C. Nicole Sunnen, PhD

C. Nicole Sunnen, PhD

C. Nicole Sunnen PhD

Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences and Neuroscience 


BSc Molecular Biology and Genetics, University of Guelph

PhD Neuroscience, Baylor College of Medicine

Postdoctoral Fellow, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

IRACDA Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Pennsylvania

Research Interests

Research and Scholarly Interests

  • Molecular mechanisms of neurodevelopment, neural disorders, and epilepsy
  • Phage biology, genome annotation, and gene function
  • STEM education, particularly inquiry- and discovery-based learning methods, such as CUREs (Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences)

I am available as a graduate thesis committee member, literary research advisor (BS-399), or secondary research advisor to both graduate and undergraduate students. However, I do not have an active research program, so I am unable to serve as a primary research advisor or mentor.


My graduate and postdoctoral research focused on the molecular and genetic causes of abnormal brain development. These aberrations often lead to pediatric epilepsy, intellectual disability, and other disorders in human patients, and our research was designed, in part, to identify novel therapies for these individuals. I believe that science is a way of thinking that can be applied to all disciplines, and that learning is an active process – just like science! At USciences, I teach:

  • Molecular Basis of Neurological Disorders (BS-430)
  • Developmental Biology (offered as Special Topics, BS-499
  • HHMI’s SEA-PHAGES freshman biology research lab (BS-136 and BS-137)
  • HHMI’s SEA-GENES research lab (offered as Special Topics, BS-291)

Selected Scholarly Activity

Selected Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Articles, Workshops and Presentations

C.N. Sunnen (2020). Tools to create effective student teams for group work. Support Session. Misher College Fall 2020 Support Resources. Philadelphia, PA.

J. Rocheleau, M. Mastropaolo, C.N. Sunnen, A.R. Beyer, T. Ndolo, D. Williams, S. Saha, N. Dean. (2020). Exploring Functions for Common Phage Proteins. Science Education Alliance (SEA) Faculty Group, QUBES Educational Resources. doi:10.25334/3YA4-H358

C.N. Sunnen. (accepted, National Case Study Teaching in Science) I’m having a what-now?! Problem-based Learning Activity.

D.I. Hanauer, M.J. Graham, ∞SEA-PHAGES, L. Betancur, A. Bobrownicki, S.G. Cresawn, R.A. Garlena, D. Jacobs-Sera, N. Kaufmann, W.H. Pope, D.A. Russell, V. Sivanathan, D.J. Asai, G.F. Hatfull. (2017) An Inclusive Research-Education Community (iREC): A model for student engagement in science. PNAS. (∞listed as a contributing author)

C.N. Sunnen (2017). Improving Academic Success with Student-Written Quizzes. Poster. Evidence-based Teaching and Learning Lilly Conference. Bethesda, MD.

C.N. Sunnen & P. Blumberg (2016). Introduction to Problem-based learning (PBL) and experience it yourself as a learner. Workshop. University of the Sciences August Faculty Enrichment Series. Philadelphia, PA.

Selected Phage Research Articles and Genome Annotations

D. Jacobs-Sera, L.A. Abad, R.M. Alvey, K.R. Anders, H.G. Aull, S.S. Bhalla, L.S. Blumer, D.W. Bollivar, J.A. Bonilla, K.A. Butela, R.J. Coomans, S.G. Cresawn, T. D'Elia, A. Diaz, A.M. Divens, N.P. Edgington, G.D. Frederick, M.D. Gainey, R.A. Garlena, K.W. Grant, S.M.R. Gurney, H.L. Hendrickson, L.E. Hughes, M.A. Kenna, K.K. Klyczek, H. Kotturi, T.N. Mavrich, A.L. McKinney, E.C. Merkhofer, J. Moberg Parker, S.D. Molloy, D.L. Monti, D.A. Pape-Zambito, R.S. Pollenz, W.H. Pope, N.S. Reyna, C.A. Rinehart, D.A. Russell, C.D. Shaffer, V. Sivanathan, T.H. Stoner, J. Stukey, C.N. Sunnen, S.S. Tolsma, P.K. Tsourkas, J.R. Wallen, V.C. Ware, M.H. Warner, J.M. Washington, K.M. Westover, J.L. Whitefleet-Smith, H.I. Wiersma-Koch, D.C. Williams, K.M. Zack, G.F. Hatfull. (2020) Genomic diversity of bacteriophages infecting Microbacterium spp. PLOS One. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0234636

#Microbacterium phage FreddieHg, complete genome. (2020) GenBank: MT639643 (#6 UG authors)
#Microbacterium phage BurritoBowl, complete genome. (2020) GenBank: MT639649 (#12 UG authors)
#Rothia phage Spartoi, complete genome. (2019) GenBank: MK061416 (#3 UG authors)
#Mycobacterium phage Clifton, complete genome. (2018) GenBank: MH371115 (#10 UG authors)
#Mycobacterium phage Audrick, complete genome. (2017) GenBank: MF919493 (#12 UG authors)

Selected Neuroscience Research Articles Presentations

*E.D. Marsh, *M.P. Nasrallah, C. Walsh, K.A. Murray, C.N. Sunnen, A. McCoy, J.A. Golden. (2016) Developmental interneuron subtype deficits after targeted loss of Arx. BMC Neuroscience. 17:35. PMCID: PMC4902966 (*these authors contributed equally) http://rdcu.be/tnZS

C.N. Sunnen (2014) Modeling Neurological Diseases. Delaware County Community College STEM Speaker Series. Media, PA. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjMZtA3qTGo

C.N. Sunnen, J.C. Simonet, E.D. Marsh, J.A. Golden. (2014) Arx is required for specification of the zona incerta and reticular nucleus of the thalamus. J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 73:253-261. PMCID: PMC4038102

C.N. Sunnen, A.L. Brewster, J.N. Lugo, F. Vanegas, E. Turcios, S. Mukhi, D. Parghi, G. D'Arcangelo, A.E. Anderson (2011) Inhibition of the mammalian target of rapamycin blocks epilepsy progression in NS-Pten conditional knockout mice. Epilepsia 52:2065-2075. PMCID: PMC3204180

Contact Information

Office location: McNeil Science & Technology Center, Room 376
Mailing address: Box #38
University of Sciences
600 South 43rd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-4495
Office Phone: 215-596-7420

c [dot] sunnen [at] usciences [dot] edu