Dr. Karri Haen Whitmer

Karri Whitmer

Research: Dr. Haen Whitmer’s research, in collaboration with Dennis Lavrov (EEOB), uses Metazoan mitochondrial genomes as a model system for evolutionary genomic studies.  Due to their relatively small size, sequences for complete mitochondrial DNAs (mtDNAs) are now available for animals over a large phylogenetic spectrum, including recent additions for the three classes of Porifera and various cnidarians.  This wealth of data gives researchers a unique opportunity to infer the mechanisms underlying the evolution of genomes.  The application of molecular phylogenies both resolves questionable phylogenetic relationships inside highly derived groups, but also suggests a pattern of evolution for various unusual mt-genomic features.

Education: Science professional development programs often rely upon Likert-ranked self-efficacy questions for the evaluation of science skill gains, despite that it may be difficult to infer the causality of perceived skill gains by using the technique. Dr. Haen Whitmer recently developed a new methodology for evaluating science process knowledge gains, which has been implemented in education programs for the NSF ERC for Biorenewable Chemicals (CBiRC). The results from this research, triangulated with findings from other quantitative and qualitative data sources will provide insight into subjects’ perceptions of skill gains versus directly measurable changes. This research additionally illuminates how perceptions about creativity in experimental design may impact subjects’ performance on authentic research tasks.


BIOL 255, Fundamentals of Human Anatomy (fall semester)

BIOL 256, Fundamentals of Human Physiology (spring semester)


  • Haen, Karri M., Walker Pett, and Dennis V. Lavrov. (2014) Eight new mtDNA sequences of glass sponges reveal an extensive usage of+ 1 frameshifting in mitochondrial translation. Gene 535.2: 336-344.
  • Haen, K.M. and M.R. Kemis. (2012). The Evolution of Responsive Education Program Evaluation at the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center for Biorenewable Chemicals. Paper for 26th Annual American Evaluation Association (AEA) Conference.
  • Haen, K.M, Raman, D.R., Polush, E. & Kemis, M.R. (2012). Training the Next Generation of Creative, Innovative and Adaptive Scientists and Engineers: The NSF Engineering Research Center for Biorenewable Chemicals (CBiRC) Research Experience for Undergraduates. Education for Chemical Engineers. DOI: 10.1016/j.ece.2012.09.001, published online 11-Oct-2012.
  • Geisinger, B.N., Raman, D.R., Haen, K.M., Kemis, M.R., & Pate, M.L. (2012). Virtualeducationcenterforbiorenewableresources: Buildingcapacityandhumanizingdistanceeducation.  NACTA Journal, in press.
  • Hondred, P., Keller, M., Haen, K. & Leshem, A. (2012). Iowa State University SYMBI GK12 program: a case study of the resident engineer’s effects on 8th graders attitudes toward science and engineering. Conference paper at American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) K-12 Workshop on Engineering Education.
  • Hargrave, C., Kemis, M., Haen, K. & Leshem, A. (2012). Influence of the young engineers and scientists program for underrepresented minority high school students on their knowledge and career aspirations in STEM fields.  Accepted to the Fourth International Conference on Science in Society.
  • Martin Dohrmann, Karri M. Haen, Dennis V. Lavrov, and Gert Wörheide. (2012). Molecular phylogeny of glass sponges (Porifera, Hexactinellida): increased taxon sampling and inclusion of a mitochondrial protein-coding gene. Hydrobiologia. 687 (1).
  • Rivera A.S., Hammel J.U., Haen K.M. et al. (2011). RNA interference in marine and freshwater sponges: acting knockdown in Tethya wilhelma and Ephydatia muelleri by ingested dsRNA expressing bacteria. BMC Biotechnology, 11, 67–82.
  • Haen, K.M., W. Pett & D.V. Lavrov. (2010). Parallel loss of nuclear-encoded mitochondrial aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases and mtDNA-encoded tRNAs in Cnidaria.  Mol Biol Evol. 27(10):2216-2219.
  • Haen, K.M., F.B. Lang, S.A. Pomponi & D.V. Lavrov. (2007). Glass Sponges and Bilaterian Animals Share Derived Mitochondrial Genomic Features: A Common Ancestry or Parallel Evolution? Mol Biol Evol 24: 1518-1527.
  • Haen, K.M., Lu, H., Friesen, T.L. & Faris, J.D. (2004). Genomic Targeting and High-Resolution Mapping of the Tsn1 Gene in Wheat. Crop Sci. 44:951-962.
  • Faris, J.D., Haen, K.M. & Gill, B.S. (2000). Saturation Mapping of a Gene-Rich Recombination Hot Spot Region in Wheat. Genetics 154: 823-835.


American Evaluation Association, 2012-present

Society for Integrative & Comparative Biology, 2009-present

Society for Molecular Biology & Evolution, 2007-present

Selected Presentations

The Evolution of Responsive Education Program Evaluation at the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center for Biorenewable Chemicals. Oral presentation. American Evaluation Association 26th Annual Conference, Minneapolis, MN. Oct. 25, 2012.

Marine Natural Products and Carcinogenesis. Kansas State University Terry C. Johnson Cancer Research Center. Invited speaker. April 2010.

Evolutionary History of Interactions Between Mitochondrial tRNAs and Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases in the Metazoa. Oral presentation. Iowa State University RNA Club, Alumni Hall ISU. January 12, 2010.

Conflicting evolutionary hypotheses from the analysis of glass sponge mitochondrial genomes. Oral presentation. Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. Seattle, 2010.

Area of Expertise: 
Teaching research and Metazoan mitochondrial genomes
B.S., Microbiology, Chemistry, Kansas State University, 2001
Ph.D., Interdepartmental Genetics Program; Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology Department, Iowa State University, 2010
Post-doc., Research Institute for Studies in Education; Iowa State University, 2012
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