Sara Tolsma Professor of Biology


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

VPH 213

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. During a sabbatical, she worked on a cell and molecular genetics textbook for non-science majors, as well as an adult Sunday school curriculum on genetic technologies. She has been a part of several symposia on bioethical issues surrounding genetic technologies, such as stem cells, cloning and genetic testing. Her current laboratory research extends her interest in genetics to populations in a study of mayfly genetic variation in Northwest Iowa watersheds and her interest in cancer cell biology with a project that measures the anti-proliferative effects of plant extracts and chemicals in those extracts on human tumor cells in vitro. She is the 2015 recipient of Northwestern's annual Teaching Excellence Award.

BIO110 - Introduction to the Life Sciences

A fee is associated with this course (

IGE105 - Honors First-Year Seminar: Speaking and Writing in Community

Tolsma, S.S., Stem cells, Cloning, GMOs : Learning and Dialoging in the Church about Genetic Technologies, in progress.

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. “Stem Cells: What Are They; Where Do They Come From; And Why Are They Important?” Putting Science in its Place: Discovery and Responsibility, 22nd Annual Critical Issues Symposium, Hope College, Holland, MI, October 2003.

Eppinga, R. and Tolsma, S.S., "Determination of the Mechanism of Increased Capillary Density in Endurance-trained Skeletal Muscle", Iowa State Symposium on the Cell Cycle, April 1997.

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.

Feuchtenberger, M., C. Hughes, M. Komatsu, C. Linn, K. Marker, S. Mudiavita, M. Olhausen, J. Sexe, S. Thomson, B. Wilson, B. Wood, E. Wynja, and S.S. Tolsma. “In Vitro Anti-Tumor Activity of Common Plant Extracts and Their Suspected Active Chemical Agents” Iowa Academy of Science Meetings, April 2015.

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.

Member, International Society of Nurses in Genetics (iSONG). 2014-present. Member, Education Committee 2014-present. Abstract reviewer for annual conference 2015.

Iowa Academy of Science

American Scientific Affiliation

International Society of Nursing Genetics

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