Department of Biological Sciences

Biology Alumni Profiles

Morgan Knutsen

Morgan Knutsen

BS Biology 2021

Morgan Knutsen is a Ph.D. student at the University of Kentucky studying forest entomology. She investigates the feasibility of RNA interference (RNAi) in invasive beetles as a potential management method, innovative ways to deploy RNAi technologies in the field, and insect-fungal interactions.

Western, specifically the Department of Biological Sciences, will forever be my home away from home. WIU gave me the opportunity to explore my interests, pursue research, and make connections with amazing and driven faculty and students who will help guide you, not only during your time at Western, but beyond that as you are pursuing your career and following your ambitions. I discovered my passions due to the classes I took during my time at Western and I am forever grateful for the opportunities they provided me which have led me to where I am today.

Barbara Anderson (Kliest)

I graduated with a BS of Ed in Biology in 1972 and a MS in Botany (Plant Ecology) in 1977. I taught Biology at Oak Lawn High School for 7 years and then moved on to the College of DuPage as a part time instructor of Biology in 1980. I am a Professor of Biology and have taught full time at College of DuPage since 1981. I teach a variety of classes but my specialties are non-majors biology and Prairie Ecology. I am married, have a 29 year old daughter, and enjoy skiing, camping, cycling, and gardening.

Sue Bloecks (Orton)

Class of 1969- Zoology major. Retired, spending my summers gardening and enjoying free time for crafts like crocheting, knitting and sewing. We spend a great deal of time sailing on the "Big Pond" aka Lake Michigan. Over 29 years of sailing our boat, Rominten, we have managed to circumnavigate The Lake including a trip to Mackinaw Island and St. Ignace (which means, we technically made it to Lake Huron). While sailing, we have had quite a few wild life encounters of the avian kind and especially like getting back to nature by heading north to Rock Island, Wisconsin and Fayette, Michigan. I live in La Grange, Illinois.

Crean, Jason

Jason Crean, MS Bio, EdD earned is MS in Biology from Western Illinois University in 2007 along with the certification in Zoo & Aquarium Science. He is a biologist, consultant, and educator, currently teaching at Lyons Township High School and in the Department of Biological Sciences at Saint Xavier University. Dr. Crean has been awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching, the highest award a teacher can receive in the US, by President Obama in 2009, the Leadership in Science Education Prize by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Golden Apple Award, as well as recognition from the National Science Teachers Association, National Association of Biology Teachers, Illinois Science Teachers Association, among others. He has served as the President of the Illinois Science Teachers Association and Illinois Association of Biology Teachers, serves as a Teacher Ambassador for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and sits on the College Board’s National Science Advisory Panel, co-chairing its Science Development Committee. He also acts as consultant to zoological institutions using the skills and knowledge he acquired, in part, thanks to the WIU Zoo & Aquarium Studies and graduate Biology programs.

Creswell, John

I graduated with an MS in Botany from WIU in 1971. My BS is in Agronomy from Iowa State University.

My major professor at WIU was Dr. Joe Ives. While working on my master's degree, I was employed as plant agronomist at the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant. I was hired by Iowa State University in 1974 as Calhoun County Extension Director in Rockwell City, Iowa. In 1980, I moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa as an area crop production specialist. In 1988, I moved to Ankeny, Iowa as an area crop production specialist and completed my PhD in 1990 from Iowa State University in Agricultural Education. I coordinated a statewide nutrient management education project from 2000-2002 and retired at the end of the year. I received an honorary PhD in Agronomy from Iowa State University in 2002. My wife, Dorothy, and I are retired and currently live in New Braunfels, Texas. We enjoy retirement and are active in several organizations.

Darner Gougis, Rebekka (Bekky)

I graduated from WIU with a B.S. in Biology (zoology emphasis) in 2000. I went to Eastern Michigan University to obtain a master’s in ecology, and then to the University of California, San Diego where I obtained my Ph.D. in Mathematics & Science Education. After a 5-year nontenure-track position at the University of Florida, I landed back home in the Midwest at Illinois State University, where I am now a faculty member in the School of Biological Sciences. At ISU, I am the director of the general education biology course, and I conduct research on conceptual development of evolutionary and ecological concepts (e.g., How do particular instructional strategies help students move beyond Lamarkian conceptions of evolutionary change?) and motivation (e.g., How can instruction be structured so that students are more likely to make science-informed decisions in their everyday life?). I am married and have three kids, and together we enjoy traveling, canoeing, birding, gardening, and reading.

Filla, Mark

Currently, I live in Verona, WI. I am married and have two children. I work as an assistant scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I've been at the UW-Madison since 1994, first doing post-doctoral research within the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. After completing that work, I obtained a staff researcher position within the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and was later promoted to my current position as an assistant scientist. The lab that I work in studies the cellular and molecular mechanisms regulating aqueous humor outflow from the eye and how things go wrong during the pathogenesis of certain forms of glaucoma including steroid-induced glaucoma and primary open angle glaucoma.

Hagerman, Howard

I received my MS in 1953 and Joan (Bond), my wife, received a BS in home economics the same year. Joan taught 3 years in high school and then we decided that staying home with our two boys was more beneficial than the income. In 1961, after teaching high school biology in Camp Point, IL and Mendon, IL, and then 4 years at Quincy College, Quincy, IL, we went to Purdue University where I served as an Instructor of Biology while pursuing a PhD and I was awarded the degree in 1966. From there we moved to Michigan and Michigan State University where I am now retired as a Professor of Biology Emeritus. Throughout my time at MSU, I have been on the faculty of Lyman Briggs College (LBC), a residential college of the University. I was privileged to design the biology program for the newly formed college, LBC. In 1993, I was awarded the Alumni Distinguished Faculty award for the College of Natural Science (one of the colleges of the University with which Lyman Briggs College is closely associated). Joan and I have had many opportunities to travel the world and in the mid 70's, I was given a Fulbright Scholarship to present a series of lectures in several Philippine High Schools and a private high school in Hong Kong. In the early 80's, I was invited to join the International Rice Research Institute (Los Banos, Philippines) in their training department where my staff trained young men and women in modern rice growing techniques and use of productive varieties. We were there 2.5 years on a leave of absence from MSU. I have been awarded four NSF grants (primary investigator on 3 of them) to train teachers at the Masters level in environmental science at the University's biological station. Joan has accompanied me on all of these adventures and our combined educations at Western have been priceless.

Hla, Timothy

Timothy Hla attended Western Illinois University and received his B.S. in Biology in 1981. He worked with Dr. Peter J. Nielsen in his junior and senior years and caught the research bug. In fact, the research project he worked on, the role of environmental radioactivity from water (Bushnell water) on unscheduled DNA synthesis in chick embryo fibroblasts led to a presentation at the Illinois state academy of science meeting and confirmed his interest in a research career and cellular biology. He received his graduate education from The George Washington University where he obtained a Ph.D. degree in the Biochemistry. Following a post-doctoral training period in which he worked in the lab of Thomas Maciag, he started his laboratory at the Holland Laboratory at the American Red Cross, Rockville, MD. He was recruited to the University of Connecticut School of Medicine in Farmington, CT where he founded the research Center for Vascular Biology and was eventually promoted to Professor. In 2009, he was recruited as a Professor and Director of the Center for Vascular Biology at Weill Cornell Medicine, Cornell University. He moved his research program to Boston Children's Hospital in 2016 where he is appointed as an investigator at the Vascular Biology Program and Patricia K. Donohoe Professor of Surgery at the Harvard Medical School. He remembers his days at WIU with fondness.

Tim is an honorary member of the Japanese Biochemical Society, received an honorary M.D. degree from the Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany and a MERIT award from the NHLBI, NIH in 2006. As of 2020, he has published over 240 publications.

Kaufman, Ralph - BS Biology Education (Zoology emphasis) 1974, MS Biology 19941

I lived in Seal Hall my first 3 years at WIU, was RA on Seal II for 4 quarters, moved off campus senior year. That year I was offered a chance to be manager at Pizza Hut in Pontiac, Illinois, but turned it down temporarily to finish school with student teaching. Planned on career with The Hut once I graduated.

I student taught in Stronghurst, IL, and was offered my supervising teacher’s job after graduation—he moved to a different district. Taught 2 years of high school biology—had never planned on coaching, but found myself as head coach of three sports—cross country, and due to implementation of Title IX , girl’s basketball and track. First two summers between teaching I was a graduate assistant at WIU’s Kibbe Life Science Station. There I met my first wife, Sharon Ferguson, Biology Education, Botany emphasis WIU 1975. We have a son, Tim, who moved to NYC in 2005 to pursue employment in theatre—lighting and design. I have since remarried, to my wife Linda and picked up 4 more kids, and presently, 14 grandkids and 10 great-grandkids. About half of them live nearby.

After being pink slipped at Stronghurst, I ended up in Mediapolis, Iowa for 31 years, teaching several various biological science courses. Very proud of students accumulating a scientific collection of over 800 specimens—mostly mammal skins and skulls, but also some herps (reptiles and amphibians). I also kept coaching cross country and girl’s track. I retired in 2007.

Retirement didn’t suit me, so I tried a variety of jobs. Sold new and used cars for a year, did taxes at H&R Block for 3, taught 5 years of biology at Waco high school in Wayland, Iowa—oh and worked 3 years at Menards. Some of these jobs overlapped.

From about 1980 to present, I have been an adjunct instructor for Southeastern Community College in West Burlington, Iowa. I have taught some biology, lots of anatomy, anatomy and physiology, nutrition, and all 4 courses needed for coaching authorization in Iowa. Today nutrition and coaching are online.

Currently we live just outside Burlington, Iowa, Linda is long retired and I am tutoring science at SCC. I chase turkeys and deer with traditional archery equipment (longbow, mostly). I do get to campus every year or 2. I am proud to be a graduate of Western Illinois University, my instructors prepared me for a career I loved, so it seemed I never had to work. Two years ago I attended a Seal Hall reunion (Seal Six floor) and had a great weekend in Macomb. next year, 2024, the Seal Hall gang plan to converge in Macomb to celebrate our fifty year reunion.

Kolzow, Ron

Retired from Argonne National Laboratory 2006. Lemont, IL. Graduate studies research under Dr. Paul Nollen. MS November 1974

Maynard, Jim

I graduated with a degree in Biology in 1966. I had planned to earn my MA in Wildlife Biology at Western. My draft board had other ideas. They indicated that I would not finish because I would be drafted. I took a job teaching Biology in Cuba so my wife would be near her parents when I was drafted. I did not get drafted. I taught Biology for 4 years and earned an MS in Counseling. I moved to Canton in 1970 as the Elementary Counselor. I then earned an MA in Psychology in 1978 and became the School Psychologist in 1979. I obtained administrative certification and became Canton's Special Education Coordinator in addition to being the School Psychologist. I retired in 2000, but continued to do contract work for several years. I have maintained my interest in Biology by environmental work and fishing and hunting. We continue to live in Cuba and winter in Florida.


Mohrman, Travis

I am a currently an ecologist at the biological field station of Washington University in St. Louis (private, tier 1 research university). I am also a bestselling (on Amazon) science fiction author of three novels with a fourth coming out in January, 2014. The path I have been on in my life was HEAVILY influenced by Dr. Sean Jenkins, a WIU plant ecology professor and director of the Kibbe Biological Field Station. I owe him many favors. If I sell enough books, I'm supposed to give him a building or something out there at the station...he doesn't realize it will be an outhouse (a fancy one though!).

Netto, Glenn

I am associate professor of clinical medicine and interim chairman of the Medicine Department at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford, Illinois. I am a general internal medicine physician with an interest in medical education and primary care medicine. I also serve as the medical director for two local hospitals where I coordinate their {CME} or continuing medical education programs for physicians. I serve on the ISMS (Illinois State Medical Society) and the Board of CME Accreditation. My interests include travel, gardening and reading literature.

Noland, Jeff

I currently am a PhD student in the department of Entomology at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky.

I am working under Dr. Bruce Webb and my area of focus is on Insect Molecular Virology and Biotechnology. My research deals with multi-component protein expression using baculovirus expression vectors. I am expressing insecticidal compounds packaged in insect virus polyhedra for delivery in the field. I also am researching and developing a vector system to rapid identify and construct cell lines to find gut targets of pest insects. Additionally, I am working with baculovirus expression vectors for non-permissible cells (mammal origin) to express potential cancer targets to deliver therapeutics and test their efficacy. I am interested in anything science, hockey, drawing, reading and being outdoors.

Quismondo (Dutton), Madison

I am a 2013 WIU Biology graduate. I currently am living in Moberly, MO, working on an oil and gas pipeline. I am employed by Westwood Professional Services and I am the Field Office Administrator for Spread 2. Even though at the present time I am not using my BS in Biology, I am learning many supervisory skills that will continue to help me throughout my career. I am looking toward working in the environmental side of the pipeline, but right now, its one day at a time.


Rega, Paul

I am currently a full-time writer and have published three #1 bestselling books with a fourth book, The Syndrome being released in January, 2014. Interestingly enough—the Western Courier, where I got my start in writing, ran a great story on me and my bestselling career book, How To Find A Job: When There Are No Jobs. The book hit the #1 bestselling spot for career and job search books on Amazon. The Career Center at WIU also ran a spot on their site and interviewed me at that time.


Paul Rega began his writing career in 1980 while attending Western Illinois University as a staff reporter for the Western Courier. Upon graduating with a degree in biology and journalism, he spent the next thirty years in business having started an executive search firm in 1984. His passion for writing stayed with him throughout his business life, and he started writing his first book in 1993. He published How To Find a Job: When There Are No Jobs in December, 2011.The book was an instant success, and hit #1 on Amazon's bestseller list for job hunting books in March, 2012. He published 12 Steps to Freedom in August, 2013, and Trail of 32, a true coming of age story in September, 2013. Paul currently lives in a small town along the Gulf Coast of Florida, where he is writing his next book.


Rodby, Roger

I graduated WIU in 1978, went to the University of Illinois College of Medicine from 1978-82. I did a Residency in Internal Medicine at Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center in New Jersey from 1982-85, and a Fellowship in Nephrology at Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, from 1985-87 after which I joined the academic faculty of Rush Medical University where I remain. I became full Professor in 2009. I run the Nephrology Fellowship Training Program, and spend equal time teaching, writing, administrating, and seeing both in-patients and out-patients with various nephrological problems. I am married since 1991. We have 2 children, one in college and one in high school. I enjoy golfing and gardening.


Sharp, Thomas

I graduated WIU graduated in 1972 with a B.S. in zoology and went on to obtain my Ph.D. in biological chemistry from Indiana University. If you really want to blame somebody, it's all Professor Jim Nielsen's fault! (Nielsen and I started at WIU at the same time, in the fall of 1968.) After a couple of post-doc appointments, a couple of staff positions at the University of Utah and Texas A&M University, I did 18 years of hard time in the research division of Pfizer Pharmaceuticals. Retiring from Pfizer in early 2009, I have been enjoying the semi-retired life, teaching at a number of different local universities (most recently, quantitative and instrumental chemical analysis at the University of New Haven), traveling, sailing in the summertime, and in general doing what I want to do. All the gory details (and then some) can be found on my profile on the Linked-In professional networking site (after all, that's what it's for!) if you really want to know more.

Shianna, Shawn

I continue to practice otolaryngology part-time with FHN in Freeport, Illinois; however, most of my time is taken up as an administrator, the Chief Medical Information Officer with FHN. That job, in short, has to do with moving us into electronic medical records and keeping that all running smoothly. (Our daughters have moved out of state and we are tempted to move to be near them.)


Wadas, Gina M.

Salutations WIU associates and visitors;

I received my associate of science degree from College of DuPage, my bachelors of science degree from WIU in biology with a concentration in zoology and a creative writing minor, and my masters of science degree in science and technology journalism from Texas A&M University.

I am a rather curious individual, especially when it comes to the mechanisms and functions of the natural world, and I am lucky to have found a career in science communication that merges my passion for science and storytelling. In my career I prefer to be a Jane-of-all trades, and I incorporate professional facets from numerous career disciplines into my own. I love writing and reading fiction (particularly poetry and short stories), and I love reading, writing, and editing scientific literature. In my work I like to create a product that merges the fluidity and honesty of poetry, the characterization and adventure of fiction, with the facts and discovery of scientific investigation. In addition to loving all science disciplines and practicing several forms of writing and editing, I enjoy laughing, learning, adventures, nature, music, and photography to name a few.

Thompson, Bryan

I graduated from WIU in December, 2003 with my B.S in Biology (Zoology option). From there I moved directly into the department’s Master’s program. The journey proved to be a little slower than intended, but I managed to complete my M.S and graduate in May, 2008. That makes me a two-time Leatherneck!

I moved around a bit after completing my MS, eventually landing a teaching job at Lake Land College in Mattoon, Illinois in 2012. I spent four years as a Biology and Microbiology instructor at LLC before deciding to transition to teaching high school science.; I moved into my current position as a Biology and AP Biology teacher at Benton Central Junior-Senior High School (Oxford, Indiana) in 2016. I have loved just about every minute of it.

During my time in Waggoner Hall I was inspired to not just love Biology as a science, but to also love TEACHING Biology by incredible professors such as Dr. Susan Meirs, Dr. Eric Ribbens, Dr. Thomas Alton, Dr. Ken McCravy, Dr. Shawn Meagher, and Dr. Thomas Dunston, to name a just a few. I absolutely will never be able to thank them sufficiently for that inspiration.

Weir, Mark

As Region Manager of Air Liquide Midwest Business unit, I am responsible for all commercial, service, legal, production and business activities within the Midwest area. Air Liquide is the largest global manufacturer of industrial, medical and specialty gases, specifically Nitrogen, Oxygen, Helium and Argon. Our business concentration is on the materials and energy market sectors with a strong presence in food and healthcare customers as well.

I am currently married to Jolene (Badour BA–WIU 98’ / MS-NIU 99’), teacher at CUSD District 303, St. Charles) and have two children Madison (7) and Emma (6). We live in St. Charles, Illinois. My current interests are playing golf and traveling with my family.

Wells, Frances

I graduated from Ohio Wesleyan with a BA in 1974. I got my MS from Western in 1977 with a plant ecology speciality. I spent one whole summer at Kibbe and did my research on Eagle Island near Kibbe. I worked for the USDA and then US Dept. of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, for a little over 35 years. For most of my career ( 29 years), I was a federal agriculture officer at JFK airport in NY city. My job was interesting, and almost all the passengers seemed to understand when we had to seize items. I retired in May 2013 and moved to Cape Cod, which I have been visiting my whole life.