Denise Boyce Flaherty

Assistant Professor of Biology
Robert A. Staub Distinguished Teacher Award, 2011

Denise FlahertyOffice: 105 Sheen Science Center B
Phone: 727-864-8304
Fax: 727-864-8382
Email Professor Flaherty


Ph.D. Biochemistry, Cell and Developmental Biology; Emory University
BA. Biology, Wheaton Scholar; Wheaton College, Massachusetts

Courses Taught

Cell Biology (BI202), Genetics and Molecular Biology (BI303), Neuroscience (BI397), Developmental Biology (BI424), Integrating Biology (BI498-our senior capstone course in the major) and Neurotoxins in the Environment as a Winter Term Environmental Perspective project.

Research Interests

I maintain a vigorous research laboratory with my Eckerd students. We use the model genetic organism, Caenorhabditis elegans, to understand the developmental, reproductive, molecular physiological stress and neuromuscular impact of several conditions. I like to refer to C.elegans as the "model of choice" for Nobel Laureates! Our current projects fall into three categories:

  1. Understanding the Physiological Impact of Common Pestcide and Anti-microbial Residues. We know that pesticides are used on crops, and antibacterial soaps are used on our hands, in an attempt to keep food supplies abundant and our bodies healthy, but what are the cellular and physiological consequences of being bombarded daily by these chemical residues? By using fluorescent transgenic lines of C. elegans we are characterizing the oxidative stress, reproductive impact and neuromuscular changes induced by these chemicals.
  2. Characterizing Potential Anti-oxidants and Anti-tumor Agents. Natural products from food sources such as red grapes, blueberries or green tea have long been touted for their anti-oxidant/health-giving benefits. My lab, in collaboration with our colleagues in Chemistry and the Tampa Bay Research Institute are screening a new list of natural and synthetic compounds for their anti-oxidant and anti-tumor activities.
  3. Creating New Resources to Understand Parkinson's Disease. Parkinson's Disease is a complex neuromuscular disease that primarily influences dopaminergic pathways of the nervous system. To support our collaborators at Vanderbilt University, we are creating and characterizing new mutant lines of C. elegans to help us understand the possible molecular players in this disease.

Other Interests

When I'm not teaching, researching or mentoring (most of my time), I love spending time with my family. My favorite TV shows are Bones, House and Modern Family. I am also the faculty sponsor for Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and our Colleges Against Cancer team, who run Eckerd's yearly "Relay for Life" to support the American Cancer Society. I enjoy chocolate, scrapbooking, dancing, and chocolate. Oops! Did I mention chocolate twice?

Selected Publications/Posters/Other Works

Zastrow, M, Flaherty, DB, Benian, GM and Wilson, KL. (2006) Nuclear Titin interacts with A- and B-type lamins in vitro and in vivo. Journal of Cell Science, 119(Pt 2):239-249.

Small, TM, Gernert, KM, Flaherty, DB, Mercer, KB, Borodovsky, M, Benian, GM. (2004) Three new isoforms of Caenorhabditis elegans UNC-89 containing MLCK-like protein kinase domains. Journal of Molecular Biology, 342(1):91-108.

Mercer, KB, Flaherty, DB, Miller, PK, Qadota, H, Tinley, T, Moerman, DG, Benian, GM. (2003) C. elegans UNC-98, a C2H2 Zn finger protein, is a novel partner of UNC-97 / PINCH in muscle adhesion complexes. Molecular Biology of the Cell, 14(6):2492-2507.

Flaherty,DB, Gernert, KM, Shmeleva, N, Tang, X, Mercer, KB, Borodovsky, M Benian, GM. (2002) Titins in C. elegans with unusual features: coiled-coil domains, novel regulation of kinase activity and two new possible elastic regions. Journal of Molecular Biology323(3):533-549.

Tomasiewicz, HT, Flaherty, DB, Soria, JP, Wood, JG. (2002) A Transgenic Zebrafish Model of Neurodegeneration. Journal of Neuroscience Research70(6):734-745.

Edens, WA, Sharling, L, Cheng, G, Shapira, R, Kinkade, JM, Lee, T, Edens, HA, Tang, X, Sullards, C, Flaherty,DB, Benian, GM, Lambeth, JD. (2001) Tyrosine cross-linking of extracellular matrix is catalyzed by Duox, a multidomain oxidase/peroxidase with homology to the phagocyte oxidase subunit gp91phox. Journal of Cell Biology. 154(4):879-891.

Flaherty, DB, Soria, J, Tomasiewicz, H, and Wood, J, (2000) Phosphorylation of Human Tau Protein by Microtubule-Associated Kinases: GSK3 and cdk5 Key Participants. Journal of Neuroscience Research. 62:463-472.

Flaherty, D, Lu, Q, Soria, J, and Wood, J, (1999) Regulation of Tau Phosphorylation in Microtubule Fractions by Apolipoprotein E. Journal of Neuroscience Research. 56(3):271-274.

Life After Eckerd

Approximately two-thirds of Eckerd Biology graduates have continued with postgraduate study at many of the most prestigious medical and graduate schools in the nation. Eckerd College has been ranked near the top of all U.S. colleges and universities in terms of the percentage of its alumni who have gone on to earn Ph.D. degrees and Eckerd students have scored in the highest percentiles of the GRE and MCAT exams.

The James Center

Center for Molecular and Life Sciences

Equipped with the latest in eco-conscious innovations, educational technology and scientific instrumentation, the James Center for Molecular and Life Sciences will advance our efforts to prepare tomorrow’s leaders in the sciences, and will quickly become the hub of the Natural Sciences at Eckerd College. Discover the James Center.