A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Dr. William (Bill) Blaker attended Washington University in St. Louis, where he received his bachelor's degree in chemistry. He then earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry (1978) from the University of Missouri where his dissertation research involved brain membrane lipid alterations during hibernation in hamsters. Dr. Blaker became a postdoctoral researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he worked on the toxicology of heavy metals on myelination during development and on the characteristics of lipid axonal transport. From there, he took a position as a staff fellow at the National Institute of Mental Health in Washington, D.C. There, he initiated his research on behavioral, pharmacological, and biochemical aspects of the cholinergic septohippocampal pathway, a projection that he studies to this day. Following his time with the National Institute of Mental Health, Dr. Blaker became an assistant professor at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech, where he continued his research and taught biochemistry and nervous system courses. He joined the Furman University Biology Department in 1990 and has recently expanded his research focus to include the regulation of gene expression in rat brain neurons undergoing sprouting. Dr. Blaker is currently a member of the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) and the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience (FUN).

In his spare time, Dr. Blaker enjoys following the St. Louis Cardinals, reading history, walking his dogs, and using slide rules (Email him if you don't know what these are).

Name Title Description


Seminar in Biology

Presentations of current topics in biology by students, faculty, and visiting scientists. Emphasis is on effective oral communication and critical examination of scientific information and ideas.


Principles of Biology

The basic principles common to living organisms, including: cell and molecular biology, genetics, organismal physiology, ecology, evolution. All sections address these topics, but the focus for each may vary. Designed for non-science majors.


Foundations of Biology

Introduction to the unifying concepts of biology. Topics include: cell structure and function, metabolism, genetics, evolution, and the diversity of life. Laboratories emphasize an investigative approach. Designed for science majors.


Research and Analysis

Introduction to purposes and methods of scientific inquiry. Topics include: philosophy of science, research design, use of biological literature sources, fundamental laboratory techniques, statistical analysis, and survey of careers in biology. Laboratory includes designing, performing, and reporting on research projects.


Biochemistry of the Cell

Study of the structure and function of biomolecules in the context of the cell. Topics include: the major biosynthetic and catabolic pathways in the cell and their regulation, protein function, structure, modifications and degradation, enzyme kinetics and selected biochemical techniques. Laboratory work involves current biochemical methods such as protein purification from various types of cells and subsequent enzymatic characterization.


Human Physiology

Molecular and cellular biology in first several sessions, followed by survey of the functions of the various organ systems in the human body. Laboratory involves studies of humans, using computerized data acquisition systems.



Nervous system function at the biochemical level. Introduction to biochemical principles, followed by the study of neuronal cytoskeleton, myelin, ion channels, neurotransmitters, and selected neurological disorders. Labs analyze myelin, receptors, and neurotransmitters.



Structure, function and interactions of neurons and supportive cells of the nervous system. Analysis of simple neuronal circuits and neuronal alterations in development, memory and neurological disorders. Laboratories include the study of nervous system cells utilizing a variety of methods, some of which involve the use of model organisms.


Evaluating Scientific Claims

Students will learn the skills necessary to read scientific claims carefully, find relevant information in a variety of sources, and develop an informed opinion in writing about the veracity of the original claim. Students will test claims empirically in laboratory sessions.


Current Topics in Neuroscience

Year long capstone course for neuroscience majors that will provide students with knowledge of current research practice and implications. Discussions of seminal or innovative research papers in a seminar format, and of individual research experiences in the context of progress in the field as a whole.

My lab has been studying alterations in gene expression in neurons of the rat brain as they are undergoing the process of sprouting, i.e., the growing of new axonal branches and synaptic connections. The pathway of interest is the connection between neuronal cell bodies in the septum, and the area of their axon terminals in the hippocampus. This pathway predominantly uses acetylcholine as a neurotransmitter. Such sprouting can be induced by lesioning another pathway to the hippocampus, the one from the adjacent entorhinal cortex. This leads to a new and compensatory growth of axon branches and terminals (sprouting) by the pathway to the hippocampus from the septum. Using the techniques of stereotaxic (brain) surgery, histology at the light microscope level, brain dissection, RNA isolation, and real time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analyses, students in my lab have had hands-on experience with a variety of experimental approaches to studying this phenomenon.

*Denotes undergraduate coauthor

  • Blaker, W.D. and Moscatelli, E.A. The effect of hibernation on the lipids of brain myelin and microsomes in the Syrian Hamster. J. Neurochem. 31:1513-1518 (1978).
  • Blaker, W.D., Krigman, M.R., Thomas, D.J., Mushak, P. and Morell, P. Effect of triethyltin on myelination in the developing rat. J. Neurochem. 36:44-52 (1981).
  • Blaker, W.D., Goodrum, J.F. and Morell, P. Axonal transport of the mitochondria-specific lipid diphosphatidylglycerol in the rat visual system. J. Cell Biol. 89:579-584 (1981).
  • Corda, M.G., Blaker, W.D., Mendelson, W., Guidotti, A. and Costa, E. Beta-carbolines enhance the shock-induced suppression of drinking in the rat. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA 80:2072-2076 (1983).
  • Blaker, W.D., Peruzzi, G. and Costa, E. Behavioral and neurochemical differentiation of specific projections in the septal-hippocampal cholinergic pathway in the rat. Proc. Nat. Acad. Scl. USA 81:1880-1882 (1984).
  • Blaker, W.D. and Goodwin, S.D. Biochemical and behavioral effects of intrahippocampal AF64A in rats. Pharmacol. Biochem. Behavior 28:157-163 (1987).
  • Klein, B.G., Blaker, W.D., White, C.F. and Misra, B.G. Time course of serotonergic afferent plasticity within rat spinal trigeminal nucleus following infraorbital nerve transaction. Brain Research, 558:335-340 (1992).
  • Blaker, W.D., A. Chastain, E. Goode, M. Gregory, M. Rogers, L. Taylor, and S. Wilke Effect of limited visual input on spatial memory in rats given unilateral hippocampal lesions. Soc. Neurosci. Abstr, 29:1626 (1999).
  • Blaker, W.D., Integration of Neurobiology, Psychology, Computer Science, and Philosophy in an Undergraduate Brain and Mind course. Soc. Neurosci. Abstr. (2006).
  • Blaker, W.D., W. Graeber, J. Layman, M. Marks, B. Orr, M. Wallin. Gene expression in rat septohippocampal neurons during induced axonal sprouting. Soc. Neurosci. Abstr. (2011).
University of Missouri
Washington University

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