science Focused Experience and a Co-educational Engineering-focused Experience. Presented at the AAAS Annual Meeting, Boston, MA.
  • Chipley, John , Natalie Moss, and L. L. Hensel (2000) Analysis of Arabidopsis thaliana Cytokinin Levels in Transgenic and Mutant Proliferous Lines. Georgia Journal of Science 58:45.
  • Bleecker, T., LaChiana Zeigler, Aric Aldridge, and L. Hensel-Burke (1995). Proliferous, an Arabidopsis Mutant that lacks the Global Arrest of Inflorescence Meristems. Supplement to Plant Physiology 108:81.

Arabidopsis Publications

  • Hensel, L.L., M. Nelson, T. Richmond, and A.B. Bleecker (1994). The Fate of Inflorescence Meristems is Controlled by Developing Fruits in Arabidopsis. Plant Physiol. 106:863-876.
  • Hensel, L.L., V. Grbic, D.B. Baumgarten, and A.B. Bleecker. (1993). Developmental and age-related processes that influence the longevity and senescence of photosynthetic tissues in Arabidopsis. Plant Cell 5:553-564.
  • Hensel, L.L. and A.B. Bleecker (1993). Arabidopsis as a model system for analysis of leaf senescence and inflorescence-meristem longevity. 1992 “Cellular Communication in Plants–proceedings from the 21st Steenbock Symposium (Plenum Publishing Corporation: New York), pp. 123-130.

Synergistic Activities

  • 2000 — Hendricks Teaching Development Grant ($5,400) obtained to coordinate weekend off-campus Chemistry & Biology Retreat in order to develop a Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Major. In 2002 the program was in the Catalog, and we now have over 50 BMB majors.
  • 1999-2001 (2009) — STEM training for minority K-12 teachers and students in Mercer MESSAGE and Mercer TECH —Summer Science, Mathematics, and Engineering camps for middle-school minority children from low-income neighborhoods with Title I schools. Initiated collaborations with Engineering and Mathematics faculty members to obtain external funding for this 3-year program. Hired local teachers for participation and assessment. Trained high school and college students to mentor the campers (educating the mentors concurrently). Continued relationships with community schools for science days on the college campus, college students bringing science activities to the community schools, etc. until 2009.
  • 1997 participant in development of new interdisciplinary course required of all students titled SCI 105 — Scientific Inquiry; 2003-2007 Director, Scientific Inquiry Program; Obtained internal funding for summer workshops to develop case studies from computer science, chemistry, biology, sociology, psychology, and mathematics faculty members; updated faculty web page to house the developed curriculum. Small group case-based learning pedagogy.
  • 2003, 2006, 2012 two-year terms Women and Gender Studies (WGS) Board. Advises the WGS program. Chaired the Assessment subcommittee in 1997 when the committee devised a portfolio assessment tool for WGS courses. Chaired the WGS 180 Pedagogy subcommittee in 1997-98 when we continued development of the faculty that teach the introductory general education course. Board member when we added the WGS major to the curriculum. The collaboration with WGS faculty members resulted in the development and regularization of BIO/WGS 361 — Biology of Sex and Gender — a cross-listed course. Moreover, biology has regular space in the Introductory WGS course.
    Produce and continue to modify Genetics laboratory manual for internal use each academic year. Have contributed to the internally produced laboratory manuals for the Departments Introductory Biology courses.


Contact Dr. Linda Hensel

(478) 301-2707