Maria Cuevas

Professor of Biology

Areas of expertise
Endocrinology, Biology of Reproduction, Physiology, Tissue Culture Techniques


PhD, Boston University 1992
MS, Northwestern University 1985
B.S., Purdue University 1982


Department Chair
Southwestern University
August 01, 2011 - present

Associate Professor
Southwestern University
August 01, 2009 - present

Paideia Professor
Southwestern University
August 01, 2007 - May 01, 2010

Assistant Professor
Southwestern University
August 01, 2003 - August 01, 2009

Visiting Assistant Professor
Southwestern University
August 01, 2001 - August 01, 2003

Post doctoral fellow
Loyola University Medical Center
July 01, 1992 - October 01, 1994

Loyola University Medical Center
August 01, 1993 - August 01, 1994

Boston University
July 01, 1991 - August 01, 1992

Research Fellow
Monsanto Company
May 01, 1985 - August 01, 1986

Teaching Philosophy

I came to Southwestern University because I wanted to be part of a dynamic institution in alignment with my passion and enjoyment of learning and education. I see my role as a teacher to challenge my students and prepare them well for whatever postgraduate path they chose. To accomplish this, I have focused on inspiring my students to engage in their studies, to be curious beyond their disciplines, to understand that learning embodies a lifelong process and encouraged them to take ownership for their learning. I believe that we learn from role models as I followed my mother’s and research mentor’s example of perseverance and “take a deep breath” and go for it. Role models may inspire and motivate us, however, it is only when we actually try something that we learn what works and what doesn’t. It is the experience of doing that helps us grow both in our personal and professional lives. Thus, I try to be a model through my passion for biology, by bringing joy and enthusiasm into the classroom, by showing my students not to be afraid of trying new things and to step out of their comfort zone. 

Previous Courses

Methods in Cellular and Molecular Biology

Cellular Physiology

Biology of Reproduction


Human Biology Today

Cell Biology (part of first year sequence)

Comparative Vertebrate Morphology 


My research program, tailored to leverage collective researcher capabilities at Southwestern, consists of 3 projects.

First, in collaboration with Dr. Todd and Dr. Sheller we are investigating the role of the tight junction protein claudin-3 in breast epithelial cells. This research has expanded to also investigate the expression and subcellular distribution of claudin-4 in a variety of reproductive cancer cell lines (endometrial, breast and prostate). Furthermore, we are investigating the possible role of hormones (estrogen, progesterone and androgens) on the expression and subcellular localization of claudin-3 and -4. The significance of this research is the possibe role of claudin-3 and -4 as biomarkers and target specific gene therapy. This project  has been funded by the Andrew Mellon Integrated Scholary Grant and the Joe and Jessie Crump JP Morgan Grant to Molecular and Cellular Biology.

Second, my laboratory is interested in investigated the effect and cellular mechanis of 4-OH tamoxifen on several endometiral and cervical cancer cell lines.  This project has been funded by a 3-year Merck grant (received in 2004) and 1.5 year Joe and Jessie Crump JP Morgan Grant (received in 2007) that were awarded to Cellullar and Molecular Biology.

Third, the anthrapyrazole research project, in collaboration with Dr. Frank Guziec, has been funded by the Fleming Collaborative Research funds (2004-2006) and the JP Morgan grant. This project investigates the cytotoxic effect of anti-cancer drugs known as anthrapyrazoles on a variety of cancer cells from the female and male reproductive tract and determines if programmed cell death is the cellular mechanism involved. Dr. Guziec synthesizes these compounds, and I test their cytoxicities. This project has already generated a scientific manuscript accepted for scholarly publication.

As a scientist I believe in a multi-technique approach. I, therefore, have used tissue culture, biochemical analysis and molecular biology techniques to answer the scientific questions at hand. The collaborative nature of these projects have given me the opportunity to learn new techniques and become familiar with concepts in other areas within Biology outside my field of expertise. It is a testament that learning is a life-long process and I hope that by example and through the excitement I convey to my students they too will be passionate about whatever they decide to purse becoming leaders in their chosen field.

Professional Work



* = undergraduate author 

Cuevas ME, Gaska JM*, Gist AC*, King JM, Sheller RA and Todd MC. 2015. Estrogen-dependent expression and subcellular localization of the tight junction protein claudin-4 in the endometrial HEC-1A cancer cells. Int. J. Oncol. in press

Cuevas ME and Lindeman TE*. 2015. In vitro cytotoxicity of 4'-OH-tamoxifen and estradiol in human endometrial adenocarcinoma cells HEC-1A and HEC-1B. Oncology Reports 33:464-470.

Todd MC, Petty HH, King JM, Pianna-Marshall BN, Sheller RA and Cuevas ME. 2015 Overexpression and delocalization of claudin-3 protein in MCF-7 and MDA-MB_415 breast cancer cell lines. Oncology letters 10:156-162.

Cuevas, M.E. and Seilheimer, K.* 2008. In vitro cytotoxic activity of anthrapyrazole analogues in human prosate (DU-145) and testicular (NETRA-2) carcinoma cells. Oncology Reports 20:239-244.

Cuevas, M.E., Collins, K. and Callard, G.V. 1993. Stage-related changes in steroid converting enzyme activities in Squalus testis: Synthesis of biologically active metabolites via 3beta-Hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase/isomerase (3 b -HSD) and 5alpha-reductase. Steroids 58:87-94.

Cuevas, M.E., Miller, W. and Callard, G.V. 1992. Sulfoconjugation of steroids and the vascular pathway communication in dogfish testis. J. Exp. Zool. 264:119-129.

Cuevas, M.E. and Callard, G.V. 1992. In vitro steroid secretion by staged-spermatocysts (Sertoli/germ cell units) of dogfish (Squalus acanthias) testis. Gen. Comp. Endo. 88:151-165.

Cuevas, M.E. and Callard, G.V. 1992. Androgen and progesterone receptors in shark (Squalus) testis: characteristics and stage-related distribution. Endocrinology 130(4):2173-2182.




Seminars & Presentations


*Denotes collaborative research with undergraduate:

Cuevas M, Gallo M*, Rice K*, Vickers T*, King J, Sheller R and Todd M. 2015. Hormonal Effect on Occludin Expression in the Endometiral Adenocarcinoma HEC-1A and HEC-1B cell lines. The Endocrine Society Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA March 5-8. Abstract was published in the April issue of Endocrine Reviews. 

   Petty HM*, King JM, Cuevas ME, Sheller RA and Todd MC. 2013. Effect of claudin-3 protein expression on its sub-cellular localization and cellular motility in breast cancer cell lines. San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

   Sheller RA, Bierwirth NA*, DeLong RL*, Cuevas ME and Todd MC. 2013. Subcellular distribution of claudin-3 in MCF-7 breast cancer cells. American Society for Cell Biology, ASCB 53rd Annual Meeting, New Orleans, LA.

    Cuevas ME, Sheller RA, Holland A*, Piana B* and Todd MC. April 2011. Expression and sub-cellular localization of claudin-4 in MCF-7 breast and HEC-1A endometrial cancer cell lines. Amercian Association for Cancer Resarch, Orlando, FL. 

   Sheller RA, Cuevas ME and Todd MC. 2009. Overexpression of claudin-3 in a breast cancer cell line. American Society of Cell Biology. ASCB 49th Annual Conference, San Diego, CA. Poster Published online: 

   Todd MC, Cuevas ME, Piana B* and Sheller RA. April 2009. Overexpression of claudin-3 tight junction protein in MCF-7 and MDA-MB-415 breast cancer cell lines. American Association for Cancer Research, Denver, CO.

 *Seilheimer KC, Guziec FS and Cuevas ME. 2007. Cytotoxicity of anthrapyrazoles (AP-10 and AP-11) on human prostate cancer (DU-145) and testicular cancer (NETRA-2) in culture. Texas Academy of Science: Baylor University, Waco, TX

*Seilheimer KC, *Boet C, Guziec FS and Cuevas ME. 2007. Cytotoxicity of anthrapyrazoles in various reproductive cancer cell lines. AAAS National Meeting, San Francisco, CA

*Navaira E and Cuevas ME. 2007. In vitro effects of 4-OH tamoxifen and 17b-estradiol on the human cervical cell line HeLa. Texas Academy of Science: Baylor University, Waco, TX

*Einem T, *Boet C, Cuevas ME and Foote-Zewail M. 2006. Effects of 4-OH tamoxifen on HEC 1B endometrial cancer cells. AAAS National Meeting, St. Louis, MO.

*Boet C and Cuevas ME. 2006. Effect of anthrapyrazoles 10 and 11 on human endometrial and mammary adenocarcinoma cells in culture.Texas Academy of Science: Lamar University, Beaumont, TX.

Honors & Awards

  • W.M. Keck Undergradaute Education Grant (2014)-Project Director
  • Crump Grant from JP Morgan Foundation for Cancer Research (2014)
  • Sam Taylor Fellowship (2014 and 2012)
  • The Fantra-Love Endowed Fund (2013)
  • ACS Andrew W. Mellon Faculty Renewal Grant (2011)
  • National Science Foundation Major Instrumentation Grant (2009-2012)
  • Andrew W. Mellon Integrated Scholarly Grant (2010-2011)
  • Andrew W. Mellon Integrated Scholarly Grant (2008-2009)
  • JP Morgan Grant (To the Dept. of Biology/Cellular/Molecular BiologyResearchers-2007-2010)
  • Sam Taylor Fellowship (2007)
  • MERCK-AAAS Science Research Grant (Chemistry/Biochemistry and Biology-2004-2007
  • Young Investigator Award, American Association for Clinical Chemistry (1992)
  • Sigma XI Science Award, Boston University Chapter (1991)
  • Graduate Research Award, Boston University (1991)
  • Endocrine Society Summer Fellowship Award (1988)
  • National Hispanic Scholarship Fund (1989)
  • National Consortium for Graduate Degrees in Engineering for Minorities Scholarship (1983-1985)


Cooking, reading, learning about other cultures