Biobehavioral Health Faculty

Biobehavioral Health Faculty

Dr. John Peles   |   412-675-9484   |   308 Ostermayer Building, Penn State Greater Allegheny

Dr. John Peles is Professor of Biology and Coordinator of the Biobehavioral Health Degree program at Penn State Greater Allegheny.  A native of western Pennsylvania, Dr. Peles earned an undergraduate degree in Environmental Health and an MS in Biology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.  He completed his PhD in Zoology at Miami University and was a postdoctoral associate with the University of Georgia at the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory.  His research interests include the influence of toxicant exposure on physiological parameters in aquatic organisms, the use of biochemical markers as indicators of contaminant exposure, and the study of uptake and distribution of environmental contaminants in natural systems.  Dr. Peles has published more than 40 papers in peer-reviewed journals.  He also has published numerous book chapters and has co-edited two books.  In 17 years at Penn State, Dr. Peles has taught 12 different courses covering a wide variety of subjects including introductory biology, cell and molecular biology, genetics, physiology, ecology, biostatistics, biochemistry, and behavioral genetics.

Dr. Kristal Tucker   |   412-675-9033   |   305 Ostermayer Laboratory, Penn State Greater Allegheny

Dr. Kristal Tucker earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Tennessee in 1994.  In 2010 she received a Ph.D in Neuroscience from Florida State University, where her research focused on the effects of diet-induced obesity on the neurobiology of the brain.  During the time between her undergraduate and graduate degrees, Dr. Tucker worked as a research scientist at Auburn University, Florida State University, and the pharmaceutical Schering-Plough, studying ion channels, the proteins responsible for the electrical signals in the brain and heart.  Before joining the faculty at Penn State Greater Allegheny, she was a Research Instructor at the University of Pittsburgh, investigating the electrical and metabolic properties of the neurons that die during Parkinson’s disease, the dopamine neurons of the substantia nigra.  Now that she is here at Penn State Greater Allegheny, she is excited be part of the Biolbehavioral Health program helping undergraduates reach their career goals.  As well as teaching biology and neurobiology courses, she is thrilled to open her new lab to undergraduate research in neurobiology.  She and her students will use primary cultures of dopamine neurons from the substantia nigra, an area of the brain sensitive to metabolic stress, and dopamine neurons of the olfactory bulb, a brain area that is not sensitive to metabolic stress, to compare the physiological parameters that are responsible for this difference in sensitivity.  This work, beyond the contribution to Parkinson’s research, provides our Biobehavioral Health students with laboratory experience, opportunities for publication and presentation at meetings, and research skills necessary for entering today’s job market.

Dr. Penelope Morrison   |   724-334-6719   |   111A Administration Building, Penn State New Kensington

Dr. Morrison holds a PhD in medical anthropology and a master’s degree in public health from the University of Pittsburgh. She has worked extensively on research addressing health disparities for underserved populations of women and children.  Her most recent research utilizes traditional ethnographic methods to investigate what intervention practices work best for promoting long term behavioral change among men who perpetrate violence against women, and how to best stem the epidemic of intimate partner violence in the United States.  She also currently serves as a methodological consultant and co-investigator on research which examines the issues of sexual coercion and Hepatitis C knowledge among opioid dependent pregnant patients. Dr. Morrison has also worked both domestically and abroad on research related to sexual risk taking and substance use behaviors among vulnerable populations of youth.  Prior to arriving at Penn State New Kensington, Dr. Morrison served as a co-investigator and senior research associate at Magee-Womens Research Institute where she developed interdisciplinary collaborations with investigators at RAND, Veterans Affairs Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion and the University of Pittsburgh. She has also served as a qualitative methodological expert on projects related to veteran’s health, PTSD, informed consent, maternal to child transmission of HIV/AIDS, LGBTQ youth and substance use, telemedicine, and patient-provider substance use communication. Dr. Morrison teaches BBH 101 Introduction to Biobehavioral Health, BBH 302 Diversity and Health, BBH 305 Introduction to Global Health Issues, BBH 310 Research Strategies for Studying Biobehavioral Health, BBH 315 Gender and Biobehavioral Health, BBH 316 Foundations and Principles of Health Promotion, BBH 407 Global Health Equity, BBH 416 Health Promotion II: Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation, and BBH 446 Human Sexuality as a Health Concern.