Dr. Sally Pias

Sally Pias, PhD

Associate Professor and Department Chair



Computing Innovation Postdoctoral Fellow, Stony Brook University, 2009-2011

Ph.D., Chemistry with Biochemistry specialization, New Mexico State University, 2009

M.A. with Distinction, Jewish Studies, Emory University, 2003

B.A. with Highest Honors, Chemistry and Religion (comparative), Emory University, 1998 


I completed my undergraduate degree in Chemistry at Emory University, then went on to a PhD in Chemistry with a Biochemistry specialization at New Mexico State University. My dissertation focused on protein structure determination using NMR data, combined with molecular dynamics simulations. I received a Computing Innovation Fellowship, which supported postdoctoral work in the molecular dynamics simulation field. I was mentored by Carlos Simmerling at Stony Brook University, who is known for protein simulation methods development. I joined the faculty at New Mexico Tech in 2012 and developed a research program focused on tissue oxygenation and membrane-level oxygen transport. I have been highly involved in the International Society on Oxygen Transport to Tissue (ISOTT) since 2015 and was awarded ISOTT's Melvin H. Knisely Award for a young investigator in 2016. I am also quite active in the Biophysical Society, especially its Bioenergetics, Energy, and Metabolism Subgroup.

Research Interests

Our inclusive research group uses high-performance computing to study molecular biophysics, as related to energy metabolism and cellular physiology. We have focused a good deal of work on the biophysical mechanism of oxygen transport within cells and tissues -- with emphasis on the roles of cholesterol and membrane proteins in modulating oxygen availability. This work has broad implications for human health, especially as a means of improving assessments of tumor oxygenation and enhancing radiation therapy outcomes. Our group has pursued secondary interests in the physical-molecular mechanism of mitochondrial permeability transition pore opening and its regulation, as well as in targeted drug delivery.

Student Involvement

I enjoy mentoring both graduate and undergraduate students who have a strong interest in our research and a commitment to helping move it forward. Graduate and undergraduate students are involved in all aspects of the work. They delve deeply into molecular biophysics and cellular function, learn to run and analyze molecular simulations, and learn to troubleshoot research challenges. Where possible, students become coauthors on research publications, by producing publishable datasets and analyses. Students also participate actively in research design and big-picture thinking related to the scientific problems that drive the research. They engage with current research literature and gain experience in scientific communication through writing and presentations. Undergraduate alumni of the group have gone on to various pursuits, including graduate school (chemistry/biochemistry/chemical engineering), medical school, and employment in allied health professions. Graduate alumni have gone on to postdoctoral positions, employment in industry, faculty employment, or PhD programs. New students are always welcome. We are an active and friendly group, and we love the work we do together. Reach out to me, if you are interested in getting involved.

Selected Publications

Undergraduate coauthors indicated with asterisks (*).

Angles, Gary; Hail, Angela*; Dotson, Rachel J., Pias, Sally C. (2021) Atomistic simulations modify interpretation of spin-label oximetry data. Part 1: Intensified water–lipid interfacial resistances. Appl Magn Reson 52(10):1261–1289. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00723-021-01398-z

Pias, Sally C. (2021) How does oxygen diffuse from capillaries to tissue mitochondria? Barriers and pathways. J Physiol 599(6):1769–1782. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1113/JP278815

Dotson, Rachel J., Pias, Sally C. (2018) Reduced oxygen permeability upon protein incorporation within phospholipid bilayers. Adv Exp Med Biol 1072:405–411. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-91287-5_65. PMCID: PMC6202029

Dotson, Rachel J.; Smith, Casey R.*; Bueche, Kristina*; Angles, Gary; Pias, Sally C. (2017) Influence of cholesterol on the oxygen permeability of membranes: Insight from atomistic simulations. Biophys J 112(11):2336–2347. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpj.2017.04.046. PMCID: PMC5474842


Biomedical and Medicinal

Physical and Fundamental