May 2018 News
Dean Stetler (associate professor) is retiring from the University of Kansas after 42 total years of association with the university. Dean is a KU alumnus, earning a BA (1976) and a PhD (1980) in Microbiology, working in the laboratory of George Boguslavski where he studied Histoplasma capsulatum. Dean completed postdoctoral training in the lab of Sam Jacob in the Department of Pharmacology at Pennsylvania State University where he began his long term study of autoimmune diseases, cancer and RNA polymerases. Dean was recruited to the Department of Pharmacology and Specialized Cancer Research Center at Penn State in 1982 as an Assistant Professor. In 1985, Dean was recruited back to KU to the department of Biochemistry as an Assistant Professor, and was promoted to Associate Professor in 1989. Throughout his career Dean contributed strong and creative research. He was first to describe that antibodies against RNA polymerase are part of the anti-nuclear antibody array associated with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), an observation that continues to provide diagnostic information in the clinic. Dean generated three US patents on diagnosing and monitoring severity of autoimmune diseases, and he developed the first model to induce SLE in mice without genetic alteration. More recently, he turned his attention to human genetics with research that links gene expression with violent crime. His research was supported by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, American Cancer Society, and the Arthritis Foundation. Dean’s teaching scope at KU was extensive, contributing to 17 undergraduate and graduate courses and he demonstrated a strong commitment to training undergraduate students in his lab to conduct research. During his career, Dean trained over a dozen pre-doctoral and postdoctoral investigators who went on to successful careers. As DNA analysis was becoming important for the legal system and experts were needed to explain the process and probabilities to attorneys, judges and juries, Dean established himself as such an expert and contributed to over 275 legal cases in 11 states and Canada. During this time, he was frequently invited to conduct workshops to legal professionals on the topics associated with DNA analysis. Dean’s service to the University was extensive. Most notable, he served as director of Graduate Studies for the Department of Molecular Biosciences and Director of the Genetics Program. Dean also served as the Director of Undergraduate Biology, during which time he founded the Undergraduate Biology Graduate Recognition Ceremony, planned this year for May 12. Dean has had a varied and successful career, and the University of Kansas is better for his many contributions. He has been respected member of the KU faculty and he will be missed by his colleagues who wish him well as he enters the next stage of his life.
Dr. Stuart Macdonald has been promoted to full professor. Dr. Macdonald earned his D.Phil at the University of Oxford, and was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California at Irvine before starting his lab at KU in 2006. The Macdonald group seeks to understand the genetic basis of complex traits in the Drosophila model system using a combination of genetic mapping, genomics, computational analysis, and functional genetics.
Haifa Alhadyian (graduate student, Rob Ward lab) won the Outstanding International Woman Student Award as part of the Emily Taylor Center Recognition Program. This award recognizes an international student who has demonstrated academic achievement and has made a contribution to the campus and/or community through involvement.
Lingfei Liang (graduate student, Egan/Tang lab) is the recipient of the 2018 Philip and Marjorie Newmark Award, given annually to a graduate student who has demonstrated excellence in biochemical research. Lingfei determined the crystal structures of bacteriophage proteins that are important in understanding virion assembly and viral DNA delivery into their hosts.
Jeff McFarlane (graduate student, Lamb lab) is the recipient of an American Heart Association (AHA) Predoctoral Fellowship for his project entitled, “Staphylopine biosynthesis as an antimicrobial target in Staphylococcus aureus infective endocarditis.” The AHA states the purpose of this program is “to enhance the integrated research and clinical training of promising students who are matriculated in pre-doctoral or clinical health professional degree training programs and who intend careers as scientists, physician-scientists or other clinician-scientists, or related careers aimed at improving global cardiovascular health.” Jeff plans to determine the structures and functional mechanisms of the proteins required to generate staphylopine, a metallophore linked to pathogenesis.
The Department of Molecular Biosciences would like to thank our Graduate Student Organization for organizing this year’s SEARCH symposium. We are very proud of our students’ hard work and dedication to put on such a successful event. The SEARCH symposium (Scientists Exploring non-Academic caReer CHoices) was held on April 21, 2018 at the University of Kansas’ new Burge Union. The symposium, co-organized by the Molecular Biosciences (MB) and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology (EEB) Graduate Student Organizations, brought in 16 professionals from a wide variety of non-academic career paths to speak to symposium attendees. The SEARCH symposium welcomed over 100 graduate students and post-doctoral researchers from KU-Lawrence, KU Medical Center, The Stowers Institute for Medical Research, and Kansas State University. Attendees had the opportunity to listen to, ask questions, and network with industry professionals through spotlight talks, topic-based panels, and a networking/“meet the professionals” event at the conclusion of the day. To learn more about the symposium, the speakers, or the goals of the symposium, please visit www.searchsymposium.ku.edu.
Cara Davis (undergraduate student, Lamb lab) has been named a Kansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (K-INBRE) Star Trainee. The K-INBRE Star Trainee Program is designed “to identify outstanding prospective biomedical researchers during their junior year in college, and provide financial support during the senior year.” Cara aims to determine the structure and function of the enzymes involved in yersinopine biosynthesis, a metallophore generated by the bacteria that causes plague.
Jasmine Deng (undergraduate, Oakley lab) has been named a TRIO McNair Scholar. The award provides resources and support to prepare and earn placement in graduate programs to pursue doctoral degrees. Jasmine is a senior from Merriam, majoring in biochemistry with research interests in secondary metabolite discovery and neurodegenerative disease.