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RISE Mentors


Arezue Bouroujerdi, PHD
Professor /Department of Chemistry
Research Interest:

Age related Declines in Drosophila melanogaster

My research involves Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR)-based metabolomics. My work is focused on the study of the effects of various stressors on metabolism. As the detector, NMR spectroscopy provides “metabolic profiles” for the various metabolic conditions. Statistical analysis treatments are utilized for further analysis of the NMR data.

Recent Publications/Articles:


Omar Bagasra, MD, Ph.D.
Professor of Biology and Director, South Carolina Center for Biotechnology


Research Interests:
Effects of Environment in Development of Autism
Prostate and Breast Cancers: Racial and cultural disparity
MicroRNA based therapies for Ebola, HIV-1, and Zika virus
Zika virus and microcephaly: What is causing small brain in the infected mothers’ newborns? Forensic Sciences: Field drug testing, Forensic DNA fingerprinting
Recent Articles/Publications:
Inhibition of Ebola Virus by Anti-Ebola miRNAs in silico.
Infectivity of Immature Neurons to Zika Virus: A Link to Congenital Zika Syndrome.
An oncolytic parasite to treat polycythemia vera.
Mentoring Strategies and Outcomes of Two Federally Funded Cancer Research Training Programs for Underrepresented Students in the Biomedical Sciences.
Environmental factors in the development of autism spectrum disorders.


Anisah Bagasra, PhD
Interim Director of Online Education and an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Claflin University.

I teach a wide-range of psychology courses and mentors students on undergraduate research projects. I work in the area of mental health disparities, focusing on perception of mental illness and barriers to help-seeking. My research interests include mental health issues affecting religious and ethnic minorities in the United States, acculturation issues, and cross-cultural and interfaith dialogue. Much of my research has been conducted in the Muslim American and African American faith communities in the South. I helped to establish Claflin’s Psychology Major in 2013 and developed and taught the first fully-online courses at the University. As Interim Director of Online Education, I have worked to launch two fully online undergraduate and two fully online master degree programs to serve the needs of South Carolina residents.



Jianguo Chen, PHD
Associate Professor of Biology & Director of the Genomics & Sequencing Lab

Research Interest:

DNA Mutation Detection Technology

My current research interests are in the following areas: developing single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) application for human identification; studying roles of two unique spliced Peromycus genes in hybrid dysgenesis and speciation; developing DNA technology for detection of multiplex Cystic Fibrosis detection; and developing duo-enzyme DNA detection system for low allele frequency mutations.


Kamal Chowdhury, PHD
Associate Professor of Biology

Research Interest:

Engineering Candidate Vaccine Antigens in Plant Cloroplasts to Confer Immunity against Malaria

I have lead and teach plant biotechnology program and conduct research projects in areas of plant-made-pharmaceuticals and genetically engineered product development (stress-tolerant sugarcane) and biofuel from biomass. I supervise research of a postdoc, graduate and undergraduate research. Initiated a new research project “watermelon metabolomics” to develop biomarkers against fungal, bacterial and nematode resistance. This is a collaboration a Claflin Biochemist and pathologists and molecular biologist at USDA, Charleston, SC.



Samina N. Assanie-Shivji, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Biology
Claflin University Research Initiatives for Scientific Enhancement (RISE)
National Institutes of Health/National Institute of General Medical Sciences

Research Interest:

Role of MicroRNAs in Viral Infections

My lab research focuses on the role of microRNAs (miRNAs) in global health problems due to Hepatitis C Virus (HCV), Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and Influenza A Virus (H1N1 and H3N2), and identifying miRNAs that could be used as potential candidates for treatment of these infection.

Therapeutic Human miRNAs for Use as Anti-Viral Drugs for Influenza A Infection
Effect of Differentially Expressed MicroRNAs 602 and 323-5p on Hepatitis
C Virus Genotype 1b Viral Load in Infected Liver Cells
Seroprevalence of Cp-infection of Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C Genotypes among Adult Female Population of Karachi, Pakistan


Randall Harris, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Biology

Research Interests:

Host antimicrobial peptide and pathogen interactions, biofilm formation, heavy metal bioremediation

My research focuses on host antimicrobial peptide and pathogen interactions, biofilm formation, and heavy metal bioremediation. My laboratory use both forward and reverse genetics to identify bacterial genes involved in these processes and to elucidate gene function.




Charles Holman, PHD
Assistant Professor of Biology

Research Interest:
Development of Mathematical Models and Constructs of Biological Defense and Infection






Camelia-Maria Kantor, PhD
Assistant Professor Geography

Research Interest:

Human Geography and Earth Sciences, Geospatial Technologies, Geospatial Intelligence, Public Health.

Research interests:

Geospatial technologies in the water-food-energy nexus; holistic policy and intervention frameworks in sustainable regional and community planning & development (in mining areas and/or other areas with large percentage of socio-economically disadvantaged populations); Geography and Food Allergies.

My research is highly interdisciplinary, having a hybrid STEM/social sciences approach coupled with the use of geospatial technologies. I use a wide range of modern mapping and analysis tools (GPS, GIS, Internet Mapping Technologies, Remote Sensing) to detect geographic patterns across a range of environmental, health, and agricultural issues and show how these technologies can be used to identify at risk populations located in formal regions and improve their livelihood. The study of food allergies within a geographic context is another one of my research passions.

Recent Articles/Publications:


Mihail Kantor, PHD
Post-Doctoral Fellow/Research Assistant
Department of Biology

Research Interest:

Lactose Intolerance and Bone health in African Americans

As a Research Assistant Professor I’m involved in several projects involving watermelon genetics and genomic research. In addition to my research I also taught Botany, Ecology, General Biology, Introduction to Plant Science, Introduction to Biotechnology, and Soils.


Recent Articles/Publications:



Gloria S. McCutcheon, PhD
Professor of Biology
Principal Investigator and Director
Claflin University Research Initiatives for Scientific Enhancement (RISE)
National Institutes of Health/National Institute of General Medical Sciences

Research Interest:
Public Health, Entomology, Infectious Diseases
My research interests are at the intersection of public health and agriculture, with a focus on chronic and infectious diseases and entomology. In collaboration with the Agricultural Research Service, I conduct research to identify compounds responsible for insect resistance in horticultural crops to ultimately decrease the amount of chemical pesticides in the environment. I am also interested in increasing awareness of health disparities, focusing on human papillomavirus and obesity as they relate to infectious and chronic diseases.

Recent Articles/Publications:
The Evaluation of the Environmental Quality in Romania


Nicholas Panasik, PHD

Associate Professor of Biology

The a/b barrel (TIM) enzyme fold is the largest family of protein folds (representing at least 10% of all known protein structures) and has the widest range of enzyme functions. My research focuses on elucidating the structural basis for folding specificity and thermodynamic stability in this class of enzymes and the future application of those principles in protein design. My past work using directed evolution techniques and crystallographic analysis has led to the proposal of specific determinants of protein stability in this class of enzymes. In my current research, I use random PCR mutagenesis to create libraries of genetic variants for low or high temperature adapted beta-galactosidases (for treatment of lactose intolerance), cellulases (bio fuel related enzymes), and bacterial luciferases (temperature biosensors) and study the effect of such mutations on protein structure. Using ab initio Monte Carlo simulations, estimations of the contribution of steric exclusion to main chain and side chain entropy are made that lead to identification of new classes of substitutions and novel models of protein thermostabilization through entropy.

Recent Articles/Publications:



Derrick Swinton, PHD
Chair, Department of Chemistry
Dr. Swinton received his undergraduate degree in Chemistry from Lincoln University and his Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry from the University of Delaware.  Major research focus is multidisciplinary and integrates the use of core analytical techniques to understand the differential susceptibility to diseases amongst different ethnic groups. Dr. Swinton’s research attempts to identify clinically important biomarkers, specifically biomarkers related to smoking-related cancers and COPD. Dr. Swinton also uses spectroscopic techniques to understand and model molecular interfacial dynamics. As a higher education professional with fifteen years of experience, Dr. Swinton is recognized as a change agent for the advancement of science, research, education, and broadening STEM participation. He has successfully contributed to the domestic and global scholarly community by advancing the knowledge base in Analytical Chemistry and related disciplines. Additionally, Dr. Swinton has developed multi-faceted initiatives totaling more than $10 million to create pathways for participation in the STEM enterprise for underprepared and underrepresented minority students. He has created opportunities for students to participate in undergraduate research experiences, and attend graduate and professional schools by securing research funding, establishing collaborations with academic and governmental institutions and serving as an academic and career advisor.


Verlie G. Tisdale, PHD
Dean- School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics
Advisory Mentor

I am an experienced educator, currently serving as the Dean in the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at Claflin University. I have had a multiplicity of experiences to include service to the community, state and nation. I have served as a classroom teacher, a mentor for both undergraduate and graduate students, in leadership positions in civic organizations as an Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD)
External Advisor for the Medical University of South Carolina, Chair of the Charter School Board and as PI of grants.



Deidra J. Morrison, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Computer Science, Claflin University


Research Interest:
Social Informatics,
Cyber Security,
Human Centered Computing,
Sociolinguistic characteristics of Social Engineering Attack Campaigns,
Relationship maintenance strategies using digital spaces,
Data analysis of technology-assisted experiential learning,
Information Visualization for use in decision task support

Recent Publications/Articles:
1. Thompson, M. P., & Morrison, D. J. (2013). Prospective Predictors of Technology-Based Sexual Coercion by College Males. Psychology of Violence, 3(3), 233–246. http://doi.org/10.1037/a0030904
2. Gilbert, J.E., Martin, A.M., Eugene, W., Alnizami, H., Moses, W. & Morrison, D. (2010) Driving Transportation Policy through Technological Innovation. ACM Interactions, 17, 4, pp. 42-48.
3. Morrison, D., Alnizami, H., Dawkins, S., Eugene, W., Martin, A., Moses, W. & Gilbert, J.E. (2010) Supporting License Plate Queries for First Responders Using the VoiceLETS System. ACM Southeast Conference, Oxford, MS, April 15-17, 2010.
4. Rankin, Y. A., Morrison, D., McNeal, M., Gooch, B., and Shute, M. W. (2009). Time will tell: in‐game social interactions that facilitate second language acquisition. In Proceedings of the 4th international Conference on Foundations of Digital Games (Orlando, Florida, April 26-30, 2009). FDG ’09. ACM, New York, NY, 161-168.
5. Morrison, D., Gooch, B. (2007). ConnectDots: Visualizing Social Network Interaction for Improved Social Decision Making. In Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction: Online Communities and Social Computing, pp. 134-140, 2007


Dr. Tantiana Burns

Assistant Professor of Environmental Science

Research Interest:
Environmental toxicology, Mycotoxins, Bioremediation

My research interests are in environmental toxicology with an emphasis in mycotoxins and bioremediation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons by natural systems (fungal and algal)

Recent Articles/Publications:
1. Burns TD, Snook ME, Riley RT, Voss KA. Fumonisin concentrations and in vivo toxicity of
nixtamalized Fusarium verticillioides culture material: Evidence for fumonisin-matrix
interaction. Food and Chemical Toxicology 46: 2841-2848, 2008/
2. Voss KA, Riley RT, Moore ND, Burns TD. Alkaline cooking (nixtamalisation) and the reduction in the in vivo toxicity of fumonisin-contaminated corn in a rat feeding bioassay. Food Additives and Contaminants: Part A, DOI: 10.19440049.2012.712064.
3. Voss KA, Ryu D, Burns TD, Riley RT, Jackson LS, Bianchini A, Bullerman LB. Bioassay-based approach for determining the effect of cooking on fumonisin toxicity. 235th American Chemical Society National

Alison McLetchie, PHD
Anthropology, M.A.
Assistant Professor, Department of Social Sciences

Research Interest:
Current research interest includes social inequality; gender and sexuality; and race and ethnicity.

Current research projects:
August 2016 (ongoing) With Dr. A. Bagasra, Promoting Campus Sexual Health
February 2017 (ongoing) With Dr. M. Hiatt, Perceptions of Diversity, Inclusion, and Sense of Belonging on a HBCU Campus.


Dr. Matthew Hiatt 







Uruthira Kalapathy










Dr. Mihir Mandal
Assistant Professor, Department of Biology
School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

Research Interest:
Plant-Microbe/Microbiome Interactions, Plant Genomics & Molecular Breeding, CRISPR/cas9 Gene Editing in Vegetable Crops, Metabolomics

My research involves utilizing modern day genomics and metabolomics tools [next generation sequencing (NGS), nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR), liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry (HPLC, LC-MS/MS)] to identify gene/metabolites involved in improving nutritional/ pharmaceutical value of plants as well as enhancing plant resistance against biotic and abiotic factors.

PUBLICATIONS: https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=j1yAsq0AAAAJ (16 publications, Total citations: 646) https://www.linkedin.com/in/mihir-mandal-639a4578

1. Mandal MK, Suren H, Ward B, Boroujerdi A, Kousik C (2018). Differential roles of melatonin in plant-host resistance and pathogen suppression in cucurbits. Journal of Pineal Research, https://doi.org/10.1111/jpi.12505.
2. Kousik C, Mandal MK, Hassell R (2018). Powdery Mildew Resistant Rootstocks Impart Tolerance to Grafted Susceptible Watermelon Scion Seedlings. Plant Disease, https://doi.org/10.1094/PDIS-09-17-1384-RE.
3. Kousik C, Ikerd J, Mandal MK, Adkins S, Turechek WW (2018). Watermelon germplasm lines: USVL608-PMR, USVL255-PMR, USVL313-PMR and USVL585-PMR with broad resistance to powdery mildew. HORTSCIENCE, 53: 1212-1217.
4. Kousik C, Ikerd J, Mandal MK, Adkins S, Webster CG, Turechek WW (2018). Powdery mildew resistant bottle gourd germplasm lines: USVL351-PMR and USVL482-PM. HORTSCIENCE, 53: 1224-1227.
5. Kousik C, Ikerd J, Mandal MK (2018). Evaluation of watermelon varieties for tolerance to powdery mildew and Phytophthora fruit rot, 2015. Plant Disease Management Reports, 12: V076.



* Active Reviewer for Journals:

*Plant Disease *Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions (MPMI) *Journal of Pineal Research *Plant Health Progress *Horticulture Research *South Eastern Division of the Association of American Geographer *Frontiers in Microbiology *Molecular Biology Reports *Acta Physiologiae Plantarum *Journal of Medicinal Plant Research *South African Journal of Botany *International Journal of Agriculture Innovations and Research


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