Daniel Stanton

Name: Daniel Stanton '09, '15
Residence: Haines City, Florida 
Degree: B.S. and M.S. in Biology 
Occupation: Microscopy lab manager and biological scientist, University of Florida IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center; adjunct instructor, Valencia College

More than a decade after studying circadian rhythms in worms at Winthrop, Daniel Stanton '09, '15, continues to learn about the complexities of circadian biology.

While working as a microscopy lab manager and biological scientist at the University of Florida (UF) IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center, Stanton is pursuing his Ph.D. in animal molecular and cellular biology in the Animal Science Department at UF under the direction of Peter Hansen.

“I want to inspire the next generation of biologists and contribute to our knowledge regarding circadian biology in animals,” said the Rock Hill native. 

Scientists know a lot about how mammals and flies tick, Stanton said, meaning the mechanism that regulates the circadian clock. “We are even discovering how intricately orchestrated pathways feedback into the circadian clock in order to fine-tune clock outputs in response to internal and external environmental changes,” he said. “One of my interests in circadian biology is how the clock evolved and uncovering what is known in lower organisms that can help elucidate our understanding of circadian clock evolution.” 

He has expanded upon the research that he did as an undergraduate and graduate student at Winthrop and is working to publish his findings. 

Stanton's current research involves working at the other end of the animal lineage – by examining the role of the circadian clock in mammals. The circadian clock is important in regulating everything from cell cycle and metabolism to homeostasis and reproduction.

He is studying the role of the circadian clock in the cow preimplantation embryo development and in the cow uterus. What he and others learn may be applied to humans because there are reproductive similarities  between cows and humans. “Chronodisruption, such as shift work, has been linked to a higher rate of fertility issues, implantation failure, and miscarriage,”  Stanton said. “ Understanding the role that the circadian clock plays in reproduction and early development may lead to the use of chronotherapeutics to correct the shifts in circadian rhythms in order to promote good reproductive health and improve pregnancy outcomes.”

Stanton is a co-author on papers that explored the pathology of Citrus Huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening disease, and HLB resistance. HLB is caused by a bacterium that shuts down sugar transport in citrus trees. This disease has resulted in loss of citrus fruit harvested each year, severely impacting growers. 

Along with a team of collaborators, including Jason Hurlbert in the Winthrop Department of Chemistry, the group is working on diagnostic methods using a novel antibody it developed in order to understand the biology of a pararetrovirus that shuts down the water transport system in citrus trees. Together, co-infection with both of these citrus plant pathogens results in severe tree decline and a loss of fruit production.

Stanton credits his experience at Winthrop for sparking his love for research. He worked on different aspects of cell cycle regulation in flatworms with Biology Professor Julian Smith. His master's thesis explored the circadian clock genes in the marine worm Isodiametra pulchra. He also had opportunities to present his research at various scientific meetings.

“It was at Winthrop that my passion for circadian biology grew,” Stanton said.

During his experience in the biology department, he had the opportunity to mentor others and learned how to use high resolution microscopes that set the foundation of experience that allowed him to take his current job. “Not many core labs have a transmission electron microscope, scanning electron microscope, and a confocal microscope, especially at smaller universities,” Stanton said. “It was because of my experiences at Winthrop that I was prepared for my current position, and I was given opportunities to develop skills that have given me the foundation to become the research scientist I am today.”  

He speaks highly of faculty members in the biology department, such as Smith, Laura Glasscock, Paula Mitchell, Kim Wilson and Dwight Dimaculangan.

He even received unexpected support from retired Board of Trustees' member Bob Thompson, who visited the men's clothing store where Stanton worked while at Winthrop. Once, Thompson brought a Winthrop research abstract book to the store containing two of Stanton's entries, and Thompson proceeded to pepper him with encouragement and questions about the research.

“He would encourage me to keep going and to never dream too small,” Stanton said. “He thought that I would have a bright career.”