July 2017 News

Cora Downs Hall honors the first woman to receive a Ph.D. from the University of Kansas. She earned that degree in 1924 after receiving her undergraduate and master’s degrees from KU. She became one of KU’s most outstanding scientists, working first in 1917 as an instructor of bacteriology and rising to become a professor of microbiology. She remained a member of the faculty until her retirement in 1963, save for a hiatus during World War II when she led 40 scientists in a top secret biological warfare project. Dr. Down’s awards are many, including the Citation for Distinguished Service, KU’s highest honor.  Read more about Dr. Downs on the Emily Taylor Center for Women and Gender Equity website.


Liang Tang (associate professor) is a co-investigator of a Resource-Related Research Project Cooperative Agreement from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences for the Midwest Consortium for High Resolution Cryoelectron Microscopy.  Wen Jiang (Purdue) is leading this project.  The main goal of this project is to establish a resource for direct electron detection and state-of-the-art cryoEM data collection at the host university (Purdue) shared by 11 participating member universities in the region.



David Davido (associate professor) co-chaired the graduate student and post-doctoral trainee presentation session at the Colorado Alphaherpesvirus Latency Symposium in Vail, CO, May 17-20 and served on its planning committee.  He also gave a presentation at this year’s meeting entitled "Inhibition of viral DNA replication limits the efficacy of an HSV-1 neuro-attenuated vaccine in mice."​



Kristi Neufeld (professor) was a recipient of the 2017 Robert Weaver Graduate Mentor Award in the Biological Sciences, which is given in recognition of outstanding graduate student mentorship. 





Five Molecular Biosciences faculty from were recipients of Pilot Project Awards from the Center for Biomedical Research Excellence in Protein Structure and Function.

Robert Unckless (assistant professor) will lead a project entitled "A Functional dissection of the maintenance of genetic variation in immune genes”.  The major goal of this project is to understand how peptides involved in immune defense vary within species and how this variation influences antimicrobial activity.

Eric Deeds (associate professor) will lead a project entitled “Characterizing and developing inhibitors of proteasome assembly”. The major goal of this proposal is to structurally characterize the binding of assembly inhibitors to the proteasome, and to leverage those results in the design of more potent inhibitors.

Kristi Neufeld (professor) will direct a project entitled “Structure function analysis of tumor suppressor APC protein”.  This project aims to identify structural features that facilitate interactions between APC and binding partners beta-catenin and Topoisomerase.

Krzysztof Kuczera (professor) will lead a project entitled “Fast processes in optogenetic systems: experiments and modeling”. The major goal of this proposal is the study the light-induced conformational transition in the bacterial phytochrome of D. radiodurans​, aimed at understanding the microscopic mechanism and design of improved tools for optogenetic manipulation.

Liang Xu (professor) will lead a project entitled “Fragment based drug discovery of probes for Musashi-2.”  The major goal of this proposal is to carry out fragment-based drug screening for new hits/probes of the Musashi-2 oncoprotein.


Katelyn Soules (graduate student, Hefty lab) will be appointed to the National Institutes of Health funded Graduate Training Program in the Dynamic Aspects of Chemical Biology on July 1 for a term of two years.



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July 2017 Presentations

Rob Unckless (assistant professor) gave an invited talk entitled “Adaptation of Nucleopolyhedroviruses in Drosophila and other arthropods” at the Entomological Society of America’s North Central Branch Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana on June 5.

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July 2017 Publications

Najarro MA, Hackett JL, Macdonald SJ. Loci Contributing to Boric Acid Toxicity in Two Reference Populations of Drosophila melanogaster. G3 (Bethesda) 7(6):1631-1641.

Sorger R, Bachman JA, Smith A, Sorger PK, Deeds EJFundamental trade-offs between information flow in single cells and cellular populationsProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 114(22): 555-5760.


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Molecular Biosciences

We are an interdisciplinary group of faculty who perform cutting edge research in a wide range of areas including biochemistry, biophysics, structural biology, bioinformatics, cancer biology, genetics, genomics, immunology, microbiology, virology, neurobiology, molecular, cellular and developmental biology.  We work closely with postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and undergraduates to investigate fundamental biological problems on all levels from molecules to cells to organisms.  The Department of Molecular Biosciences, located on the Lawrence campus of the University of Kansas system, is an excellent environment for research and education.

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