Martha J. Grossel

Martha J. Grossel

Jean C. Tempel '65 Professor of Biology

Joined Connecticut College: 1999

B.S., Colorado State University
Ph.D., Tufts University School of Medicine


Molecular biology

Cell biology

Cancer and the cell cycle

Cell cycle regulation

Martha Grossel is the 2016 recipient of the Nancy Batson Nisbet Rash award, an honor that provides a research fund presented annually to a member of the faculty for outstanding scholarly or artistic accomplishments.

In early 2015 Professor Grossel awarded a grant of $412,470 from the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Cancer Institute to continue cutting-edge cancer research, about which an article, "Big-time research on a small campus," appeared online in The Day newspaper of New London, Conn.

While on sabbatical during the 2012-13 academic year, Professor Grossel worked and studied in the laboratory of Heide Ford at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. She relates, "During this time we made significant progress in our understanding of the functional outcomes of the CDK6/EYA2 interaction with our discovery that Cdk6 mediates EYA2 degradation. We have also assembled additional tools and established critical collaborations with labs that will enable us to further investigate and understand the mechanism of CDK6-mediated degradation of EYA2."

Recent administrative accomplishments

  • Professor Grossel designed the new Pathway in Public Health at Connecticut College. This pathway provided a new model that other pathways have followed. The novel design includes a wide variety of entry courses, in a variety of disciplines, allowing students with broad interests and educational backgrounds entry into a two credit seminar to discuss public health from broad perspectives.
  • Envisioned a building design of open and shared laboratory spaces that was adopted by the architects and the College. This paradigm shift allowed the inclusion of all desired disciplines into the limited available space. This design, now in action, encourages collaboration between faculty and students and the sharing of lab equipment.
  • Led a committee tasked to propose cost-neutral approaches to address problems of chilly climate on campus, experienced especially by non-majority faculty. Proposed solutions, modifications and programs which remain in place eight years later.

In 2011, The National Cancer Institute awarded Professor Grossel a $419,375 grant to support her ovarian cancer research. Read the news release.

In 2007, Grossel was awarded a 3-year NIH AREA (Academic Research Enhancement Award) grant, "Mechanism of Differentiation Functions of Cyclin Dependent Kinase 6." Jennifer Crary, a postdoctoral fellow, has joined Grossel's research team in 2009 through a NIH supplemental grant. The "re-entry grant" supports scientists who left the field for family responsibilities and are re-entering science.

Grossel was also awarded a minority supplement to the NIH grant to support a student's (Claribel Marmol '10) research and travel to a scientific conference to present her work.

Martha J. Grossel was selected in 2006 as a “Woman of Innovation” in the field of research by the Committee of the Connecticut Technology Council. After her doctoral dissertation at Tufts Medical School, Professor Grossel was a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard Medical School where she studied cancer and the cell cycle.

Grossel's research involves understanding what causes the unchecked cellular division that is associated with cancer. These studies aim to understand the molecular basis of cancer by understanding the checkpoints that normally control cell proliferation. The regulation of cell division is crucial to many biological and medical problems. Unregulated or improperly timed cell division can result in cancer, can cause developmental defects, and can affect the physiology of all cell types from plants to man.

Grossel encourages students to learn more about molecular biology by participating in one of the ongoing research projects in her laboratory.

Grossel's recent published papers and articles include:

  • Branchini, B., Southworth, T., Ablamsky, D., Kohrt, D., Talukder, M., Michelini, E., Cevenini, L., Roda, A., and Grossel, M.J. "An Enhanced Enzyme Based on a P. pyralis-L. italic chimeric firefly luciferase for ATP detection and bioluminescence reporter applications." Analytical Biochemistry 484 (2015) 148-153.
  • Kohrt, D., Crary, J., Zimmer, M., Patrick, A.N., Ford, H.L., Hinds, P.W., and Grossel, MJ. "CDK6 binds to and promotes the degradation of the EYA2 protein." Cell Cycle 13:1, p62-71. 2014. Open Access. PMID: 24196439.
  • A non-scientific article, "Their Future in Your Hands: Inspiring Undergrads to Pursue Ph.Ds. Career Advice for Life Scientists." Grossel, MJ and Roecklein-Canfield, J. Volume III. American Society for Cell Biology. (2009)
  • Distinct subcellular distribution of cyclin dependent kinase 6. In Cell Cycle 8:17 1-7. (2009) Kohrt, D.M., Crary, J.I., Gocheva, V., Hinds, P.W., Grossel, M.J. (Co-author Vasilena Gocheva was one of Grossel's students.)
  • A book chapter: "Cdk6 develops as a factor in differentiation" (2008) in Trends in Cell Research 145-159. Grossel, M.J. and Hinds, PW. Editor Kenichi Yoshida.
  • "Changes in motility, gene expression and actin dynamics: Cdk6-induced cytoskeletal changes associated with differentiation in mouse astrocytes" (2006) in Journal of Cellular Biochemistry by Peter Slomiany, Tom Baker, Emily Elliot and Martha Grossel.
  • "From cell cycle to differentiation: an expanding role for Cdk6" (2006) In Cell Cycle by Martha Grossel and PW Hinds.
  • "Beyond the cell cycle: a new role for Cdk6 in differentiation" (2006) In Cellular Biochemistry by Martha Grossel and PW Hinds.

Dr. Grossel's work was supported in part through a $465,000 five-year, National Science Foundation CAREER grant. The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program offers the NSF's most prestigious awards for new faculty, supporting activities of those faculty members who are most likely to become academic leaders of the 21st century.

She has recently published her findings on the effects of the cell cycle protein, cdk6, on differentiation of astrocytes in the journal Molecular Cancer Research. Two undergraduate students co-authored this publication in which they published results that were part of their senior honors theses. She has published her findings on the cell cycle protein, cdk6, in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. In addition, her work developing a new screening technology for protein-protein interactions was published in the journal Nature Biotechnology. Undergraduate students co-authored this paper including one who incorporated this work into his senior honors thesis. Dr. Grossel has collaborations with scientists at Harvard Medical School, and Pfizer Inc.

In other projects, Dr. Grossel completed a CD-ROM, "Modules in Emerging Fields, Volume 4: Genomics and Proteomics." A teaching module designed to allow instructors and professors to incorporate genomics and proteomics into a wide variety of courses, its development was supported by W. M. Keck-Howard Hughes Medical Institute Visiting Fellows program. This work was reviewed by the journal Cell Biology Education (September 2003).

Grossel also contributed to an article on science communication in the journal "Public Understanding of Science." Written in collaboration with Michael Reder from the Johnson Seminar of the Connecticut College Center for Teaching & Learning and the English department, the article's primary author was Eunice Kua '02, who won the College's Oakes and Louise Ames prize for the best honors thesis. The article is a revised version of a chapter from that thesis.

Grossel teaches Molecular Biology, The Molecular Basis of Cancer, and Microbiology. Her goal is to incorporate research into the laboratory sections of the Molecular Biology and Microbiology courses. This will allow students to combine the excitement of discovery with classroom learning. She published the results of a study of this approach to learning in Cell Biology Education.

In the fall of 2006 she taught a new freshman seminar class, "Plagues and Bioterrorism." It looked at both naturally occurring germs (HIV, bird flu, etc.) and potential bioterror germs (smallpox, engineered bacteria or viruses).

While on sabbatical in the spring of 2006, Grossel taught a new course, "Frontiers in Molecular Biology." It examined emerging areas of molecular biology, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. As part of the course students traveled to Seattle, Wash., to visit the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the Institute for Systems Biology. This course was developed in collaboration with Deb Eastman and Pfizer scientists.

Visit the biology department website.

Majoring in Biology. 

"My goal is to combine my extensive research background with my love of teaching to allow students to experience the excitement of scientific research while learning the important scientific processes." - Martha J. Grossel

Contact Martha J. Grossel

Mailing Address

Martha J. Grossel
Connecticut College
Box # BIOLOGY/New London Hall
270 Mohegan Ave.
New London, CT 06320


408 New London Hall