John Castorino

Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology
John Castorino
Contact John

Mail Code NS
John Castorino
Cole Science Center 203A
413.559.6239

On Sabbatical Fall 2021.


John Castorino received his B.S. in biology from Ursinus College and Ph.D. in cell and developmental biology from Thomas Jefferson University.

His current research focus is examining the intracellular trafficking of the cancer-related protein CD147 and a family of monocarboxylate transporters. Due to the excellent work of his students, a new trafficking partner of CD147 has recently been identified. His other research interests include messenger RNA stability, microRNAs, and other gene expression regulation mechanisms.

He has advised students on a wide array of projects such as generating neurons in tissue culture from stem cells, making stem cells from somatic cells, cricket epigenetics, and biological animation. Outside of the laboratory, his interests lie in electronics, art, and zymurgy.

Recent and Upcoming Courses

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  • Genetically modified organisms. Human-machine neural interfaces. Designer babies. Personalized medicine. Gene therapy. Synthetic organisms. Society is at an interesting intersection where some of these technologies are commonplace and some are at the early stages of being implemented. We will cover the science, history, and ethics surrounding these (and other) technologies that may change what defines humanity of the future. Over the course of the semester, students will invent new biotechnologies to address issues that are important to them. Key Words: Biotechnology, Medical Technology, Neuroscience, Cellular Biology, Molecular Biology

  • The structures and processes inside human cells determine how we function (or dysfunction) in the world, and yet they were only discovered in the last few hundred years. We will discover what is known about how they work through a combination of primary literature, laboratory research, and textbook. We will also discuss what is still not known and how scientists work to find the answers. Key Words: Biotechnology, Medical Technology, Neuroscience, Cellular Biology, Molecular Biology

  • A soundscape is an environment of sounds with emphasis on the way it is perceived, understood, and inhabited by individuals, groups, societies, or non-humans. This course invites participants from diverse disciplines to investigate their sonic environments as artist-as-scientist or scientist-as-artist, sensing, surveying and responding to a range of mediums. This course will explore bridges between sound, art, and ecology. Drawing from the fields of sound art, eco-musicology, acoustic and soundscape ecology, physics, and environmental art, students are encouraged to consistently experiment through small, prompt driven projects, and collectively directed rambles. How is the landscape organized and transformed by sound? How is noise pollution impacting ecosystems, organisms, and human health and communities? In what ways do observation, deep listening and critical listening enhance our understanding of the world? Students will be given a wide range of possibilities for course projects such as conservation, ecology and environmental studies, cultural perspectives, art-making, music-making and sound composition. This course requires walking in variable terrain and weather. (keywords: sound, art, ecology, science)

  • This introductory course will explore the process of doing scientific research in a molecular biology lab. Students will learn numerous techniques in the lab, including DNA isolation, PCR, gel electrophoresis, restriction enzyme digests, cloning, and basic microscopy. Students will engage in a semester-long laboratory research project within a cancer biology gene cloning context. Students will perform protocols, collect and analyze data, and report their conclusions in written and oral formats. This course is intended for students with little or no experience in a molecular biology lab, and it will prepare students for other laboratory courses including Cell Biology and Biochemistry. Students must be able to come into the laboratory to complete work. key words: laboratory, genetic engineering, cloning, neuroscience, cancer, Biomedical research

  • Time and Narrative: Pandemics: Main Question: How do people, communities, and cultures understand, make sense of, and react to pandemics, both historically and now, given COVID-19? Course Description: The shock of suffering and death from the COVID-19 pandemic prompts many to speak of it as unprecedented. In fact, there have been many instances of global pandemics, from the Bubonic Plague of the Middle Ages to the Great Influenza of 1918 to the AIDS pandemic beginning in the 1980s. This class will examine historical, social, cultural, and scientific perspectives on how humans have understood and reacted to infectious disease across cultures and centuries and will provide insight as we seek to reconstruct our lives and societies. We will also investigate how our own particular identity and positionality lead to different consequences for each of us.This transdisciplinary course will involve research, hands-on investigation, and creative expression. We will focus on pandemics from multiple perspectives - biology, epidemiology, and public health policy, as well as history, politics, ethnography, oral history, literature, and other expressive arts. Students will undertake individualized study-analyze scientific data, conduct research in archives and via social media, interview pandemic survivors, and other projects -- and reflect on their own experiences and collectively share their findings through public forums, media, scholarship, creative writing, and journalism. Approaches: #epidemiology, #publicHealth, #history, #journalism, #ethnography