Photo of Dr. Reiss
Rebecca Reiss has been with the Biology Department since 1995. As a geneticist, she is fascinated by DNA evolution.  From microbes to mammals, if it has DNA, it has the potential to be a topic of research in her lab.  Her current research projects involve using bioinformatics techniques to analyze high-throughput sequencing (HTS) datasets. 

HTS is a product of the collaboration of biologists, engineers, and chemists to rapidly determine the sequence of bases that comprise nucleic acids (DNA and RNA.)  Collaborations with computer scientists and mathematicians are required to develop bioinformatics tools that allow biologists to find significant biological changes.  This technique provides a detailed picture of genomes and how they change in response to environmental changes. There are three HTS projects currently under study in Dr. Reiss' lab.

The first HTS project involves the evolution of a microbial community in tetrachloroethene  (dry cleaning fluid) contaminated groundwater at an EPA Superfund Site in Espanola New Mexico.  Apparently microbes like fat as much as we do, since the injection of vegetable oil into the contaminated groundwater results in a population explosion of bacteria, some of which can degrade the pollutant to a harmless compound.  The collaborator on this project, Peter Guerra, is an environmental engineer (M.S. 2000, NMTech) who worked in Dr. Reiss' Lab.  (link to the NRAP RAP here)

The next project involves response of mammalian cells to high-fat diets.  In collaboration with physiologists Drs. Karen Sweazea (Arizona State University) and Vijak Naik (University of New Mexico), RNA from aorta of rats fed a normal-fat chow diets (CHOW) (4%) or a high-fat diet (HFD) (60%) was sequenced and compared.  The rats on the HFD exhibited symptoms of metabolic dysfunction, including significant weight gain and other metabolic changes indicative of a pre-diabetic state.   RNA sequencing reveals changes in expression of genes known to be involved in diabetes as well as regions yet to be linked to disease states.  This includes a region comprised of repetitive DNA, part of the dark matter of the genome.  (fat rat link here).

The response of brain cancer cells to a compound that changes their growth pattern is the third dataset currently under investigation.  Sorting out the subtle, but significant gene expression changes in response to this compound is providing hours of bioinformatics fun!

Teaching responsibilities include Genetics in the Fall and General Biology in the Spring.  In the genetics lab course, students use the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as a model genetic organism. Students design their own reverse genetics experiments, which is based upon a DNA sequencing exercise.  The lab course also includes a unit on Human forensic DNA, in which students learn how DNA from crime scenes is analyzed.  In addition, Dr. Reiss teaches one of an assortment of upper-division courses each semester, including Advanced Genetics, Bioinformatics, or Molecular Ecology.  Currently, she is developing a course in Epigenetics.

Published by the Biology Department, Jones Annex, NM Tech, 801 Leroy Place, Socorro, NM, 87801 (575) 835-5612

Dr. Rebecca A. Reiss
Associate Professor of Biology
New Mexico Tech
801 Leroy Place, Socorro, NM 87801
Phone: (575) 835-5347
FAX: (575) 835-5668

Ph.D., Genetics, Cornell University, 1991
M.S., Genetics, University of New Hampshire, 1978
B.S., Biology, University of Colorado, 1976. Major: Population Biology
Certificate, Photography, Modern School of Photography, 1976


CHAIR, Bioinformatics Working Group, New Mexico Idea Network for Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE). July 2004 - present.
ACTING CHAIR, Department of Biology, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (NM Tech), January - July 2005.
ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, BIOLOGY. NM Tech. 1995 - 2004. Teaching duties include general biology, molecular techniques, cell biology, genetics, molecular ecology, conservation biology, and biotechnology. Mentor undergraduates, graduates in the Master's of Biology program, and high-school teachers in the Master's of Science Teaching program. Research involves the molecular biogeography and molecular evolution of arthropods, microbes, and mammals.
POST DOCTORAL RESEARCHER. University of North Dakota, Department of Biology. 1993 - 1995. Developed molecular genetic techniques to study the biogeography of modern and fossil arctic and alpine beetles.
POST DOCTORAL RESEARCHER. University of California at Irvine, Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Irvine, CA. 1991 - 1993. Conducted research aimed at developing novel methods of controlling the transmission of insect borne infectious diseases.
Professional Societies

American Association for the Advancement of Science 
Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution 
Sigma-Xi Scientific Research Society 
New Mexico Biotechnology and Biomedical Association 
Association for Women in Science 
National Center for Science Education 
Coalition for Science and Math Education

Other Professional Activities

Bioscience Education Network Scholar, Nov. 3, 2006 - present.
Advisory Committee, New Mexico Tech Master of Science for Teachers     Program, Sept., 2006 - present. 
Board of Directors, New Mexico Coalition for Science and Math Education, July, 2006 - present. 
Board of Directors, New Mexico Biotechnology and Biomedical Association, 2002 - 2004.  New Mexico Tech Environmental Science Program Advisory Committee, 1998 - present.  Participant in the National Center for Genome Research Bioinformatics Workshop, Santa Fe, NM, 11 - 15 March, 2002. 
Participant in the 28th NATO Advance Study Institute: Molecular Ecology, Erice, Sicily, 18 - 30 March, 1998. 
Endangered Species Act peer-review board, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, 1996 - present.