PI Team

The SIRIUS Project is funded by the National Science Foundation, the W.M. Keck Foundation, the California State University Program for Education and Research in Biotechnology, and Sacramento State. Dr. Landerholm and Dr. Kelly McDonald are the Principal Investigators on each of these awards.

Dr. Thomas Landerholm photoDr. Thomas Landerholm is a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at California State University, Sacramento (CSUS) and has been at the university since 2002. He obtained his Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from Baylor College of Medicine in the Program in Cardiovascular Sciences, and did post-doctoral work in cardiovascular and neural development at the University of California, Davis. At Sacramento State, Dr. Landerholm developed the River City Science Project with the goals of establishing research and curriculum collaborations among the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines on campus, with our local Community College partners, and with federal, state and local agencies in Sacramento. The SIRIUS Project is part of this effort, and is an initiative to bring authentic research experiences to all undergraduates majoring in STEM, and to create a culture of interdisciplinary science identity and environmental activism for all of our students. Dr. Landerholm teaches cell, molecular and developmental biology, and is a curriculum revision leader in Biological Sciences. He served as the Chair of the department’s Meta-Curriculum Task Force charged with complete redesign and integration of the undergraduate curriculum and as the Co-Chair of the Cell and Molecular Biology Curriculum Subcommittee (again, with Dr. McDonald) charged with integration of the CMB core through scaffolded student learning outcomes from freshman to senior courses. During this revision, he also served as a principal designer of our introductory Cells, Molecules and Genes, Introduction to Scientific Analysis, Molecular Cell Biology, Developmental Biology, Advanced Cell Biology, and graduate Cell and Molecular Methods & Techniques courses. Dr. Landerholm also initiated the Sacramento State STEM Initiative and founded the Center for STEM Excellence on campus. The goals of the STEM Initiative are to promote student recruitment, retention and success in science, and to develop regional STEM education and workforce programs. Dr. Landerholm served as the Director of the Center for STEM Excellence for its first five years. He also served as the Project Director of the Sacramento State Advanced Cell Analysis Laboratory, funded through the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE). This project brought Sacramento State its first confocal microscope and flow cytometer, along with a variety of small equipment to maximize our capacity for cellular analysis.


head shotDr. Kelly McDonald is an associate professor and the assistant chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at California State University, Sacramento (CSUS). She obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Florida in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, did post-doctoral work in environmental toxicology for USGS, and spent five years in the biotechnology industry at Celera AgGen and Applied Biosystems. Dr. McDonald joined the faculty at Sacramento State as a science education specialist in 2009. She teaches and/or coordinates the Introductory Molecular, Cellular and Genetics course, the Graduate Teaching Associate (GTA) Program, and the Pre-teaching Internship Program for the Department of Biological Sciences and co-coordinates the Learning Associate (LA) Program for the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. Her research group is focused on 1) evaluating the effectiveness of specific active learning strategies, assessment techniques and metacognitive activities on student success in Introductory Biology courses, 2) examining the impact of undergraduate research and course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) and 3) examining the beliefs and attitudes of students preparing for careers in STEM teaching. Dr. McDonald has served or is currently serving on Sacramento State’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) Advisory Board, the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics Student Success Center advisory board and the advisory board for Sheldon High School’s Biotechnology Academy. Nationally, she is a member of the Faculty Development Network for Undergraduate Biology Education (FDN-UBE) and on the Steering Committee for the Biology Teaching Assistant Project (BioTAP).