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Jason Duncan

Associate Professor of Biology
Specialty: Molecular Geneticist

Headshot of Jason Duncan

Contact Information

Salem Campus

Olin Science Center 209
900 State Street
Salem  Oregon  97301
503-375-5425 (Fax)


Coming soon


  • Ph.D., University of Southern California, Program of Molecular Biology, 2002
  • M.Sc., University of Manitoba, Department of Physiology, 1995
  • B.Sc. (Hons), University of Manitoba, Department of Zoology, 1993

Teaching Philosophy

My pedagogical philosophy in undergraduate science education advocates for the immersion of students in the practice of investigative, hypothesis driven science as a way to learn the scientific process, to acquire and develop science process skills, to understand the reality and challenges of science, and to be given the opportunity to become creators of knowledge. In short, I believe that science should be taught as it is practiced. Therefore, my goal as a teacher, beyond teaching students fundamental concepts in molecular biology and genetics, is to engage students in the process of science. Partnering with students in rigorous, authentic experimental research is central to many careers in biology and is critical in providing students the opportunity to acquire and develop science process competencies that include writing research proposals, formulating hypotheses, designing and performing experiments, troubleshooting problems, interpreting data, reading and synthesizing the scientific literature, and effectively communicating their scientific results. Participation in investigative research also has the added benefit of assisting students in developing general life skills that includes; enhancing their ability to work and collaborate with others, promoting effective time-­management strategies, strengthening organizational skills, increasing proficiency in prioritizing and planning, and improving critical thinking and interpretation of information. In essence, my aim is not teach students biology, but rather to train students to become biologists.

Courses of Instruction

BIOL 130 Cell Biology and Genetics

BIOL 130 Cell Biology and Genetics is an introductory course for students who are considering a major in biology, biochemistry or a career in biomedical sciences. All organisms are composed of cells. By developing a fundamental understanding of the structure and function of cells, students will be prepared to address interesting contemporary questions such as how cells communicate with each other and achieve homeostasis in the organism; how disease arises; how organisms reproduce, mature and die; and how the environment impacts organism/cellular behavior and health. By studying genetics and the molecular biology of the cell, students will have the foundation to make the connection between phenotype and genotype; to understand how external signals influence gene expression and how the potential for heritable genetic change is a key feature of evolution.

BIOL 333 Gene Structure and Function

BIOL 333 Gene Structure and Function focuses on the study of the principles of heredity in microbes, plants and animals. It is an integrated course in classical and contemporary molecular genetics dealing with such topics as: the structure of DNA, RNA and proteins, Mendelian genetics, extrachromosomal inheritance, non-Mendelian inheritance, epigenetics, gene interactions, gene regulation, mutagenesis, and recombinant DNA technology.

BIOL 350 Molecular Genetics (W)

BIOL 350 Molecular Genetics is a research methods course with a focus on the structure and function of genetic material at the molecular level. Topics to be explored include: DNA, RNA, proteins and their interrelationships through the "Central Dogma" of information transfer; genetic regulation; recombinant DNA and genetic engineering; genetic screening. Special emphasis will be on placed on developing student skills as future biologists through a variety of instructional resources including group discussion, critical analysis of the primary literature, and collaborative and independent research projects utilizing the model system Drosophila melanogaster.

Research Interests

The transport of proteins, mRNA transcripts and organelles within a cell facilitates their localization to discreet cellular domains for specific cellular functions. Active transport systems are complex, highly coordinated and utilized in a diverse array of cellular activities including axonal transport, organelle movement, chromosome segregation and vesicle motion. This extensive range of action is indicative of the importance of cellular transport systems in the fundamental biology of the cell and foreshadows the consequences when they become perturbed in multicellular organisms. My current research interests aim to identify components of microtubule based transport systems in the cell.


  • Duncan, J.E., N. Lytle*, A. Zuniga*, and L.S.B. Goldstein. 2013. The microtubule regulatory protein stathmin is required to maintain the integrity of axonal microtubules. PLoS ONE 8(6).
  • Duncan, J.E. and L.S.B. Goldstein. 2006. The genetics of axonal transport and axonal transport disorders. PloS Genetics. 2(9): 1275-1284
  • Bornemann, D.J., J.E. Duncan, W. Staatz, S. Selleck, R. Warrior. 2004. Abrogation of heparan sulfate synthesis in Drosophila disrupts the Wingless, Hedgehog and Decapentaplegic signaling pathways. Development. 131:1927-1938
  • Duncan, J.E. and R. Warrior. 2002. The cytoplasmic dynein and kinesin motors have interdependent roles in patterning the Drosophila oocyte. Current Biology. 12(23):1982-1991
  • Duncan, J.E., Hatch, G.M., Belik, J. 1996. Susceptibility of exogenous surfactant to phospholipase A2 degradation. Can. J. Physiol. Pharmacol. 74(8):957-63
Willamette University

Biology Department

Willamette University
900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.
503-375-5425 fax