Faculty Profiles

Miranda Armour-Chelu, Assistant Professor, Ph.D., London University, United Kingdom, 1993.
Phone: (202) 806-6026, email: marmour-chelu@howard.edu

My research interests include systematics, ecomorphology, taphonomy and paleoecology of faunal assemblages dating from the middle Miocene to Recent. I have undertaken fieldwork in Hungary, Croatia, Jamaica, England and Abu Dhabi excavating fossil equids, bovids, proboscideans amongst other groups. My current research projects include Evolution of Central Paratethys (Hungary and Croatia) Miocene Vertebrate Communities, Systematics, Taphonomy and Paleoecology of African Equids (Laetoli, Olduvai, Tanzania and Sahabi, Libya). Publications

Mohammed Ashraf Aziz, Professor, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1974.
Phone: (202) 806-9879, email: maziz@howard.edu

I am conducting research in 3 distinct yet related areas: (i) gross-and developmental anomalies associated with human trisomy (TS 21; 18; 13) syndromes; (ii) gross-and-developmental and evolutionary aspects of human and non-human primate oto-mandibular structures, especially the lateral pterygoid, the temporo-mandibular joint and the mandibular nerve, and (iii) the relative value of human-and cyber-cadaver in the Health Sciences education. Publications

James H. Baker, Associate Professor, Ph.D., University of Maryland, 1978.
Phone: (202) 806-5557, email: jbaker@howard.edu

Despite the extensive literature describing the neuropathy associated with diabetes, only limited information describes changes in the associated muscle. The broad long-term objective of this research will be to provide details of the consequences of certain traumatic effects to muscles of diabetics and the extent and rate of recovery that the muscles undergo. The results of these experiments will provide clinicians with the information necessary to better choose a course of treatment for their diabetic patients. Publications

Raymond L. Bernor, Professor, Ph.D. University of California at Los Angeles, 1978.
Phone: (202) 806-4316, email: rbernor@comcast.net

My research interests since 1973 have been on the evolution of Eurasian and African Neogene and Quaternary mammal faunas. I have conducted fieldwork throughout Eurasia and Africa, but the last 15 years fieldwork has been principally in Central Europe, working on Middle and Late Miocene horizons of Germany (Hoewenegg, Germany), Hungary (Rudabanya, Baltavar and many other localities) and Croatia (broad survey of several Early and Late Miocene vertebrate localities; see attached PPT presentation). I have specialized in the systematics, functional anatomy, biogeographic and paleoecological reconstructions of whole mammal faunas, with particular interests in fossil equids, suids and hominoids. I am a member of the Steering Committee and leader of the Large Mammal working group of the Neogene Old World (NOW) Database directed by Professor Mikael Fortelius, Helsinki, Finland (http://www.helsinki.fi/science/now/). I am furthermore a member of the Revealing Human Origins Initiative Co-Directed by Professors F. Clark Howell and Tim White (University of California, Berkeley). Within this project I am involved in coordinating the Perissodactyl Research Group, I am a member of the Suid Research Group, and Co-Coordinator of the Program Informatics group (with John Damuth; www.rhoi.org). My particular research interests within the RHOI are the reconstruction of equid and suid lineages within Africa, their paleoecologic contexts, and their phylogenetic and biogeographic relationships to Eurasian lineages. I am also interested in the biogeographic origin and paleoecologic context of the African ape-human clade. My current research is funded by the National Science Foundation and LSB Leakey Foundation. Past research has also been supported by the National Geographic Society, NATO, the American-Hungarian Fund and the Smithsonian Institution. My current paleontological field projects are at the late Miocene (10.3 m.y.) site of Hoewenegg (Hegau, Germany), and Lucane, Croatia. Publications

Antonei Csoka, Assistant Professor, Ph.D.,

Dr. Csoka received his B.S. in Genetics from the University of Newcastle, U.K., his M.Sc. in Molecular Pathology and Toxicology from the University of Leicester, U.K., and his Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Biology from the University of Debrecen, Hungary. He has performed postdoctoral research at the University of California, San Francisco, where he cloned the human hyaluronidase genes, which are involved in fertilization, embryonic development, and cancer. As a postdoctoral research associate at Brown University, Dr. Csoka was instrumental in the identification of the gene that causes Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome (progeria), a disease with many features of “accelerated aging.” It is hoped that the identification of the gene for progeria will provide insights into the mechanisms of normal aging.  As an assistant Professor in the Department of Anatomy at Howard University, Dr. Csoka is developing animal models of progeria, studying the role of nuclear lamina dysfunction in human aging, and investigating the potential of induced pluripotent stem cells, cellular reprogramming and epigenetic rejuvenation for the treatment of age-related diseases.

Rui Diogo, Assistant Professor, Ph.D., University of Liege, Belgium, 2003 & George Washington University, 2011.

Phone: (202) 651-0439, email: rui.diogo@howard.edu

I am an Advisory Board Member of the Journal "Progress in Fish Research" (Gwalior, India), a Consortium Member of the "Timetree" project (book + website: www.timetree.org), an Editorial Board Member of the "Open Anatomy Journal", and a Member of the American Association of Anatomists.

My research is mainly focused on:

  • Primate Comparative Anatomy
  • Primate Phylogeny and Evolution
  • Chordate Comparative Anatomy
  • Chordate Phylogeny and Evolution
  • Chordate Developmental Biology
  • Chordate Functional Morphology
  • Philosophy, History and Biases of Science

For more details about my research interests, my CV, my lab, and my publications, please see: ruidiogolab.com. Publications

Daryl P. Domning, Professor, Ph.D, University of California, Berkeley, 1975.
Phone: (202) 806-6026, email: ddomning@howard.edu

My research interests include the morphology, systematics, phylogenetic history, and paleoecology of fossil and living marine mammals, particularly of the orders Sirenia and Desmostylia. These groups comprise the only herbivorous marine mammals; they have a worldwide fossil record extending throughout the last 50 million years. Since 1994 I have led an international field project, funded by the National Geographic Society, which has been excavating the world's oldest known skeletons of fossil sirenians at a site in western Jamaica. These primitive, amphibious seacows (see photo) were still four-legged animals, and are dramatic evolutionary "missing links" between fully terrestrial mammals and the modern, fully aquatic manatees and dugongs. Investigations completed to date include: myology and functional anatomy of dugongs and manatees; interspecific and intraspecific morphological variation in manatees; evolutionary history of sirenians and desmostylians in the northern and eastern Pacific Ocean; a new quadrupedal, amphibious seacow from the Eocene of Jamaica; Eocene sirenians of the southeastern U.S.A.; Early Miocene sirenians of Austria; Mio-Pliocene sirenians of Italy, Libya, and France; and functional anatomy of a walrus-like fossil cetacean from Peru. Recent paleontological field projects have been located in Austria, France, and Jamaica. Ongoing research includes: systematics and evolution of fossil sirenians of the West Atlantic and Caribbean; cladistic analysis of the Sirenia; and bibliography of the Sirenia and Desmostylia. Teaching is in the area of gross and comparative anatomy and evolutionary biology. Public service: I have long been active in Florida manatee conservation efforts, and am presently secretary of the Board of Directors of the Save the Manatee Club and scientific advisor to Sirenian International, Inc. I founded the twice-yearly newsletter Sirenews for the international sirenian research and conservation community, and served as its editor from 1984 to 2005. I am also active in science-religion dialogues relating to evolution and creationism. Publications

Edwin Gilland, Associate Professor, Ph.D.
Phone: (774) 521-9229, email: egilland@howard.edu Publications

Marjorie Gondre-Lewis, Assistant Professor, Ph.D., Albert-Einstein College of Medicine, 2002.
Phone: (202) 806-5274, email: mgondre-lewis@howard.edu

The laboratory’s focus is to understand cellular and molecular mechanisms at play during both normal and abnormal development of the central nervous system. The cerebral cortex, for example, displays exquisitely well-coordinated precision in establishing its layers and synaptic contacts during a defined developmental period. Many genetic defects or exposure to environmental toxins can disrupt this normal developmental programme, leading to congenital malformations and cognitive disorders that range from an undetectable or mild inability to learn to severe debilitating mental retardation. At the cellular level, neurons and other cells manifest these defects in the form of abnormal migration, differentiation, synaptogenesis, and/or subcellular trafficking. Our goal is to uncover mechanistic detail from genetic brain diseases like Niemann-Pick disease type C or Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome, and from environmental influences such as prenatal nicotine exposure to decipher important players during the development of the CNS. The research has far reaching implications in not only elucidating normal mechanisms of development, but also of other developmental neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders such as Schizophrenia or Alzheimer’s disease.

We are also interested in genetic control of neuroendocrine secretory function in normal and several developmental disease models. The methodologies used to address these questions are cellular, biochemical, and molecular in nature, with an emphasis on cellular and molecular imaging. Publications

Thomas Heinbockel, Associate Professor, Ph.D.,
University of Arizona, 1997.
Phone: (202) 806-9873, email: theinbockel@howard.edu

Research in my lab is aimed at elucidating organizational principles of neural systems in the brain using electrophysiological and anatomical methods. In particular, we are interested in the functional organization of the limbic and olfactory system.

In the limbic system our research activities have been centered on a subcortical structure of the vertebrate brain, the amygdala, a key brain site for emotion, fear, learning and memory. The amygdala is essential for developing an inner view of the outside sensory world and is thought to be one of the key structures for the interpretation of sensory information associated with motivation and emotion. The main goal of this line of work is to reveal functions of the amygdala at the cellular and network level and to integrate this knowledge into the functioning of higher order brain systems. Research on the amygdala includes topics such as synaptic transmission, neuromodulation, synaptic plasticity as well mechanisms for generating rhythmic and epileptiform activity.


Olfaction is a fundamental sensory modality and provides us with some of our emotionally most stimulating and lasting memories, yet many of the mysteries of this modality, from the molecular to the systems level, still remain unknown. In addition, the olfactory pathway is unique in sending sensory information directly to the cortex and areas involved in emotion and memory (amygdala, limbic areas), and bypassing the thalamus as an intermediary step. In a rodent olfactory bulb slice preparation my lab uses patch clamp electrophysiology and imaging techniques to characterize biophysical, cellular and synaptic properties of neurons. The olfactory bulb is the first central relay station for olfactory information conveyed from the nasal epithelium by olfactory receptor neurons. The olfactory bulb contains output neurons (mitral and tufted cells) that transmit olfactory information to higher order olfactory structures and to other brain systems. The relay from the nose to mitral and tufted cells is strongly regulated by local intrabulbar circuitry, including inhibitory granule cells, and by centrifugal inputs to the olfactory bulb from other parts of the brain. Questions that we address include: How do intrinsic and synaptic neuronal properties relate to information coding and neural network function of this system? What is the functional role of different neurotransmitter receptors (ionotropic and metabotropic) on these cell types? How do the various neuromodulator systems within the olfactory bulb and from centrifugal fibers shape the response to olfactory nerve input, as well as synaptic output to higher brain centers? My research on both the olfactory and limbic system has been directed at understanding mechanisms of information processing that form the basis of persistent functional changes in these systems and their relation to neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders. Publications

S. Taseer Hussain, Professor, Ph.D., State University of Utrecht, 1969.
Phone: (202) 806-6694, email: shussain@howard.edu

Dr. Hussain’s research interests are in the areas of evolutionary biology, environment, biodiversity, and climate change and human health. He has worked with the taxonomy, evolutionary and functional anatomy of fossil equids, rodents, primates and cetaceans. More recently, Dr. Hussain and his colleagues have been investigating morphological aspects of cetacean origins and evolution. The new fossils that they have found clearly show that modern cetaceans did not suddenly appear full-blown, without intermediate forms. They originated from four –legged land mammals. The fossil material that they have found provides evidence for evolution in locomotion, hearing and marine water ingestion in whales.

Dr. Hussain and his colleagues are also studying the health effects of climate change on human populations. They have found that with climate change, not only is the geographical distribution of disease altered, but risk factors shift as determinants of disease within human populations. They have further established that the incidence of both infectious and chronic diseases increases with severity in climate conditions. Publications

Irina A. Koretsky, Associate Professor, PhD., Howard University, 1999.
Phone: (202) 986-7911, email: ikoret123@aol.com

Dr. Irina A. Koretsky is an internationally-known paleobiologist and authority on the fossil record of the mammalian Family Phocidae (true seals). In a research career extending back more than twenty-five years, including extensive field and museum studies in the former Soviet Union, eastern and western Europe, and most recently eastern North America, she has established herself as the world’s leading expert on the fossil seals of the Paratethyan (Eurasia), Mediterranean, and North Atlantic regions. Her peer-reviewed publications on this topic include two major monographs published or in press.

Dr. Koretsky’s research involves anatomy, physiology, and functional morphology, as well as systematic analysis of the true seals (Mammalia; Carnivora; Phocidae). She is pursuing two lines of research: (1) functional morphology, with emphasis on evolutionary and geographic origin of the seals; (2) the question of monophyletic versus diphyletic origin of pinnipeds.

Most of her research effort is devoted to biomechanical and ecological interpretations of morphological characters of fossil seals. Morphological interpretation can provide a foundation for paleoecological reconstructions. Conversely, information on the environment in which early seals evolved is very important for pinniped systematics and classification.

In addition to her current projects describing new fossil seals from the U.S. and Europe, Dr. Koretsky (with Dr. L. G. Barnes of Los Angeles) is working on a new phylogenetic analysis addressing the issue of pinniped diphyly. This is the single most controversial issue in the entire realm of mammalian interordinal relationships.

For many years it was generally accepted that the pinnipeds are not a natural taxonomic group, but rather two groups evolved independently from two different groups of aquatic carnivores. More recently, computer-assisted cladistic analyses led some investigators to conclude that the pinnipeds have a single land carnivore ancestor. These studies have sparked much new research, and the issue of pinniped monophyly or diphyly is currently much debated. Dr. Koretsky’s work, which supports the more traditional concept of pinniped diphyly, is likely to overturn the currently popular idea that pinnipeds are monophyletic. Publications

Donald Orlic, Professor, Ph.D.,
Phone: (202) 322-9922, email: donald.orlic@howard.edu

Donald Rigamonti, Professor, Ph.D.
Phone: (202) 865-0001, email: drigamonti@howard.edu

Marjorie D. Shaw, Assistant Professor, Ph.D.
Phone: (202) 806-9607, email: mdshaw@howard.edu

Blair H. Turner, Professor, Ph.D., University of Florida, 1969.
Phone: (202) 806-9876, email: blairturner1@mac.com

One of the most ancient areas of the brain phylogenetically is the amygdala, a structure buried deep in the temporal lobe. The amount of information concerning its function suggests that it is responsible for instinctual behaviors such as fear, aggression, and sex. Our laboratory has employed a number of neuroanatomical staining methods in an experimental design that has shown that the highest, most recently evolved part of the brain, the cerebral cortex, establishes anatomical connections with the amygdala and therefore probably assumes functional control over it. Publications

James Steven Wilson, Associate Professor, Ph.D., Medical College of Virginia, 1978.
Phone: (202) 806-6559, email: jwilson@howard.edu

My laboratory is studying the causes and possible cures of Parkinson's disease, a major neurological disorder affecting primarily the elderly. Recently, a major advancement was made in this field with the discovery of 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP), which produces a Parkinsonian-like syndrome when injected into certain laboratory animals. Using this selective neurotoxin, we are studying at the light and electronmicroscopic levels the spatio-temporal process of neural degeneration. These studies have provided important insights into the organization of the nigrostriatal system (the area damaged in idiopathic and MPTP-induced Parkinson's disease) and the mechanism of MPTP's selective toxicity. We are also studying the physiological effects of MPTP with the hopes of understanding the function of the nigrostriatal system and its neurotransmitter, dopamine, in normal and pathological brains.