New MMBio Chair

Rich Robison

Rich Robison

Dr. Richard Robison is a Provo, Utah native. He earned his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in microbiology from Brigham Young University, though he was also enrolled in a Ph.D. program in Wisconsin. He has worked in clinical research and microbiology capacities since 1980. He was the associate director of Biological Sciences at Clinical Research Associates, and a microbiologist at Microbiological Development and Control.

Robison is a key player in BYU’s cutting edge research in the Microbiology & Molecular Biology Department. He and the MMBio faculty have made significant advances in diagnostics and treatment for many diseases. With his specialty in bacterial pathogenesis, Robison finds this emphasis particularly challenging and exciting. “The advances in genomics and our understanding of molecular processes are driving significant discoveries in diagnostics and therapeutics for many different diseases,” he said.

He also supports graduate and undergraduate research, and would like to see those programs expanded. “I am a big proponent of involving students in research,” Robison said. “I see our students, both undergraduate and graduate, playing a major role in this growth.” MMBio is accelerating research in many areas, including various molecular mechanisms in cells, environmental microbiology, disease processes initiated by bacteria, viruses, protozoa and helminthes, cancer biology, diagnostics and therapeutics, and how the immune system works in health and disease. According to Robison, “The three majors we have in MMBio will benefit from these research programs and change with the advancements in these exciting fields.”

Robison and his wife, Lisa, have five boys, three of whom are married. One of their sons plays basketball for Utah Valley University, and the youngest son is currently serving an LDS mission in the Philippines. The Robisons are grandparents to five grandsons and one granddaughter. When he’s not working at BYU, Robison enjoys motorcycles and woodworking, especially woodturning.



New Faculty

Liz Gibbons Bailey

Liz Gibbons Bailey

Biology

Dr. Liz Gibbons Bailey received her Ph.D. in physiology & developmental biology from Brigham Young University. Her dissertation examined changes in the biophysical properties of the plasma membrane during apoptosis. As a graduate student, she was also able to participate in education research and studied the learning gains achieved when frequent formative assessments are used instead of large midterm exams. After receiving her degree, she taught as an adjunct instructor at BYU (PDBio 120 and PDBio 360) and at Salt Lake Community College (introductory human biology for nonmajors and physiology courses). She is excited to join the Biology Department as full-time visiting faculty this semester, focusing on Biology Science Education. Her main teaching assignment is Bio 100 where she will continue to research effective teaching strategies.
Bailey was born and raised in Holladay, Utah. Her husband is getting his Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology here at BYU, so they love commuting to campus together. She loves the piano, books, people, the outdoors, dancing, Tetris, and Excel spreadsheets.

Sarah Gunnell Bellini

Sarah Gunnell Bellini

Nutrition, Dietetics & Food Science

Dr. Sarah Gunnell Bellini was raised in Soda Springs, Idaho, and graduated from the University of Idaho in the Coordinated Program of Dietetics. She completed her master's degree in nutrition at Utah State University, studying percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy tube placement in persons with cystic fibrosis. She worked at Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, as a clinical dietitian and clinical nutrition manager for eleven years. While working at Primary Children’s Medical Center, she earned a Ph.D. from Utah State University. For her dissertation, she studied the integration of nutrition education into English as a Second Language classes for recently resettled refugees. She spent the last three years as an assistant professor at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
Bellini’s research interests include identifying and assessing malnutrition, nutrition education, pediatric nutrition, and clinical nutrition management. She married Amauri Bellini in June 2014. She is excited to be back in the mountains and enjoys outdoor adventures.

Robert Chaney

Robert Chaney

Health Science

Dr. Robert Chaney’s education has taken him across the United States. He earned a B.S. in microbiology from Washington State University, an M.S. in statistics from West Virginia University, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in health education from the University of Cincinnati. Before coming to Brigham Young University, Chaney worked with local community health organizations to address regional issues such as adolescent drug use. He also built coalition capacity for data management, analysis, and geographic information system (GIS) mapping and involved students in service-learning projects. Chaney worked for two years at the UC Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning while earning his Ph.D. He says, “I am passionate about student learning and professional student development.” Chaney’s research focuses on the safety of urban bicycle riding and the identification of communities at risk for adolescent drug use. His cycling research could be considered his hobby since he loves racing cyclocross and mountain biking outdoors. He married his wife, Lindsay, six years ago in the Portland Oregon Temple. Lindsay has a Ph.D. and is an evolutionary ecologist. They have an active two-and-a-half-year-old son.

John Chaston

John Chaston

Plant & Wildlife Sciences

Dr. John Chaston grew up in Somersworth, New Hampshire, and began his post-secondary education at the University of New Hampshire. He finished his B.S. in microbiology from Brigham Young University, and earned a Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His most recent work experience has been at Cornell University doing post-doctorate work in the Department of Entomology.
Chaston researches beneficial bacteria and the role they play in nearly all aspects of human health. He aims to identify the bacterial genes that shape human health and describe how these genes accomplish this. “I'm fascinated that many complex effects on animal health are conferred by only one or a few bacterial genes,” Chaston said. “I also find it stunning that bacteria, which have largely been studied as agents of disease in medicine, have such strong effects on virtually every aspect of our healthy behavior and physiology.”
Chaston and his wife, Sheena, have two daughters.

Jason Hansen

Jason Hansen

Physiology & Developmental Biology

Dr. Jason Hansen graduated from Brigham Young University with a B.S. in zoology-human biology and an M.S. in zoology. He attended the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan and received a Ph.D. in toxicology. His most recent employment was as an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Emory University. Hansen’s research focuses on birth defects, particularly how the environment and pharmaceutical chemicals effect embryonic development. Hansen says that one in every 33 births occurs with a defect, with these defects accounting for the majority of child deaths occurring within the first month of life. “I felt that these statistics were unacceptable,” he said. “Moreover, I felt that not enough was being done to really understand by which mechanisms the birth defects were caused.”
As a new faculty member at BYU, Hansen hopes to contribute his knowledge of toxicology to the robust research projects already taking place in the Physiology & Developmental Biology Department. “I would hope that after students leave interactions with me, they will see how the things they have learned could affect the world around them,” Hansen says.

Jason Kenealey

Jason Kenealey

Nutrition, Dietetics & Food Science

Dr. Jason Kenealey grew up in Kirkland, Washington, and received a B.S. from Brigham Young University in biochemistry. He then earned a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in biomolecular chemistry. Most recently, he has been doing post-doctoral work at the National Eye Institute. Kenealey is passionate about science’s ability to reveal truth. His work focuses on identifying novel chemotherapeutics found in nature and determining how they work. His research invokes a minimalist approach to difficult issues such as cancer treatment. When asked what he hopes students will take away from their interactions with him, Kenealey said, “I would like to follow the example of my excellent mentors and instill in [my students] a curiosity about how the world works and [how to] utilize the power of the scientific method. I would like students to learn the necessity for honesty and scientific rigor in research and the classroom.”
He is married to his college sweetheart, Liz, and they have four children.

Stephen Piccolo

Stephen Piccolo

Biology

Dr. Stephen Piccolo is a Provo, Utah native. He completed his undergraduate degree at Brigham Young University in management information systems and then worked for five years as a programmer/analyst for Intel Corporation in Chandler, Arizona. Piccolo received his Ph.D. in biomedical informatics from the University of Utah. His research focused on using machine-learning methods to analyze cancer-genomics data. He completed his postdoctoral work jointly with the University of Utah and Boston University School of Medicine where he researched the genetics of breast cancer and developed techniques for analyzing large biomedical data sets. He is thrilled to be at BYU in the Department of Biology where his experience will contribute to the bioinformatics program.
Piccolo and his wife, Laurel, have four children. In his spare time, Piccolo enjoys playing sports, biking, and running. He has completed seven marathons. He also enjoys spending time with his family, reading (mostly nonfiction), and writing computer program