Research at Hendrix

Jennifer L. Dearolf

Associate Professor of Biology

Ph.D., Cornell University

Research interest: Muscle form and function in cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises), guinea pigs, and other mammals

I have a longstanding interest in vertebrate biology, specifically how mammals, both neonates and adults, interact with their environment. One of the main ways that animals engage their surroundings is through movement. Movement, in turn, is accomplished through the interaction of muscles with an animal's skeletal system, and thus, I have chosen to study muscle biology.

Currently, the work in my lab is focused on breathing muscles. We are studying the construction of the diaphragm, the main muscle of inspiration in terrestrial mammals, and some accessory breathing muscles in cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) to determine how all of these muscles work together to power the explosive breathing of cetaceans and also allow these animals to breath-hold dive. The other studies in the lab are investigations of the effects of prenatal steroids on breathing muscle development in guinea pigs. These steroids are used to accelerate the lung development of premature human babies, improving their chances of survival. However, the effects of these steroids on breathing muscles are currently not well known.