College of Letters & Sciences
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Heather Pelzel
Associate Professor

  • Department(s): BIOLOGY
  • Office Location: Upham Hall 320A
  • Phone: (262) 472-5134
  • Email:
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B.S. in Biotechnology, University of Wisconsin - River Falls, 2001
Ph.D. in Biomolecular Chemistry, University of Wisconsin - Madison, 2010.

Research Description: 

My main research interest is identifying the mechanism(s) that lead to gene silencing in degenerating neurons, specifically histone modifications. Although there has been some progress in neuroprotective treatments for several neurodegenerative conditions, it is likely that many of these saved neurons are non-functional due to early apoptotic events, such as gene silencing and somal atrophy. Work in my lab focuses on identifying histone modifications, especially histone deacetylations, that are associated with gene silencing in apoptotic cells, as well as how these modifications occur and are regulated. By determining which changes are occurring in dying cells, it may be possible to prevent or reverse the changes and rescue the neurons from the death process. My research uses mammalian cell culture to examine a general model of neuronal cell death, as well as a mouse model of retinal ganglion cell death, such as that seen in people with glaucoma.

Classes Taught: 

Bio253 - Intro to Cell Biology; Bio311 - Microbiology