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Picture of Virginia M. Mcdonough Virginia M. Mcdonough Professor of Biology and Chair of the Biology Department


  • BS Biology Cook College, Rutgers University
  • Ph.D. Cell and Developmental Biology, Rutgers University and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of NJ

Research Interests

There are many classes of lipids, such as saturated fatty acids, unsaturated fatty acids, trans fatty acids, and sterols (like cholesterol). Normally, cells can either synthesize the type of lipid they need, or they can use a lipid supplied to them in their diet. If the cell can use a dietary lipid, the cell no longer requires that it synthesize it. Sometimes, cells pick up one type of lipid from their diet that requires them to synthesize a different lipid. In addition, cells need to know when to stop synthesizing lipids once they have enough - whether or not it is available in the diet. My lab investigates how cells sense which lipids have been made available to them, or when they have enough of self-generated lipid, and in turn regulate gene expression to control lipid synthesis. We work with the model eukaryotic organism, baker's yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We are currently in the process of identifying genes whose products are involved in this sensing, the subsequent signal transduction and gene expression regulation.

Go to current research projects


Education is not only about learning information and how to think, but also a process of self-discovery. I always knew I wanted to be a biologist, even when I wasn’t sure what a biologist did! But, in order to become a biologist, I went to college and majored in biology. In college, I found I really liked bench work-so after I graduated college, I work as a lab tech for several years. I learned a lot from that time, not the least being that I wanted to go to graduate school to learn more science. I loved graduate school- I was lucky enough to work on a fantastic project on the molecular biology of lipid metabolism (both keen interests of mine), with a great mentor, Dr. Charles Martin, and great lab mates (one of whom I eventually married). In grad school, I taught several classes as a Teaching Assistant. I discovered that I really liked teaching undergraduates in addition to my love of the bench! I did a post-doc (with another great mentor, Dr. George Carman, and another set of great lab mates) shifting emphasis a bit to study the biochemistry of phospholipid metabolism. When it came time to look for a permanent position, I searched for a place where I could continue my work on lipid metabolism, but also work with undergraduates. My search led me to Hope, where I have been since 1995.


  • American Association for Advancement of Science
  • American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

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Contact Details

Phone: 616-395-7715
Fax: 616-395-7125
E-mail: mcdonough@hope.edu
Office: Science Center 3009

Office Hours

By appointment.