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Robert  Potter

Robert Potter

Robert Potter


Office: BSF 302
Phone: 813/974-3538
Lab: BSF 340,342



B.A., California State University, Sacramento, 1973
M.A., University of California, San Diego, 1976
Ph.D., University of California, San Diego, 1979


Research activities in my laboratory range from basic science to highly applied biotechnology projects. All of the projects are linked by a general theme of structure and function in biological systems. We are extremely interested in gaining a better understanding of these relationships and in defining new and better ways of analyzing them.

Signal Transduction

Understanding how information is communicated between the surface and the interior portions of cells has been a major thrust of our basic science efforts. We are interested in the processes and protein structures important in these signal transduction events. One ongoing project is examining the role of protein kinases, especially those of the MAP kinase and protein kinase C families, in the regulation of cell division. Another recent and very exciting project examines a novel cytoplasmic protein glycosylation. This covalent modification may play a role in a new signal transduction system based on attachment of a single N-acetylglucosamine residue to specific amino acids on proteins. This modification appears to be a new mode of regulation altering protein structure and potentially function. It has similarities to, and overlaps with the well known protein phosphorylation systems.

For both these signal transduction projects, our main model system has been the oocyte from the frog Xenopus laevis. This system has proved extremely useful for the study of the biochemistry of cell division. To augment these activities, we have recently begun collaborating with physician-scientists at the Moffitt Cancer Center here on campus. In these studies, we are examining human breast cancer tissue for changes in the activation state of key cell cycle regulatory proteins that might serve as markers or indicators of the degree of breast tissue pathology. The intent is to provide better indicators for prognosis and for designing treatment strategies.

Blood Analysis

The Blood Project is an exciting collaboration with Dr. Garcia Rubio from Chemical Engineering and Dr. German Leparc, Director of the Florida Blood Service. This highly interdisciplinary team has tackled the problem of developing a simple, rapid yet quantitative technology for the diagnostic analysis of whole blood and blood components. To do this, we are applying a novel combined spectroscopic/light scattering approach, which uses the power of diode-array spectrophotometers, and computer assisted deconvolution programs to recover hidden information from UV-visible spectra. From whole blood analysis, we are working to extract information on hemoglobin oxygen saturation levels as well as information on the number, size, type, and quality of particles (red cells, white cell, platelets) present in the complex colloidal suspension that is whole blood. We envision this technology as some day being useful for transfusion medicine in the quality assurance analysis of blood and blood products as well as more generally for the diagnosis of health and disease in clinical or even remote settings.

Science Education

Working with the Coalition for Science Literacy and a regional group of faculty from a number of institutions of higher education, we have developed a new science course sequence for non-science majors/future teachers. The two-semester sequence entitled Science That Matters is based around National and State Science Education Standards. Using relevant topics and more active learning approaches this module based interdisciplinary science series seeks more effective learning outcomes for non-science majors, and better science preparation for our future elementary and middle schools teachers.