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Biology Department

Biology Department

Faculty and Staff

Steel Lab

Steel Lab Logo 2017

Welcome to the Steel Lab

Alphaviruses are RNA viruses that are transmitted mainly through mosquito bites. Alphaviruses including Sindbis, Chikungunya, and Western Equine Encephalitis viruses cause significant disease and suffering worldwide, and yet there is not an effective treatment method for these viral pathogens. These cellular parasites infect a host cell and then take over the cell in order to provide an optimal environment for virus replication. Significant changes occur to normal cellular pathways and physiology during viral infections. We have been investigating these metabolic changes that occur during virus infection and have found some striking findings that indicate the virus is dependent on glycolysis and other metabolic pathways. Check out our projects below for more detail.

ASM Durango Sp2018 Steel lab



    Mitochondria Manipulation during Alphavirus Infection

    Mitochondria are critical components of cellular physiology including metabolic pathways, oxidative stress, and apoptosis. We are investigating the  alterations that occur to mitochondria during alphavirus infection. We are looking at physical changes such as size, shape, abundance, and location, and we are also interesting in measuring metabolic flux and output during infection.

    MAx and Jessica


    Glycolysis and glucose uptake during infection

    Viral infections have been shown to significantly increase glyctolytic flux and alphaviruses appear to be dependent on this elevated glucose metabolism. Recent papers report elevated glycolysis rates, but it is unclear where the extra glucose is coming from. We are seeking to understand the carbon source for this elevated metabolic profile of infected cells.

    Tobi and Ying Ying


    Oxidative Stress response during SINV infection

    Viral infections have long been known to induce oxidative stress during infection. This increase in ROS has recently been shown to be beneficial for viral replication. Dengue NS5 capping enzyme works more efficiently during oxidative stress. Therefore, it appears this oxidative stress that is occurring during infection is not a byproduct, but rather a direct result of a virus infection making the optimal environment for replication. We are seeking to understand how these viruses are inducing oxidative stress during infection.

    Kyle and Erika


    Effect of endocannabinoids on viral replication

    CSU-Pueblo has recently become funded and established the Institute of Cannabis Research. We received a pilot grant and are investigating the role of endocannabinoid-induced metabolic changes on viral infection. There is data that indicates that activation of cannabinoid receptors (CBR) results in metabolic changes within the cell. Specifically, human liver cells have been shown to initiate gluconeogenesis during cannabinoid receptor stimulation. We predict that this altered metabolic profile will effect the replication of viruses in CBR antagonized cells.

    Juan Rodriguez sp2018Joseph Lopez sp2018



    Jessica Costlow

    Jessica joined the lab in Fall 2015 as an undergraduate and is now working on both her Bachelors and her Masters Degree in Biology. Her thesis project is investigating the manipulation of mitochondria during infection. 

    Jessica was awarded an ASM Undergraduate Research Fellowship for Summer 2016 and will be presenting her work at the ASM general meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana in June 2017.  



    Juan Rodriguez

    Juan started working in the lab Spring 2016. He graduated with his BS in Biology in Dec 2016 and has now joined the lab as a Masters student. Juan is working on understanding oxidative stress during infection and is also beginning some work with the cannabinoid receptors and their impact on viral replication. 

    Juan was part of a successful SEED grant from summer 2016.



    Erika Krow

    Erika has been working in the lab since Spring 2016. She is working on understanding the upregulation in glycolysis during Sindbis virus infection.

    Erika was awarded a position in the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) at CSU-Pueblo for Summer 2016. 

    Erika Krow


    Joseph Lopez

    Joseph has been working in the lab since Fall 2016 and is working hard on developing protocols to evaluate the impact of cannabinoid receptor antagonism on alphaviral replication. He submitted an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship application to work on a masters degree and answer questions about metabolic liver diseases and cannabis. 



    Alyssa Torres

    Alyssa is working on an interdisciplinary project with Dr. Claire Ramos and Dr. Jordan Steel. Alyssa traps and bands local songbirds along the fountain creek. They are taking blood samples to analyze mercury levels in the local birds and Alyssa is also screening the bird blood for West Nile Virus antibodies. 

    Alyssa has won several research presentation awards:

    • 3rd Place Poster Presentation: SETAC national conference (Nov 2017)
    • 2nd Place Oral Presentation: ASM Tri-regional conference (April 2018)
    • 1st Place Poster Presentation: Tri-Beta regional conference (April 2018)

    Alyssa working on WNV ELISA testingAlyssa presenting her research


    Tobi Oloyede

    Tobi joined the lab in Fall 2017 and has been working with Erika on the alphavirus and metabolism projects. He is preparing for medical school and is also serving as a CBASE fellow and gets to train and mentor the CBASE research interns.



    CBASE Interns

    • Kyle Boyd
    • Sarah Tyler
    • Kayana Casias
    • Maxwell Sheedy
    • Victoria Perez
    • Ying Ying Xue

    ASM Dinner


    Past lab members

    • Nate Grabill
    • Tim Ballard
    • Alisha Mason
    • Sarah Thompson
    • Elicia Vigil
    • Sarah Komma

Lab Activities


    ASM Conference: Durango, CO April 2018

    ASM durangoASM dinner

    ASM durango


    Summer BBQ 2016

    Annual BBQ at Dr. Steel's house

    Summer BBQ at Dr. Steel's house


    Rocky Mountain Virology Association Meeting 2016

    Sept 2016 at the beautiful Pingree Park! Great food, Great people, Great Science, and an overall Great Time!

    See Gallery for more images

    Steel Lab at Rocky Mountain Virology Club


    Holiday party 2016

    Dinner and White elephant gift exchange!



    Pueblo City Science Fair

    Jan 2017:

    Judging and STEM table at the Pueblo city Science Fair

    Pueblo Science Fair Dr. Fran Tortoise

    Pueblo Science Fair Dr. Lehmpuhl


    Colorado State Fair

    Sept 2016:

    West Nile Virus awareness booth at the State Fair in collaboration with Pueblo County Health Department

    WNV table at State Fair Colorado

    West Nile Virus Booth at STate Fair


    Boy Scouts of America STEM Week

    Pond water and microscopes with scouts at San Isabel Scout Ranch

    Southern Colorado Science Olympiad Event Supervisors

    Dr. Steel and lab members helped run the Protein Modeling competition for the regional Science Olympiad Event

    Science Olympiad Pueblo COlorado

Steel Lab Picture Gallery

Biology Department

Biology Department

Faculty and Staff

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