Laura BurrackFaculty

Associate Professor in Biology

One aspect of biology that fascinates me is how organisms balance genome stability with adaptation and evolution. If the balance tips toward genome stability, the genetic diversity necessary for evolution will not arise. However, excess genome instability can be lethal and defects in genome stability are associated with human diseases and the development of antimicrobial resistance in pathogens. The focus of my research is to understand the role of flexibility in chromosome segregation mechanisms and to determine the phenotypic consequences of this flexibility in the evolution of microorganisms under stress and in the development of increased fitness as a model for cancer cells. Microorganisms are particularly useful to study genome stability due to their large population size and the ease in which different conditions and genetic phenotypes can be tested. The kinetochore is a large complex of proteins assembled at centromere DNA to allow attachment of the DNA to spindle microtubules and chromosome segregation during mitosis. In most eukaryotes, including humans, centromere regions are maintained epigenetically rather than being defined by a specific sequence and centromeres exhibit flexibility in size and position.

In my research, I use the yeast Candida albicans as a model system to explore the mechanisms and consequences of centromere and kinetochore flexibility using a combination of microbiology, molecular biology, genetics, biochemistry, and cell biology techniques. Using C. albicans, we will look at how altered chromosome segregation mechanisms influence the ability of the organism to evolve antimicrobial drug resistance. Additionally, we will use the C. albicans model to increase our understanding of whether altered chromosome segregation mechanisms are a driver of genomic instability as seen in cancer cells.

For more information and links to publications, see:


B.A. Macalester College, Ph.D. Harvard University


cooking, coffee, broomball, and travel

Courses Taught

BIO-380 (Microbiology) and BIO-380 (Microbiology Lab)

Synonym Title Times Taught Terms Taught
BIO-380 Microbiology Lab 8 2023/SP, 2021/SP, 2020/SP, 2019/SP, 2018/SP, 2017/SP, and 2016/SP
BIO-380 Microbiology 7 2023/SP, 2021/SP, 2020/SP, 2019/SP, 2018/SP, 2017/SP, and 2016/SP
BIO-375 Cancer Biology Lab 5 2023/FA, 2022/FA, 2020/FA, 2019/FA, and 2018/FA
BIO-375 Cancer Biology 5 2023/FA, 2022/FA, 2020/FA, 2019/FA, and 2018/FA
BIO-392 Biology Research 4 2023/FA, 2023/SP, and 2022/FA
BIO-218 Fundmental Microbio 4 2020/SP, 2019/SP, 2017/SP, and 2016/SP
BIO-101 Principles of Biology 4 2019/FA, 2016/FA, and 2015/FA
BIO-101 Principles Lab 4 2018/FA, 2017/FA, and 2015/FA
BIO-344 ST:Cancer Biology Lab 4 2016/FA and 2015/FA
BIO-397 Honors Thesis 3 2022/FA, 2021/FA, and 2017/FA
IDS-244 ST:Eugen/Gen Testing 3 2021/SP, 2019/SP, and 2018/SP
FTS-100 FTS:Genetic Testing 3 2020/FA, 2018/FA, and 2017/FA
BIO-218 Microbio Lab 3 2019/SP, 2017/SP, and 2016/SP
BIO-201 Cell and Molecular Biology 1 2023/FA
IDS-298 History Eugenics/Future 1 2023/SP
BIO-292 Biology Research 1 2023/JN
BIO-201 Cell Biology Lab 1 2020/FA
IDS-244 Eugenic Lab 1 2018/SP