Maria E. Fichera

Professor and Chair of Biology

McInnis 315

I have been teaching in the Department of Biology at Eastern University since 1998 and have been department chair since 2008.  I was always fascinated by the way in which God intricately designed all living creatures.  As an undergraduate biology major, I became interested in research and spent a summer at SUNY Buffalo School of Medicine investigating agents that affect insulin secretion under a fellowship from the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. At the University of Pennsylvania where I received my Ph.D., I studied the molecular mechanisms of drug action against the intracellular parasite, Toxoplasma gondii

I love teaching and working with undergraduates and have worked with over 30 students over the years on my Toxoplasma research project.  I am also the premed advisor and enjoy assisting students as they apply to medical school and other professional programs (dental, veterinary, physician assistant, and podiatric medicine).

I am blessed with a wonderful family.  My husband and I are team leaders for Worldwide Marriage Encounter ( – a unique weekend experience that revitalizes Christian marriages. We have two loving daughters.  Our family attends Mother of Divine Providence Catholic Church in King of Prussia, and we also lead the Respect Life committee.


B.S., Manhattan College
Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania
At Eastern Since 1998

Courses Taught
  • BIOL 152/152L – General Biology 2 and Lab
  • BIOL 310/310L – Animal Physiology and Lab
  • BIOL311/311L- Cell Biology and Lab
  • BIOL 344, 345 – Molecular Biology and Lab
  • BIOL 426- Senior Thesis Directed Research  
  • BIOL495- Biology Internship
  • BIOL 299/499-Research Experience/Assistantship
Why I Teach at Eastern

I teach at Eastern because it is my second home.  Besides the fact that my brother, Dr. Joe Modica, is here, my colleagues and students are like family to me.  This dynamic Christian environment is a place I enjoy working in each day.  The rigorous science program, coupled with students and professors who work well together and learn from one another, makes Eastern a community that thrives.

Research Interests

Since 1998, I have supervised 30+ students who worked on my Toxoplasma parasite research for their senior thesis research projects. In 2020, I decided to utilize a more  accessible model system for student research: the flatworm planaria. Despite being an invertebrate, planaria can be used as a model system for toxicology studies as well as studies on regeneration, as these organisms can easily grow back a head or tail if it gets cut off. One student who I mentored presented his work virtually at the 20th Annual New England Science Symposium through Harvard Medical School and submitted a paper for publication. Planaria continues to be a good option for undergraduate research as the projects are interesting and easy to tackle in a semester (or can be expanded over a year).

Selected Scholarly Accomplishments:
  • Samuel, K, Suviseshamuthu, E.S., and M.E. Fichera.  Addiction-Related Memory Transfer and Retention in Planaria. Submitted to Journal of Undergraduate Research- 2021
  • Provost Fellowship from Eastern University ($3,000) -May 2007
  • Academic Research Enhancement Award from NIH, 1 R15 AI49962-01 “Dinitroaniline herbicide resistance in Toxoplasma gondii” $107,500 (7/15/01-6/30/04)
  • The 24th, 21st, 19th and 18th Annual Saint Joseph’s University Sigma Xi Student Research Symposium, St. Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, PA, April 2007-2013. Abstract and poster presentation.  Action of dinitroaniline herbicides in the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii(with student presenters).
  •  “Witnessing God’s creation under the microscope – science as a gift and call to stewardship” – delivered on Jan. 17, 2009 to leaders of First Presbyterian Church of Pottstown on their annual retreat.  Invited to speak by Pastor Carter Lester.
  • Fichera, M.E.  Action of dinitroaniline herbicides in the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Annual meeting of the International Society of Protistologists - Providence-Warwick, Rhode Island, 4-9 August 2007.  Abstract and oral presentation.
  • Mensch, C, Fichera M, and Lawton JA.  “Heterologous Expression and Functional Characterization of Secretion and Nuclear Localization Signals in OrfM, a Potential Virulence-Associated Protein from the Plant Pathogen Erwinia amylovora.” 18th Annual Saint Joseph’s University Sigma Xi Student Research Symposium, St. Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, PA, 20 April 2007.  Poster presentation.
  • Fichera, M.E., Ayana, M., and Heino, A.E. 2005.  Action of dinitroaniline herbicides in the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii.  Abstract published in Abstract and Index Issue of the Journal of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science, vol. 78, March 2005.  Oral presentation.
  • Fichera, M.E., Oh, J., Lilley, P., Brown, E. and Roos, D.S. 2003.  Dinitroaniline herbicide resistance in Toxoplasma gondii.  Abstract published in Abstract Issue: Seventh International Congress on Toxoplasmosis.  Oral presentation.
  • Fichera, M.E. and D. S. Roos.  1997.  The apicoplast: a novel drug target in protozoan parasites.  Nature 390: 407-409.
  • Tilley, M., M. E. Fichera, M. E. Jerome, D. S. Roos, and M. W. White.  1997.  Toxoplasma gondiisporozoites form a transient parasitophorous vacuole that is impermeable and contains only a subset of dense-granule proteins.  Infection and Immunity 65: 4598-4605.
  • Fichera, M. E., M. K. Bhopale, and D. S. Roos.  1995.  In vitro assays elucidate peculiar kinetics of clindamycin action against Toxoplasma gondiiAntimicrobAgents Chemother.  39(7): 1530-1537.