Dr. Varner spent his undergraduate and graduate years at Purdue University, first as an undergraduate in Math and Chemistry and then later as a Masters and Ph D. in Chemical Engineering.
Today, he teaches graduate and undergraduate classes specializing in Biomolecular Engineering in chemical engineering at Cornell.
research focus as "understanding the molecular basis of cancers.
Generally speaking, what we're trying to do is understand how complex molecular programs that are involved in cells making decisions - like whether or not to grow, die, or simply do nothing [and] fail."
"We study how networks break and how to break them.
hopes to develop therapeutic treatments for cancer, Varner
is also investigating other molecular signaling networks like blood clotting and the biochemical basis of pain.
These two networks are of particular interest to the Department of Defense
, which partially funds some of Jeffrey Varner's
research, in helping soldiers survive otherwise fatal wounds, such as extremity injuries.
It also has civilian applications for afflictions like hemophilia and chronic pain.
Few people have asked how cancer is like a broken watch, or a failed mars mission, but these different problems have far more in common than most people would think.
likened complex systems to jumbo jets: "If a screw fails in your seat cushion, the airplane can still take off.
However, if a screw fails in your engine and the engine falls off, you're in serious trouble.
At both points we're dealing with the same faulty screws, but the context of the failure is different.
The screw in the engine is an example of a fragile point - one whose failure compromises the whole system - while the screws in the seat cushion are considered robust since the plane functions fine without them.
In a similar manner, Varner
explained, many of a cell's governing biochemical systems consist of robust points and fragile points.
team focuses on specialized proteins, called monoclonal antibodies, which can be engineered to only target certain types of cancerous cells.
problem solving strategy is innovative.
To identify and test new models, he
looks at the relevant literature to find a molecular network of interest.
"The same sort of systems are used over and over," Varner