Dr. Sara Sybesma Tolsma ’84 Professor of Biology


Ph.D., Northwestern University
B.A., Northwestern College (Iowa)

SCI 228

Dr. Tolsma’s research efforts in cancer genetics and cell biology have been widely published in scientific journals and have received a number of awards. A Northwestern College alumna, she holds a doctorate in microbiology/immunology/virology from Northwestern University. She has three ongoing research projects. In collaboration with Dr. Laura Furlong, she is studying mayfly genetic variation in Northwest Iowa watersheds and in streams on Santa Cruz Island. With her Cell Biology students, she is measuring the anti-proliferative effects of plant extracts and chemicals in those extracts on human tumor cells in vitro. Finally, as a member of the HHMI-sponsored SEA-PHAGES group, she is working on annotating mycobacteriophage genomes with students in her genetics and genomics class. She is expanding her phage research by raising antibodies to phage capsid proteins with her immunology students. She is also passionate about integrating science and Christian faith. She is an American Scientific Affiliation Fellow and serves as a subject book review editor for their journal, PSCF. She has published a number of essays in Perspectives: A Journal of Reformed Thought, which she co-edits, and she wrote a book with Dr. Jason Lief about the importance of engaging young people in conversations about science and faith. The 2015 recipient of Northwestern's annual Teaching Excellence Award, she was appointed to the Northwestern College Endowed Professorship in 2016.

BIO110 - Introduction to the Life Sciences

A fee is associated with this course (http://www.nwciowa.edu/tuition/fees).

NWC105 - Honors First-Year Seminar

(4 credits) NWC105 is an Honors section of the First-Year Seminar, utilizing the same syllabus, texts, and course objectives as NWC101. In addition, the Honors First-Year Seminar aims: 1) to promote community among first-year students of demonstrated academic ability; 2) to create an environment in which these students can excel academically and nurture their innate intellectual curiosity; and 3) to provide students with an opportunity to learn from NWC faculty who have been recognized for their teaching excellence in the classroom. Completion of the Honors First-Year Seminar does not guarantee admission into the Honors Program. Students will have the opportunity to apply to the Honors Program at the end of their Freshman year. For additional course information, see the course description under "First-Year Seminar".

Tolsma, S. S. (2017). Ursula Goodenough, John Templeton Foundation, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. In P. Copan, T. Longman, C. L. Reese, & M. G. Strauss (Eds.), Dictionary of Christianity and Science (pp. 336, 394-5, 405). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Olhausen, M. L., Tolsma, J. S., Beaton, S., Becker, J., Blankespoor, A., Bruinsma, S., . . . Tolsma, S. S. (2017). Antiproliferative Effects of Common Plant Extracts on Tumor Cells In Vitro. Iowa Academy of Science Annual Meeting.

Schutt, A., Inge, K., Bruinsma, S., Jeltema, J., Muro, J., Preston, P., . . . Tolsma, S. S. (2017). Phage Hunting in the Midwest Prairie. HHMI SEA-PHAGES Annual Symposium.

Doyle, E., Chia, C., McKinney, A., and Tolsma, S. (2017) A Genome in a Day: Lessons from the Updawg Genome Annotation Hackathon. HHMI SEA-PHAGES Annual Symposium.

Tolsma, S. S. (2016). Integrating Science and Faith. Perspectives: A Journal of Reformed Thought.

Feuchtenberger, M., Hughes, C., Komatsu, M., Linn, C., Marker, K., Mudiavita, S., . . . Tolsma, S. S. (2015). In Vitro Anti-Tumor Activity of Common Plant Extracts and their Suspected Active Chemical Agents. Iowa Academy of Science Annual Meeting.

Tolsma, S.S., L. Furlong, J. Locker, B. Wieking, J. Kleinhesselink, L. Levion, J. Parsons. "Assessing the Genetic Relationship Between Mayfly (Baetis) Populations," Iowa Academy of Science Meeting, April 2010.

Tolsma, S.S., Volpert, O.V., Good, D.J., Polverini, P.J., Frazier, W.F., and Bouck, N., "Peptides Derived from Two Separate Domains of the Matrix Protein Thrombospondin-1 have Anti-angiogenic Activity", J. Cell Bio., 122:497-511, 1993.

Schutt, A., E. Stricklin, B. Ten Haken, J. Tolsma, L. Furlong, and S.S Tolsma. “Analysis of Alternative Storage Conditions for DNA Recovery from Field Samples.” Ecological Genomics Symposium. Kansas State University. November 2015.

Member, Christian Action Commission, Reformed Church in America, 1999-2005.

Member, New Brunswick Theological Seminary Board of Directors, 2007-2014.

Member, Sioux County Environmental Initiative Steering Committee, 2008-present.

Chair, Societal Issues Committee for the Iowa Academy of Science. 2009-2011.

Member, Perspectives: A Journal of Reformed Thought Board of Editors, 2012 – present. Book review editor 2013-2015. Co-editor 2015 – present.

Member, American Scientific Affiliation. 2010-present. Subject book review editor (biology, genetics, evolution, ecology) 2014-present.

Iowa Academy of Science

American Scientific Affiliation

American Scientific Affiliation Fellow, 2017

Northwestern Endowed Professorship, 2016

Teaching Excellence Award, Northwestern College, 2015

Sabbatical leave, 2003-04

Teaching Excellence Award finalist, 2001

Gramm Travel Fellowship Award, Robert Lurie Cancer Center, Northwestern University, 1994

National Student Research Forum, Northwestern University student representative, 1994