The Powell-Coffman research group employs a powerful genetic model system, the nematode C. elegans, to study how animals sense and adapt to their environment. A central focus of the lab has been to identify and decipher regulatory mechanisms that enable adaptation to hypoxia (low oxygen). Using genetic strategies in C. elegans, the Powell-Coffman Lab has identified novel regulators of HIF-1 hypoxia-inducible factor and has gained important insights to the regulatory circuits that control this important transcription factor. The research group also investigates the mechanisms by which animals survive other stresses, ranging from hypergravity to reactive nitrogen species.
Prior to becoming Department Chair, Dr. Powell-Coffman taught upper-division and graduate level courses in the areas of genetics and developmental biology. She also taught introductory biology. Recent grant funded projects to advance undergraduate education and student success include: (1) HHMI Science Education grants to increase student engagement in introductory undergraduate science courses; (2) a CIRTL project to develop discipline-based learning communities for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows; and (3) an AAU-sponsored project to strengthen STEM education at ISU.