Accessibility Navigation:

Karen Bernd


Postdoctoral, Duke University (Developmental, Cellular, and Molecular Biology)
Ph.D., M.A. Princeton University (Molecular Biology)
B.S. Franklin & Marshall College (Biology)


To understand how an organism works we need to understand its basic parts-cells. As a cell biologist I use techniques ranging from microscopy and biochemistry to molecular biology to attack the enormous question of 'how does a cell work?' While each approach by itself is informative a clear picture of a cellular process will only result by combining the right questions with the best techniques and taking time to listen to the data. My courses reflect this 'multi-front' approach and combine discussions of questions and journal articles, interactive lectures, investigative labs, and web assignments.


I require that my students are invested in and connected to their research.

Since 2007, an athlete's question of  'why is it bad to run at 4 p.m. on an ozone red day?' led to our investigation of the effects that physiological levels of ozone and other environmental pollutants have on lung alveolar cells. Our goals include providing evidence of the underlying molecular mechanisms that result in the types and extent of cellular damage seen. This evidence can then be used in developing interventions, identifying groups that may have increased susceptibility to harm, and informing policy.

To date we have determined that estrogen, and by extension perhaps gender, play a role in ozone-induced inflammation, redox balance, and cell death and that DCA, a common water purification byproduct, activates superoxide dismutase and catalase in the lung cell's response to oxidative stress.

Current students are interested in young adult trends involving hookah smoking and e-cigarette vaping. Recent experiments investigate how e-cigarette vapor generated at 3.7V or 4.7V from flavored and unflavored e-liquid effect lung viability with parallel lines of experimentation investigating the waterpipe tobacco smoke planned for the near future.


BIO 111 Molecules, Genes, and Cells (and lab)
BIO 208 Cell Biology (and lab)
BIO 238 Cell Biology and Signaling
BIO 267 Cases in Environmental Health