Peter Oelkers, Ph.D.
Biography and Education
Dr. Oelkers’ research addresses the question, “How do cells allocate fatty acids?” Fatty acids are linear hydrocarbons with species differing regarding length and the number and location of double bonds. Prior to utilization fatty acids are converted to acyl-CoA, the substrate for a variety of acyltransferase enzymes. Accordingly, acyltransferases are a focus of study since they are central to the allocation of fatty acids species among triglycerides, phospholipids, and proteins. Regarding phospholipids, this allocation influences the biophysical properties and thus function of cell membranes. Dr. Oelkers’ main pedagogical goal is to empower students to thrive in a professional setting. Problem solving and data analysis are featured.
B.S. – Biology May 1991
College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA
Ph.D. – Molecular and Cellular Pathobiology, August 1996
Wake Forest University – Bowman Gray School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC
Postdoctoral Fellowship - Lipid Biochemistry and Yeast Genetics, 1996 - 2001
Columbia University - College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY
Teaching and Research
- BIOL 140L: Introductory Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory
- BCHM/BIOL 474, 474L: Molecular Biology and Laboratory
- BCHM/BIOL/CHEM 370: Principles of Biochemistry
- BCHM/BIOL 404: Capstone Course in Biology: Mechanisms of Chronic Human Disease
- BIOL 491: Capstone Course in Biology: Bioinformatics
- BCHM 496: Biochemistry Capstone: Complex systems in Biochemistry
* Indicates undergraduate authors
- Wong, D.W.*, Plumb, J.*, Talab, H.*, Kurdi, M.*, Pokhrel, K., Oelkers, P. (2019) Genetically compromising phospholipid metabolism limits Candida albicans’ virulence. Mycopathologia 184: 213 - 226.
- Oelkers, P., Pokhrel, K. (2016) Four acyltransferases uniquely contribute to phospholipid heterogeneity in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Lipid Insights 9: 31 - 41.
- Jain, S., Dholakia, H.*, Kirtley, W.*, Oelkers, P. (2016) Energy storage in yeast: regulation and competition with ethanol production. Current Microbiology 73: 851 - 858.
- Oelkers, P. (2016) Semester-long inquiry-based molecular biology laboratory: transcriptional regulation in yeast. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education 45: 145- 151.
- Renauer, P.*, Nasiri, N.*, Oelkers, P. (2015) Saccharomyces cerevisiae lysophospholipid acyltransferase, Lpt1, requires Asp146 and Glu297 for catalysis. J. Lipid Res. 56: 2143 - 2150.
- Ayyash, M.*, Algahmi, A.*, Gillespie, J., Oelkers, P. (2014) Characterization of a lysophospholipid acyltransferase involved in membrane remodeling in Candida albicans. Biochim. Biophys. Acta 184: 505 - 513.
Awards and Recognition
R15, Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) grant funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
$300,000 over three years; September, 2019 - September, 2022
“Elucidating the mechanisms within and among enzymes that coordinate and regulate phospholipid acyl chain composition”
Nominated for a Distinguished Teaching Award three times: 2012-2013, 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 academic years.
Undergraduate researcher Amal Algahmi won the “Best Undergraduate Poster” in the Systems Biology category at the 2013 American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology national meeting.