Department Chair

Associate Professor of Biology

Curriculum Vitae

Sean Bignami

Dr. Sean Bignami, Ph. D., graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara with a B.S. in Aquatic Biology and minor in Athletic Coaching, and the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science with a Ph. D. in Marine Biology and Fisheries. His doctoral research investigated the effects of ocean acidification (ocean pH change) on larval marine fishes. Dr. Bignami is the founder and Director of the CUI Marine Lab , which supports CUI classes, student and faculty research, and a mobile touch-tank educational outreach program. His current research interests span a range of areas in the marine sciences, including experimental, ecological, and fisheries/conservation biology. Current projects include the study of ocean acidification, impact of sea star wasting disease on intertidal communities, and assessment of Pismo clam populations in southern California. Dr. Bignami also serves as the advisor of Concordia’s Epsilon Chi Delta Chapter of the Beta Beta Beta National Biological Honor Society. He especially enjoys including and advising students in research and outreach programs, and providing an opportunity for them to explore their faith as it intersects with their passion for science.


Ph.D.- Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, 2013
B.S.- University of California Santa Barbara, 2006

Resident Faculty in Biology

Scott E. Gaines

Professor Scott Gaines (M.S.) has been at Concordia University Irvine since 2012 teaching subjects such as Biomechanics, General Biology, Integrated Biology and Human Anatomy & Physiology. Professor Gaines graduated with a B.S. in Biology from the University of California, Irvine and has a M.S. in Human Movement from A.T Still University in Arizona. Prior to coming to Concordia, Professor Gaines worked as an educator for health and fitness professionals for over 20 years. He is an author and national speaker on a wide range of topics such as biomechanics and cardiovascular-based program design. Professor Gaines also has a special interest in innovative teaching techniques, is the faculty advisor for the CUI chapter of the International Medical Fraternity, Phi Delta Epsilon, and is currently working on his Ph.D. in Science Education.

Degrees Earned

  • Still University, Mesa, AZ, M.S. 2008

Chemistry Department Chair

Dr. Lindsay Kane-Barnese

Dr. Lindsay Kane-Barnese (Ph.D.) graduated from Concordia University Irvine with B.A. in Biology and a B.A. in Chemistry. She obtained her Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Kane-Barnese’s doctoral work and current research interests involve a protein involved in some cases of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. She teaches a variety of classes, ranging from introductory to advanced biology and chemistry courses. Dr. Kane-Barnese also advises students in research pertaining to ALS or other biochemistry or molecular biology related research. She enjoys working with students to learn complex biological and chemical topics in their classes and research and helping them explore the intersection of faith and science in their chosen field.


Ph.D. - University of California, Los Angeles, 2010

Associate Professor of Biology

Dr. Sarah Karam

Dr. Sarah Karam (Ph.D.) graduated from Concordia Irvine, in 2004 with a B.A. in Biology. She then earned a M.S. in Natural Resources & Environmental Science and a Ph.D. in Ecology, Evolution, & Conservation Biology from the University of Nevada, Reno. Her graduate research focused on interactions between plants, fire, and the greater environment in two beautiful locations: Lake Tahoe and Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in the Mojave Desert. Her current research focuses on how humans influence the distribution of native plants around Concordia Irvine. In addition to her teaching and research in the biology department, she also serves as faculty-in-residence for the Honors Living Learning Community. Living in this community provides the opportunity to extend conversations she has with students in the classroom.


  • Ph.D. - University of Nevada, Reno, 2013
  • M.S. - University of Nevada, Reno, 2011

Assistant Professor of Biology

Marcella Olave

Professor Marcella Olave (M.A.) graduated from California State University Fullerton (CSUF) with degrees in molecular biology and science education. Her molecular biology research focused on understanding the expression of red-light inducible genes from the unicellular green-alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. She taught at CSUF for 5 years, and became interested in student perceptions of their learning environment within a science laboratory. Becoming aware on how students perceived their laboratory environment at CSUF has helped Professor Olave further understand how students learn science. Future projects include helping students create visual representations of concepts in biology with the hope of creating a more positive learning environment for students at CUI. Courses Professor Olave teaches include molecular genetics, general biology, microbiology, and core biology.


M.A. - California State University, Fullerton, 2014

Associate Professor of Biology

Dr. Roderick Soper (M.S., Ph.D.) has been at Concordia University for 20 years and has a background in large mammal nutrition and wildlife and fisheries ecology. Prior to coming to Concordia, Dr. Soper was a biologist and manager of environmental affairs for private consulting firms and worked as an in-house environmentalist for telecommunication companies. He has worked on endangered species (plant and animal) habitat restoration, wetland biology mitigation, riparian habitat management and wide variety of species-specific projects. Currently, Dr. Soper has taken an interest in the history and philosophy of science focusing primarily on epistemological questions and the interaction of faith and science issues.


Ph.D. - Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, 2009

Part-time Resident Faculty of Biology

Mary Von dem Bussche

Dr. Mary von dem Bussche (Ph.D.) graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a B.S. in Molecular and Cell Biology, with an emphasis in Neurobiology, and a minor in Spanish. She obtained her doctorate in the Neurosciences from the University of California at San Diego. Her research focused on learning and memory in the adult mammalian cortex. Dr. von dem Bussche teaches introductory biology courses at Concordia University and is compelled by how the biological sciences reveal God's creation.

Assistant Professor of Biology

Tyler Zarubin

Professor Tyler Zarubin (M.S.) graduated from the University of California at San Diego with a B.S. in Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution, and a minor in Latin American Studies. He earned his M.S. in Zoology from Colorado State University, where his research focused on elucidating the biological function of Crustacean hyperglycemic hormone. Professor Zarubin has an extensive background in education, most recently at Sage Hill School, where he taught several advanced biology courses, led international travel courses, and developed opportunities for student research in molecular genetics. He enjoys the opportunity to share his love of the natural world with students, but also engage with and guide them in scientific research, and bring his love of Jesus and his love of science into the classroom where a deeper understanding of the Creator and His creation will flourish. Professor Zarubin also serves as the Director of the CUI Heritage Garden, where students, faculty, and the local community have the opportunity to ecosystem gardening.

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