Dr. Laakso joined the Biology Department at Eastern in 2012. She taught previously at The College of New Jersey as a Visiting Professor, and at the University of Pennsylvania as a Lecturer. A native of Nebraska, she feels fortunate to have grown up in a family where a spiritual life and education were valued.
Dr. Laakso loves viruses, and would marry them except that she is already married. She lives in Bryn Mawr with her wonderful husband and two children, and a very friendly pit bull.
B.S. Agriculture, Kansas State University
M.S. Genetics, Kansas State University
Ph.D. Molecular Virology & Microbiology, Baylor College of Medicine
Postdoctoral Fellow, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania
At Eastern Since 2012
BIOL 105 Introductory Biology
BIOL 312 Genetics
BIOL 313 Developmental Biology
BIOL 316 Techniques in Biotechnology
BIOL 344 Molecular Biology
I believe much of what we teach has to be modeled. Especially in the sciences, we are trying to show students what it looks like to love God and His creation with all of our mind and strength. At Eastern University, there is no dichotomy between faith and science. This is a place where I don't have to hide my love for God, or my love for the natural world.
The opportunity to connect with students is also very important to me. There is no substitute for personal interactions between faculty and students at the university level. As an undergraduate at a small Bible college, I interacted daily with committed faculty who cared about me, and my future as a Christian and a career woman. I hope to model that same commitment and care for my students at Eastern.
Dr. Laakso has a longstanding interest in viruses and how they enter the host cell. Her past research experience includes studies with human immunodeficiency virus resistance to antiviral drugs, and the development of novel drugs for HIV treatment. At Eastern, her research focus has shifted to plant viruses that are economically important in the US and in developing countries.
Food security is a global concern that is impacted by environmental factors, including plant disease caused by pathogenic viruses. Begomoviruses are a large genus of economically important viruses that infect food and fiber crops on six continents. The genus includes the well-studied tomato yellow leaf curl virus (TYLCV), as well as emerging pathogens such as cotton leaf curl Gezira virus (CLCuGV). These viruses pose significant threats to crops in the US and abroad. They are challenging to study, however, as they are transmitted in nature only by their whitefly vector. This has led to significant gaps in knowledge, particularly about basic mechanisms of viral trafficking in the host plant and insect vector.
It was recently discovered that a strain of TYLCV can be seed-transmitted in tomato. It is unknown if other Begomoviruses can be transmitted in this way. Dr. Laakso's lab is using molecular biology techniques to investigate which plant tissues are infected in multiple host crops, and testing for seed transmission of TYLCV and CLCuGV. This information could be used by farmers who save seed from one crop to use the following year.
- Meg M. Laakso, Leocadia V. Paliulis, Paula Croonquist, Brianna Derr, Elena Gracheva, et al. (2017) An undergraduate bioinformatics curriculum that teaches eukaryotic gene structure. CourseSource. https://doi.org/10.24918/cs.2017.13
- Elgin SC, Hauser C, Holzen TM, Jones C, Kleinschmit A, Leatherman J, … Laakso, M.M., Genomics Education Partnership. (2017) The GEP: Crowd-Sourcing Big Data Analysis with Undergraduates. Trends Genet. 33:81-85. doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2016.11.004.
- Rudick, J.G., Laakso, M.M., Schloss, A.C., Doms, R.W., DeGrado, W.D. (2013) Template-constrained cyclic sulfopeptide HIV-1 entry inhibitors. Organic Biomolecular Chemistry 11(41):7096-100. doi: 10.1039/c3ob41395k.
- Agrawal, C.A., Lee, F.H., Haggarty, B., Lee, B., Hoxie, J.A., Doms, R.W., and Laakso, M.M. (2009) Adaptive mutations in a human immunodeficiency virus type 1 envelope protein with a truncated V3 loop restore function by improving interactions with CD4. Journal of Virology 83:11005-15.
- Laakso, M.M., Lee, F.H, Haggarty, B., Agrawal C., Nolan K.M., Biscone M., Romano J., Jordan A.P., Leslie G.J., Meissner E.G., Su L., Hoxie J.A., Doms R.W. (2007) V3 loop truncations in HIV-1 envelope impart resistance to coreceptor inhibitors and enhanced sensitivity to neutralizing antibodies. PLoS Pathogens 24;3(8):e117