Susan Whittemore

Keene State College
Professor, Biology


I am an animal physiologist, but I also have an extensive background and interest in human physiology, in part, because I completed my graduate (Ph.D) and post-doctoral work at a medical school. I currently teach a variety of upper-level physiology courses including Comparative Animal Physiology, Endocrinology and Endocrine Disruption, and Ecophysiology. I also teach one of our introductory courses for Biology majors, Molecules and Cells, and a course for non-science majors, A Brave New World.


I maintain an active undergraduate research program that is funded through the NH-INBRE program. My students and I are currently investigating whether the common pollutants, pyrene and phenanthrene, are toxic during development. These compounds are released into the environment with the incomplete combustion of organic matter including fossil fuels, wood, and tobacco. They are also present in high concentrations in oil spills. For these studies, we use Xenopus laevis, the African clawed frog, and maintain a breeding colony of these amphibians to generate embryos for our research. Xenopus is an important vertebrate model system for understanding developmental processes including those of humans.

To date, we have found that phenanthrene exposure leads to decreased heart rates and arrhythmias in embryos during certain stages of heart development and that pyrene exposure during early embryogenesis can be lethal later in development. My students are currently attempting to understand the underlying mechanisms for these effect