Applied Biomolecular, Biobehavioral, & Health Studies Research Interest Group

Proposed Research Teams/Collaborations:

  • Clinical Infectious Disease Control Research Unit: 
    • Henry Spratt, PhD;
    • David Levine, PhD, DPT, RPT;
    • Davy Giles, PhD;
    • Janara Huff, MD (UTCOMC/Children’s Erlanger)

CIDC Website


  • Biomolecular & Behavioral Research Team: 
    • Manuel Santiago, PhD;
    • Jose Barbosa, PhD;
    • Nicki Ozbek, PhD;
    • Davy Giles, PhD;
    • Lani Gao, PhD;
    • Yukie Kajita, PhD;
    • Jill Shelton, PhD;
    • Amanda Clark, PhD;
    • Charlene Schmidt, PhD;
    • Brit Cusack, PhD
    • Chapel Cowden, MS
    • Kate Kemplin, DNP, RN, CCEMTP


Research Center for Applied Biomolecular, Behavioral, and Health Studies


Recent Research Projects


Physical Therapy and Chemistry

Effects of Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation on Neuropeptides and Hormones in Healthy Subjects.

Dr. David Levine (PI); Dr. Manuel F. Santiago

The purpose of this study is to measure the effect of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) on neuropeptides and hormone levels in blood plasma.  TENS is a widely used modality in physical therapy for pain control despite the physiological mechanisms for achieving the pain control being unknown. An existing theory is that various neuropeptides (such as beta-endorphins) are released into the blood stream during this treatment. This study will examine various neuropeptides and hormones in the blood prior to, during, and after TENS to study this effect.

The pilot study revealed a presence of endorphin in the blood serum after subjects were exposed to TENS. Using UV-Vis Spectroscopy, Fluorescence Spectroscopy, High Pressure Liquid Chromatography, and protein assay, the serum contained various amounts of the protein. The next stage of this pilot investigation is to increase the number of subjects (control group and TENS exposed group) to analyze the protein production and identify other endogenous opioids produced during nerve stimulation.


Levine D, Barlow S, Santiago M, Sluka K, Ervin A, Ladage J, Dalton E, Jones T.  The Effect of Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation on Plasma Levels of β-Endorphins.  Proceedings of the Combined SectionsMmeeting of the American Physical Therapy Association, Anaheim, CA, February 17-20, 2016. 


Biology and Chemistry


Peer-reviewed presentation and ongoing project at:

Southeast Region of the American Chemical Society, 2015


Detection and determination of alkaloid compounds in lady bird eggs.

Mr. William Perry, Dr. Yukie Kajita (PI), Dr. Manuel Santiago (PI)

Predatory ladybird beetles (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) are known as natural enemies for several agricultural pest insects. They contain various alkaloid compounds for their defense and aposematic coloration. In general, alkaloids are a large group of compounds that are divided into three basic categories: steroid, straight chain, and heterocyclic. A thorough analysis of the alkaloids can provide insight towards the nutrition levels and defensive status of the insects. Two sample groups of ladybird beetle eggs from Coccinella septempunctata were collected in different time periods and analyzed by UV-Vis, fluorimeter, HPLC, and GC-MS. During the course of the project, novel methods were developed to quantify three (3) different alkaloids of cholesterol, octadecyl acetate, and estradiol. The results showed that the overall amount of the 3 different alkaloids was similar; however, the average concentration of each varied between the groups. Those variations might be explained by females’ reproductive conditions including age and feeding habit.


Two DHON students’ projects: Understanding the defensive chemical profile and the dynamics of the chemical production throughout the life stage in predatory ladybird beetles.


Andrea Hixon, Robert Kropp, Dr. Yukie Kajita (PI), Dr. Manuel Santiago (PI)

Many insects sequester defensive chemicals, including alkaloids, from their diet, or synthesize these compounds de novo. Identification of alkaloids in predatory ladybirds (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) has been investigated extensively; however, it is not known how variable the amount of defensive alkaloids is throughout their life stages. We will identify and quantify the defensive alkaloids from egg, 1st to 4th instar larvae, pupa, and adults in invasive H. axyridis and C. septempunctata and native Hippodamia convergens (Guérin) using UV-Vis, fluorimeter, HPLC, and GC-MS. Two undergraduate students, Andrea Hixon and Robert Kropp, will work on their DHON projects.


Library and Chemistry


Paper published in Journal of Chemical Education:


Interdisciplinary Explorations: Promoting Critical Thinking via Problem-Based Learning in an Advanced Biochemistry Class. J. Chem. Educ.  2015, DOI: 10.1021/acs.jchemed.5b00378

Chapel D. Cowden (PI) and Manuel F. Santiago

Interdisciplinary approaches to research in the sciences have become increasingly important in solving a wide range of pressing problems at both global and local levels. It is imperative then that science majors in higher education understand the need for exploring information from a wide array of disciplines. With this in mind, interdisciplinary instruction has the potential to bring new insights and methods to enhance learning and promote critical thinking skills while itself modeling the benefits of interdisciplinary practice in research. This paper explores an interdisciplinary collaboration between a librarian and a chemist seeking to improve student research and critical thinking skills through the utilization of problem-based learning. A module exploring the interdisciplinary nature of science was implemented for an advanced Biochemistry class and delivered in a library setting. Initial findings of this pilot project suggest that the implementation of a carefully constructed, problem-based curriculum has the potential to improve research skills and multidisciplinary thinking as well as engender a more holistic view of chemical research.


Psychology and Chemistry


Exploring Relationships between Stress and Olfaction as Mediated by Neuropeptide Y

Dr. Nicky Ozbek (PI), Mr. Joe Heaton, Dr. Manuel Santiago

Olfaction plays an important role in many everyday situations. In particular, research is shifting towards the way that the sense of smell can be indicative of clinical psychological issues comorbid with physiological concerns. The literature is thorough in regard to a link between olfactory sensitivity and depression to the extent that smell is being suggested as a marker for depression (Croy et al., 2014). In the current study, the potential relationship between smell and stress is explored. Specifically, neuropeptide y (NPY) is suggested as the mediating factor in this relationship and explanatory physiological pathways are offered. NPY has been linked to stress, but this connection has not been explored in regard to olfactory sensitivity. Ultimately, the primary hypothesis of the current study is that olfactory sensitivity does indeed correlate negatively with stress and positively with NPY. Potential diagnostic measures and ideas for stress interventions would be explored given this outcome.

Initially, the protocol for protein standards for the identification of serum proteins should confirm the synthesis of neuropeptide Y and the concentration of the protein in each subject.



Biology and Chemistry


 Effects of Nitrogen Sources and Nitrogen Availability in the Soil on the Nitrate Uptake, Nitrate Leaching and Enzyme Activities in Plants and soil.

Dr. Jose Barbosa, (PI), Dr. Manuel F. Santiago;

Nitrogen is one the most important plant macronutrient whose deficiency can compromise plant growth, development and consequent yield. Due to the cyclic nature and mobility of this nutrient, very seldom the amount of nitrogen found in the soil suffices plants demand. Chemical and/or organic fertilizers are applied to cover for the natural deficiency of nitrogen. Chemical nitrogenous fertilizers are fast-acting, readily available to plants, but are short-lasting. They rapidly leach through the soil profile ending up in the groundwater. On the other hand, organic fertilizers have to decompose before nutrients can become available, making them a slow-acting fertilizers. However, inappropriate use of nitrogenous fertilizer can have undesirable biological and environmental impact. In addition to the environmental impact, activities of enzymes involved in nitrogen metabolism are affected by external nitrogen sources. For instance, nitrate reductase is a substrate-inducible enzyme whose activity is enhanced with increased NO3- concentration in the tissue. Since nitrate is directly taken up from the soil by plants, the activity of nitrate reductase ultimately depends on the amount of NO3- available in the environment. Likewise, the specific activities of GS and GOGAT involved in ammonium assimilation varies considerably when plants are grown in mediums with organic nitrogen than with inorganic nitrogen. 

The study of nitrogen uptake and enzymatic activities for the purpose of enhancing plant nutrient use and minimizing nitrogen loss requires three following objectives:

  1. The amount of nitrogen uptake of plants grown in different media composition as quantified by accumulation of NO3- in plant tissues.
  2. The activities of enzymes involved in primary nitrogen metabolism as affected by different nitrogen sources, and the availability of nitrogen in the surrounding medium.
  3. Nitrogen (NO3-) leach from pots as affected by the difference in the nitrogen sources.


Physical Therapy and Biology


Spratt HG, Levine D, Tillman L. Physical therapy clinic therapeutic ultrasound equipment as a source for bacterial contamination. Physiotherapy Theory Practice. 2014; 30(7):507-11.


Levine D, Spratt H, Walker JR, Tobias R, Harmon H, Rock B, Cooper Z, Winkleman D. Dry Needling and the Potential for Bacterial Contamination. 

Infectious Disease Agents in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit: An Investigative Study also listed here:


Psychology and Chemistry


Dr. Jill Shelton (PI); Dr. Manuel Santiago

Psychology and Chemistry Departments are developing a research project geared towards investigating the psychological and biochemical markers of resilience (i.e., ability to overcome stressful life events). Our original idea focused on veterans, and after participating in an NIH grant proposal workshop at UTC last year, we sent our specific aims to the an NIH program officer working in their veterans/PTSD area. We were told that our particular project idea did not fit within their current priorities. We are still very interested in the exploring resilience markers, but we are now focusing on resilience in aging.

During my post-doc I designed a project in collaboration with the Washington University in St. Louis Medical School and Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center to assess the potential benefits of a behavioral strategy for improving prospective memory (i.e., remembering to complete your future plans) in healthy older adults and patients in the early stage of Alzheimer’s disease. This project was part of a longitudinal study involving cognitive scientists, clinical psychologists, nurses, neuroscientists, neurologists, and other bio-medical specialists. The data collection process continued for several years, and we have recently gotten two manuscripts published in top-tier journals (citations listed below), and the Journal of the American Geriatric Society is well known for publishing multi-disciplinary work on aging and health. In addition, we have presented these data at both national and international academic conferences. My goal is to continue this line of research at UTC, which will require making connections with the nursing department and physicians at the UT-Erlanger Medical Center.


Shelton, J. T., Lee, J. H., Scullin, M. K., Rose, N., Rendell, P., & McDaniel, M. A. (in press). Implementation intentions boost prospective memory in Alzheimer’s disease patients. Journal of the American Geriatric Society.


Lee, J. H., Shelton, J. T., Scullin, M. K., & McDaniel, M. A. (2015). Anyone can do it: implementation intention strategy and cue focality in older adults with very mild Alzheimer’s disease. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, doi: 10.1111/bjc.12084


Shelton, J. T., Lee, J. H., Scullin, M. K., Rose, N., Rendell, P., & McDaniel, M. A. (May, 2014). Implementation intentions boost prospective memory in very mildly demented older adults. Paper presented at the 4th International Conference on Prospective Memory, Naples, Italy.


Shelton, J. T., Lee, J. H., Scullin, M. K., Rose, N., Rendell, P., & McDaniel, M. A. (2012, April). Implementation Intentions Boost Prospective Memory in the Very Mildly Demented. Paper presented at the Cognitive Aging Conference, Atlanta.


Psychology and Chemistry


Olfactory Sensitivity Pre- and Post-Dialysis

Dr. Nicky Ozbek (PI) and Dr. Manuel Santiago

The Wheeler University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (WUTC) Odor Threshold Test was administered twice, at the start and conclusion of dialysis in December 2015 to seventeen patients participating in dialysis at Chattanooga Kidney Center (CKC) North Dialysis Unit, which is under the supervision of Dr. Chris Poole. UTC graduate students in the Research Masters program and an undergraduate student participating in Olfactory team collected the Informed Consent, demographic information and administered the WUTC twice under the supervision of Dr. Nicky Ozbek. 

Blood draws, pre and post dialysis, were taken by a qualified staff member of the Southeast Regional Renal Research Center. These blood samples are now stored in Dr. Manuel Santiago’s Chemistry lab Blood levels of p-cresol and kyurenine will be analyzed in the UTC Chemistry lab, under the direction of Dr. Manuel Santiago, as part of the UTC Research Center for Applied Biomolecular, Behavioral, and Health Studies.