My research focuses on understanding the molecular mechanics of black widow spider silk and how these properties relate to the fibers high tensile strength, elasticity, and toughness.
Because spider silk is five times stronger relative to steel (when equivalent masses are compared), it has attracted the attention of material scientists.
Scientists are currently trying to manufacture silk synthetically using expression systems in yeast, bacteria and goats.
The “holy grail” of the spider silk community is to produce fibers for industrial applications that mimic natural silk.
Synthetic silk could be used for bullet proof vests, medical sutures, fishing lines, ropes and chords, as well as applications for nanotechnology.
Furthermore, because silk is biopolymer made of protein, it is non-toxic when degraded and has many environmental advantages over toxic organic materials.
Our laboratory has cloned a number of different silk genes that produce proteins assembled into silk threads.
We are considered spider gene hunters because we ‘fish’ for new genes that encode silk proteins.
Currently, we are trying to understand how these silk proteins are assembled into the fibers, as well as reveal the molecular mechanisms that govern their silk-gland-restricted patterns of expression.
Dr. Vierra teaches: Genetics, Principles of Biology, Immunology, Principles of Immunology, Biochemistry, and Molecular Techniques.
Craig Vierra, Ph.D.
Professor and Assistant Chair, Biological Sciences
Email - Phone: 209.946.3024
Office: Biology Room 213
University of the Pacific
3601 Pacific Avenue
Stockton, CA 95211
Area: Molecular biology and genetics, gene expression and immunology