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James S. Henkel

James Henkel image

Associate Professor of Biology



  • Education

    B.S., Biology from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point - 2000
    M.S., Clinical Microbiology from University of Wisconsin-La Crosse - 2003
    Ph.D., Microbiology and Immunology from Medical College of Wisconsin, Wauwatosa - 2009
    Postdoctoral Research - Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS), Bethesda, MD - 2012


    I grew up in rural central Wisconsin, and my heart is there still. I love being outdoors, ranging from gardening to hiking mountains (the one aspect Wisconsin lacks). I am a Kukkiwon-certified, 6th-Dan Black Belt in Jidokwon Taekwondo, and regularly teach self-defense classes and Taekwondo classes.  I am also extremely energetic, even without my coffee. For those who have taken StrengthsQuest analysis of your personality, I am one of the very rare “Woo” personalities in Science. I am a Sci-Fi geek, a science nerd, and a rabid Packer fan.  I originally focused on becoming a veterinarian because of my farming-associated background, but after a set of severe illnesses in college caused by microbes, I became very curious about what had made me so ill, igniting my interest in microbiology. My passion is microbiology, but also showing how complex, intertwined, and awe-inspiring Biology really is. 


    • BIO 141 Clinical Microbiology
    • BIO 201 Introduction to Biology
    • BIO 345 Pathogenic Microbiology
    • BIO 321 Invertebrate Zoology
    • BIO 322 Vertebrate Zoology
    • BIO 401/402 Research Strategies

    Research Interests

    My main research focus is to determine how Chlamydia can survive in mammalian host cells through small GTPase recruitment. Chlamydia trachomatis causes blindness world-wide and is more commonly known in the U.S. to be the leading cause of bacterial sexually-transmitted infections (STI). Chlamydia replicates by infecting mammalian cells and directing traffic of nutrients directly to the membrane-bound vesicle where the bacteria replicate, called the Chlamydial Inclusion. Previous research suggests that many of these trafficking and distribution orders come from small GTPases, a type of cellular protein switch which direct cellular components. Small GTPases such as RhoA and specific Rab proteins are shown to re-distribute to the Chlamydial Inclusion through an unknown mechanism. My research investigates the mechanism by which RhoA and possibly other small GTPases interact with the Chlamydial inclusion. I am currently also researching vitamin availability in Chlamydial infections.  This research involves aspects of Biochemistry, Cell Biology, Molecular Biology, and Microbiology. 

    I regularly conduct research in microbiology with interested and dedicated students. I also welcome the opportunity to work with students on aspects of microbial detection, microbial ecology, bacterial toxins, growth, metabolism, and coral microbial disease research. Very little prior experience is necessary - I train you, and work with you to develop a project that you will love to work on.

    Scholarly Works

    Select Publications

    Henkel, J.S., Tepp, W.H., Przedpelski, A., Fritz, R.B., Johnson, E.A., and Barbieri, J.T. Subunit Vaccine Efficacy against Botulinum Neurotoxin Subtypes. 2011. Vaccine. Aug 9. PMID: 21839134

    Henkel J.S., Baldwin M.R., Barbieri J.T.  Toxins from bacteria. EXS. 2010;100:1-29.  Review.

    Henkel, J.S., Jacobson, M., Tepp, W., Pier, C., Johnson, E.A., Barbieri, J.T. Catalytic Properties of Botulinum neurotoxins subtypes A3 and A4. Biochemistry.

    Fang H, Luo W, Henkel J, Barbieri J, Green N. 2006. A yeast assay probes the interaction between botulinum neurotoxin serotype B and its SNARE substrate. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. May2;103(18):6958-63.

    Meece J.K., Henkel J.S., Glaser L., Reed K.D. 2003. Mosquito surveillance for West Nile virus in southeastern Wisconsin-2002. Clin Med Res. Jan;1(1):37-42.

    Reed K.D., Meece J.K., Henkel J.S., Shukla S.K. 2003. Birds, migration and emerging zoonoses: West Nile virus, Lyme disease, Influenza A and enteropathogens. Clin Med Res. Jan;1(1):5-12.

    Previous Research Theses

    • University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point: Tick-bourne diseases in deer ticks from Nine-Mile State Forest, Wausau, WI
    • University of Wisconsin-La Crosse: Detection and surveillance of West Nile Virus in Wisconsin
    • Medical College of Wisconsin, Wauwatosa: Biochemical Characterization of Botulinum neurotoxin
    • Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS), Bethesda, MD: Chlamydia trachomatis metabolism and small GTPase recruitment


    • Head of the Board of Youth ministry, Faith Lutheran, Sussex, WI
    • Volunteer teaching basic self-defense classes/series


    • Member of the American Society of Microbiology (ASM)