NDSU Featured Faculty Member
Kendra Greenlee, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences
Insect respiration and immunology drive Greenlee’s research
One of Kendra Greenlee’s favorite research moments was visiting the x-ray facilities at the Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago. She was one of the first researchers to use the facilities to observe an insect tracheal system as the insect was alive and breathing.
Greenlee, assistant professor of biological sciences, has taken students with her to the lab for several summers to give them hands-on research experience. The facility has a particle accelerator that provides the brightest X-ray beams in the Western Hemisphere. Greenlee applied for beam time as soon as she began at NDSU in 2007.
A native of Columbus, IN., Greenlee earned her bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from Arizona State University, Tempe, and completed postdoctoral work in pulmonary disease at the Baylor College of Medicine, Houston.
She just completed her first year of a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development award (CAREER) of $800,000. She is in the process of ramping up her research and hiring student staff. The grant is the largest of this type of CAREER award received by an NDSU faculty member in the past 14 years. Greenlee’s work focuses on respiratory physiology and immunology of insects – an interest which started during a part-time job in an insect physiology lab while she was an undergraduate student.
“Insects are one of the most numerous animal species on the planet,” she said. “We have a love/hate relationship with them. We need to really understand their physiology before we go about trying to control them.”
Along with her research, Greenlee particularly enjoys teaching undergraduate students in animal physiology.
“It’s really nice at the end of the semester to have a student say this class was great and it helped prepare for my MCAT (Medical College Admission Test),” she said.
Greenlee’s other research focuses on an enzyme called matrix metalloproteinase and its role in immunity and insects. She sees the respiration and enzyme research as two parts of a larger whole, and a long-term goal is to look at the tradeoffs between respiratory function and immune protection in insects and how they change throughout development.
Greenlee feels her biggest challenge is scheduling time for research as a mother.
“I don’t have the luxury of working long hours in the lab or spending long hours in the office writing,” she said. “I’ve had to come up with creative ways to be productive in shorter time periods.”