Steven Shell

Steven M.

Associate Professor of Biology
Senior Director of Undergraduate Studies
Academic Affairs
Smiddy 204

Educational Goals

A major advantage to being a faculty member at a small liberal arts college is the ability to work directly with undergraduate students.  As Senior Director of Undergraduate Studies, I work at the interface between students and the faculty and staff of UVA Wise.  My objectives are to ensure each student has access to the resources necessary to achieve both their academic and career goals.  I strongly support individual student mentorship and work with students as they develop a sense of ownership in their educational experience. 

As a classroom educator I value assisting students in their exploration of various scientific disciplines, and providing novel frameworks for their growth and development into the next generation of scientists and leaders.  My first goal as an educator is to help students develop a firm understanding of the molecular nature of living systems.  My second goal is to assist students in becoming scientific communicators.  As such, reading and critical review of primary scientific literature, preparation of mock-manuscripts, and public presentation of scientific topics play a major role in my curricula.

Courses Taught

  • BCH 4100: Nucleic Acids Transactions
  • BIO 1010/1011: Principles of Biology Lecture/Lab
  • BIO 2010: Topics in Cell Biology
  • BIO 2015: Laboratory Methods in Biology
  • BIO 3140: Developmental Biology
  • BIO 3600: Molecular Genetics
  • BIO 3980/3990: Preparing for Life as a Scientist I/II
  • BIO 4130: Regulation of Transcription
  • BIO 4320: Principles of Toxicology
  • SEM 1010: Freshman Success Seminar

Research Interests

The National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health estimates >70% of all human cancers result from exposure to environmental carcinogens. Many environmental carcinogens damage DNA and cause mutation, genomic instability, and ultimately disease.  Therefore, understanding how cells respond to these environmental insults is of critical importance to developing cancer treatments and prevention policies.  My long-term research interests focus on determining how protein-protein and protein-DNA complexes are assembled and remodeled to repair damaged DNA.  Understanding how these molecular machines are spatially and temporally organized is critical to elucidating their functions in biochemical pathways.  Moreover, as many current anti-cancer agents act by inducing DNA damage, knowledge of the molecular mechanisms underlying DNA repair has the potential to provide new therapeutic strategies to enhance or improve upon current chemotherapies.

I strongly support and encourage research opportunities for undergraduate students.  Research in my laboratory provides an exciting training environment for young scientists.  Students actively participate in experimental design, data acquisition and analysis.  Program objectives are planned to allow for the research to progress in stages, providing adequate time for training students in necessary skills.  I am a molecular biologist with broad training ranging from cellular biology, biochemistry, and structural biology.  In my laboratory, we employ a wide variety of technologies to answer these questions.  In order to test how molecular machines function, we isolate repair proteins for biochemical, biophysical, and ultimately structural analysis of their machines.  We then use recombinant genetic systems in human cell cultures to verify and validate the results we obtain via biochemical analysis.  I maintain an open-door policy for all members of my laboratory and establish regularly scheduled meetings with each individual student to develop and assess progress towards academic, research, and career goals.

Individual Student Research Support (FINS)

The University of Virginia’s College at Wise Fellowship in Natural Sciences (FINS) is a competitive program that provides financial support for undergraduate students to complete summer research projects.

2019:  “Mapping the Nuclear Localization Signal of XPC”.  Student:  Aundrea Jones 

           “The Effects of Mutagens on Human Cells”.  Student:  Matthew Vaughn 

            “Isolating and Mapping the XPA-XPC Protein Complex”.  Student:  Morgan Blair

2018:  “Organometallic Toxicity Analysis”.  Student:  Olivia Fast, 2020 Chancellor’s Medal in Undergraduate Research Excellence

2016:  “Determination of the NLS for XPC”.  Student:  Sarah Hall

2015:  “Biochemical Characterization of the XPA-XPC Complex”.  Student:  Isaac Holyfield

Grant Awards

207-11-20 (Shell, PI)  $38,745                                   November 1, 2020 – October 31, 2021

Commonwealth Health Research Board

PF-11-271-01-DMC (Shell, PI)  $150,000                 September 1, 2011 – August 18, 2014

American Cancer Society Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry of Cancer Program Postdoctoral Fellowship Award

1F32GM089022-01A1 (Shell, PI)  $50,474                June 1, 2010 – May 31, 2011

NIH/NIGMS Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award for Postdoctoral Fellows


(Selected from 22 original research manuscripts, 2 invited reviews, 3 book chapters, and 3 abstracts and letters)

Robinette FN, Valentine NP, Sehler KM, Medeck AM, Reynolds KE, Lane SN, Price AN, Cavanaugh IG, Shell SM, Ashford DL.  2024.  Modulating excited state properties and ligand ejection kinetics in ruthenium poypyridyl complexes designed to mimic phototherapeutics.  Inorganic Chemistry.  63(18).  8426-8439.  https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.inorgchem.4c00922

McCullough AM, Chen J, Valentine NP, Franklin TM, Cantrell AP, Darnell VM, Qureshi Q#, Hanson K, Shell SM, Ashford DL.  2022.  Balancing the interplay between ligand ejection and therapeutic window light absorption in ruthenium polypyridyl complexes.  Dalton Transactions.  51.  10186-10197.  https://doi.org/10.1039/D2DT01237E  

Beckford FA, Lawrence ML#, and Shell SM.  2020.  Binuclear manganese-iron complexes containing ferrocenyl thiosemicarbazones:  biological activity and carbon monoxide-releasing properties.  Inorganica Chimica Acta.  507:  119548-119557.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ica.2020.119548

Mance LG#, Mawla I#, Shell SM, and Cahoon AB.  2020.  Restrictive PCR and Sequence Analysis Demonstrate Circularization of mRNA fragments in Human HEK Cell Line.  Mitochondrion.  51:  1-6.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mito.2019.11.002

Fast OG#, Gentry B@*, Strouth L@*, Niece MB#, Beckford FA, and Shell SM.  2019.  Polynuclear ruthenium organometallic compounds induce DNA damage in human cells identified by the nucleotide excision repair factor XPC.  Bioscience Reports.  39(7):  pii:  BSR20190378.  https://doi.org/10.1042/BSR20190378

Daniels HG#, Fast OG#, Shell SM, and Beckford FA.  2019.  Chemistry and biology of manganese carbon-releasing molecules containing thiosemicarbazone ligands.  Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology A:  Chemistry.  374:  84-94.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jphotochem.2019.01.037

Topolska-Woś AM, Shell SM, Kilańczyk E, Szczepanowski RH, Chazin WJ, and Filipek A.  2015.  A role for dimerization of CacyBP/SIP in the control of ERK1/2 phosphatase activity and response to oxidative stress. The FASEB Journal.  29(5):  1711-1724.  https://doi.org/10.1096/fj.14-264770

Hilton B, Shkriabai N, Musich PR, Kvaratskhelia M, Shell S, and Zou Y.  2014.  A new structural insight into XPA-DNA interactions.  Bioscience Reports.  34(6):  831-840.  https://doi.org/10.1042/BSR20140158

Shuck SC, Wauchope OR, Rose KL, Kingsley PJ, Rouzer CA, Shell SM, Sugitani N, Chazin WJ, Zagol-Ikapitte I, Boutaud O, Oates JA, Galligan JJ, Beavers WN, and Marnett LJ.  2014.  Chemical Research in Toxicology.  27(10):  1732-1742.  https://doi.org/10.1021/tx500218g

Sugitani N*, Shell SM*, Soss SE, and Chazin WJ.  2014.  Redefining the DNA-Binding Domain of Human XPA.  Journal of the American Chemical Society.  136(31):  10830-10833.  https://doi.org/10.1021/ja503020f

Shell SM, Hawkins EK, Tsai M-S, Hlaing AS, Rizzo CJ, and Chazin WJ.  2013.  Xeroderma pigmentosum complementation group C protein (XPC) serves as a general sensor of damaged DNA.  DNA Repair.  12(11):  947-953.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dnarep.2013.08.013

* Equally contributing author, # Undergraduate student researcher, @ Upward Bound student researcher

Doctor of Philosophy, Biomedical Sciences, East Tennessee State University, 2008
Bachelor of Science, Biology, The University of Virginia’s College at Wise, 2001
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