Dr. Alexis Campbell

Associate Scientist
Alexis Campbell

Nikolau group responsibilities summary: While with the Nikolau group, my research was focused on the molecular characterization of the biocatalytic machinery of fatty acid elongase (FAE) systems and understanding what types of gene elements impact fatty acid synthesis.  FAE systems synthesize very long chain fatty acids (> 18 carbon atoms in length), and are traditionally difficult to study due genetic redundancy and the membrane nature of the system. To overcome this, I am using techniques from synthetic biology and engineering a plant based FAE plug-and-play system in yeast. Additionally, a meta-analysis of global changes in the yeast transcriptome identified novel Fatty Acid Biosynthesis Regulation (FAB-R) gene candidates. Validation and characterization of the FAB-R gene candidates is being accomplished by four separate approaches: 1) Overexpression/deletion strategies; 2) Metabolite and transcriptome analyses of the fab-r single and double knockout strains; 3) Interrogation of the transcript/metabolite relationships by co-expression analysis; 4) Course-based authentic research model that extends this research into the undergraduate curriculum.

Current position: Science Bound Director, School of Education, Iowa State University

Hometown: West Des Moines, Iowa. Liked best about working with the Nikolau group: The unique environment that has been built. Since beginning in Basil's lab with an NSF-REU undergraduate internship, Summer 2002, it was clear that regardless of education level, we are all here to help teach and advance each other. This includes Basil, who makes time to discuss science (and other topics on occasion!) regardless of how busy he may be. This type of environment is very stimulating and beneficial to a growing scientist. The Nikolau lab continually presents opportunities and challenges to enhance one’s scientific self daily. Fun fact: I have a daughter named Mya. She keeps me smiling, entertained, in awe and busy...motherhood has been the greatest blessing!


Hur M, Campbell AA, Almeida-de-Macedo M, Li L, Ransom N, Jose A, Crispin M, Nikolau BJ, Wurtele ES. 2013. A global approach to analysis and interpretation of metabolic data for plant natural product discovery. Nat Prod Rep. 30(4):565-83. doi: 10.1039/c3np20111b. PMID: 23447050.

Quanbeck, SM, Brachova L, Campbell AA, Guan X, Perera  A, He K, Rhee SY, Bais P, Dickerson JA, Dixon P, Wohlgemuth G, Fiehn O, Barkan L, Lange I, Lange BM, Lee I, Cortes D, Salazar C, Shuman J, Shulaev V, HuhmanDV, Sumner LW, Roth MR, Welti R, Ilarslan H, Wurtele ES and Nikolau BJ. 2012. Metabolomics as a hypothesis-generating functional genomics tool for the annotation of Arabidopsis thaliana genes of "unknown function." Frontiers in Plant Science 3:15. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2012.00015. eCollection 2012. PMID: 22645570.

Area of Expertise: 
Fatty Acid Metabolism
STEM Education Development
B.S., Biology, Iowa State University
Ph.D., Plant Biology, Iowa State University