Dr. Mae J. Ciancio, PhD, is Associate Professor with tenure in the College of Graduate Studies at MWU. She has been a faculty member in the Biomedical Sciences Program for the past 18 years and holds an adjunct faculty appointment in the Midwestern University, College of Dental Medicine-Illinois (associate Professor). Her research interest is based on years of experience working in cytokines, inflammation, gastrointestinal diseases, and host response mechanisms. She enjoys conducting research and mentoring students in basic laboratory skills and animal modeling to perform clinically relevant studies. She began studying diet-induced obesity and the protective role of voluntary exercise through changes in host microbial balance when she joined Midwestern University in 2008. At that time, Dr. Chris Evans, PT, PhD (PT Program at MWU) and she began collaborating on the beneficial effects of voluntary exercise in preventing high fat diet-induced obesity (HF-DIO), with an emphasis on demonstrating measurable changes in host gut microbial balance as a contributing factor to the anti-obesogenic effect of exercise. Those studies detected measurable levels of Hsp70 in serum and target tissues. At the same time, her post-doctoral mentor at the University of Chicago developed an Hsp70 transgenic (Hsp70 TG) mouse line that over-expressed Hsp70 specifically in villin-expressing epithelial cells. She hypothesized that the Hsp70 TG mice might be protected from HF-DIO through the cellular effects of Hsp70 in maintaining intestinal tight junctional integrity as well as modulation of host microbial balance. Currently, she is exploring changes in specific host bacterial populations, nutrient transport, and macrophage polarity as plausible mechanisms of Hsp70-mediated protection. The lab has demonstrated that intestinal epithelial cells over-expressing Hsp70 protect mice from HF-DIO and this finding has provided a reproducible experimental model for many graduate students (MBS, Medical and Dental) to ask specific mechanistic questions and explore measurable outcomes. It has provided a unique research training tool as well as a physiologically relevant model to study inherent mechanisms for the prevention of obesity.