Dave Unander, Ph.D.

Dave UnanderProfessor of Biology
Office: McInnis 310
E-mail: dunander@eastern.edu
Phone: 610-341-5860
Read Dr. Unander's CV


B.S. and M.S. Southern Illinois University
Ph.D. University of Minnesota
At Eastern full-time since 1992; part-time 1988-1991.


Dr. Unander began his career as a plant breeder, desiring improve global food production.  This involved studying genetics, agronomy/agricultural ecology and other disciplines. For 14 years, he was a full-time researcher: part of a pharmaceutical research team studying tropical plants with potential antiviral effects, through Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia; disease resistance and harvest quality in vegetables and dry beans, through the Univ. of Puerto Rico and a USAID program in the Dominican Republic and Honduras; genetic variability in early spring cold tolerance in soybeans, through the Univ. of Minnesota; genetics of resistance in soybeans to new races of soybean cyst nematode, through Southern Illinois University.

In 1992, he began teaching full-time at Eastern, primarily in the Dept. of Biology, but also some graduate courses in international development.  Biology electives he’s developed include Medical Botany and Tropical Biology. Since 2003, he has taught Tropical Agriculture and Missions, a May term course in Costa Rica, offered through the Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies (www.ausable.org).  He helped designed, and teaches in, the Creation Care Study Program (www.CreationCSP.org), an environmental-focused semester abroad, offered in Belize and in New Zealand. 

Outside teaching, his focus is in service related to sustainable agriculture. He’s served on boards of several Christian missions that focus on sustainable community development: ECHO (www.echonet.org) is a Christian service mission providing training and agricultural extension in poorer countries globally; Plant with Purpose (formerly Floresta) (www.plantwithpurpose.org) promotes reforestation through local Christian NGOS in eight countries; Hope Seeds (www.hopeseeds.org) aids relief and development through other organizations and national churches with ecological appropriate, high quality seeds. He frequently travels to Latin American countries for consulting, teaching or with mission projects.

Dr. Unander plays guitar, sometimes leads worship in small venues, and enjoys many styles of music from around the world, most of them far beyond his skills to play. He spends a lot of time with his four adult children, and six grandchildren, all in this area. He’s an active member of Providence Church (www.providencewc.org), located in the old Italian Social Club in West Chester. He’s proficient in Spanish, and a novice in Italian.

Courses Currently Taught

BIOL 103 (Earthkeeping), BIOL 151 (General Biology), BIOL 290 (Tropical Biology), BIOL 309 (Ecology), BIOL 315 (Medical Botany), BIOL 350C (Vascular Plants), Tropical Agriculture and Missions (taught in Costa Rica through the Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies), Introduction to Sustainable Development (team-taught in Belize through the Creation Care Study Program).

Why I Teach at Eastern

Ron Sider’s book Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger was my first exposure to Eastern. Reading Ron’s book was an important factor in why I pursued a career in Biology and disciplines related to sustainable agriculture, at a time when I doubted I was even college material.

Science doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The worldview and moral choices of each scientist affect the questions studied, and applications made. No one is ever truly neutral or objective.  Meanwhile, universities today are typically not uni-anything, but divided between a bleak faith in empiricism – that only what can be measured is real – vs. a search for meaning so uncertain, strong convictions become suspect as delusion. Sometimes science is viewed as a cause of modern alienation and environmental degradation.

God, revealed in the Bible as maker of all we can measure, (and much we can’t), has given us a way to know Him outside of our search through philosophy and theology.  If Jesus be uniquely, fully, both God and Human, morally without failure, crucified by the Romans and risen from death in a restored body, there is a real alternative to know truth and what God is like, other than the empiricist and existentialist options on the menu in most universities.  Being fully God and fully human, Jesus alone could somehow cover all the guilt and shame that weighs us down from our true potential.  Jesus Christ alone offers us a type of new life based in the certainty of who he is and the opportunity to commune with him personally, not merely a set of abstract ideas.

Eastern has a great program in the sciences, preparing our alumni well for professional careers. But we’re more than only that. It’s a privilege to teach science where we go beyond merely the measured, to consider our place before God, and to openly talk with God in class and outside of class about our needs, or just our gratitude.

Jesus’ teaching that the greatest commands are to love God with all our heart, soul and mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:34-40) mean that our study of science should amplify our worship of God the Creator and amplify our means of mercy to those suffering.  Loving our neighbor also means caring for the world that belongs to God on which our lives derive their air, water and food.

Research Interests

Areas related to ecology, agriculture and sustainable communities. 

Examples of Publications:

  • Unander, D.W. Did Scientists Really Discover the 'Gene That Makes Us Human'? What's inside the significant discovery of miR-941.  Christianity Today (online only) (6 Dec. 2012). 
  • http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/december-web-only/did-scientists-really-discover-gene-that-makes-us-human.html
  • Unander, D.W.  Science and Christian faith at Eastern.  Spirit, (Fall 2006).
  • Unander, D. W. Shattering the myth of race: genetic realities and Biblical truths.  Judson Press, Valley Forge, PA.  127 pp. (2000).
  • Sabin, S. and D. W. Unander.  Superstars of the created world: forest engineering.  Pp. 103-120 in: Creation-care in ministry: down-to-earth Christianity.  W. D. Roberts and P.E. Pretiz, eds.  Assoc. of Evangelical Relief and Development Organizations (AERDO), Wynnewood, PA. 212 pp. (2000).
  • Unander, D. W.  Phyllanthus as a chemopreventative: a case study of why it's hard to translate ethnobotany to the clinic.  Cancer Prevention International 3: 143-152, (1998).
  • Unander, D. W.  Phyllanthus species: In vitro culture and the production of secondary metabolites.  Chapter 18 in: Y.P.S. Bajaj, ed., Biotechnology in Agriculture and Forestry, Vol. 37: 304-318. Medicinal and Aromatic Plants IX, Springer-Verlag Publ., Berlin, (1996).
  • Unander, D. W., G. L. Webster and B. S. Blumberg. Uses and bioassays in Phyllanthus (Euphorbiaceae).  IV. Clustering of uses and other effects.  The Journal of Ethnopharmacology 45: 1-18, (1995).
  • Unander, D. W., H. H. Bryan, C. J. Lance and R. T. McMillan, Jr. Cultivation of Phyllanthus amarus and evaluation of variables potentially affecting yield and activity against viral DNA polymerase. Economic Botany 47: 79-88, (1993).
  • National Research Council; N. D. Vietmeyer, Ed. Neem: a tree for solving global problems. I wrote much of the draft for the chapter on medicinal effects of neem (Azadirachta indica), and served on a review panel with five other scientists and the editor to develop the final text. National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council, Office of International Affairs, Washington, D.C. 139 pp, (1992).
  • Unander, D. W., G. L. Webster and B. S. Blumberg. Uses and bioassays in Phyllanthus (Euphorbiaceae): a compilation. II. The subgenus Phyllanthus. The Journal of Ethnopharmacology 34:97-133, (1991).
  • Unander, D. W. and B. S. Blumberg. In vitro activity of Phyllanthus (Euphorbiaceae) species against the DNA polymerase of hepatitis viruses: Effects of growing environment and inter- and intra-specific differences. Economic Botany 45:225-242, (1991).
  • Unander, D. W., P. S. Venkateswaran, I. Millman and B. S. Blumberg. La inhibición de la ADN polimerasa viral dependiente de virus hepatitis por especies de Phyllanthus, y los efectos genéticos y ambientales sobre esta actividad. Brenesia 35:27-40, (1991).
  • Unander, D. W., R. Díaz-Donaire, J. S. Beaver, J. Cerna and D. Espinal. Yield stability of dry bean genotypes in Honduras. The Journal of Agriculture of the University of Puerto Rico 73:339-348, (1989).
  • Unander, D. W. and F. Varela-Ramírez. Selection of pulp color and thickness in calabaza. HortScience 23:755-757, (1988).
  • Unander, D. W., J. H. Orf and J. W. Lambert. Early season cold tolerance in soybeans. Crop Science 26:676-680, (1986).

Examples of Talks:

  • “Fuentes viejas y nuevas para las prácticas adecuadas en la agrícultura global.” Seminar presented at: ECHO Caribbean Regional Conference, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, (Oct. 2013).  (Plenary talk in Spanish simultaneously translated into Haitian Kreyol and English.)
  • “Los ecosistemas tropicales y como se forman.” Seminar presented in Spanish at: ECHO Caribbean Regional Conference, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, (Oct. 2013).
  • “What is sustainable agriculture, and how do we keep it sustainable?”  Seminar presented at:  Faith in International Development, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI. (Jan. 2013), and via Skype, to staff of Plant with Purpose in different locations, (Dec. 2013).
  • “Old and new sources for best practices in global agriculture.” Seminar presented at:  Faith in International Development, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI, (Jan. 2013).
  • “Plant families and dinnertime on Earth.” Seminar presented to farmers, missionaries, board members and volunteers at: Industry and Initiative, Hope Seeds, Sikeston MO (July 2012).
  • “God’s World: Faith, Ecology and Simplicity.”  Mini-class about Christianity and ecology presented over three evenings at: Providence Church, West Chester, PA (Feb. 2012).
  • “God’s purpose for humanity.”  School of Leadership Development (SLD) Commissioning Service, Eastern University, (June 2011).
  • “Introduction to tropical ecosystems.” Seminar presented at ECHO Agricultural Conference, Ft. Myers FL, (Dec. 2009). (Simultaneously translated into Spanish and Haitian Kreyol.)
  • “Food as medicine.”  Science talk for general public at regional farm festival, Hunsader Farms, Bradenton, FL, as public relations for Hope Seeds, (Feb. 2009).
  • “Christian worldview and our development work” / “La cosmovisión cristiana y nuestro trabajo del desarrollo.” Devotional talk given in English and Spanish at prayer breakfast, ECHO Agricultural conference, Ft. Myers, FL, (Dec. 2008).
  • “The challenge of integrating medicinal plants into scientific medicine.” ECHO Agricultural Conference, Ft. Myers, FL, (Dec. 2008).
  • “Forgiveness and Christian development” / “El perdón y el desarrollo cristiano.”  Devotional talk given in English and Spanish given at prayer breakfast,  ECHO Agricultural conference, Ft. Myers, FL. Nov. 2007.
  • “Science and appropriate technology for the developing world: science aiding agriculture – what approach works?”  Seminar given at international meeting of American Scientific Affiliation, Canadian Affiliation of Christians in Science, and Christians In Science (UK) international meeting, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, (Aug. 2007).

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