Probing Malaria

Not only is Peter Blair a talented researcher and teacher, he has pretty awesome basketball skills as well.

Blair, associate professor of biology, has taught cell biology, immunology and parasitology courses at Earlham since 2004, and his summer research opportunity is one of the most popular on campus.

The research, which has been funded by two grants from the National Institutes of Health, aims to refine incorrectly-predicted gene models in the malaria genome Plasmodium yoelii, a species of malaria that infects rodents. The results of the on-going project help researchers working toward vaccine creation.

Blair says his love for parasitology began with an undergraduate summer research experience at Berea College involving parasitic worms and freshwater snails. He first began working in malaria research in 1996 while completing his doctorate in biological sciences at the University of Notre Dame.

"I love to work alongside students in the wet lab," he says. "As a scientist, that's when you find the unknown or the truth. I get really excited to be the first to see the corrected gene, where my energy and enthusiasm can be infectiously picked up by the students."

A specialist in molecular and genomic parasitology, Blair says the idea for this project began in 2002 when the genome was first published. At the time he was doing post-doctoral work at the Naval Medical Research Center in Silver Spring, Md.

"I began to think this would be a good way to get undergrads into worthwhile research," Blair says. When he arrived at Earlham in 2004, he realized that the school's intimate size and dedication to hands-on science learning made it especially suitable for this type of project.

"Earlham is a place where spending time with students doing quality research is highly valued," says Blair. "Our undergraduates gain valuable research skills while making important contributions to the pipeline for vaccine discovery."

Outside of the classroom and laboratory, Blair's prowess also can be seen on the basketball court during charity or benefit games. Blair is a key member of Earlham's loosely organized faculty team.

"I have had a chance to meet Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Shaquille O'Neal, but it is just as gratifying to play basketball with Peter Blair," says Avis Stewart, former Earlham basketball coach and current vice president for Community Relations. "Peter has 'in the gym' range, which makes him an outstanding three-point shooter. He obviously has a love for teaching biological science; however, his love for basketball must be a close second."

Peter Blair
Peter Blair, Associate Professor of Biology

Ph.D., University of Notre Dame

Interests: Parasitology and basketball

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