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Joanna Klein, Ph.D.

Chair, Department of Biology & Biochemistry
Professor of Biology & Biochemistry

Contact Information

Nazareth Hall 3037

651-286-7468

Joanna Klein joined the Department of Biology & Biochemistry in 2003. Her training and primary interest is in bacterial genetics. After receiving her doctorate in genetics studying the Salmonella pathogenesis, she did three years of post-doctoral research at the University of Minnesota studying intron splicing in the gram-positive bacterium Lactococcus lactis. Her current research interest is antibiotic discovery in soil microbes through a partnership with the Tiny Earth network. She also supervises annual monitoring of the levels of E. coli bacteria in Lake Johanna.

A distinctive of her teaching philosophy is to incorporate original research projects into the course she teaches. Thus, students in her Microbiology and Genetics courses all receive valuable training and experience in scientific research. Additional scholarly interests include developing and evaluating effective teaching methods in biology education.

Her free time is spent mostly with her husband and three children who enjoy biking, swimming, and learning together.

Courses I Teach

  • Genetics
  • Microbiology
  • Biotechnology
  • DNA: The Language of Life
  • Microbes and Society

Specialty Areas

Bacterial Genetics

Academic Credentials

Ph.D., University of Iowa, Genetics
B.S., University of Iowa, Biology

Research Interests

Antibiotic Discovery

In recent years, there has been an alarming rise in bacterial infections that are resistant to treatment with current antibiotics and new drug discovery is simply not keeping pace. To address this crisis, the Tiny Earth course-based research program deploys students to screen for and identify microbes that naturally produce antibiotics. Students gain hands-on experience in the thinking and methodology of a scientist and a real research need is met. Students in my microbiology and genetics courses participate in various aspects of this research pipeline. After completing one of these courses, students may elect to continue their research by joining my lab and performing independent research for credit. Learn more about Tiny Earth! https://tinyearth.wisc.edu/

Monitoring E. coli levels in freshwater lakes

Recreational waters can become contaminated with fecal material, exposing users to a variety of pathogenic microorganisms. Therefore, it is imperative to continually monitor for possible contamination. To this end, Northwestern students monitor Lake Johanna, on which our campus is situated, for high E. coli levels during the summer.

Select Undergraduate Student Research Presentations

Students doing research on a variety of projects in my lab have presented posters and talks throughout the region. Below are just a sample of topics and venues.

Willett, M., Fitzpatrick, M. and Klein, J.R. Identification of Potential Antibiotic-Producing Soil Isolate in Minneapolis, MN. Poster presentation at Tiny Earth Symposium, Madison, WI, July 10, 2019

Jenkins, D., and Klein, J.R. Natural Product Extraction and Characterization of Antimicrobials from Pseudomonas. Oral presentation at Winchell Undergraduate Research Symposium, April 27, 2019, Century College.

Unsinn, N., Hanson, A., Miller, S., and Klein, J.R. Isolation and Identification of Antibiotic Producing Bacteria from Soil. Oral presentation at Winchell Undergraduate Research Symposium, Macalester College. April 2017.

Grant, R. and Klein, J.R. Beach Safety: Monitoring Levels of E. coli in Recreational Water Areas. Poster presentation at Winchell Undergraduate Research Symposium, Macalester College. April 2017.

Bardwell, A., Parkinson, A., and Klein, J.R. Analysis of Pseudogene Classification of Celly_1362 in Cellulophaga lytica. Abigail Bardwell, Amy Parkinson and Joanna Klein. Oral Presentation at Beta Beta Beta National Convention, Bethel University. June 2016.

Peterson, M. and Klein, J.R. Development of a Gene Deletion Strategy in Cellulophaga lytica. Poster presentation at Winchell Undergraduate Research Symposium, University of Minnesota. April 2016.

Youngquist, K., Rouse, A. and Klein, J.R. Annotation and Cloning of a Hypothetical Cellulase Gene in Cellulophaga lytica. Poster presentation at Winchell Undergraduate Research Symposium, St. Paul, MN. April 2015.

Ryan Sivertson and J.R. Klein. Genetic Analysis of Intron Splicing in Lactococcus lactis. Minnesota Private Colleges Scholars at the Capitol. St. Paul, MN. February 2007.

The publications and presentations listed below represent some of my professional body of work

Select Publications

Cissy J. Ballen, Jessamina E. Blum, Sara Brownell, Sadie Hebert, James Hewlett, Joanna R. Klein, Erik A. McDonald, Denise L. Monti, Stephen C. Nold, Krista E. Slemmons, Paula A.G. Soneral, Sehoya Cotner. (2017) A call to develop course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) for nonmajor courses. CBE Life Science Education. Vol. 16:mr2.

Klein, J.R. (2014) Two Laboratory Activities Using Conventional or Real-Time PCR to Simulate Pathogenic E. coli Detection, Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education. Vol. 14, Issue 1.

Klein, J.R. and T. Gulsvig (2012) Using Bioinformatics to Develop and Test Hypotheses: E. coli Specific Virulence Determinants. Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education. Vol. 13, Issue 2.

Klein, J.R. (2011). Investigation of Escherichia coli in Freshwater Sources Using Membrane Filtration and Rep-PCR DNA Fingerprinting with Introductory Biology Students. Pages 104-116, in Tested Studies for Laboratory Teaching, Volume 32 (K. McMahon, Editor). Proceedings of the 32nd Conference of the Association for Biology Laboratory Education (ABLE), 445 pages.

Klein, J.R. (2007). Career Exploration Finds a Place in the Classroom. Focus on Microbiology Education. Vol. 13, No. 3.

Klein, J.R., Y. Chen, D.A. Manias, J. Zhou, L. Zhou, C.L. Peebles, G.M. Dunny. (2004) A Conjugation-Based System for Genetic Analysis of Group II Intron Splicing in Lactococcus lactis. J. Bacteriol. 186:1991-1998.,

Select Oral Presentations

Klein, J.R., The Small World Initiative: harnessing the power of undergraduate researches to identify new antibiotics. UNWSP Scholarship Symposium, May 2018.

Klein, J.R., Light, J.D., and Grant, R. Water Quality of Lake Johanna: Environmental and Public Health Perspectives. UNWSP Scholarship Symposium. May 2017.

Klein, J.R. Preparing a Promotion Dossier Using eFolio, MN eLearning Summit. July 2014.

Klein, J.R. Building on experience; microbial genome annotation as a course based-undergraduate research experience. American Society for Microbiology Conference for Undergraduate Educators (ASMCUE) Microbrew Session, Boston, MA. May 2014.

Klein, J.R. Fueling the Future: Genetics Research on the Marine Bacterium Cellulophaga lytica. UNWSP Scholarship Symposium. May 2014.

Klein, J.R. Leading an Elementary School Science Club: A Service Learning Project for Microbiology Students. American Society for Microbiology Conference for Undergraduate Educators. Baltimore, MD. May 2011.

Klein, J.R. Investigation of Escherichia coli in freshwater sources using membrane filtration and Rep-PCR DNA fingerprinting with Introductory Biology Students. Major Workshop at Annual meeting of the Association of Biology Laboratory Educators. Halifax, Nova Scotia. June 2010.

Klein, J.R. Lake Johanna E. coli Monitoring Program, NWC Scholarship Symposium. May 2007.

Klein, J.R. Genetic Analysis of intron splicing in Lactococcus lactis. NWC Scholarship Symposium. May 2006.

Select Poster Presentations

Klein, J.R. A Teaching Strategy to Address Origins in a Microbiology Course for Non-majors at a Christian University. Poster Presentations at American Scientific Affiliation Annual Meeting, Wenham, MA. July 2018.

Klein, J.R. A Teaching Strategy to Relate Christian Faith and Scientific Explanations of Origins: Its Impact and Effectiveness. Poster Presentations at: American Society for Microbiology Conference for Undergraduate Educators (ASMCUE), Denver, CO and American Scientific Affiliation Annual Meeting, Golden, CO. July 2017.

Klein, J.R. Genome Annotation in an Undergraduate Genetics Course. Poster presentation and panelist at CUREnet meeting. Cold Spring Harbor Lab, NY. March 2014.

Klein, J.R. Is it E. coli O157:H7? Using Bioinformatics to Develop and Test Hypotheses. American Society for Microbiology Conference for Undergraduate Educators. Baltimore, MD. May 2011.

Karlen, E.K., Kieke, M.C., Klein, J.R. The Science Research Institute: Partnering High School and College Students in Research and Service. National Association of Biology Teachers, Professional Development Conference. Minneapolis, MN. November 2010.

Klein, J.R. Integrating Faculty Research in the Genetics Curriculum; Genetic Analysis of Intron Splicing in Lactococcus lactis. American Society for Microbiology Conference for Undergraduate Educators. Buffalo, NY. May 2007.


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