Newcomb, James - New England College
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Newcomb, James

Professor, Biology and Health Science

Phone: 603.428.2374

James Newcomb

Degrees, Certifications

PhD Biology, Georgia State University
MS Zoology, University of New Hampshire
BS Chemistry/Physics, Keene State College
BS Zoology, University of New Hampshire

Professional Background, Scholarship Highlights

Dr. Newcomb has taught at New England College since 2006 and maintains an active research laboratory where he and his students study invertebrate physiology, focusing especially on circadian rhythms and the evolution of snails and slugs.

Extramural Grants

  • National Institutes of Health New Hampshire IDeA Network of Biological Research Excellence (NH-INBRE) Grant.  Co-PIs: Lori Bergeron, Heather Chabot, Debra Dunlop.
    • Individual research component, “Neural mechanisms of circadian rhythms and interactions between clocks.” (2015-2017)
    • Individual research component, “Molecular and neural mechanisms of circadian rhythms in a gastropod model system." (2013-2015)
    • Individual research component, “Properties of a circadian pacemaker and its regulation of locomotion.” (2010-2013)
    • Facility renovation component. (2010-2013)
  • Marion and Jasper Whiting Fellowship (2012)
  • Conchologists of America Academic Grant, “Localization of Period protein immunoreactivity in the eyes and central nervous system of the nudibranch Melibe leonine.” (2009)
  • Campus Compact Engaged Department Initiative, Co-PIs: Debra Nitschke-Shaw, Waco Worley, Wayne Lesperance, Susan Redditt, Pamela Clark. (2008-2010)
  • Center for Behavioral Neuroscience Education Venture Grant, "Georgia Aquarium education/research project." PI: Paul Katz; Co-PI: Barbara Baumstark, Laura Carruth, Charles Derby, Kyle Frantz, Matthew Grober, Lisa Hayden, Struan Smith. (2005)
  • International Society for Neuroethology Heiligenberg Award, "Systematic investigation of the behavioral functions of homologous serotonergic neurons in nudibranch molluscs." (2004)
  • Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology Grants-In-Aid of Research, "Modulation of the swim central pattern generator in the nudibranch Melibe leonina by nitric oxide." (2000)
  • George Moore Fellowship (2000)

Peer-Reviewed Publications

  • Fromm B, Billip T, Peck LE, Johansen M, Tarver J, King B, Newcomb JM, Sempere LF, Flatmark K, Hovig E, Peterson KJ (2015). A uniform system for the annotation of human microRNA genes and the evolution of the human microRNAome. Annual Review of Genetics. 49: 213-242. doi: 10.1146/annurev-genet-120213-092023. PMCID: PMC4743252.
  • Sevigny JL, Kirouac LE, Thomas WK, Ramsdell JS, Lawlor KE, Sharifi O, Grewal S, Baysdorfer C, Curr K, Naimie AA, Okamoto K, Murray JA, Newcomb JM (2015). The mitochondrial genomes of the nudibranch mollusks, Melibe leonina and Tritonia diomedea, and their impact on gastropod phylogeny. PLoS ONE 10(5): e0127519. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0127519. PMCID: PMC4440745.
  • Newcomb JM, Kirouac LE, Naimie AA, Bixby KA, Lee C, Malanga S, Raubach M, Watson WH III (2014) Circadian rhythms of crawling and swimming in the nudibranch mollusk Melibe leonina. Biological Bulletin. 227: 263-273.
  • Newcomb JM, Sakurai A, Lillvis JL, Gunaratne C, Katz PS (2012) Homology and homoplasy of swimming behaviors and neural circuits in Nudipleura (Mollusca, Gastropoda, Opisthobranchia). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 109: 10669-10676. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1201877109. PMCID: PMC3386871
  • Lewis SL, Lyons DE, Meekins TL, Newcomb JM (2011) Serotonin influences locomotion in the nudibranch mollusc Melibe leonina. Biological Bulletin. 220: 155-160.
  • Sakurai A, Newcomb JM, Lillvis JL, Katz PS (2011) Different roles for homologous interneurons in species exhibiting similar rhythmic behaviors. Current Biology 21: 1036-1043. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2011.04.040.
  • Newcomb JM, Katz PS (2009) Different functions for homologous serotonergic interneurons and serotonin in species-specific rhythmic behaviors. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 276: 99-108. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2008.0683  [This paper was selected and recommended in “Faculty of 1000 Biology.”]
  • Newcomb JM (2008) Melibe. Scholarpedia. 3(5): 3965. doi: 10.4249/scholarpedia.3965
  • Newcomb JM, Katz PS (2007) Homologues of serotonergic central pattern generator neurons in related nudibranch molluscs with divergent behaviors. Journal of Comparative Physiology A 193: 425-443. doi: 10.1007/s00359-006-0196-4  [This paper was selected and recommended in “Faculty of 1000 Biology.”]
  • Newcomb JM, Fickbohm DJ, Katz PS (2006) Comparative mapping of serotonin-immunoreactive neurons in the central nervous systems of nudibranch molluscs. Journal of Comparative Neurology 499: 485-505. doi: 10.1002/cne.21111
  • Newcomb JM, Lawrence KA, Watson WH, III. (2004) The influence of light on locomotion in the gastropod Melibe leonina. Marine and Freshwater Behaviour and Physiology 37: 253-269.
  • Watson WH, III, Newcomb JM, Thompson S. (2002) Neural correlates of swimming behavior in Melibe leonina. Biological Bulletin 203: 152-160.
  • Newcomb JM, Watson WH, III. (2002) Modulation of swimming in the gastropod Melibe leonina by nitric oxide. Journal of Experimental Biology 205: 397-403.
  • Watson WH, III, Lawrence KA, Newcomb JM. (2001) Neuroethology of Melibe leonina swimming behavior. American Zoologist 41: 1026-1035.
  • Dufort C, Jury S, Newcomb JM, O’Grady DF, Watson WH, III. (2001) Detection of salinity by the lobster, Homarus americanus.  Biological Bulletin 201: 424-434.
  • Newcomb JM, Watson WH, III. (2001) Identifiable nitrergic neurons in the central nervous system of the nudibranch Melibe leonina, localized with NADPH-diaphorase histochemistry and nitric oxide synthase immunoreactivity. Journal of Comparative Neurology 437: 70-78.

Book Chapters

Press Publications

Conference Presentations (many co-authored with NEC Students)

  • Localization of the circadian clock in the nervous system of the mollusk Melibe leonina, using in situ hybridization. Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology Annual Conference, New Orleans, LA (2017).
  • Localization of circadian clock proteins in the nervous system of the mollusk Melibe leonina. Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology Annual Conference, New Orleans, LA (2017) .
  • Investigating the embryonic and larval development of the nudibranch Melibe leonina. Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students, Tampa, FL (2016).
  • A circadian clock and SCP in a swimming sea slug. New Hampshire IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (NH-INBRE) Annual Meeting, Bretton Woods, NH (2016).
  • Investigating the expression of circadian proteins in the nudibranch Melibe leonina. NH-INBRE Annual Meeting, Bretton Woods, NH (2016).
  • Identification of two putative circadian clocks in the marine mollusk Melibe leonina. NH-INBRE Annual Meeting, Bretton Woods, NH (2016).
  • Effects of small cardioactive peptide on the feeding and swimming motor programs of Melibe leonina. Eastern New England Biological Conference, Hamden, CT (2016).
  • Localization of the circadian protein, CLOCK, in the nervous system of Melibe leonina. Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology Annual Conference, Portland, OR (2016).
  • Development of a method for comparing the abundance of the protein, CLOCK, in the nervous system of Melibe leonina between night and day. NH-INBRE Annual Meeting, New Castle, NH (2015).
  • Development of a method for localizing circadian mRNA transcripts in the nervous system of the nudibranch Melibe leonina using whole mount in situ hybridization. NH-INBRE Annual Meeting, New Castle, NH (2015).
  • Regulation of behavioral state in the nudibranch Melibe leonina. NH-INBRE Annual Meeting, New Castle, NH (2015).
  • Temporal and spatial patterns of clock gene expression in the nervous system of Melibe leonina. NH-INBRE Annual Meeting, New Castle, NH (2015).
  • Distribution of the neuropeptide small cardioactive peptide in the nervous system of Melibe leonina. NH-INBRE Annual Meeting, New Castle, NH (2015).
  • Are you what you eat? How diet affects behavior in Melibe leonina. NH-INBRE Annual Meeting, New Castle, NH (2015).
  • Localization of the circadian protein, PERIOD, in the brain of the nudibranch mollusk, Melibe leonina. Eastern New England Biological Conference, Boston, MA (2015). 
  • The mitochondrial genomes of the nudibranch mollusks, Melibe leonina and Tritonia diomedea, and their impacts on gastropod phylogeny. California State University Program for Education and Research in Biotechnology, Santa Clara, CA (2015); Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology Conference, West Palm Beach, FL (2015); NH-INBRE Annual Meeting, Whitefield, NH (2014).
  • Electrical output of the isolated Melibe brain during long-term recordings. NH-INBRE Annual Meeting, Whitefield, NH (2014).  
  • Circadian clock proteins in the nudibranch mollusk, Melibe leonina. NH-INBRE Annual Meeting, Whitefield, NH (2014). 
  • The use of qPCR to investigate daily fluctuations in Melibe clock transcripts. NH-INBRE Annual Meeting, Whitefield, NH (2014).  
  • The possible role of small cardioactive peptide-containing neurons in the nudibranch mollusk, Melibe leonina. NH-INBRE Annual Meeting, Whitefield, NH (2014).  
  • Cryptochrome-immunoreactive neurons in the brain of Melibe leonina. NH-INBRE Annual Conference, Whitefield, NH (2014).  
  • The love-hate relationship between Melibe leonina and light. NH-INBRE Annual Meeting, Whitefield, NH (2014).  
  • Investigating the presence of a photosynthetic symbiont in Melibe leonina. Eastern New England Biological Conference, North Andover, MA (2014).
  • Investigating the short-term effects of conopressin injections on locomotor activity in Melibe leonina. Eastern New England Biological Conference, North Andover, MA (2014).
  • Assessing phylogenetic relationships of Nudibranchia through the use of microRNAs. Eastern New England Biological Conference, North Andover, MA (2014).
  • The mitochondrial genome of Melibe leonina and its impact on gastropod phylogeny. Eastern New England Biological Conference, North Andover, MA (2014).
  • Determining the circadian Period gene sequence in Melibe leonina using orthologous sequences. Eastern New England Biological Conference, North Andover, MA (2014).
  • Small cardioactive peptide immunoreactivity in the nudibranch Melibe leonina. Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology Conference, Austin, TX (2014).
  • Ultrastructural analysis demonstrates that the nudibranch Melibe leonina lacks symbiotic algae and kleptoplasts. Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology Conference, Austin, TX (2014).
  • Eyeless Melibe leonina continue to produce circadian locomotion. NH-INBRE Annual Meeting, Hanover, NH (2013).
  • A circadian clock regulates both crawling and swimming in the nudibranch Melibe leonina. Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology Conference, San Francisco, CA (2013).
  • Circadian rhythm of locomotion in the nudibranch mollusc Melibe leonina. International Congress of Neuroethology, College Park, MD (2012); NH-INBRE Annual Conference, Whitefield, NH (2012).
  • Sequencing and annotation of the mitochondrial genome of the nudibranch Melibe leonina. NH-INBRE Annual Meeting, Whitefield, NH (2102).
  • Identification of putative clock neurons in the brain of the nudibranch, Melibe leonina. NH-INBRE Annual Meeting, Whitefield, NH (2012).
  • Developing a model system for investigating how circadian clocks produce circadian behavior. Symposium of Conchologists of America Academic Grant award recipients at the American Malacological Society/Conchologists of America Society joint conference, Philadelphia, PA (2012).
  • Integrating bioinformatics across an undergraduate biology curriculum. American Society for Microbiology Conference for Undergraduate Educators, San Mateo, CA (2012).
  • Melibe leonina express an endogenous circadian rhythm of locomotion. Eastern New England Biological Conference, Easton, MA (2012).
  • The effects of pigment dispersing hormone (PDH) on behavior in the nudibranch, Melibe leonina. Eastern New England Biological Conference, Easton, MA (2012).
  • In search of biological clock neurons in the central nervous system of the nudibranch Melibe leonina. Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology Conference, Charleston, SC (2012); Gordon Research Conference: Neuroethology, Easton, MA (2011); Northeast Regional IDeA Meeting, Newport, RI (2011).
  • Evolution of behaviors reveals functional importance of neural circuit features. Collaborative Research in Computational Neuroscience PI Meeting, Princeton, NJ (2011).
  • Using bioinformatics to develop a custom antibody for the period protein in the nudibranch Melibe leonina. Northeast Regional IDeA Meeting, Newport, RI (2011); NH-INBRE Annual Meeting, Whitefield, NH.
  • In search of biological clock neurons in the CNS of the nudibranch Melibe leonina. NH-INBRE Annual Meeting, Whitefield, NH (2011).
  • Presence of putative neurohormones and biological clock proteins in Melibe leonina. University of New Hampshire Undergraduate Research Conference, Durham, NH (2011).
  • Role of glutamate in autotomization of cerata in the nudibranch Melibe leonina. Eastern New England Biological Conference, Boston, MA (2011).
  • Homologous interneurons have distinct functions in the generation of similar rhythmic motor patterns. Society for Neuroscience, San Diego, CA (2010); International Congress of Neuroethology, Salamanca, Spain (2010).
  • The effects of serotonin on locomotion in the gastropod Melibe leonina. Northeast Undergraduate Research and Development Symposium, Biddeford, ME (2010); Eastern New England Biological Conference, Bridgewater, MA (2010).
  • The effects of serotonin on locomotion in the nudibranch Melibe leonina. Society for Neuroscience, Chicago, IL (2009);  Eastern New England Biological Conference, Lowell, MA.
  • Defensive responses of nudibranchs. Eastern New England Biological Conference, Lowell, MA (2009).
  • Evolution of neural circuits in nudibranch molluscs. International Congress of Neuroethology, Vancouver, Canada (2007).
  • Serotonin and homologous serotonergic interneurons participate differently in divergent rhythmic behaviors. East Coast Nerve Net, Woods Hole, MA (2007).
  • Phylogenetic reconfiguration of neural circuits underlying locomotion in nudibranch molluscs. Society for Neuroscience, Atlanta, GA (2006).
  • Comparative mapping of serotonin-immunoreactive neurons in the central nervous systems of nudibranch molluscs. Society for Neuroscience, Atlanta, GA (2006); Second International Workshop on Opisthobranchia, Bonn, Germany (2006).
  • Evolution of central pattern generator circuitry in nudibranch molluscs: changes in the functions of identified neurons embedded in a common network. South East Nerve Net, Atlanta, GA (2006).
  • Evolution of neural circuits underlying swimming behaviors in nudibranch molluscs. Neuronal Circuits: From Structure to Function, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor, NY (2006); Society for Neuroscience, Washington, DC (2005).
  • Patterns of neural evolution in nudibranch molluscs:functional divergence of homologous neurons embedded in a common neural network. Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, Orlando, FL (2006).
  • Homologous neurons in nudibranch molluscs serve different functions in analogous behaviors. Gordon Conference on Neuroethology, Oxford, England (2005).
  • Systematic investigation of the behavioral functions of homologous serotonergic neurons in nudibranch molluscs. International Congress of Neuroethology, Nyborg, Denmark (2004).
  • Homologous serotonergic neurons in two molluscan species participate differently in analogous locomotor behaviors. South East Nerve Net, Atlanta, GA (2004).
  • Homologous serotonergic neurons in two molluscan species differentially participate in analogous locomotor behaviors. Society for Neuroscience, New Orleans, LA (2003).
  • Modulation of the swim motor program in the gastropod Melibe leonina by cyclic GMP and cyclic AMP. South East Nerve Net, Atlanta, GA (2002); Society for Neuroscience, San Diego, CA (2002).
  • Identifiable nitrergic cells in the central nervous system of Melibe leonina. Society for Neuroscience, New Orleans, LA (2000).
  • The inhibitory role of nitric oxide in the swimming behavior of the nudibranch Melibe leonina. East Coast Nerve Net, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA (2000).
  • Nitric oxide in the central nervous system of the opisthobranch Melibe leonina. Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, Atlanta, GA (2000).

Awards

  • Best Poster, Northeast Undergraduate Research and Development Symposium (2010)
  • Best Poster, International Congress for Neuroethology (2004)
  • Oak Ridge Associated Universities Graduate Student Award to attend the 53rd Meeting of Nobel Laureates (2003)
  • Award for Outstanding Instruction, Georgia State University (2003)
  • Award for Outstanding Instruction, Georgia State University (2002)
  • Outstanding Achievements in Research, University of New Hampshire (2001)

Editorial Boards

  • Journal of Circadian Rhythms (2012-present)

Grant Panel Reviewer

  • National Science Foundation (2012)

Journal Reviewer

  • Biological Bulletin
  • BMC Evolutionary Biology
  • Current Zoology
  • ICES Journal of Marine Science
  • Journal of Experimental Marine Biology & Ecology
  • Journal of Neuroscience Methods
  • Malacologia
  • PLoS ONE

Social Media

NEC Biology & Health Science Facebook

Personal Interests

  • I have two primary goals when working with students: 1) engagement and 2) development of critical thinking and an understanding of the process of science. Students learn more when they are actively engaged, which can be accomplished by having them solve problems and work with content, as well as DOING science. And doing science fosters critical thinking skills and working through the process of science - developing hypotheses, designing and carrying out experiments to test these, drawing conclusions from data, and revising initial hypotheses. Besides, it’s fun!
  • I believe that New England College’s unique value lies in its engaging and intimate environment. The ability to work with faculty members, staff, and fellow students in small groups or one-on-one provides lots of individualized attention, fostering each students’ growth and development. This also means that each student has many more opportunities, both in and out of the classroom.
  • I actively engage many students in the process of science by having them do research in my lab, where we study the physiology and evolution of marine invertebrates. One of these students was a woman who, like many other students, initially earned B’s and C’s in her science courses and was somewhat unsure of her career path. I saw a hard-working woman with a strong drive and offered her an opportunity to work in my lab full-time one summer, where she really blossomed. By the end of the summer, she had presented her work at a professional conference and had gained a new level of confidence and direction. Her grades in her classes improved and she defined a more clear idea of her career path. She worked out so well in the lab that I rehired her for another summer and as a full-time lab employee after her graduation. She went on to present her work at additional conferences and became a coauthor one not one, but two, peer-reviewed scientific publications! She then applied and was accepted to a Master’s program in Physician Assistant Studies and recently graduated as a new Physician Assistant. Of course, one of the great things about NEC is the close mentoring relationship that often develops between students and faculty/staff. It was no different with this woman, and I just attended her wedding this summer!
  • I may have multiple science degrees, but I spent most of my twenties as a modern dancer and choreographer.
  • Experiential Learning, Natural Environment, Civic Engagement Vision.  Through laboratory experiences (both in labs and in the field), our senior thesis experience, and research opportunities, our department is committed to providing numerous experiential learning opportunities focused on the natural environment and involving engagement with our local neighborhood, as well as the larger scientific community.
  • I harbor a long-time love of dance and the arts, and enjoy the outdoor environs of New Hampshire and other locales around the world with family whenever possible.

James Newcomb with students and at the side of a pond with a horseshoe crab