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Kristopher Schmidt

POSITION: Associate Professor of Biology; Program Director - Biomedicine

School of Sciences, Engineering, Art and Nursing
Biology, Chemistry and Environmental Science

LOCATION: Main Campus, Harrisonburg | SSC 026F

PHONE: (540) 432-4409

EMAIL: kristopher.schmidt@emu.edu

Dr. Schmidt completed his academic training in Canada, studying at Trinity Western University (B.Sc.), the University of British Columbia (M.Sc.) and Simon Fraser University (Ph.D.). He currently serves as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology and teaches classes in the graduate and undergraduate divisions at EMU. Courses taught include Developmental Biology, Advanced Human Physiology, Animal Form and Function, and Faith & Ethics. Dr. Schmidt’s research interests include:

- Understanding the molecular mechanisms controlling axonal guidance
- Investigating the role of unc-53/Nav2 in innate immunity
- Studying the physiology of the nematode excretory cell as a model for kidney function

Dr. Schmidt uses the small but powerful soil-nematode Caenorhabditis elegans to study how cells and axons that make up the nervous system are precisely positioned, as well as ways that the nervous system contributes to normal functioning in whole organisms.

Cell migration is essential for a wide variety of processes including the formation of the nervous system. Also, abnormal cell migration can contribute to important disease processes such as cancer. When neurons are born, they migrate sometimes long distances to precise positions where they undergo a process of differentiation, polarization, and extension. Several molecules have been uncovered that control the migration of neurons and axons along either dorsoventral or anteroposterior axes in developing organisms. They have been studying the gene unc-53/Nav2, a complex gene that acts as a relay between guidance molecules controlling neuronal navigation in the anteroposterior axis of C. elegans and the cytoskeleton of the cell. Current work employs a number of cell biological, genetic, and biochemical techniques to explore the function of unc-53/Nav2 and to understand the signal transduction pathways that it controls.

Vertebrates (e.g. mice, humans) and invertebrates (e.g. flies, worms) share conserved innate immunity pathways necessary for protection from invading organisms. Misregulation of innate immunity can result in numerous pathogenic processes and contributes to diseases such as sepsis, arthritis, asthma, and cancer. We have discovered that the unc-53/Nav2 gene functions in conserved genetic pathways to ensure that organism maintain a robust immune response. Current work explores the tissues and genetic pathways that require unc-53/Nav2 in C. elegans innate immunity.

C. elegans maintains fluid homeostasis through a single cell termed the excretory cell which is the worm equivalent of the human kidney. The excretory cell serves as an excellent model cell for both cell development and fluid dynamics. We are using a number of genetic approaches to understand the development and function of the excretory cell in C. elegans as a way to model development and kidney disease in humans.


PHD, Simon Fraser University (Molecular Biology & Biochemistry)
MS, University of British Columbia (Pathology & Laboratory Medicine)
BS, Trinity Western University (Biology with a minor in Chemistry)

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