College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

Jennifer R. Kowalski, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Department of Biological Sciences
Butler University
4600 Sunset Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46208

Office: Gallahue Hall 271

Phone: (317)940-8879
FAX: (317)940-9519

Link to Dr. Kowalski's C.V.

Education & Training

  • B.S., University of Notre Dame, Biology, 2000
  • Ph.D., Harvard University, Cell & Developmental Biology, 2006
  • Postdoctoral training, Tufts University School of Medicine, Physiology, 2006-2009

Courses and Syllabi

Research Interests

Research in the Kowalski lab focuses on understanding the molecular processes that control the ability of neurons to communicate with one another at specialized cellular junctions called synapses (synaptic transmission). The precise regulation of synaptic protein abundance and function impacts the strength of synaptic transmission, which changes during processes such as learning and memory.  We utilize the roundworm C. elegans as a model system in which to identify and characterize enzymes belonging to two highly conserved protein modification pathways (called the ubiquitin pathway and the SUMO pathway) and their substrates that regulate synaptic transmission. To do this, we employ a combination of genetic, biochemical, cell biological, and behavioral approaches. Since there is significant conservation of neuronal proteins between C. elegans and humans, these studies may also provide insight into how synaptic transmission is controlled in the human nervous system.

Read more about research in the Kowalski lab, including an answer to the question "Why study neurobiology in microscopic worms?"


Meet the Kowalski Lab! Find information on past and current lab members and see lab photos.


Kowalski Lab News...Learn about the latest accomplishments and events in the lab.


If you are interested in doing research related to central questions in neuronal cell biology, contact Dr. Kowalski.


  • Kowalski, J. R. and Juo, P. (2012).  The role of deubiquitinating enzymes in synaptic function and nervous system diseases. Neural Plasticity,2012: 13 pages. Article ID: 892749, doi:10.1155/2012/892749.*Review article.
  • Monteiro M.I., Ahlawat S.,Kowalski J.R., Malkin E., Koushika S.P., Juo P. (2012). The kinesin-3 family motor KLP-4 regulates anterograde trafficking of GLR-1 glutamate receptors in the ventral nerve cord of Caenorhabditis elegans. Mol Biol Cell, 23:3647-62.
  • Kowalski, J.R., Dahlberg, C.L.,and Juo, P. (2011). The deubiquitinating enzyme USP-46 negatively regulates the degradation of glutamate receptors to control their abundance in the ventral nerve cord of C. elegans. J. Neuroscience, 31: 1341-1354.
  • Yang, L.,Kowalski, J.R.,Yacono, P., Bajmoczi, M., Shaw, S.K., Froio, R.M., Golan, D.E., Thomas, S.M. and Luscinskas, F.W. (2006). Endothelial cell cortactin coordinates ICAM-1 clustering and actin cytoskeleton remodeling during polymorphonuclear leukocyte adhesion and transmigration. J. Immunology,177:6440-6449.
  • Yang, L.,Kowalski, J.R.,Zhan, X., Thomas, S.M., and Luscinskas, F.W.  (2006). Endothelial cell cortactin phosphorylation by Src contributes to polymorphonuclear leukocyte transmigration in vitro. Circ. Res.98:394-402.
  • Kowalski, J.R., Egile, C., Gil, S., Snapper, S.B., Li, R., and Thomas, S.M.  (2005).  Cortactin regulates cell migration via activation of N-WASP. J. Cell Sci.118:79-87.
  • Hastings, P.J., Bull, H.J.,Klump, J.R.,and Rosenberg, S.M.  (2000) Adaptive amplification, an inducible chromosomal instability mechanism.  Cell103:723-731. 

Grants Funded

External Awards

  • NIH R15 (AREA) award (2012-2015), $372,869,"Investigation of  Anaphase Promoting Complex function  in regulating synaptic transmission".
  • NSF TUES award,co-PI with R.J. Johnson and G. Hoops (Chemistry),(2012-2015), $199,942, "An integrated series of student-driven, research-based undergraduate laboratory courses linking chemical biology, biochemistry, and neurobiology".
  • Senior Research Award (2011-2012),Indiana Academy of Sciences, $2,843, "Investigation of SUMO enzyme function in regulating synaptic transmission at the C. elegans neuromuscular junction"
  • SENCER Post-Institute Implementation award(2010),$2,705 shared award with other members of the Butler 2010 SENCER Team.   NW course proposal with Angela Ockerman (COPHS): "Life, Death and Immortality:  Henrietta Lacks and the HeLa revolution". 
  • Cottrell College Science Award (2010-2012),Research Corporation,$35,000"Identification and characterization of Anaphase Promoting Complex substrates that regulate synaptic transmission inC. elegans"
  • Training in Education and Critical Research Skills (TEACRS) Postdoctoral Fellowship(2006-2009),NIH/National Institute of General Medical Science (NIGMS), IRACDA program
  • Graduate Research Fellowship (2002-2005), National Science Foundation

Internal Awards

  • Faculty Fellowship (2013-2014),Holcomb Awards Committee, Butler University, $4,991 "Characterization of SUMO enzymes that regulate synaptic transmission at the C. elegans neuromuscular junction".
  • Faculty Research Grant (2012-2013),Holcomb Awards Committee, Butler University, $4,946, "Investigation of SUMO enzyme function in regulating synaptic transmission at the C. elegans neuromuscular junction".
  • Faculty Research Grant (2011-2012),Holcomb Awards Committee, Butler University, $3,090, "Investigation of SUMO enzyme function in regulating synaptic transmission at the C. elegans neuromuscular junction".
  • Faculty Research Grant (2010-2011),Holcomb Awards Committee, Butler University, $15,000, "Analysis of Anaphase Promoting Complex function in regulating synaptic transmission at the C. elegans neuromuscular junction"        

Student Research Grants and Awards

American Society for Cell Biology 2012 Undergraduate Poster Competition FIRST PRIZE WINNER

Hitesh Dube

Butler Fairbanks Fellow (Undergraduate Student Research Program Award)


Julie Kolnik 

Butler Summer Institute Awards


Rachael Essig, Julie Kolnik


Kristen Rush, Amy Wasilk


Erica Damler, Hitesh Dube


Greater Indianapolis Area C. elegans Group

Begun in November 2009, the Greater Indianapolis Area C. elegans Group includes researchers working on any aspect of C. elegans biology in and around Indianapolis.  Current members of the group come from labs at Indiana University in Bloomington, IU School of Medicine, and Goshen College, as well as Butler University.  Meetings are held twice per year during which data and/or technique presentations are given by students, postdoctoral fellows, and research assistants.  The mission of the group is to foster interaction, collaborations, and shared resources among C. elegans researchers at all levels working at institutions in central Indiana. Please contact Dr. Kowalski if you are a C. elegans researcher in the area interested in participating in this group. 


Related Links


 updated 8/13/2013