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

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.



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May 2018 Presentations

Josie Chandler (assistant professor) gave a talk entitled “Bacterial genetics 101” at the 2018 FASEB workshop on Rigor and Reproducibility: Promoting Credible Science and Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on April 26.

Joanna Slusky (assistant professor) gave a student-invited Sigma Xi research talk entitled "The complex evolution of outer membrane proteins" at Kansas State on April 25.

Lynn Hancock (associate professor) was chosen to be a member of the organizing committee for the 5th International Conference on Enterococci and convened a session on Biofilms and Post-Exponential Behavior in Chamonix, France on April 15-19. He gave a talk entitled, “Carbon catabolism shapes biofilm development in Enterococcus faecalis”.

Steve Benedict (professor) gave a talk entitled "Immune cells and Functions: Relationships to immunotherapy and the tumor microenvironment” to the Clinical Trials Management Staff of the University of Kansas Cancer Center on April 18.

Kristi Neufeld (professor) was one of four KU scientists to present at the Chancellor’s Inaugural Research Symposium in Overland Park on April 19.  Neufeld gave a TED- talk style presentation entitled “Go with your gut: the study of proteins to fight colon cancer”.

Trey Ronnebaum (graduate student, Lamb lab) presented a seminar entitled “Investigating ‘Stuffed’ Domains of NRPS Assembly Lines: PchF and PchE of Pyochelin Biosynthesis” at the University of Pennsylvania on April 26.  He gave a similar presentation at the Biomedical Sciences Symposium on April 12 here at KU.

Kathryn Brewer (undergraduate, Lamb lab) successfully defended her undergraduate honors thesis in Chemistry on April 26.  Her thesis was entitled “The Purification, Crystallization and Structural Determination of Human Aldolase A and Rheostat Variants.”

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May 2018 Publications

Preet R, Dixon DA. Mutant KRAS Exosomes Influence the Metabolic State of the Colon Microenvironment Cellular and Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Volume 5, Issue 4, 2018, Pages 627-629.e6.

Alan JKRobinson SKMagsig KLDemarco RSLundquist EA. The Atypical Rho GTPase CHW-1 Works with SAX-3/Robo To Mediate Axon Guidance in Caenorhabditis elegans 2018 Apr 13. pii: g3.200148.2018. doi: 10.1534/g3.118.200148. [Epub ahead of print]

McFarlane JS, Davis CL, Lamb AL.  Staphylopine, pseudopaline, and yersinopine dehydrogenases: a structural and kinetic analysis of a new functional class of opine dehydrogenaseJ. Biol. Chem.  [Epub ahead of print]

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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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