Areas of Expertise or Research
Dr. Thomas M. Onorato is a Professor of Biology and a Visiting Scientist in the Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology & Biochemistry (MCB) at Brown University (Providence, RI). Since joining LaGuardia in 2007, Dr. Onorato has developed the Associate in Science Biology Degree Program, served as the founding program director for 15 years, and played a key role in establishing the Natural Sciences Faculty Research Laboratory as part of the U.S. Department of Education, College Cost Reduction and Access Act Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program funded “Project Promesa” (2008-2010). He received his B.S. in Biology from St. Joseph’s College in 1999, and went on to earn his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Biological Sciences from St. John’s University in 2001 and 2004, respectively. He was also a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (F32) Postdoctoral Fellow at the Population Council’s Center for Biomedical Research located at The Rockefeller University from 2004 to 2007.
He has served as a grant reviewer for both the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) and currently serves as a reviewer for the Journal of College Science Teaching. He has published both pedagogical and research articles in the biological sciences and presented numerous research posters with students at national meetings. Dr. Onorato has established the URGE (Undergraduate Research Group on Echinoderms) to democratize undergraduate research and incorporate authentic undergraduate research experiences into such classes as Cell Biology, a capstone course.
In his research, Dr. Onorato utilizes such techniques as cryosectioning, fluorescence microscopy, electron microscopy, next-generation sequencing, and bioinformatics to study echinoderms, specifically the sea star Patiria miniata (commonly known as the bat star). His research and training of underrepresented students has been supported by multiple American Society for Cell Biology Minorities Affairs Committee awards (NIGMS grant #T36GM008622) and the “TRAINing for success in biomedical research careers” grant (NIGMS grant #T36GM101995). His long-term objective is to enhance science communication and elevate informal science learning to inspire “AHA moments” that manifest creativity, self-expression, and passion for science for all audiences.