Dr. Wayne Willis is an Associate Professor of Medicine in the Department of Medicine Division of Endocrinology and the UAHS Center for Disparities in Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism. Prior to coming to the University of Arizona, Dr. Willis was Associate Professor for the Arizona State University Department of Health and Physical Education. Before his arrival at ASU, Dr. Willis carried out his doctoral research with the Membrane Bioenergetics Group at the University of California, Berkeley, and subsequently spent three years doing postdoctoral work on the effects of dietary iron deficiency on the thermodynamics of mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation at the University of California Medical Center in San Francisco.
Dr. Willis has studied the basic mechanisms underlying energy transduction in mitochondria isolated from skeletal muscle, liver, and heart. Recent work supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) has focused on structure/function differences and associated cost/benefit trade-offs in the mitochondria of slow-twitch (type I) versus fast-twitch (type II) skeletal muscle. In the past mainly animal models have been used, but the recent development of new micro-techniques for the functional assessment of mitochondria, have made the study of human skeletal muscle mitochondria possible. Over the past five years Dr. Willis, in collaboration with ASU bioengineers and the Neurobiology/Bioengineering Laboratory at Good Samaritan Medical Center, Phoenix, has also been studying fuel selection during human locomotion (primarily walking) in both disabled and able-bodied populations. These experiments have formed the basis of a recent proposal to NSF, addressing the evolutionary implications of walking at a spontaneously chosen speed and the associated skeletal muscle metabolism.