Dr.  Michael Kotarski

Dr. Michael Kotarski

Associate Professor of Biology



Dr. Kotarski is one of two geneticists on the Biology faculty at Niagara University. He teaches courses in Genetics, Medical Genetics and Developmental Biology as well as a little bit of Anatomy and Ecology.

Dr. Kotarski conducts research on the molecular evolution of plants, which overlaps teaching by taking students to the Rocky Mountain National Park for a summer course. He has an active undergraduate research group who learn to isolate DNA, amplify and sequence it, and conduct bioinformatics and phylogenetic analysis with the data.

Dr. Kotarski is one of the directors of the Freshman Support Program (formerly BURP), aimed at keeping freshman Biology majors in college, on campus and in the sciences.

Current Research

Dr. Kotarski was trained as a classical geneticist at a time when molecular biology and cloning was just beginning, so his postdoc training was in molecular work. His particular educational "generation" is perhaps the last to have both aspects of genetics.

Working in animal genetics for nearly 30 years, Dr. Kotarski recently switched to the molecular evolution of plants using all of his classical and molecular training, combined with DNA sequence analysis to study evolution.

Current projects include (1) The speciation of Gesneriad plants (African violets, Petrocosmea and others); (2) The evolution of the chalcone synthase protein in plants, an interdisciplinary project involving molecular modeling with Dr. Mary McCourt; and (3) assisting Dr. Bill Edwards with the ecological genetics of the salamander Plethodon cinereus. These salamanders are the canaries in the coal mine for land disruption and global climate change.

Educational Background

Postdoctoral Associate, Institute for Cancer Research, Philadelphia, PA (1985-1987)

NIH Postdoctoral Trainee, The Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor, ME (1981-1985)

Pre-doctoral Trainee, Department of Genetics, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

Ph.D. in Genetics (1976-1981)

Undergraduate, Department of Biology, SUNY at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY, BA in Biology (1972-1976).

Current Involvement

Dr. Kotarski's research on Gesneriad plants has allowed him to contribute to national societies (African Violet Society of America and The Gesneriad Society) and to lead regional societies (past president of the Western NY African Violet & Gesneriad society). These societies give him the opportunity to speak at numerous venues to adult audiences about science and biology.

Service to NU students is in the form of the freshman retention program as a model for retention programs at small universities and as chairman of the board of The Eastern Colleges Science Conference (ECSC), a regional consortium of 30 institutions dedicated to undergraduate research.