Faculty & Staff

Dr. Laura Wessels

Dr. Laura Wessels

Assistant Professor
Physics & Physical Science
Bruner Hall, 217
(308) 865-8907

I received my PhD in Physics from North Carolina State University in 2009. My biophysics research focused on using dye molecules to study membrane fusion in viruses. I plan to continue studying viruses using microfluidic devices, aka lab on a chip technology. In 1999 I received my MS from Vanderbilt University in Mechanical Engineering. I researched propulsion devices for interstellar spacecraft. Obviously I have a wide interest range from the very large study of nature undertaken in astrophysics to the very small study of nature undertaken in biophysics. I was a visiting professor at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia for the past 3 years. Prior to that I was as a CIS professor at Strayer University from 1999 to 2008. Additionally in 2010 I interned at the North Carolina State University's Office of Technology Transfer where I did a lot of marketing of patented technologies. It was fascinating to see the 'business side' of science.

Cell membrane fusion is critical for many biological processes including egg fertilization and viral infection. My lab focuses on the latter. Viruses and their membranes are smaller than the resolution limit of a microscope. Additionally membrane fusion occurs more rapidly than most CCD cameras can capture. Viruses differ greatly and not all viruses have a cell membrane. Overcoming the stochastic nature of membrane fusion and improving the spatial and temporal resolution of the equipment used to capture this process are some of the challenges I tackle in my research lab. I use fluorescent dye molecules, microfluidics and image processing to learn as much as I can about the mechanics and thermodynamics of the membrane fusion process.