Mentors profiles

Dr. Kaitlin Campbell

Dr. Kaitlin Campbell, Assistant Professor of Biology. Dr. Campbell’s primary research interests include biodiversity, entomology, community ecology, restoration ecology, agroecology, and community engagement. Her current research examines the role of ants as indicators of restoration success and regulators of biodiversity in above and belowground systems. She is studying mites that use ants for dispersal because allows her to ask questions spanning multiple hierarchical levels including: host, colony, colony neighborhood, patch, and landscape levels. Several ongoing, collaborative projects include: 1) effects of an invasive shrub (Amur honeysuckle) and deer on ant biodiversity, 2) ant diversity and function in crop fields and temperate tree canopies, 3) historical and future shifts in lady beetle communities due to climate change, 4) elevation gradients and ant diversity in Costa Rica, 5) mite communities associated with an invasive ant and termites in North Carolina and Japan, and 6) a citizen science biodiversity and invasive species monitoring project in Daniel Boone National Forest (KY, TN). Dr. Campbell has mentored 20 undergraduate students. 

Dr. Courtney Carroll

Dr. Courtney Carroll, Assistant Professor of Biology, is a molecular neuroscientist. She uses nematodes to study the molecular basis for aging and age-related neurodegenerative disorders, with the goal of finding novel therapeutics to treat these diseases. She is particularly interested in Alzheimer’s disease, the sixth leading cause of death in the United States today. Dr. Carroll teaches Anatomy and Physiology lecture and lab sections. Before coming to UNCP, Dr. Carroll mentored two undergraduate students in research projects. Outside of the classroom, she enjoys practicing yoga and experimenting with new recipes. 

Dr. Lisa Kelly

Dr. Lisa Kelly, Professor of Biology, is a terrestrial ecologist with a passion for fieldwork and for mentoring undergraduate researchers in questions involving invasive species, conservation biology, and floristics.  She is primarily interested in exploring the trophic ecology of invasive fire ants in natural wetlands, and in using genomics to understand how these ants may alter food webs and belowground processes.  As director of the UNCP Herbarium, she provides mentoring opportunities in herbarium management.  She has mentored 20 undergraduate students in research, culminating in numerous presentations at local, state, and regional conferences.  Her primary teaching responsibilities include Principles of Ecology, Conservation Biology, and Plant Systematics. 

Dr. Maria Pereira

Dr. Maria Pereira, Associate Professor of Biology, is a geneticist with agriculture expertise. She has been at UNCP since 1998 where she has been teaching Principles of Genetics and Biotechnology (with labs) every semester. She has been the director of the Interdepartmental Biotechnology Degree Program since its inception in the Fall 2005. UNCP was the first university in the system to offering a B.S. in Biotechnology. She also teaches Principles of Biology, Development Biology, and Environmental Science. A big portion of her career has been around curriculum development as well as university and community involvement. She created the Biofuels Project that she directed for two years. Three areas composed that project, Outreach, Research and Biodiesel production. She was also involved in the implementation of the Recycling Program at UNCP. She was also a participant in the creation of the new B.S. in Sustainable Agriculture. Dr. Pereira is heavily involved in green systems such as sustainability, energy conservation and biodiesel production. She has been researching combinations of biodiesel production byproducts and plants, and more recently she has been involved in Aquaponics as Sustainable Model. As part of the Biotech program, Dr. Pereira has been involved in facilitating internships for 17 students in the program. She has mentored 9 students in undergraduate research. 

Dr. Robert Poage

Dr. Robert Poage, Professor of Biology, is a neurobiologist. His research involves ion channel function, primarily voltage-activated calcium channels. He is currently investigating the role of the presynaptic environment on voltage-gated calcium channel function using the frog neuromuscular junction as a model system. Dr. Poage is the co-PI of the NIH-RISE grant. He teaches Neurobiology, Human Anatomy and Physiology I and II, and Animal Physiology. He has mentored 6 undergraduate students in research.

Dr. Amber Rock

Dr. Amber Rock, Assistant Professor of Biology, is an aquatic ecologist who loves taking students outside to study our local freshwater ecosystems. Her research interests include water quality, food webs, and ecological stoichiometry. She teaches Freshwater Ecosystems and Watershed Management, Field Microbiology, Pollution Ecology, General Botany, and Environmental Science. Dr. Rock mentored 14 students in research projects during her PhD and is excited to begin mentoring students here at UNCP! 

Dr. Bryan Sales

Dr. Bryan Sales, Assistant Professor of Biology, is a research horticulturist and agronomist. His research focuses on the use of organic soil amendments to improve the production of horticultural crops. Dr. Sales has investigated the use of sustainable sources of carbon and soil nutrients such as biochar and nitrogen enriched soil amendments for the establishment and production of Northern Highbush Blueberry. He is mentoring both graduate and undergraduate students in agricultural research projects. Dr. Sales teaches several courses in the Biology Department’s Agriculture Track including Techniques in Horticulture, Sustainable Agriculture, Soils and Hydrology, General Botany, and Plant Physiology.

Dr. Rachel Smith

Dr. Rachel Smith, Professor of Chemistry, is a synthetic organic chemist whose research interests include total synthesis of natural products and developing synthetic methods for pharmaceutical synthesis. She teaches Organic Chemistry I and II and General Chemistry I and II. She has mentored more than 20 students in undergraduate research over 18 years of teaching in higher education and served as academic advisor for more than 50 at UNCP. She is the Program Director for the NIH-funded Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) Program at UNCP. 

Dr. Meredith Storms

Dr. Meredith Storms, Associate Professor of Chemistry, is an analytical chemist. She teaches General Chemistry I and II (with the labs), Chemistry for the Health Sciences I and II, analytical chemistry, DNA analysis, and forensic chemistry. She has mentored over 35 undergraduates in research projects related to the analysis of pharmaceuticals in dosage form and biological fluids. 

Dr. Katherine Thorington, Assistant Professor of Biology

Dr. Cornelia Tirla

Dr. Cornelia Tirla, Professor of Chemistry, is an organic chemist. Her research focuses in the synthesis of organic molecules with biological activity. The objectives of this project are to identify possible drug candidates. This project is realized in collaboration with the biology department. Dr. Tirla teaches Organic Chemistry I and II, Health Science, Scientific Literature and General Chemistry. She has mentored 18 undergraduate students in research. 

Dr. Crystal Walline

Dr. Crystal Walline, Assistant Professor of Biology, is a neuropharmacologist and immunologist. Her current research identifies biomarkers in human blood, saliva, and gingival crevicular fluid of individuals with Sjögren’s Syndrome (SS) using Next Generation RNA Sequencing. SS is an autoimmune disorder where your immune system attacks part of your own body by mistake. This causes chronic dry eyes and mouth and can affect other parts of the body including the joints, lungs, kidneys, blood vessels and nervous system. Dr. Walline teaches Anatomy & Physiology lecture and lab, Immunology, and Biology of Addiction (graduate course). She and Dr. Rock will be offering a new course called Medicinal and Poisonous Plants starting Summer 2020. Outside of the lab and classroom, Dr. Walline is passionate about providing holistic advising for students interested in health careers. She is also highly enthusiastic about genealogy and riding her motorcycle.

Dr. Joseph White

Dr. Joseph White, Lecturer of Biology, is a plant physiological ecologist and environmental biologist, with research interests that include studying the plant-water relations of riparian tree species in the southeastern US. His current research focus is understanding the water source use patterns of riparian trees in the southeastern US and how changes in environmental variables impact source utilization. Recent research projects have included attempts to determine the water sources of trees growing along characteristic streams of the Southeast, trees growing along differing types of water bodies, and those of trees planted in a restored wetland. Dr. White teaches Principles of Biology and General Botany. 

Dr. Erika Young

Dr. Erika Young, Assistant Professor of Biology, is a marine scientist. She has taught General Biology, Human Biology, Biodiversity, Human Anatomy and Physiology labs and General Zoology. Her background includes exploring the ecosystem services of salt marshes and trophic interactions of oysters, fish, and birds. She has also studied freshwater ecosystems and insects. She has taught at UNCP for a total of 8 years and was an undergraduate at UNC-P. She also serves as an academic advisor.