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Faculty Profiles

Department: Biology

Leo PezzementiLeo Pezzementi

Professor of Biology


Stephens Science Center 248

Contact Information:

Birmingham-Southern College
Department of Biology
Box 549022
900 Arkadelphia Rd
Birmingham, AL 35254
Office Phone: (205) 226-4806
Office Fax: (205) 226 3078

Personal Web Page

Brief Career Background:

University of California at San Diego School of Medicine, La Jolla, California. Visiting Scholar (January 2003-July 2003). Laboratory of Dr. Palmer Taylor, Department of Pharmacology.

Ecole Normale Supérieure, Laboratoire de Neurobiologie, Paris, France. Invited Professor (June 1992-August 1992). NSF-CNRS Fellow (July 1990-July 1991). Laboratory of Dr. Jean Massoulié.

Case-Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, OH. Visiting Scientist (June 1988-August 1988). Laboratory of Dr. Terrone Rosenberry, Department of Pharmacology.

University of Alabama at Birmingham, University of Alabama School of Medicine, Birmingham, AL. Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychiatry (1988-present).

Birmingham-Southern College, Birmingham, AL. Chair, Division of Science and Mathematics (1997-2001). Professor of Biology (1996) Associate Professor of Biology (1988-1996). Assistant Professor of Biology (1985-1988).

Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH. Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology (1983, 1984-1985) and Chemistry (1984).

Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, PA. Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology (1982-1983).

Educational Background:

State University of New York at Stony Brook, Molecular Biology Program and Pharmacological Sciences Program. Dept. of Biochemistry. Ph.D. awarded August 1982.

La Salle College, Philadelphia, PA. Biology major. B.A. awarded May 1975.

Areas of Academic Interest:

Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) is a serine hydrolase whose primary function is the hydrolysis of acetylcholine at cholinergic synapses of animals. Humans and other vertebrates have another evolutionarily related cholinesterase, butyrylcholinesterase (BuChE), which appears to act as a scavenger of a variety of toxins in the body. Cholinesterases (ChEs) are of considerable physiological, pharmacological, toxicological, and insecticidal interest. The known structures of AChE and BuChE, molecular modeling, site-directed mutagenesis, and in vitro expression of AChE and BuChE from various species have allowed a comparative biochemical approach that has identified residues comprising important catalytic subsites in the enzymes. We have extended this comparative approach to include ChE1 and ChE2 from the invertebrate chordate amphioxus, and organism that occupies a key position in evolution, and that has ChEs with unique properties. This approach has already been profitable for ChE2 and should continue to provide additional insights into the structure and function of cholinesterases, revealing fundamental catalytic requirements, and perhaps leading to the design of more specific, effective, and safer pharmaceuticals and pesticides.

Courses Taught:

BI 101 Explorations in Biology (1)
A course for non-science majors designed to provide an understanding of selected fundamental biological principles and processes. Three lectures and one three-hour laboratory per week. This course does not count towards the biology or biology-psychology major. (Fulfills the Disciplinary Foundations requirement in lab science.)

BI 125 Cell and Molecular Biology (1)
An investigation of the fundamental properties of cells. Topics include cell structure and function, energetics and metabolism, gene structure and expression, and the techniques used to study these phenomena. Designed for students who plan to major in biology or one of the natural sciences and/or who are pre-health. Three lectures and one three-hour laboratory per week. Prerequisites: BI 115 and CH 121. Fall, Spring.

BI 301 Genetics (1)
A study of the structure, function, and transmission of the genetic material. Topics from classical and molecular genetics are covered. Three lectures, one three-hour laboratory, and one DHAR laboratory per week. Prerequisites: BI 105, 115, and 125, MA 115 or equivalent, and junior standing. Fall.

BI 304 Microbiology (1)
An introduction to basic and applied microbiology. Fundamentals of bacteriology, virology, and immunology are covered. Laboratory work includes basic, clinical, and diagnostic microbiology. Two lectures, one three-hour laboratory, and one DHAR laboratory per week. Prerequisite: BI 115 and 125. Spring.

BI 402 Cell Biology (1)
A study of eukaryotic cells at the molecular level. Topics include protein biosynthesis, membrane structure and function, gene expression and regulation, cellular and subcellular structure, and the cell cycle. Three lectures, one three-hour laboratory, and one DHAR laboratory per week. Prerequisites: BI 115 and 125, CH 122, and junior standing; BI 301 is strongly recommended. Spring.

BI 405 Recombinant DNA Technology (1)
A course investigating the impact of genetic engineering in the biological sciences. Emphasis is placed on the techniques of gene cloning and analysis, and how these techniques are used as tools in basic research in signal transduction, oncogenes, evolution, and nervous system function; and in applied research in agriculture, medicine, and industry. The social impact of recombinant DNA technology is also discussed. Three lecture/discussions and one three hour laboratory each week. Some laboratory work outside the scheduled laboratory time is also required. Prerequisites: BI 105, 115, 125, and 301; CH 121. Spring.

BI 408 Biochemistry (1)
An introduction to the structure, chemistry, and metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, nucleic acids, and lipids. Three lectures, one three-hour laboratory, and one DHAR laboratory per week. (Also listed as CH 408, this course may be counted for credit in either biology or chemistry.) Prerequisites: BI 115 and 125, and CH 212, or consent. Fall.

BI 415 Evolution (1)
A study of the basic theories and processes of organic evolution with emphasis on sources of variability and the organization of variability in populations, population genetics, and the origin of species by natural selection. Prerequisites: BI 105, 115, 125, and 301.