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Alexa von Dohlen, PhD

Professor of Biology
Natural and Behavioral Sciences
Johnson C. Smith University




Dr. Alexa von Dohlen is a Full Professor of Biology at Johnson C. Smith University. She earned her degrees (B.S., Ph.D.) at Virginia Tech and she completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research interests include parasitology, wildlife medicine, public health and zoonotic vector-borne parasites.

Dr. von Dohlen has taught a variety of biology courses for the past 15 years. She received the CATO Par Excellence Teaching award in 2013 and 2021. She was also the recipient of the JCSU Sit Lux award for scholarly research and publications in 2012 and 2020. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation. She has published a book chapter and over 50 papers in peer-reviewed journals such the Journal of Parasitology, Veterinary Parasitology and the Journal of Wildlife Diseases.  She is active in the American Association of Veterinary Parasitologists, the American Society of Parasitologists and she served as president of the Southeastern Society of Parasitologists. 

Dr. von Dohlen maintains an active research program at JCSU. Her early research focused on characterizing canine leishmaniasis, a tropical parasitic disease that had recently emerged in the United States. She continues to investigate leishmaniasis and the related parasite, Trypanosoma cruzi, with a focus on seroprevalence in domestic and wild animals.  Dr. von Dohlen expanded her research interest in wildlife parasitology to include studies of Toxoplasma gondii and other Apicomplexan parasites. In collaboration with Virginia Tech and the Carolina Raptor Center, she investigates the biodiversity of encysted muscle parasites in raptors. These parasites can cause fatal infections in birds of prey. Her research team identified and named two new species of Sarcocystis parasites from a barred owl and a red-tailed hawk. Most recently, Dr. von Dohlen has focused on validating rapid, point-of-care diagnostic tests for Toxoplasma gondii and Trypanosoma cruzi in black bears. She has mentored more than 28 JCSU biology undergraduates in her lab resulting in 11 peer-reviewed journal articles with JCSU student co-authors.

Dr. von Dohlen is dedicated to helping students develop professionally both in the classroom and the research lab. Outside of JCSU, she enjoys cooking, exercising and playing with her bulldogs. 

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