News Archive

May 2017 News

Yoshiaki Azuma has been promoted to full professor.  Dr. Azuma earned his Ph.D. as Kyushu University, was a post-doctoral research fellow at the National Institute of Health (NIH), Bethesda, MD and joined the department in 2005. His laboratory focuses on understanding the mechanism of chromosome segregation regulated by the essential protein modifier Small Ubiquitin-like MOdifier (SUMO).

 

 

P. Scott Hefty has been promoted to full professor. Dr. Hefty earned his Ph.D. at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center before performing his post-doctoral studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Hefty joined the faculty at the University of Kansas in 2006. His research interests are in a better understanding of the basic biology and pathogenesis of Chlamydia

 

 

Professor James Orr is retiring from the University of Kansas after 42 dedicated years of service. Jim received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin in Madison in 1974 before joining the faculty in the Department of Physiology and Cell Biology at KU in 1975. He was promoted to Associate Professor, with tenure in 1980 and to Professor in 1987. Jim’s time at KU was marked by multiple professional successes in research, teaching and service. His work on cardiac/respiratory physiology led to over 50 publications in peer reviewed journals and funding from, among other places, The American Heart Association.  Jim was the recipient of an Established Investigator award from the American Heart Association from 1981 to 1986.  Jim was an accomplished and cherished instructor, having been voted “Favorite Professor” four times (2013, 2008, 2000 & 1995). But, it was not only the students who appreciated Jim’s teaching, Jim was twice a finalist for the Honor for Outstanding Progressive Educator (HOPE) award from the University, received both the Kemper Fellow and the Ned Fleming Award for Excellence in Teaching (2005), was named a National Academies of Education Fellow in the Life Sciences in 2006, and received the Chancellor’s Club Career Teaching Award in 2013. In addition to his teaching success, Jim served on numerous committees and in leadership positions both within and outside the University, including the Chair of the Division of Biological Sciences (1992-2006), and the President of the Kansas Affiliate of the American Heart Association (1992-1993).   Jim worked tirelessly to improve access to biological research, especially for underrepresented minorities. This work started in 1999 with the funding of the 500 Nations Bridge Program, which “enhances the successful transfer of American Indian students from Haskell Indian Nations University to four-year institutions, including KU.” Jim worked with faculty at KU and the Haskell Indian Nations University, including Dr. Estela Gavosto (Mathematics), Dr. Marigold Lindon (KU Provost’s Office), Dr. Mary Lou Michaelis (Pharmacology and Toxicology) and Dr. Dennis O’Malley (HINU) on obtaining and administering NIH-funded initiatives including the Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Awards program (IRACDA), Initiative to Maximize Student Development (IMSD), KU Post-Baccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) and RISE: Advancing Biomedical Research for Indians. Jim is an admired and convivial colleague, and he will be missed by his colleagues who wish him all the best as he moves on to the next chapter of his life.

 

Audrey Lamb (professor) is a recipient of a K. Barbara Schowen Undergraduate Research Mentor Award.  This award honors the contribution of faculty who mentor undergraduate researchers to their students' development and to their own discipline.  The award was presented at the Undergraduate Research Symposium banquet on April 22.  Read the KU Today article.

 

 

Kara Hinshaw (graduate student, Chandler lab) was the recipient of the best poster award at the American Society for Microbiology Missouri Valley Branch Meeting in Springfield, Missouri held on March 16-17 for her poster entitled “Quorum sensing control of antibiotic resistance protects cooperating bacterial cells during interspecies competition.”

 

 

Aaron Rudeen (graduate student, Neufeld lab) was the recipient of the Graduate Research Competition Award for the 2016-17 academic year. This award was based on his poster presentation entitled, “Investigating a role for tumor-suppressor Adenomatous polyposis coli in chemotherapeutic drug resistance in colorectal cancer” at the Graduate Research Competition, on April 6.

 

 

 

Kathryn Brewer (undergraduate, Lamb lab) is a recipient of a Sally Mason Woman Student in Science Award from the Emily Taylor Center for Women and Gender Equity.  This award honors female undergraduate students in the sciences who have demonstrated academic excellence, involvement in campus activities, and leadership in their academic department. 

 

 

Cara Davis (undergraduate, Lamb lab) was the recipient of a best poster presentation award at the KU Undergraduate Research Symposium on April 22.  Her poster was entitled “Structural and functional characterization of a Yersinia pestis opine dehydrogenase involved in metallophore biosynthesis.”

 

 

 

April 2017 News 

Liang Xu (professor) is a co-investigator of a National Cancer Institute Project Grant entitled “Synthetic Lethal Targeting of Growth Factor Receptors.”  Blake Peterson (KU School of Pharmacy) is leading this project.  The goal of this project is to develop a new cancer therapy targeting multiple receptors.

 

 

 

Sarah Mullinax (graduate student, Unckless lab) is the recipient of a Madison and Lila Self Graduate Fellowship.  The fellowship provides four years of support for doctoral students who “demonstrate the promise to make significant contributions to their fields of study and society as a whole.”  Sarah will study the function of insect antimicrobial peptides. 

 

 

Aaron Rudeen (graduate student, Neufeld lab) was selected to represent the University of Kansas at the 14th Annual Capitol Graduate Research Summit in Topeka, KS on March 10, 2017. Rudeen and seven other graduate students from KU joined peer students from other Kansas universities, including KUMC, Kansas State and Wichita State. Each participant presented a research poster for State government and education officials, as well as the general public.

 

 

Kathryn Brewer (undergraduate, Lamb lab) has been nominated by the University of Kansas for a Goldwater Scholarship, a premier undergraduate award to encourage excellence in science, engineering and mathematics.  Kathryn will be studying the enzymes of siderophore biosynthesis.  Read more in the KU Today article.

 

 

 

Cara Davis (undergraduate, Lamb lab) is the recipient of a Kansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence Star Trainee Award.  The scholarship enables Cara to continue her research on the biosynthesis of a novel metallophore from Yersinia pestis, the causative agent of plague.  Understanding nutrient acquisition by pathogenic bacteria provides new pathways for antimicrobial drug design.

 

 

 

The Molecular Bioscience Graduate Student Organization (MB-GSO) hosted a science education program for Japanese high school students from the global science education program at the University of Fukui, Japan.  From March 20 to 24, fifteen Japanese high school students shadowed research activity in seven laboratories in our department.  Graduate students in each laboratory mentored high schools students in laboratory experiments and preparation of a presentation.

 

March 2017 News

Rob Unckless (assistant professor) recently published a paper in Genetics entitled “Evolution of resistance against CRISPR/Cas9 Gene Drive” that was highlighted on the cover of the journal (see right).  The article was featured in Nature, The Atlantic, Quanta Magazine, and on NovaNext.

 

 

Robert Ward (associate professor) is the recipient of a National Science Foundation award from the Division of Integrative Organismal Systems for his project entitled “Investigating novel functions of septate junction proteins during morphogenesis in Drosophila.” The final shape of an animal is determined by developmental events that rely on morphogenetic (change in form) processes including cell shape changes and cell rearrangements. The Ward lab conducted a genetic screen in Drosophila (fruit flies), and discovered that proteins that make up the occluding (septate) junction in the fly are also required for morphogenetic processes. The goal of this grant is elucidate the molecular mechanisms by which this collection of proteins regulates morphogenesis during embryogenesis in the fly.

 

Liang Xu (Professor) is a co-investigator of a recently funded National Cancer Institute Research Project Grant with Jonathan Brody (PI, Thomas Jefferson University School of Medicine) entitled “Targeting HuR to improve a synthetic lethal therapy for pancreatic cancer.” The goal of this project is to determine the role of HuR in promoting a resistance mechanism for pancreatic adenocarcinoma exposed to PARP inhibitors.

 

 

Audrey Lamb (professor) is a co-investigator on a recently funded National Institute of General Medical Sciences Research Project Grant entitled “Towards exome analyses: Surprising outcomes from mutating non-conserved positions.”  Liskin Swint-Kruse (KUMC) is leading this project, in collaboration with Aron Fenton (KUMC) and Paul Smith (KState).  The goal of this work is to understand the functional effect of protein variants at rheostat positions for soluble, allosteric enzymes.

 

 

Chris Gamblin (professor) and Berl Oakley (Irving S. Johnson distinguished professor) are the recipients of a renewal award from the H. L. Snyder Medical Foundation for their proposal entitled “Development of novel anti-tau agents for treatment of Alzheimer's disease.”  The goal of this work is to develop compounds based on fungal natural products that disassemble tau aggregates and counteract the neuropathological effects of tau in Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.

 

 

February 2017 News 

Audrey Lamb (professor) is a member of the team assembled by Liskin Swint-Kruse (KUMC) and Aron Fenton (KUMC) that recently was funded by the W. M. Keck Foundation for their proposal entitled “Defining the Rules for Rheostatic Modulation of Protein Function.”  The goal of this project is to understand the functional consequences of amino acid variation at non-conserved sites in membrane and intrinsically unstructured proteins, and soluble proteins that are not allosterically regulated.

 

Berl Oakley (Irving S. Johnson distinguished professor) is the recipient of an award from Acidophil for his proposal entitled “Heterologous expression of a fungal Non-ribosomal peptide synthetase gene.”  This grant provides support for the transferral of a biosynthetic gene from another fungus into Aspergillus nidulans with the goal of expressing it at high levels. The gene is involved in the production of an agriculturally and medically important compound.  Dr. Oakley’s contract with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory entitled “Expression of Polyketide Synthase Genes and Terpene Synthases and Cyclases in Aspergillus nidulans” was also renewed.  The goal of this work is to stimulate the expression of compounds that are useful as biofuels or as cost-effective starting materials for synthesis of high value compounds.

Joanne Chapman joined the Unckless lab in January 2016 as a postdoctoral researcher.  She will study the evolution of antimicrobial peptides via gene duplication and loss in Drosophila.  Joanne is originally from New Zealand, but completed her PhD at the University of Oxford and was previously a postdoc at Lund and Linnaeus Universities in Sweden.

 

 

Won Suk Lee has joined the Lundquist lab as a post-doctoral researcher. Won Suk completed his Ph.D. at Rutgers University/UMDNJ. He will study the roles of guidance receptors in axon outgrowth in the developing nervous system using C. elegans.

 

 

Trey Ronnebaum (graduate student, Lamb lab) was the recipient of a Graduate Scholarly Presentation Travel Fund award from the KU Office of Graduate Studies.  Trey presented a poster entitled “Investigating ‘Stuffed’ Domains of NRPS Assembly Lines: PchF and PchE of Pyochelin Biosynthesis” at the 25th Enzyme Mechanisms Conference in St. Pete Beach, Florida, January 4-8.

 

 

Adam Reeves (undergraduate, Mcdonald lab) won the outstanding oral presentation award for his invited presentation “Patterns of Transposable Element Expression in Heads During Drosophila Aging” at the 2017 K-INBRE Symposium, Manhattan Kansas, January 13-15.

 

 

 

January 2017 News

Lynn Hancock (associate professor) is the recipient of a National Institutes of Health Exploratory/Developmental Research (R21) Grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease for his project entitled “The role of peptide signaling in Enterococcus faecalis biofilm development.”  E. faecalis is an opportunistic pathogen that normally inhabits the gastrointestinal tract without causing infection, but is capable of infecting the bloodstream, the urinary tract and heart valves.   The goal of this work is to characterize peptide importers and exporters to understand the role of these proteins complexes during infection.

 

Kristi Neufeld (professor) was the guest research presenter at the annual KU Center for Research Inc. board meeting on December 16.  The title of her talk was “Go with your gut: the study of proteins to fight colon cancer.”

 

 

 

Maggie Hornick (undergraduate, Gamblin lab) has received a KU Undergraduate Research Award for Spring 2017 for her project “Effects of Increased Pseudohyperphosphorylation on Tau in Alzheimer’s Disease Pathology”

 

Katie Morales (undergraduate, Gamblin lab) has received a KU Undergraduate Research Award for Spring 2017 for her project “Comparative differences between human tau isoforms in models of Alzheimer’s disease."

 

 

December 2016 News

Audrey Lamb (professor) is a co-investigator on a recently funded National Institute of General Medical Sciences Research Project Grant entitled “Dissecting allostery in pyruvate kinase.”  Aron Fenton (KU Medical Center) is leading this project, designed to understand the regulation of the enzyme pyruvate kinase in diabetes.

 

 

 

Kristi Neufeld (professor) was highlighted as one of KU’s most innovative researchers at the KU Elevate: Innovation in Action event in Wichita on Friday, October 28.  Neufeld gave a TED-style talk called “Go with your gut: the study of tumor-suppressing proteins” which can be viewed on YouTube.

 

 

 

Berl Oakley (Irving S. Johnson distinguished professor) had his research highlighted in an article called “A key regulator of secondary metabolites” in Nature Reviews Microbiology.

 

 

 

Eric Deeds and Scott Hefty (associate professors) and Audrey Lamb (professor) attended the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in Tampa, Florida, November 9-12 where they served as mentors and poster judges.

 

 

 

 

November 2016 News

Scott Hefty (associate professor) and Thomas Prisinzano (Medical Chemistry) hosted U.S. Senator Jerry Moran and two representatives of the National Institute of Health: National Institute for General Medical Sciences Director Jon Lorsch and Center for Research Capacity Building Acting Director Fred Taylor on October 13th . The group came to hear a presentation about the recently NIH funded Center for Biomedical Research Excellence in Chemical Biology of Infectious Disease.  Drs. Prisinzano and Hefty led the Senator and NIH officials on a tour of the associated core laboratories following the presentation.

 

Stuart Macdonald (associate professor and Director of Graduate Studies) wrote successful Fellowship proposals on behalf of the Molecular Biosciences Graduate Program. KU Graduate Studies awarded the department two University Graduate Fellowships for the 2017-18 academic year, one of which is designated to recruit a domestic, underrepresented minority student. In addition, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences awarded Molecular Biosciences a 2017 Dean's Doctoral Fellowship, which can fund a doctoral student for up to two years. All three Fellowships will be used to enhance our recruitment of new graduate students.

 

Audrey Lamb (professor) was interviewed by John Augusto, Director of the KU Center for Undergraduate Research, for the center’s project on The Research Cycle.  Check out the video!

 

 

 

Ilya Vakser (professor) had a recent research article entitled “Challenges in structural approaches to cell modeling” highlighted in KU Today.

 

 

 

Liang Xu (professor) is a co-investigator of a recently funded NIH/NCI R21 grant with Dr. Qi Chen (PI, KUMC), entitled “New HuR inhibitor against pancreatic cancer EMT and CSCs.” The goal of this project is to study a new inhibitor of HuR on its activity and mechanism in inhabiting pancreatic cancer metastasis and cancer stem cells.

 

 

 

Tom Hill (postdoc, Unckless lab) is the recipient of Max Kade Fellowship for his proposal entitled “'The pathogenicity and host response of Drosophila innubila Nudivirus.”  The goal is to establish Drosophila innubila nudivirus (DiNV) as the DNA virus model for Drosophila.  This work will allow us to understand how other DNA viruses, such as Herpes viruses and Pox viruses, interact with the host, so we can better understand these human diseases.  Tom is also the recipient of an Austrian Federal Minister of Science, Research and Economy Award for Excellence 2016 for his doctoral dissertation entitled 'Hybrid dysgenesis in Drosophila simulans associated with a rapid global invasion of the P-element.”

 

October 2016 News

Josie Chandler (assistant professor) is a co-investigator on two recently funded grants.  First, she will be working with Mario Rivera (PI, chemistry), Blake Peterson (medicinal chemistry) and Richard Bunce (Oklahoma State) on a National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease research project grant entitled “Chemical tools for perturbing iron homeostasis is P. aeruginosa.”  Josie and Mario will also be working on “Protein interactions regulate iron storage and utilization in bacteria,” a Division of Molecular and Cellular Bioscience award from the NSF.  Josie’s contribution to both projects will be to provide consultation on genetics and molecular biology approaches to evaluate some of the consequences of disrupting iron homeostasis in P. aeruginosa.

Joanna Slusky (assistant professor) is the recipient of a Chemical Biology of Infectious Disease NIH Center for Biomedical Research Excellence junior investigator award for her project entitled “Targeting TolC oligomerization to potentiate antibiotics.”  The goal of this work is to design peptides and peptidomimetics to disrupt TolC oligomerization thereby disabling antibiotic resistance.

 

 

Rob Unckless (assistant professor) is the recipient of two recently funded grants.  First, his proposal entitled “Pathology, host defense and population of Drosophila innubial Nudivirus” has been awarded by the Center for Molecular Analysis of Disease Pathway NIH Center for Biomedical Research Excellence.   The goal of this work is to develop an understanding of a recently discovered virus so that it may be used as a model to study DNA virus infection.  He is also the recipient of an Pathway to Independence Award from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences for his project entitled “Antimicrobial peptides as models for the evolution of gene duplication.”  The goal of this work is to understand the forces that lead to differences in the copy number of individual genes using the immune system as a model.

 

Berl Oakley (Irving S. Johnson Distinguished Professor) has been named to the advisory board for the Fungal Genetics Stock Center.  The FGSC is the largest repository of mutant fungal strains and is a resource for fungal researchers around the world.

 

 

 

Liang Xu (professor) and Co-PI Danny Welch (Cancer Biology, KUMC) were awarded a Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program Breakthrough Award Level 2 Grant entitled “Blocking breast cancer metastasis by targeting RNA-binding protein HuR.” They will explore the RNA-binding protein HuR as a novel target for blocking breast cancer metastasis.

 

 

The Lamb lab welcomes a new postdoctoral fellow.  Catie Shelton joins the lab as a postdoctoral researcher after completing her PhD in Molecular Genetics at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine earlier this summer.  Catie is part of the Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Award program, and will be investigating the enzymes of siderophore biosynthesis with structural biology and mechanistic enzymology approaches.

 

 

September 2016 News

Rob Unckless has joined the Department of Molecular Biosciences as an Assistant Professor.  Dr. Unckless received his PhD from the University of Rochester with John Jaenike and H. Allen Orr, and completed his postdoctoral work with Brian Lazzaro and Andy Clark at Cornell University. The Unckless lab at KU will continue to work on the genetics and evolution of immune response and host-pathogen interactions in Drosophila species, using a combination of classical genetics, genomics and modeling.

 

 

David Davido (associate professor) served as selection committee chair for the Priscilla Schaffer Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Awards at the 41th International Herpesvirus Workshop in Madison, WI, from July 23-27, 2016.  He also presented a poster at this year's Workshop entitled "Two Amino Acid Substitutions in HSV-1 ICP6 Impair Acute Viral Replication and Latency in Mice and Constitutes a Potential Vaccine Against HSV-1."

 

 

Dr. Erik Lundquist received an R56 bridging grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke entitled "Regulation of growth cone protrusion in Netrin-mediated axon repulsion”. Axon guidance is a fundamental mechanism of wiring the nervous system into circuits during development.  Work supported by this award will delve into the basic mechanisms of axon guidance in the model organism nematode C. elegans, which will be relevant to human neurodevelopment disorders and nervous system recovery after stroke or physical trauma.

 

Rita-Marie McFadden (postdoctoral researcher, Neufeld lab) was selected to serve as a member of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) Education and Professional Development Committee.  As the only postdoc on the committee, Dr. McFadden is tasked with providing input regarding education and training needs for scientists early in their career development, particularly with respect to graduate student and postdoctoral training.  ASBMB has a wide range of programs in education and training.

 

The Unckless lab welcomes two new members.  Tom Hill joins the lab as a postdoctoral researcher after completing his PhD in Evolutionary Biology and Population Genetics at Vetmeduni Vienna in early 2016.  He is interested in establishing the recently discovered Drosophila innubila nudivirus (DiNV) as the DNA virus model for Drosophila. Specifically, he is interested in understanding how the virus infects Drosophila, and characterizing the host immune response.  Brittny Smith, a KU alum, joins the lab as a research assistant after spending several years in the Macdonald lab.  In the past, Brittny has worked on understanding natural genetic variation and its influence on various traits.  She will continue this work in the Unckless lab working specifically on bacterial immunity.

 

Bryce Blankenfeld (graduate student, Gamblin lab) and Kara Hinshaw (graduate student, Chandler lab) participated in the Chemistry-Biology Interface Career Development Workshop at the University of Michigan, August 7-9.  Bryce and Kara were two of six graduate students chosen to be in the KU delegation, which also included students from chemistry, medicinal chemistry and pharmaceutical chemistry. 

 

 

Kara Hinshaw (graduate student, Chandler lab; pictured above) and Mahekta Gujar (graduate student, Lundquist lab) are the recipients of the Borgendale Award for their talks at the 2016 Graduate Student Symposium.  Kara’s research talk was entitled “Quorum sensing control of antibiotic resistance protects cooperating bacterial cells during interspecies competition.”  Mahekta presented her research with a talk entitled “UNC-33/CRMP inhibits growth cone protrusion in axon repulsion from UNC-6/netrin.”

 

 

Lauren Arney (left) and Jessica van Loben Sels (right; 2016 graduates) have been named 2016-2017 KU Women of Distinction.  While undergraduates at KU, both completed Biology honors theses.  Lauren completed her research in the Lamb laboratory, while Jessica was in the Davido lab.  Lauren is now in medical school at KUMC and Jessica is pursuing a doctorate at the University of Cambridge. 

 

 

August 2016 News

Scott Hefty (associate professor) is co-Investigator on an NIH Center for Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) project that was funded for $11 million.  The grant, entitled “Chemical Biology of Infectious Disease”, is to enable University of Kansas researchers on the Lawrence campus to better contribute to the fight against infectious disease by studying fundamental biology with the use of small molecule chemical probes. Dr. Hefty’s role in the project is to serve as co-investigator for the COBRE and to lead the establishment of an Infectious Disease Assay Development (IDAD) Core to provide expertise, facilities, services, and training in the area of HTS assay design, development, validation, small and large-scale screening for organism (cell) based or biochemical infectious disease targets. Thomas Prisinzano, professor and chair of the Department of Medicinal Chemistry is the Principal Investigator of the grant.

Kristi Neufeld (associate professor) had an article from her laboratory entitled, “Human cancer xenografts in outbred nude mice can be confounded by polymorphisms in a modifier of tumorigenesisrecommended in F1000Prime as being of special significance in its field by F1000 Faculty Member Kent Hunter, Deputy Chief of the Laboratory of Cancer Biology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute.

 

 

Audrey Lamb (professor) served as co-chair of the Enzymes, Coenzyme and Metabolic Pathways Gordon Research Conference in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire, July 24-29.

 

 

 

Andy Wolfe (graduate student, Neufeld lab) was the recipient of Candlin and MB GSO travel awards to attend the FASEB conference Cell Signaling in Cancer: from Mechanisms to Therapy in Snowmass Village, CO, June 5-10 and present his poster entitled, “Suppression of intestinal tumorigenesis in Apc mutant mice by Musashi-1 deletion”. He also received the E. L. and Mildred Pursell Wolf Scholarship for summer tuition.

 

July 2016 News

Joanna Slusky (assistant professor) has been named a finalist for the Moore Inventor Fellowship, a competition to identify outstanding inventors who harness science and technology to enhance the conduct of scientific research, strengthen environmental conservation, or improve the experience and outcomes of patient care.

 

 

Scott Hefty (associate professor) has been awarded a National Institutes of Health Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Award (R21) from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease for his project entitled “Transposon Mutagenesis in Chlamydia trachomatis.”  Chlamydia trachomatis is a medically important bacterium for which factors and basic mechanisms for causing disease are poorly understood. This proposal is designed to discover these factors important for disease and direct future efforts for prevention or treatment of these infections.

 

Jeff McFarlane (graduate student, Lamb 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.

 

 

 

Aidan Dmitriev (undergraduate, Hefty lab) has been named a Star Trainee from the Kansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence. This award provides a stipend, funds for research expenses, and travel to a scientific meeting.  Aidan will be addressing the challenge of the relatively large portion of functionally unknown proteins encoded by the clinically important bacteria, Chlamydia trachomatis, using structural proteomics approaches. These efforts will facilitate functional annotation to better understand the role of these currently uncharacterized proteins in the biology of Chlamydia.

 

 

Mackenzie Bloom (undergraduate, Neufeld lab) has been named a Star Trainee from the Kansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence. This award provides a stipend, funds for research expenses, and travel to a scientific meeting.  Mackenzie will be investigating the link between stem cell proliferation and intestinal tumorigenesis.

 

 

June 2016 News

Kathy Suprenant (professor) is retiring after 32 years of service to the University of Kansas.  Kathy earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the State University of New York at Albany in 1977 and a Ph. D. in Biology in 1982 at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville.  She completed post-doctoral training in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of California at Santa Barbara, the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA, and at the University of Kansas Center for Biomedical Research.  In 1985, she joined the faculty of the department of Physiology and Cell Biology.  Kathy was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 1991 and to full professor in 1996.  After a series of mergers, the Physiology and Cell Biology department morphed into the current department of Molecular Biosciences, where Kathy served as chair from 2004-2008.  Kathy is also a member of the Genetics Program faculty, Computational Biology Program faculty, and the University of Kansas Cancer Center.  Over the years, she taught cell biology to over 4,000 KU students, and trained and provided research experiences to more than 120 undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students.  Her research and published works describe the function of the vault ribonucleoprotein particle and the EML-family of microtubule regulatory proteins during embryonic and postmitotic development.  The National Science Foundation funded this work continuously for 21 years, with additional funding from the National Institutes of Health and the American Cancer Society.  Further, Kathy received a CAREER Award and a Professional Opportunities for Women in Research and Engineering Award, also from the NSF.  From KU, Kathy received a Mortar Board Outstanding Educator Award, the JR and Inez Jay Research Award, and was inducted into the KU Women’s Hall of Fame in 2006.

 

John Karanicolas (associate professor) has been named the Edward and Thelma Wohlgemuth Faculty Scholar at the Lawrence campus.  Recipients of this award are chosen based on their accomplishments in their early years as faculty members, as well as their great potential for future research and future contributions to their profession.  The award is made possible by a gift from Dorothy Wohlgemuth Lynch in honor of her parents.  Dr. Karanicolas will receive a generous salary supplement for each of the next three years, with the potential for the Scholar appointment to be renewed.  Dr. Karanicolas’ research involves using computational and experimental design techniques to modulate protein function with small molecules.  Among his research interests is the development of novel inhibitors of proteins that have well-validated roles in cancer, toward the development of anti-cancer agents.  

David Davido (associate professor), Stuart Macdonald (associate professor) and Lynda Morrison (St. Louis University) are the recipients of a two-year National Institutes of Health Exploratory/ Developmental Research Grant (R21) entitled "Dissecting the Contribution of Viral Genetic Variation to HSV-1 Neuropathogenesis".  Herpes Simplex Virus type 1 (HSV-1) is a ubiquitous human pathogen that is the primary cause of cold sores. Additionally, in rare cases, HSV-1 can infect the nervous system leading to blindness and encephalitis. The goal of this grant is to identify those viral genes that contribute to neuropathogenesis.

 

Molecular Biosciences participated in the University of Kansas Doctoral Hooding Ceremony on May 14.  From left to right, Chris Gamblin, Kristi Neufeld, Smita Paranjape, Kawaljit Kaur, Andrew McShan, Chad Highfill, Amber Smith, Yoshi Azuma, Vinidhra Sridharan, Erik Lundquist, Roberto De Guzman, Matthew Josephson, Christian Ray.

 

Molecular Biosciences participated in the University of Kansas Masters Hooding Ceremony on May 14. From left to right, Mark Richter, KyeongMin Bae, Rob Ward, Haifa Alhadyian, Luke Wenger, Mizuki Azuma.

 

Haifa Alhadyian (graduate student, Ward Lab) was one of the writers of a new curriculum for Kansas DNA DayDianarys Hernandez-Aquino (graduate student, Macdonald lab) served as an ambassador coordinator for the event.   Several members of our department served as ambassadors, spending a day at area schools helping high school students do experiments and learn about current biomedical research.  Read more in the KU Today article entitled, “DNA Day 2016 expands high school science classroom outreach in Kansas.”

 

Lauren Arney (undergraduate student, Lamb lab) is a recipient of the Agnes Wright Strickland Award.  Recipients are graduating seniors who are recognized for their academic records, demonstrated leadership in matters of university concern, respect among fellow students, and a dedication to service at the university.   Read more in KU Today article entitled “12 students honored with 2016 University Awards.”

 

 

 Jessica van Loben Sels (undergraduate, Davido Lab) has been chosen for the National Institutes of Health Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program.  The scholarship pays for graduate work — including tuition, fees and a stipend — at Oxford University or Cambridge University in the United Kingdom and at the NIH in Bethesda, Maryland.  Read more in KU Today article entitled “NIH Oxford Cambridge Scholarship won.”

 

 

 

Maggie Hornick (undergraduate, Gamblin lab) was awarded the Lance S. Foster Outstanding Junior in Biology award given by the KU Undergraduate Biology Program to an outstanding KU junior majoring in Biology and planning on further study or work in area of biology. Maggie also was awarded and Undergraduate Biology Program Research award from the Del and Carl Shankel Biomedical Fund. This award is given to outstanding students majoring in microbiology or a related field and to students in the University Honors program pursuing a career in the biomedical sciences who are participating or planning to participate in research with a KU (Lawrence campus) faculty member.

 

May 2016 News

Check out the latest issue of the BIOHAWK.

Eric Deeds has been promoted to associate professor with tenure. Dr.  Deeds earned his PhD at Harvard University, and was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School.  His lab is focused on understanding the self-assembly dynamics of macromolecular machines, as well as the flow of information in complex signaling networks.

 

 

 

Roberto De Guzman has been promoted to full professor.  Dr. De Guzman earned his Ph.D. at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), was a post-doctoral fellow at the Scripps Research Institute, and joined KU in 2005.  His research area is in NMR structural biology of bacterial virulence proteins with a goal of developing new antibiotics.

 

 

 

Kristi Neufeld has been promoted to full professor.  Dr. Neufeld was a research assistant professor in the Department of Oncological Sciences at the Huntsman Cancer Institute before she relocated to KU in 2003.  Prior to that, she completed a PhD and post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Utah.  Her laboratory is focused on understanding how the Adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) protein suppresses colon carcinogenesis.

 

 

Liang Xu has been promoted to full professor.  Dr. Xu earned his Ph.D. at Forth Military Medical University in China, and obtained postdoctoral training at Stanford University.  He started his lab on cancer biology at University of Michigan and relocated to KU in 2010.  His research is focused on cancer drug discovery targeting cancer stem cells and translational research on precision cancer medicine.

 

 

 

Christian Ray (assistant professor) is the recipient of a Pilot Project Grant from the Center for Molecular Analysis of Disease Pathways (CMADP) NIH Center for Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) for his proposal entitled “An integrative platform for cell-resolution analysis of the acute-to-chronic transition in bacterial pathogens.”  The goal of this work is to understand how changes in the rate of cellular growth affect the ability of bacteria to survive stressful situations, opening new avenues for treating infections that resist antibiotic treatment.

 

Kelly Harrison (graduate student, Hefty lab) is the recipient of the 2015-16 KU Graduate Research Competition Award, based on her poster presentation entitled “Discovery of Genetic Correlates Encoded by Chlamydia that are Important for Mammalian Infection” on March 27.  The award includes a cash prize to be awarded at the Graduate Student Awards Ceremony on April 27. 

 

 

Annie Lynn (undergraduate student, Tang lab) is the recipient of a Goldwater Scholarship.  The United States Congress established the program in 1986, and it focuses on ensuring a continuing source of scientists, mathematicians and engineers. The scholarship provides up to $7,500 annually to cover undergraduate tuition, fees, room and board, and books.  Read more in the KU Today article Two KU Juniors earn Goldwater Scholarships.

 

 

April 2016 News

Yoshi Azuma (associate professor) had his research featured in an article entitled “Pinpointing the chromosomal creation of cancer” in the latest issue of KUCC Cancer Communications.

 

 

 

 

Berl Oakley (Irving S. Johnson distinguished professor) is the recipient of funding from Pacific Northwest National Laboratories for his project entitled “Expression of Polyketide Synthases in Aspergillus nidulans.”  The overall project funding is from the Department of Energy.  The goal of this work is to discover new compounds that can be produced cheaply by the fungus Aspergillus nidulans as it grows on biological feedstocks, and that can be readily converted to biomedically-relevant chemical compounds.

 

 

Ilya Vakser (professor) is the recipient of funding from the Division of Biological Infrastructure of the National Science Foundation for his proposal entitled “Modeling protein interactions to interpret genetic variation.”  The project will result in an integrated approach for large-scale prediction of protein structures and their association. A database of predicted structures and complexes for model organisms will be established upon which genetic variants will be mapped and their phenotypic effects assessed. The grant is awarded under the US NSF/BIO - UK BBSRC joint program (UK collaborator - Professor Michael Sternberg, Imperial College London).

 

Christian Gomez (graduate student, Neufeld lab) received a Peer Reviewed Cancer Research Program Horizon Award from the Department of Defense office of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs  to study “A Role for APC in Goblet Cell Function and the Unfolded Protein Response”. The Horizon Award allows junior investigators to “develop a research project investigating a problem or question in the field of cancer, conduct impactful research with the mentorship of an experienced cancer researcher and further their intellectual development as a cancer researcher of the future”. Gomez was one of 4 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the colorectal cancer topic area chosen for this award, which will provide stipend, supply and travel funds for a year.

 

Kelly Harrison and Scott Labrie (graduate students, Hefty lab) were both recipients of Outstanding Graduate Student Poster Presentation Awards at the Missouri Valley Branch Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in Kansas City on March 4-5.  Kelly’s presentation was entitled “Discovery of Genetic Correlates Encoded by Chlamydia that are Important for Mammalian Infection,” and Scott’s presentation was “Phenotypic Analysis of Transposon Mutant Strains of Chlamydia trachomatis."

 

 

Kawaljit Kaur (graduate student, De Guzman lab) is the recipient of the 2016 Philip & Marjorie Newmark Award for excellence in biochemical research for her project and presentation entitled, "Azaphilones derived from a fungal natural product inhibit the HuR-mRNA interaction", a collaborative project with Liang Xu.  Chad Highfill (graduate student, Macdonald lab) was also a finalist for the award.   

 

 

Kathryn Brewer (undergraduate, Lamb lab) has been selected to be a Beckman Scholar, a 15 month program to conduct innovative mentored research here at KU.  Kathryn receives research and travel stipends and supply funds to conduct her research project.  Kathryn will be studying the enzymes of siderophore biosynthesis.  Read more in the KU Today article.

 

 

Mackenzie Bloom (undergraduate, Neufeld lab) was the winner of the “Research is a Process” category of the Image of Research competition sponsored by The University of Kansas Libraries.  She was also chosen to serve as Ambassador for program in the upcoming year.  The winning images, including the one on the right, and her descriptions are found here.

 

 

March 2016 News

Joanna Slusky (assistant professor) is the recipient of a Kansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (K-INBRE) Development Research Project Grant for her project entitled “Targeting TolC oligomerization to potentiate antibiotics.”

 

 

 

Rita-Marie McFadden (postdoctoral fellow, Neufeld lab) is a recipient of a Kansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (K-INBRE) Postdoctoral Award for her project entitled “Microbial Transplantation for Colorectal Cancer Prevention”.

 

 

Emily Binshtok (undergraduate student, Xu lab) is a recipient of a KU Undergraduate Research Award for Spring 2016.  Emily will be studying “Restoration of the Anti-Metastatic microRNA miR-29b to Breast Cancer Cells.”

 

 

 

February 2016 News

Kristi Neufeld (associate professor) organized a conference for KU Cancer Center Cancer Biology, a research program which she co-leads.  The meeting, held on January 22 at Maceli’s Banquet Hall in Lawrence, included talks from Stowers Institute and KU Medical Center program members and a keynote lecture by Saraswati Sukumar, PhD, Professor of Human Genetics, Professor of Oncology and Pathology, The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

 

 

Liang Xu (left, associate professor) and Kristi Neufeld (above, associate professor) had a recent research article entitled “Natural product (–)-gossypol inhibits colon cancer cell growth by targeting RNA-binding protein Musashi-1” highlighted in KU Today.

 

 

 

Bryce Blankenfeld (graduate student, Gamblin lab) has been selected to receive an Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation Young Investigator Scholarship which will be presented at the 10th Annual Drug Discovery for Neurodegeneration Conference: An Educational Course on Translating Research into Drugs on March 6-8, 2016 in Miami Beach, FL.

 

 

Nikola Kenjic (graduate student, Lamb lab) was the recipient of a KU Molecular Biosciences Travel Grant to attend the Eleventh KinTek New Enzymology Kinetics Workshop in Austin Texas, January 3-8.

 

 

 

 

Kyle Monize (undergraduate, Chandler lab) and Adam Reeves (undergraduate, Macdonald lab) were the recipients of poster awards at the 14th Annual K-INBRE Symposium in Overland Park, KS on January 16th.  Kyle’s poster was entitled “Ligand-binding requirements of an unusual LuxR homolog in the human pathogen Burkholderia pseudomallei."  Adam’s poster was entitled “Patterns of transposable element expression during Drosophila aging.”  Kyle (far left) and Adam (far right) are shown with the other poster prize winners.

 

January 2016 News

Josie Chandler (assistant professor) had a recent research article entitled “A Burkholderia thailandensis Acyl-Homoserine Lactone-Independent Orphan LuxR Homolog That Activates Production of the Cytotoxin Malleilactone” highlighted in the Atlas of Science.

 

 

 

Steve Benedict (professor) had his recent article entitled “Low density lipoprotein promotes human naïve T cell differentiation to Th1 cells” highlighted in the Cardiovascular Disease section of the World Biomedical Frontiers Summary Service.

 

 

 

Ellen (Brook) Nasseri (undergraduate student, Chandler lab) is a recipient of a KU Undergraduate Research Award for Spring 2016.  Brook will be studying the role of bacterial communication in antibiotic resistance and interspecies competition.

 

 

Margaret (Meggie) Brophy (undergraduate student, Neufeld lab) is a recipient of a KU Undergraduate Research Award for Spring 2016.  Meggie will determine how the mucosal layer of the colon is affected by altered subcellular localization of Apc tumor suppressor protein and how reduced mucin expression affects bacterial penetration of the mucosal layers.

December 2015 News

Erik Lundquist and Ilya Vakser (professors) have been elected as Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  According to AAAS, election as an AAAS Fellow is meant "to recognize members for their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications".  This prestigious recognition honors their contributions to “innovation, education and scientific leadership,” with only 347 Fellows elected in 2015.   

In particular, Erik was recognized “for distinguished contributions to understanding molecular mechanisms of nervous system development, including axon guidance, using modern genetic and in vivo approaches.”

 

 

 

Ilya was honored “for distinguished contributions to the field of computational structural biology, particularly for theoretical studies of molecular recognition and methodology development for protein docking.”

 

 

 

You can read more in the KU Today article entitled "Professors named as AAAS Fellows."
 

Scott Hefty (associate professor) served as mentor and poster judge at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in Seattle, Washington, November 11-14.

 

 

 

 

Stuart Macdonald (associate professor and Director of Graduate Studies) wrote a proposal on behalf of the Molecular Biosciences Graduate Program that was selected to receive three 9-month University Graduate Fellowships for the 2016-2017 Academic Year from the University of Kansas Graduate Studies. Two of the fellowships will be used to recruit new graduate students to our programs, with one designated for a domestic, underrepresented minority student.  The third is a dissertation fellowship that will support a current student.

 

 

Jenn Klaus (graduate student, Chandler lab) won a Best Poster Award at the University of Kansas Chemical Biology Training Grant Annual Symposium poster session for her poster entitled, “Regulation of an antibiotic-induced virulence gene cluster in Burkholderia pseudomallei” on November 20.

 

 

 

Andrew McShan (graduate student, De Guzman lab) received a Best Poster Presentation Award at the 2015 Great Plains Regional Annual Symposium on Protein and Biomolecular NMR held at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas on Nov 13-14, 2015.  Andrew (left) received a certificate and a gift card from the sponsor of the award, Cambridge Isotope Laboratories, represented by Dr. Andrew Merithew (right).

 

 

 

Andy Wolfe (graduate student, Neufeld lab) won first place and a travel award for his poster entitled Suppression of intestinal tumorigenesis in Apc mutant mice by Musashi-1 deletion” at the KU Cancer Center Research Symposium and Multi-Disciplinary Oncology Conference held at the KU-Edwards Campus on November 13.

 

 

November 2015 News

Erik Lundquist (professor) is the recipient of a Kansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (K-INBRE) Bridging Grant for his project entitled “Identifying molecules that interact with the P2 domain of UNC-40/DCC.”  This project is aimed at identifying molecules that physically interact with the cytoplasmic domain of the Netrin receptor molecule UNC-40 and that participate with UNC-40 in axon guidance.

 

 

The Department of Molecular Biosciences is seeking outstanding applicants for our doctoral programs. MB is a center of life sciences research at KU, and can provide you with interdisciplinary training and education, high-quality mentoring, and a stimulating graduate experience that will help you achieve your career goals in the biomedical sciences.  Applications are due December 15th.  Informal inquiries can be directed to Dr. Stuart Macdonald, Director of Graduate Studies

 

October 2015 News

We are excited to announce that our campaign to raise funds for the purchase of a research grade laboratory glassware washer was successful, and a washer has been purchased.  This purchase will enable our student researchers to spend more of their time on research, and less time washing research glassware.  We’d like to express our sincerest thanks to the members of the Biological Sciences Advisory Board, Alumni, Friends of KU Biology, the Undergraduate Biology Program, and the Departments of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Molecular Biosciences whose contributions made this purchase possible.  Read more

 

Stuart Macdonald (associate professor) was awarded a Research Project Grant from the National Institutes of Health for his project entitled "A resource for the genetic analysis of complex traits." This project is a continuing collaboration with Tony Long from the University of California at Irvine. The goal of this $2.7 million award is to genetically dissect the factors responsible for biomedically-relevant trait variation, and enhance a powerful set of enabling community resources for the Drosophila (fruit fly) genetics community.

 

 

September 2015 News

 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 14-16 and will continue to serve on the planning committee for the 2016 meeting.  David also served as a moderator for the Gene Expression/ Signaling Session at the 40th International Herpesvirus Workshop in Boise, ID, from July 25-29.

 

 

 John Karanicolas (associate professor) is the recipient of a Kansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (K-INBRE) Bridging Grant for his project entitled “Identifying stabilizers of p53 using pocket complementarity.”  This project is aimed identifying compounds that “re-activate” the tumor suppressor p53, and can thus serve as a starting point for developing new broad-spectrum cancer therapeutics.

 

 

Chris Gamblin (professor) was an Organizing Committee Member and Session Chair for the first annual International Conference on Brain Disorders and Therapeutics held August 24-26th in London, England. He also gave a plenary presentation entitled “Mining the A. nidulans Metabolome for Tau aggregation inhibitors.”

 

 

 

Angela Fowler (graduate student, Davido lab) participated in the Chemistry-Biology Interface Career Development Workshop at Vanderbilt University, August 10-12.  Angela was one of six graduate students chosen to be the KU delegation, which also included students from chemistry, medicinal chemistry and pharmaceutical chemistry.  Audrey Lamb (professor) and Tom Prisinzano (professor and chair, medicinal chemistry) served as mentors at the conference.

 

 

Christian Gomez (graduate student, Neufeld lab) was the recipient of a travel award from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) to help defray expenses associated with attending the Gastrointestinal Tract XVI: GI Homeostasis, the Microbiome and the Barrier, Development and Disease FASEB Science Research Conference.  At the Conference, held August 2-7 in Steamboat Springs, CO, Gomez presented a poster entitled “A Role for Tumor Suppressor APC in Goblet Cells and Inflammation.”

 

Nikola Kenjic (graduate student, Lamb lab) is the recipient of a Graduate Scholarly Presentation Travel Fund Award to attend the Midwest Enzyme Chemistry Conference in Chicago, IL on September 12.  Nikola will present a poster entitled “PvdF as potential novel transformylase from Pseudomonas aeruginosa.”

 

 

 

Smita Paranjape (doctoral graduate, Gamblin lab) has accepted a postdoctoral research position in the laboratory of Dr. Mark Zylka in the department of Cell Biology and Physiology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine where she will be studying the underlying causes of Autism Spectrum Disorders.

 

 

 

Lauren Arney and Dharam Patel (undergraduates, Lamb lab) are recipients of KU Center for Undergraduate Research Travel Awards to attend the Midwest Enzyme Chemistry Conference in Chicago, IL on September 12.  Lauren will present a poster entitled “Allosteric regulation in pyruvate kinase” and Dharam will present a poster entitled “The production, purification and post-translational modification of PvdJ module 2 in Pseudomonas aeruginosa.”

 

Michael Cory (undergraduate, Karanicolas lab) and Aidan Dmitriev (undergraduate, Hefty lab) were named as the inaugural Beckman Scholars, a 15 month program to conduct innovative mentored research here at KU.  Michael and Aiden receive research and travel stipends and supply funds to conduct their research projects.  Michael is studying protein-based switches and sensors in the Karanicolas lab, whereas Aidan is working to understand the disease processes of Chlamydia.  Read the article from KU Today.

Jessica van Loben Sels (undergraduate, Davido Lab) was the recipient of a KU Center for Undergraduate Research Travel Awards and an American Society of Virology Travel Scholarship to attend the American Society of Virology Meeting  in London, Canada, on July 11 - 15, where she presented a poster entitled "The N-terminus of the HSV-1 E3 Ubiquitin Ligase ICP0 Stimulates Viral Replication and Gene Expression in Cells Exposed to Interferon-β".  Jessica has been awarded a K-INBRE Star Trainee Fellowship and is the recipient of a prestigious, national Astronaut Scholarship.

 

 

August 2015 News

Mizuki Azuma (associate professor) and Chad Slawson (KUMC) are the recipients of a pilot project grant from the Cancer Biology Program of the KU Cancer Center for their proposal entitled “Regulation of EWS-Aurora B pathway during mitosis and tumorigenesis.”  This project will elucidate the pathogenesis of a childhood bone cancer, Ewing sarcoma, by analyzing the EWS-Aurora B dependent regulation of mitosis.x

 

 

Matthew Buechner (associate professor) has accepted a temporary appointment as a visiting scientist and program officer in the Division of Organismal Systems (Developmental Biology) at the National Science Foundation starting July 13.  At the NSF, Dr. Buechner will help review and fund research grant applications. He will continue to maintain his research lab at KU and mentor graduate students.x

 

 

Liang Xu (associate professor), along with collaborator Jeffrey Aube (University of North Carolina Eshelman School of Pharmacy) is the recipient of a Research Project Grant from the National Cancer Institute for their project entitled “Molecular cancer therapy targeting HuR-ARE interaction.”  This award totals $2.16 million over the next five years and is aimed at finding more potent and specific HuR inhibitors which may serve as new therapies for cancer.  Dr. Xu also had his technology featured at the TechConnect World Conference and Expo in Washington, DC. June 14-17, 2015.  This invention finds new compounds that inhibit Musashi activity and specifically kill cancer cells or delay cancer growth, while not affecting normal cells.x

Audrey Lamb (professor) served as a co-vice chair of the Enzymes, Coenzymes and Metabolic Pathways Gordon Research Conference in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire, July 12-17.x

 

 

 

Angela Fowler (graduate student, Davido lab) is the recipient of the Cora M. Downs Award to attend the International Herpesvirus Workshop, July 25 - 29 in Boise, Idaho.  She presented a talk and a poster entitled, "Specific CDKs enhance HSV-1 viral replication and interact with the immediate-early phosphoprotein, ICP0.”x

 

 

 

July 2015 News

The National Institutes of Health Dynamic Aspects of Chemical Biology Training Grant has been renewed for five more years, years 22-26.  The renewal grant, worth more than $1.8 million, funds eight graduate student trainees per year from the departments of Molecular Biosciences, Chemistry, Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Chemistry.  This program served as the foundation for the new Certificate Program in Chemical Biology, and is directed by Tom Prisinzano (professor and chair, medicinal chemistry), Paul Hanson (professor, chemistry) and Audrey Lamb (professor).

 

Mark Richter (professor) is the leader of a team, including John Karanicolas (associate professor) and Eric Deeds (Assistant Professor), that is receiving a University of Kansas Level 1 Strategic Initiative Grant from the Research Investment Council.  The title of the project is “Smart bio-enabled molecular materials by design.”  The team also includes Candan Tamerler (Mechanical Engineering), Judy Wu (Physics and Astronomy) and Cindy Berrie (Chemistry).  The goal of this project is to use biological principles to develop and design intelligent self-assembling materials.  

 

Aaron Bart (graduate student, Scott lab, left) and Bryce Blankenfeld (graduate student, Gamblin lab, right) 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.

 

 

 Kayla Wilson (undergraduate, Ward lab) won a poster award for her poster entitled "Isolation, characterization and annotation of mycobacteriophages from soil samples around Lawrence, KS" at the 7th Annual Howard Hughes Medical Institute SEA-PHAGES Symposium held at the Janelia Research Campus in Ashburn, VA on June 12-14.

 

 

 

 

June 2015 News

Kristi Neufeld (associate professor) is the recipient of the 2015 Grant K. Goodman Undergraduate Mentor Award, which recognizes faculty who are selfless with their time and experience and continue to have lasting mentoring relationships long after they leave the classroom.  Dr. Neufeld was also recognized as “Favorite Professor” by the Biology Class of 2015 at the University of Kansas Undergraduate Biology Recognition Ceremony on May 16.

 

 

The University of Kansas has announced a new Graduate Certificate in Chemical Biology.  Leading the cross-disciplinary program is Audrey Lamb (professor) and Tom Prisinzano (professor and chair of Medicinal Chemistry).  A KU Today article describes the program, set to begin in the Fall of 2015.

 

 

 

The National Institutes of Health recently awarded a grant for more than $1.7 million for the Post-Baccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) to James Orr (professor) and Estela Gavosto (associate professor of mathematics). The PREP program provides mentored research experiences and training to assist recent baccalaureate students with the transition to graduate school in biomedical and behavioral sciences. ).  A KU Today article describes the program.

 

 

Three Molecular Biosciences graduate students were presented with Doctoral Hoods by their mentors at the ceremony on May 16.  From left to right: Lakshmi Sundararajan with her mentor Erik Lundquist; Rob Ward, mentor of Sonia Hall; and Brian Ackley, mentor of Samantha Hartin.

 

Sonia Hall (graduate student, Ward Lab) and Lynn Villafuerte (Office for Diversity in Science Training) organized Kansas DNA Day, which sent 52 KU ambassadors to 14 Kansas high schools to conduct activities such as DNA isolation.  Read the KU Today article that includes quotes from graduate students Luke Wenger (M. Azuma lab) and Haifa Alhadyian (Ward lab)Pictured are Lynn Villafuerte, Sonia Hall, Haifa Alhadyian, Aleah Henderson, Max Iverson, and Adam Miltner.

 

Dharam Patel (undergraduate, Lamb lab) is the recipient of a KU Undergraduate Research Award for the Summer 2015 semester.  Dharam will be studying a nonribosomal peptide synthetase involved in the production of the siderophore pyoverdin from Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

 

 

 

May 2015 News

Mizuki Azuma has been promoted to associate professor with tenure. Dr. Azuma earned her PhD at The Osaka University (Japan), was a postdoctoral fellow at the NICHD/NIH, and was a staff scientist at the NCI/NIH. Her laboratory aims to elucidate the molecular pathogenesis of a childhood bone cancer, Ewing sarcoma.

 

 

 

Chris Gamblin has been promoted to full professor. Dr. Gamblin has been at KU since 2003, after a post-doctoral position at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University and completion of a Ph.D. at Vanderbilt University. His laboratory is aimed at understanding the molecular mechanisms of the aggregation of the microtubule-associated protein tau into fibrils that cause neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s disease and related neurological disorders.


 

Wonpil Im has been promoted to full professor. Dr. Im earned his Ph.D. at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, was a post-doctoral fellow at the Scripps Research Institute, and joined KU in 2005. His research area is computational biology with particular focuses on structure, dynamics, and function of membrane proteins and glycoconjugates.

 

 

Dr. Audrey LambAudrey Lamb has been promoted to full professor.  Dr. Lamb earned her Ph.D. at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Northwestern University.  Her research is focused on understanding the structure-function relationships of enzymes involved in iron-scavenging by pathogenic bacteria.

 

 

Kristi Neufeld (associate professor) is the recipient of funding from the Division of Integrative Organismal Systems of the National Science Foundation for her proposal entitled “Collaborative Research: Beta-catenin Regulation during Asymmetric Stem Cell Divisions”. This research program will focus on stem cells which use asymmetric cell division (ACD) to generate a differentiated daughter and a new stem cell.  Regulation of ACD is critical for developmental cell fate specification and maintenance of tissue homeostasis. The overall goal of this 3-year project is to collaborate with Dr. Bryan Phillips from University of Iowa to elucidate the mechanisms of beta-catenin regulation during ACD by analyzing regulation of the C. elegans beta-catenin, SYS-1, and to test the resulting mechanisms in mammals.

 

Liang Xu (associate professor) had his research highlighted in a recent article entitled “Molecules that block previously ‘undruggable’ protein tied to cancer’s onset“ in KU Today.  In collaboration with Jeff Aube (Medicinal Chemistry) and Jon Tunge (Chemistry), the researchers have identified small molecule inhibitors of the HuR-RNA binding protein that is linked to breast, prostate, colon, brain, ovary, pancreas, and lung cancers.   The article describing the work was published in ACS Chemical BiologyWatch Dr. Xu and his lab in a report on the research on 41 Action News.

 

Lan Lan (postdoc, Xu lab) presented a poster entitled “Small molecule inhibitors of Musashi family of RNA-binding proteins” at the 2015 American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, April 18-22.  Lan received an Unclassified Senate Professional Development Award to participate in the meeting.

 

 

Sarah Xiaoqing Wu (postdoc, Xu lab) presented a poster entitled “Targeting an ‘undruggable’ RNA-binding protein: Discovery of small molecule inhibitors of HuR for novel breast cancer therapy” at the 2015 American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, April 18-22.  Sarah received a Scholar-in-Training Award to participate in the meeting, recognizing “outstanding proffered papers by early-career scientists relating to colorectal cancer research.”  The award was sponsored by Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company

 

Sonia Hall (graduate student, Ward lab) was a member of a delegation for the Genetics Society of America to visit Capitol Hill to advocate for federal science funding and policies that promote scientific research and training.  She met with Senator Jerry Moran and Representatives Kevin Yoder and Lynn Jenkins, providing the perspective of early career scientists to our nation’s policymakers.    Sonia is pictured with Eduardo Rosa-Molinar (University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras), Lynn Jenkins, Adam Fagen (executive director, GSA), and Roy Jensen (KU Cancer Center). [photo from the GSA Newsletter]

 

Amber Smith (graduate student, Xu lab) is the recipient of the 2015 Newmark Award for excellence in biochemistry research for her project which she described in a presentation entitled, “Therapeutic strategies targeting the RNA binding protein Musashi-1 in colorectal cancer.”  Other finalists for the prize were Nabil Alhakamy (Berkland lab), Smita Paranjape (Gamblin lab), Vinidhra Sridharan (Y. Azuma lab).  Amber (right) is pictured receiving her prize from Professor Karen Allen of Boston University, who presented the Philip and Marjorie Newmark Lecture in Biochemistry.

 

Andy Wolfe (graduate student, Neufeld lab) was the recipient of a Twomey Travel Award to attend and present a poster at the Experimental Biology meeting March 28- April 1 in Boston.  The EB meeting serves as the annual meeting for six sponsoring professional research societies.  Andy belongs to the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) which provided Andy additional financial support with a Graduate/Postdoctoral Travel Award.  Andy’s poster was entitled, “TGF-β and Wnt Crosstalk Require SMAD 3 for Msi1 Induction in Colon”.  Andy (right) is shown with Matt Miller (left; see below) and Dr. Neufeld.

Matthew Miller (undergraduate, Neufeld lab) received funds as a K-INBRE Star Trainee and a Travel Award from the Center for Undergraduate Research to attend and present a poster at the Experimental Biology meeting March 28- April 1 in Boston.  Matt’s poster was entitled, “A role for nuclear APC in intestinal cellular differentiation revealed by mouse model.”  Matt is pictured above with Andy Wolfe and Dr. Neufeld.

 

Jessica van Loben Sels (undergraduate, Davido lab) has been awarded a prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, the nation’s premier undergraduate award for academically gifted students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  Jessica studies how cellular factors affect herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1) gene expression and plans to pursue a doctorate in microbiology, focusing on viruses and the diseases they cause.

 

 

 

The following students won poster prizes at the 18th Annual University of Kansas Undergraduate Research Symposium:

Lauren Arney (Lamb lab, shown left): Discovering the structure of the allosteric sites in pyruvate kinase
Kayla Wilson (Ward lab, shown right): the role of fasciclin III (Fas3) in Drosophila melanogaster septate junction

 

Jake Rowe (undergraduate, Biostore) was named KU Student Employee of the Year.  The award includes a plaque and a big check for $500 presented by Big Jay.

 

 

 

 

 

April 2015 News

Dr. Josie Chandler Josie Chandler (assistant professor) is the recipient of a Research Project Award from the Center for Molecular Analysis of Disease Pathways (CMADP) NIH Center for Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) for her proposal entitled “A non-canonical quorum sensing regulator of virulence in Burkholderia pseudomallei.”  The goal of this work is to understand the regulatory pathway that controls virulence factor expression in the human pathogen Burkholderia pseudomallei.

 

 

Dr. Wonpil ImWonpil Im (associate professor) is the recipient of a University Scholarly Achievement Award recognizing research impact of major significance in science, technology, and mathematics at the University of Kansas.

 

 

 

Kathy MeneelyKathy Meneely (research associate, Lamb lab) is the recipient of a travel award from the KU Postdoctoral Association to attend and present a poster at the 35th Midwest Enzyme Chemistry Conference on September 12 in Chicago.

 

 

Rana AlianiRana Aliani (undergraduate, Lundquist Lab) was selected as a K-INBRE Undergraduate Scholar for Spring and Summer of 2015.  Rana’s will study the role of the Neurofibromatosis type II protein NFM-1 in neuronal migration.

 



 

Kyle MonizeKyle Monize (undergraduate, Chandler Lab) was selected as a K-INBRE Undergraduate Scholar for Spring and Summer of 2015.  Kyle's work will support efforts to understand how a virulence regulator becomes activated in the human pathogen Burkholderia pseudomallei.

 


 

Daniel PhamDaniel Pham (undergraduate, Xu lab) is a recipient of a 2015 KU Cancer Center Summer Student Research Training Award for his proposal entitled “Molecular cancer therapy targeting RNA binding protein Musashi-1.”  Daniel will work and train in the lab of Liang Xu under the mentorship of postdoctoral fellow Lan Lan from June 1 - July 24.  He will also have the opportunity to present a poster on his project at the annual KUCC Research Symposium to be held November 13-14 at the KU Edwards campus.

 

 

Jessica van Loben SelsJessica van Loben Sels (undergraduate, Davido Lab) was selected as a K-INBRE Undergraduate Scholar for Spring and Summer of 2015.  Her award will support work to understand how the herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) protein ICP0 counteracts cellular defenses to stimulate viral replication.

 

 

 

 

March 2015 News

Dr. Kristi Neufeld Kristi Neufeld (associate professor) organized a conference for the KU Cancer Center Cancer Biology Program of which she serves as co-leader.  The meeting, held on February 13 at the Arterra Event gallery in Lawrence, included talks from Stowers Institute, KU Medical Center and KU-Lawrence program members, a keynote lecture by Surinder K. Batra, PhD, Chairman of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Nebraska College of Medicine, and PechaKucha-style talks by program members, including Molecular Biosciences faculty Mizuki Azuma and Yoshi Azuma.

 

 

Dr. Liang Xu Liang Xu (associate professor) is the recipient of a donation from the Kilonsky Foundation through KU Endowment to support research into cancer therapeutic development.

 

 

 

Dr. Susan Egan Susan Egan (professor and chair) and Dave Benson (chemistry) are the recipients of a three year Beckman Scholars Program Grant, which has the goal of stimulating, encouraging and supporting research activities by exceptionally talented, full-time undergraduate students pursuing research activities in chemistry, biochemistry, biology and the medical sciences.  The KU program has 15 mentors from Molecular Biosciences and Chemistry, and will support two undergrad students per year.  The students will receive a stipend totaling $22,000 to support their research (for two academic years and two summers), travel funds to present their research at a conference in their field, and the lab of their mentor will receive $5,000 for supplies to support their research.  Read the KU Today article entitled "Prestigious research scholarship available to undergraduates."

 

Dr. Jim Orr Jim Orr (professor) is the recipient of the Joan S. Hunt Distinguished Mentoring Award from the Kansas IDeA Network for Biomedical Research Excellence (K-INBRE).  This award was established in 2012 to recognize upper-level faculty for their mentoring success.  The award was highlighted in a KU Today story entitled “Molecular Biosciences professor wins mentoring award.”

 

 

Kelly Harrison Kelly Harrison (graduate student, W. Picking lab) was one of eight graduate students from the University of Kansas to present at the 12th annual Capitol Research Summit in Topeka.  The Summit is an opportunity for selected graduate students to share their research with Kansas State senators, representatives, education officials, and the general public.  Kelly is pictured explaining her research to Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little.

 

Erin Suderman Erin Suderman (graduate student, Ward lab), was one of 20 undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students honored with a cash prize for their scientific research presentations at the 2015 Kansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence Symposium on January 17-18 in Topeka.  Her poster presentation was entitled, “Genetic control of tissue specific growth in the larval trachea of drosophila”.

 

 

Dan Vu (undergraduate, Timmons Lab) received a KU Undergraduate Research Award for Spring 2015.  The award will be used in support of experiments designed to uncover functions and localization patterns of ABC transporters in Caenorhabditis elegans.

Preston DennetPreston Dennett (undergraduate, Timmons Lab) was selected as a K-INBRE Undergraduate Scholar for Spring and Summer of 2015.  His award will support the development of novel genetics tools that will be used to uncover the precise role of a non-coding RNA in meiotic chromosome disjunction in Caenorhabditis elegans.

 

Adam ReevesAdam Reeves (undergraduate, Macdonald Lab) was selected as a K-INBRE Undergraduate Scholar for Spring and Summer of 2015.  His award will support work on the effects of transposable elements on aging-related neurodegeneration in Drosophila melanogaster.

 

 

February 2015 News

Dr. Yoshi Azuma Yoshi Azuma (associate professor) is the recipient of a Research Project Grant (R01) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences for his proposal entitled “Regulation of kinetochore function by topoisomerase II.”   The aim of this four year grant is to determine the molecular mechanism of topoisomerase II, one of the major targets of cancer chemotherapeutics, on the checkpoint of the cell division cycle.

 

 

Dr. Scott Hefty Scott Hefty (associate professor) was awarded a Provost's Strategic Initiative - Level II Research Investment Grant for Enabling Technology for Chlamydia pathogenesis.  The funds are primarily in support of personnel learning murine models of Chlamydia infection from colleagues at Harvard Medical School and the University of Arkansas Medical Center to establish proficiency of these models at the University of Kansas. 

 

 

Dr. Josie ChandlerDr. John Karanicolas Josie Chandler (assistant professor) and John Karanicolas (associate professor) are part of a team of scientists to receive a University of Kansas Level 1 Strategic Initiative Grant from the Research Investment Council. The project is titled “Validating bacterial iron metabolism as a target for antibiotic discovery.” The project leader is Mario Rivera (Chemistry) and other members of the team are Bill Picking (Pharmaceutical Chemistry), Lester Mitcher (Medicinal Chemistry) and Richard Bunce (Chemistry, OSU).  The award was highlighted in this month’s “KU Discovery and Innovation” bulletin.

 

Dr. Raymond CaylorDr. Raymond Caylor (doctoral graduate, Ackley Lab) will be starting a research coordinator position at the Pediatric Genomic Medicine Center at Children’s Mercy Hospital on February 2.


 

Andrew McShanAndrew McShan (graduate student, De Guzman lab) returned from a semester-long internship at Genentech in South San Francisco, CA. During this time he worked for Dr. John Wang in the Department of Late Stage Pharmaceutical Development where he evaluated the propensity of different surfactants to undergo enzymatic hydrolysis by carboxylester hydrolyases from a broad range of organisms. His work has direct implications for future development of protein drug formulations. The internship was in fulfillment of his NIH-supported Biotechnology Predoctoral Training Program.

 

Justin MasseyJustin Massey (undergraduate, Hefty Lab) is a recipient of a Spring 2015 KU Undergraduate Research Award. This $1000 award will be used to support an independent research project on developing conditional gene repression mechanisms in Chlamydia trachomatis.

 

 

January 2015 News

Dr. Liang Xu Liang Xu (associate professor) is the recipient of a private donation through the University of Kansas Endowment from relatives of a patient recently diagnosed with late stage pancreatic cancer.  The goal of this project is to find new therapies for pancreatic cancer by targeting pancreatic cancer stem cells.

 

 

 

Lauren ArneyLauren Arney (undergraduate, Lamb lab) is the recipient of a Spring 2015 KU Undergraduate Research Award. The $1000 stipend provide support to pursue an independent research project.  Lauren will study allosterism in liver pyruvate kinase using x-ray crystallography.

 

 

Emily BinshtokEmily Binshtok (undergraduate, Xu Lab) is the recipient of a Spring 2015 KU Undergraduate Research Award. The $1000 stipend provides support to pursue an independent research project.  The title of her project is “The Therapeutic Value of Anti-Metastatic MicroRNAs in Breast Cancer.”

 

 

Graham Wehmeyer Graham Wehmeyer (undergraduate, Egan Lab) is the recipient of a Del and Carol Shankel Biomedical Scholarship.

 

 

 

December 2014 News

Dr. Eric Deeds Eric Deeds (assistant professor) has been named as an External Faculty Member at the Santa Fe Institute.

 

 

 

 

 Chris Gamblin (associate professor) was honored as an Outstanding Educator by the Torch Chapter of the Mortar Board, a senior honor society, on November 14 at halftime of the KU-University of California Santa Barbara men’s basketball game.  The award recognizes dedication to KU and positive influence on students both academically and personally.

 

ABRCMS Meeting PhotoSonia Hall (graduate student, Ward lab, right) served as a graduate student ambassador and Audrey Lamb (associate professor, left) served as mentor and poster judge at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in San Antonio, TX, November 12-15.

 

 

Seth LewinSeth Lewin (graduate student, M. Azuma lab) was the Second Place winner in 2014 KUCC Research Symposium and Multi-Disciplinary Oncology Conference poster competition on November 8.  His poster was entitled “Ewing sarcoma protein Ewsa-dependent regulation of Ctgf in zebrafish chondrocyte maturation.”  The prize comes with a $500 travel award. 

 

 

 

Lauren ArneyLauren Arney (undergraduate, Lamb lab) is the recipient of the Paul A. Kitos Award For Excellence in Undergraduate Biomedical Research and the Del and Carol Shankel Biomedical Scholarship.

 

 

November 2014 News

Dr. Yoshi Azuma Yoshiaki Azuma (associate professor), together with Nancy Muma and Jeff Staudinger (Pharmacology and Toxicology), co-organized the Midwest Regional SUMO Symposium held on October 13 on the KU campus. The symposium was supported by the Level 1 Strategic Initiative Grant “Consortium Targeting Small Ubiquitin-related Modifier (SUMO) for the Treatment of Inflammatory-Related Diseases” and featured keynote speaker Michael Matunis, Ph.D., Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. 

 

Dr. Rebecca Marquez Rebecca Marquez (postdoc, Xu lab) is the recipient of a Susan G. Komen Postdoctoral Fellowship Award.  This grant provides $180,000 over three years for breast cancer research.  Dr. Marquez’s research focuses on designing novel microRNA delivery systems to prevent and treat metastatic breast cancer.  Read the Susan G. Komen Foundation News Release.  Dr. Marquez is also the recipient of a Young Investigator Travel Fellowship to attend the Symposia on Cancer Research 2014: Illuminating Genomic Dark Matter “ncRNA in Disease and Cancer” at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, in October.  She presented a poster entitled “Epigenetic Silencing of Anti-metastamiR microRNA-196b in Breast Cancer“.

Kawaljit Kaur Receives Prize for Poster Kawaljit Kaur (graduate student, De Guzman Lab) received a Best Poster Presentation Award at the Seventh Great Plains Regional Annual Symposium on Protein and Biomolecular NMR (GRASP NMR) held in Lawrence, Kansas, Oct 17-18, 2014.  Kawaljit is pictured with Dr. Moriah Beck, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Wichita State University, who presented the award.

 

 

Smita ParanjapeSmita Paranjape (graduate student, Gamblin Lab) is the recipient of a Ritter Travel Award to support her travel to the 2014 Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting in Washington D.C. where she will make a presentation “Azaphilones are novel tau aggregation inhibitors” in the Brain Wellness: Metabolism and Energetic Nanosymposium, Monday November 17th.

 

 

 

October 2014 News

The Department of Molecular Biosciences at the University of Kansas invites applications for a faculty position at the tenure-track Assistant or Associate level in Genomics. We are seeking applications from outstanding scientists with experience in genome-level, quantitative approaches to understanding any area in modern experimental biology.  A complete announcement and application procedures can be found on the KU Employment Webpages.  Inquiries can be directed to Stuart Macdonald, chair of the search committee.

 

Dr. David DavidoDavid Davido (associate professor) has agreed to serve a three year term on the editorial board for Journal of Virology starting 2015.  

 

 

 

Stuart Macdonald (associate professor) had his recent article entitled “Fine-mapping nicotine resistance loci in Drosophila using a multiparent advanced generation intercross population” highlighted by the journal Genetics.

 

 

 

Kristi Neufeld (associate professor) had her research highlighted by KU News for her article entitled “Human Cancer Xenografts in Outbred Nude Mice Can Be Confounded by Polymorphisms in a Modifier of Tumorigenesiswhich appears in the journal Genetics.  Read the KU Today article entitled “Genetic modifier affects colon tumor formation.”

 

 

Dr. Liang XuLiang Xu and Kristi Neufeld (associate professors) along with Jeff Aube (professor in Medicinal Chemistry) were awarded a Research Project Grant (R01) from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health. The aim of this three year project entitled “Small molecules modulating RNA-binding protein Msi1” is to design and synthesize novel small molecule inhibitors targeting RNA-binding protein Musashi-1 (Msi1), as new chemical probes and eventually novel molecular cancer therapy that inhibit cancer with Msi1 overexpression.

 

 

Dr. Steve BenedictSteve Benedict (professor) was named a Chancellor’s Club Teaching Professor, a prestigious recognition for a distinguished career in teaching, at the Annual Celebration of the Chancellors Club on Friday, September 26th and a reception at the Chancellors home on Saturday the 27th.  Read all about Dr. Benedict’s teaching accolades in the article entitled, “Prestigious Chancellors Club Teaching Professorships awarded to faculty.”

 

 

Patricia Martins da Silva (postdoc, Chandler lab) is the recipient of  a travel award from the American Society of Microbiology to present her poster entitled "Acyl-homoserine lactone-independent activation of an orphan LuxR in B. thailandensis and B. pseudomallei" at the 5th ASM Cell-Cell Communication in Bacteria meeting in San Antonio, TX, to be held October 18-21.

 

 

We welcome the following new graduate students to our program:

1st Row: Jennifer Klaus, Nan Bai, Haifa Alhadyian, Anupama Kante, Sikta Patnaik
2nd Row: Thelma Chiremba, Jin Niu
3rd Row: Robert Wilkerson, Bryce Blankenfeld, Kelly Harrison, Nootan Pandey
​4th Row: Nikola Kenjic, Aaron Bart, Sudeep Shakya, Olivia Arizmendi

 

Rana AlianiRana Aliani (undergraduate, Lundquist lab) is the recipient of a KU Undergraduate Research Award for the 2014 fall semester to pursue her project “The Effects of nfm-1 on Migration of Q Neuroblasts in Caenorhabditis elegans.”

 

 

 

September 2014 News

We are saddened to learn of the passing of Irving S. Johnson July 10, 2014. Dr. Johnson received his Ph.D. in Zoology from KU and went on to a very successful career in biomedical research.  Among many achievements, Dr. Johnson's pioneering work in recombinant DNA technology at Eli Lily & Company led to the first commercial production of human insulin.  Dr. Johnson endowed the Irving S. Johnson Distinguished Professorship in Molecular Biology which is currently held by Dr. Berl Oakley.  Our deepest sympathies go out to Dr. Johnson's family and all those whose lives he touched.  He will always be remembered for his great contributions to science and his generosity for KU.

Irving S. Johnson Distinguished Professorship in Molecular Biology at the University of Kansas - See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/news-press/obituary.aspx?n=irving-johns...
Irving S. Johnson Distinguished Professorship in Molecular Biology at the University of Kansas - See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/news-press/obituary.aspx?n=irving-johns...

Dr. Kristi Neufeld Kristi Neufeld (associate professor) had her research highlighted by the KU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for her article entitled “Nuclear Adenomatous polyposis coli suppresses colitis-associated tumorigenesis in mice ” which appears in the journal Carcinogenesis.  Read the KU Today article entitled “Research offers insight into cell biology of colorectal cancer.”

 

 

 

Dr. Liang Tang Liang Tang (associate professor) served as the convener for the Virus Structure and Assembly section of in the American Society for Virology 2014 annual meeting in Fort Collins, Colorado, June 21-25.

 

 

 


Dr. Erik Lundquist Erik Lundquist (professor) was appointed to the Neurodifferentiation, Plasticity, Regeneration, and Rhythmicity Study Section at the National Institutes of Health for a six year term ending in 2020.  Dr. Lundquist will review grant proposals for the NIH twice a year over this period.

 

 

 

 Jim Orr (professor) will be honored on September 26 as one of two new Chancellors Club professors.  Professor Orr is recognized for his innovative teaching and service as the Director of the Office of Diversity in Science Training.  Read all about his accomplishments in the KU Today article entitled “Researchers named Chancellors Club professors.”

 

 

 Josephine Chandler (assistant professor), Scott Hefty (associate professor), and Erik Lundquist (professor) arranged the purchase of a BioRad QX200 Digital Droplet PCR system.  Support from the Center for Molecular Analysis of Disease Pathways NIH COBRE project (Sue Lunte, P.I. (Professor, Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Chemistry)), the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the KU Center for Research, and the Higuchi Biosciences Center was central to obtaining this equipment.  The ddPCR system will be housed in 1030 Haworth, the Genome Sequencing Core Laboratory of the Center for Molecular Analysis of Disease Pathways, and is available for use by all researchers on campus.  This cutting-edge technology provides highly-sensitive and highly-reproducible quantitative analysis of nucleic acids.

 

 Samantha Hartin (graduate student, Ackley lab) is the recipient of a 2014 Candlin Travel Award. She will attend the Axon Guidance, Synapse Formation and Regeneration Conference September 16th-20th, 2014, in Cold Spring Harbor, New York. She will present a poster entitled "C. elegans Wnt-dependent Anterior-Posterior axon growth of the D-type motor neurons is modulated by sdn-1."

 

 

Yamini Mutreja (graduate student, Gamblin lab) received a renewal of her Mabel A. Woodyard Fellowship in Neurodegenerative Disorders from the Institute of Neurological Discoveries of the University of Kansas Medical Center to study the role of tau mutations in Progressive Supranuclear Palsy.

 

 

Amy NewtonAmy Newton (2014 doctoral graduate, Benedict lab) has begun a postdoctoral position at the Carter Immunology Center at the University of Virginia School of Medicine under the mentorship of Dr. Tom Braciale.

 

 

 

Amber Smith (graduate student, Xu lab) was the recipient of the Borgendale Award for her talk at the 2014 Graduate Student Symposium entitled "Tumor suppressor miR-137 negatively regulates Musashi-1 and colorectal cancer progression​."

 

 

Vinidhra Sridharan (graduate student, Y. Azuma lab) was the recipient of a Hirata Travel Award to attend the 2014 Cold Spring harbor Meeting for Nuclear Organization and Function, August 19 - 23 in Cold Spring Harbor, New York.  Vinidhra presented a poster entitled "SUMOylation regulates Polo-like kinase 1-interacting checkpoint helicase  (PICH) during mitosis."

 

 

August 2014 News

Dr Joanna SluskyJoanna Slusky (assistant professor) joins the Department of Molecular Biosciences faculty.  Dr. Slusky received her Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania in the lab of Bill DeGrado.  She completed two postdoctoral appointments with Gunnar von Heijne (Stockholm University) where she studied membrane protein topology determination, and with Roland Dunbrack (Fox Chase Cancer Center) where she began her studies of outer membrane proteins.   She will continue exploring outer membrane proteins here at KU.​

 

Dr Eric DeedsEric Deeds (assistant professor) is the recipient of an award from the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences of the National Science Foundation for his proposal entitled “Studying proteasome assembly using a combination of modeling and experiment.”  This research program focus on developing a better understanding of how large macromolecular machines like the proteasome assemble both in vitro and in vivo.  The overall goal of this work is to elucidate general principles of efficient self-assembly, principles that could aid in the design of novel self-assembling nanomaterials.

 

Dr David DavidoDavid Davido (associate professor) received a pilot project grant from the National Institutes of Health Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) "Novel approaches for the control of microbial pathogens".   The title of his research project is "Viral and host factors regulate HSV-1 infection".   The goal of this project is to identify and determine how interactions between viral and cellular proteins control the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) life cycle.

 

Dr Scott HeftyScott Hefty (associate professor) served as chairperson for the National Institutes of Health Study Section “Microbiology and Infectious Disease” to review AREA (R15) grant proposals.

 

 

 

Dr Wonpil ImWonpil Im (associate professor) is the recipient of National Science Foundation (NSF) Catalyzing New International Collaborations (CNIC) Funds for his proposal entitled "Lipopolysaccharide Structure and Dynamics".  This project will support travel to Stockholm University, Sweden, for collaboration with Dr. Göran Widmalm to study complex lipopolysaccharide structure and dynamics using molecular modeling/simulation as well as NMR experiments.

 

Dr Audrey LambAudrey Lamb (associate professor) is the recipient of an award from the Chemistry of Life Processes Program in the Chemistry Division of the National Science Foundation for her proposal entitled “Enzymes of Ornithine Hydroxamate Siderophores.”  This research program will examine the enzymes that form amino acid derivatives that serve as the iron chelators in siderophores, low molecular weight molecules produced by bacteria, plants and fungi to scavenge iron from the environment.  The results of the proposed basic research will provide a basis for the future production of novel antimicrobial agents for deadly human pathogens. 

 

Dr Stuart MacdonaldStuart Macdonald (associate professor) is the recipient of continued funding via a renewed Kansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (K-INBRE) grant. This multi-university bioscience program provides training and infrastructure support to many Kansas institutions. Dr. Macdonald's award provides support for the K-INBRE Bioinformatics Core at KU-Lawrence, a facility providing computational assistance for genomics research in the state of Kansas.

 

Dr. Rob WardRob Ward (associate professor) completed training at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for the Science Education Alliance-Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science (SEA-PHAGES) program, which will be the basis for research-based undergraduate courses he will be teaching in the coming academic year.  During the first semester, students isolate bacteriophages from local soil samples, purify and characterize their phages, and select at least one phage per class for DNA sequencing. In the second semester, the students annotate and analyze the genome. At the end of the academic year, faculty and selected students attend the annual SEA-PHAGES Symposium. Held in June, the Symposium is a scientific meeting at which student representatives from each of the Alliance schools present the results of their research.

Dr Steve BenedictSteve Benedict (professor) had his research highlighted in an article entitled “Save the good T cells!” in the INFOCUS newsletter (page 9) of the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association.

 

 

 

Brian Ackley, Erik Lundquist, Stuart Macdonald and Robert Ward were the recipients of a Level 1 Grant from the KU Research Investment Council entitled “Dissecting the Function of Pediatric Disease Genes in Model Systems.” The project is a collaboration between the Department of Molecular Biosciences at KU and the Center for Pediatric Genomic Medicine at Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics. The research will use model organisms, such as C. elegans and Drosophila to study the potential contribution of gene variants identified in patients at CMH to the biological disorders from which they suffer.

Nadeem Asad (graduate student, Timmons lab) was the recipient of a Candlin Summer Research Fellowship for 2014.

 

Vaishnavi Nagarajan (graduate student, Timmons lab) is the recipient of the Ritter Travel Award.  She gave a poster presentation entitled "Transcriptional Gene Silencing on an Endogenous Locus in wild-type Caenorhabditis elegans" at the 2014 Genetics Association of America Aging, Metabolism, Stress, Pathogenesis and Small RNAs Meeting in Madison, WI on July 12.

 

Ichie Osaka (2014 doctoral graduate, Hefty lab) has accepted a Field Application Scientist position for international distribution with LI-COR.  She will be a liaison with the distributors and customers overseas, performing instrument training and assisting with troubleshooting.  Her territory will be all the international distribution except for Europe and the Middle East.

 

 

Lakshmi Sundararajan (2014 doctoral graduate, Lundquist lab) has accepted a postdoctoral position at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in the laboratory of David Miller.  Lakshmi will be studying how neurons make the appropriate connections with one another during development.

 

 

Keasha Restivo (2014 masters graduate, Hefty lab) has accepted a position as a Technical Service Representative with Thermo Fisher Scientific.

July 2014 News

Dr. John KaranicolasJohn Karanicolas (assistant professor) is the recipient of an award from the J.R. and Inez Jay Fund for his project entitled "Identifying stabilizers of p53 using pocket complimentarity." This award will allow his team to search for compounds that restore cellular activity to mutant forms of the p53 tumor suppressor: such compounds may serve as a starting point for development of new anti-cancer drugs. This is a collaborative project involving Mark Fisher (KUMC Biochemistry and Molecular Biology), Tomoo Iwakuma (KUMC Cancer Biology), Scott Lovell (KU Protein Structure Lab), and Steven Rogers (KU Med Chem Lab).



 

Im Biophysical Journal CoverDr. Wonpil Im (associate professor) has his research highlighted on the cover of Biophysical Journal, for his article entitled “E. coli outer membrane and interactions with OmpLA.”

 



 

Dr. Liang XuLiang Xu (associate professor) is the recipient of a Pilot Project Award from the Center for Biomedical Research Excellence in Protein Structure and Function for his project entitled “Fragment based drug discovery for inhibitors of RNA-Binding HuhR.”  The major goal of this proposal is the find lead compounds that will be a starting point for breast cancer therapeutics.



 

 

Dr. Del ShankelDelbert Shankel (Professor Emeritus of Microbiology and former Chancellor of the University) has provided an invited perspective on the life of Professor Charlotte Auerbach for Mutation Research/ Reviews in Mutations Research.  Professor Auerbach is credited with the discovery that chemicals are mutagenic and with pioneering studies of mutations in animals; these were observations made during World War II and many were allowed to be published only after the war.  Dr. Shankel spent a sabbatical year in 1967 with Professor Auerbach, and the article is entitled "Memories of a Friend and Mentor – Charlotte Auerbach".



 

James Akagi (Retired Professor) visited KU in early June, traveling from his current home in the Seattle area.  He spent the day reminiscing about his days in the former Department of Microbiology, catching up with friends and colleagues, meeting new Molecular Biosciences Faculty Members and learning about current research and other developments in the department.  Jim is shown here (center) with faculty members Scott Hefty, Dean Stetler, Susan Egan and Steve Benedict outside the new Akagi Conference Room in the Molecular Biosciences office.  



 

Michael Barta (postdoctoral fellow, Hefty lab) won an iPad mini for his best poster entitled “Structural and Genetic Evidence Support that Chlamydia trachomatis CT398 (CdsZ) Interacts with σ54 (RpoN) and the Type III Secretion Export System” at the Second Annual Symposium on Structural Biology sponsored by the Oklahoma Center for Biomedical Research Excellence in Structural Biology at the University of Oklahoma on June 9.  Michael is pictured with Ann West, director of the COBRE and Joseph A. Brandt Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

 

 



 

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

 

 

 

June 2014 News

Dr. John KaranicolasJohn Karanicolas has been promoted to associate professor with tenure. Dr. Karanicolas earned his PhD at The Scripps Research Institute, and was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington. His lab is focused on building novel chemical tools for modulating biological systems: “designing in” new ligand binding sites to selectively activate proteins, and identifying novel chemical inhibitors to disrupt protein activity.

 

 

Dr. Christian RayChristian Ray (assistant professor) is the recipient of a Kansas IDeA Network of Biochemical Research Excellence (K-INBRE) Developmental Research Problem Grant titled "Cellular Pathologies Arising from Metabolic Trade-Offs."  The goal of this work is to use mathematical models and single-cell measurements of bacteria to understand why and how cellular physiology is affected by fluctuations in metabolic pathways.

 

 

2014 CLAS Steeples Award PresentationKristi Neufeld (associate professor; pictured with Dean Danny Anderson) is the recipient of the 2013-2014 Steeples Service to Kansans Award for her contributions toward the University of Kansas Cancer Center obtaining National Cancer Institute designation. The Steeples award recognizes University of Kansas faculty members who provide significant service to the people of Kansas as a purposeful extension to their teaching and research.  For the award presentation, Dean Anderson read comments about Dr. Neufeld's service, including from KU Cancer Center Director, Dr. Roy Jensen: "Dr. Neufeld has played and continues to play a vital role in the development of the University of Kansas Cancer Center. For the last eight years she has worked tirelessly to build the Cancer Biology program of the Cancer Center…” and “Without her steadfast efforts, the strength of our basic cancer biology research program would be considerably diminished and our efforts to build a comprehensive cancer center for the State of Kansas greatly jeopardized."  Read the KU Today article entitled "Three professors win award for service to Kansans."

 

Dr. Audrey LambTwo faculty members are recipients of a Kansas IDeA Network of Biochemical Research Excellence (K-INBRE) bridging grants: Audrey Lamb (associate professor, left) for her proposal entitled "Salicylate production in siderophore biosynthesis" and Kristi Neufeld (associate professor, pictured above) for her proposal entitled “Activation of heat shock response to prevent inflammation-associate colon cancer.”

 

 

Dr. Wonpil IMWonpil Im (associate professor) is the recipient of National Institutes of Health Supplemental Funds for his proposal entitled "Investigation of Caveolin Structure, Topology, and Oligomerization." This project will support two graduate students in order to perform computational studies such as all-atom modeling and simulation of caveolin monomer and oligomers in membrane bilayers to better understand caveolin structure, topology, and oligomerization in combination of ongoing experimental efforts in the laboratory of Dr. Kerney Jebrell Glover at Lehigh University.

 

 

Dr. Steve Benedict Young Award PresentationSteve Benedict (professor; surprised by Associate Dean Robert Goldstein of the prize patrol) is the recipient of several awards.  Dr. Benedict is the 2013-2014 recipient of the J. Michael Young Academic Advisor Award.  The Young Award is given annually by the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences to honor faculty members of the College who demonstrate exceptional effort, care, and guidance in the advisement of their students.  He is also the 2013-2014 Robert Weaver Graduate Mentor Award in the Biological Sciences, which is given in recognition of outstanding graduate student mentorship.  Dr. Benedict was recognized as “Favorite Professor” by the Biology Class of 2014 at the University of Kansas Undergraduate Biology Recognition Ceremony on May 17.

 

Six Molecular Biosciences graduate students were presented with Doctoral Hoods by their mentors at the ceremony on May 17.  From left to right: Heba Mostafa with her mentor David Davido; Kelly Grussendorf with her mentor Matthew Buechner; Susan Egan, mentor of Bria Kettle and Veerendra Koppolu; Amy Newton with her mentor Steve Benedict; Brian Ackley, mentor of Raymond Caylor.

2014 Master's HoodingKeasha Restivo was presented with a Masters Hood by her mentor Scott Hefty.

 

 

Liang Xu (associate professor) and his lab were invited to participate in the 2014 Purple Stride fundraising event, which raises awareness and supports pancreatic cancer research, and is sponsored by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.  The invitation was extended to XuAmber Smith after a recent news article highlighted Xu’s research on pancreatic cancer. The article entitled “Research at KU offers promising breakthrough for pancreatic cancer patients” summarizes Xu’s latest publication on antibody therapy targeting pancreatic cancer stem cells, published in Gastroenterology and highlighted in Nature Reviews.  At the event, graduate student Amber Smith (pictured right) represented the Xu lab on stage during the opening ceremony. Lab members participated in the 5K run and family walk held on May 3rd in Theis Park in Kansas City.

Matthew MillerMatthew Miller (undergraduate student, Neufeld lab) was selected for the University of Kansas Cancer Center Summer Student Research Training Program for 2014 for his project entitled, “A nuclear role for tumor suppressor APC in intestinal differentiation and homeostasis”.

 

 

May 2014 News

Dr. Eric DeedsEric Deeds (assistant professor) had his research highlighted by the KU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for his article entitled “Crosstalk and the evolution of specificity in two-component signaling” which appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  Read the KU Today article entitled “Research reveals evolution of cells’ signaling networks in diverse organisms.”

 

 

Dr. Rebecca MarquezRebecca Marquez (post doc, Xu lab) was the recipient of a 2014 American Association for Cancer Research Minority Scholar in Cancer Research Award to attend the annual meeting, April 5-9, 2014, in San Diego, California.   She presented a poster entitled “Epigenetic Dysregulation of miR-196b in Breast Cancer.”

 

 

 

Chad HighfillChad Highfill (graduate student, Macdonald lab) was the recipient of the Twomey Travel Award to attend the 55th Annual Drosophila Research Conference in San Diego, CA on March 28.  His abstract was selected for an invited platform talk entitled “Quantitative genetics of caffeine resistance in Drosophila melanogaster.

 

 

Amber SmithAmber Smith (graduate student, Xu lab) was the recipient of the Candlin Travel Award to attend the 2014 American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting, April 5-9, 2014, San Diego, California. She presented a poster entitled, “Tumor suppressor miR-137 inhibits colorectal cancer progression by negatively regulating cancer stem cell marker, Musashi-1.”

 

 

 

Denny Swartzlander (graduate student, Gleason lab) won second place for his poster entitled “mRNA expression of candidate genes for a pheromonal difference between Drosophila simulans and D. sechellia” at the 2014 Kansas Academy of Science meeting at Emporia State University on April 5.

 

 

Adam Miltner (undergraduate, Lundquist lab) won the “Outstanding Presentation Award” for the talk “How MAB-5/Hox drives posterior migration of the Q neuroblasts in the model organism Caenorhabditidis elegans” at the 2014 KU Undergraduate Research Symposium on April 26th.

 

 

April 2014 News

 

Dr. Susan EganSusan Egan (full professor) will serve as the chair of the department of Molecular Biosciences starting July 1, 2014 for a term of five years.

 

 

 

Dr. John KaranicolasJohn Karanicolas (assistant professor) is the recipient of a renewal award for their Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) computing allocation, supported by the National Science Foundation. Their project is entitled "Identifying direct and allosteric binding sites for small-molecule inhibitors of protein interactions", and this allocation will provide computer time to help identify compounds that modulate a wide assortment of signaling pathways important for human disease.  Dr. Karanicolas and his collaborator Mark Fisher at the medical school are also the recipients of a KU Proof of Concept Award for the proposal entitled, “Acceleration the Drug discovery Pipeline by combining Novel in silico Docking Approaches using Ray Casting (DARC) /Medicinal Chemistry design and HTS Chaperonin BLI Stability Screening.”  This project will allow them to build an integrated screening platform for identifying compounds that stabilize specific proteins that are susceptible to misfolding.  This may facilitate drug discovery in a number of human “misfolding” diseases, including type 2 diabetes, dialysis-related amyloidosis, and Alzheimer’s disease.  Read the KU Today article entitled “Four projects awarded through Proof of Concept Fund”.

Dr. Steve BenedictSteve Benedict (professor) has his research highlighted in Global Medical Discovery for his article entitled “Elimination of T cell reactivity to pancreatic  β cells and partial preservation of β cell activity by peptide blockade of LFA-1:ICAM-1 interaction with the NOD mouse model” which appears in the journal Clinical Immunology.   Read the KU Today article entitled ​"Research points the way to 'holy grail' therapy for autoimmune diseases."

 

 

 

Matt JosephsonMatt Josephson (graduate student, Lundquist lab) was awarded $2000 from the KU Doctoral Student Research Fund for his proposal entitled “Live Imaging to Examine Role of EGL-20/Wnt in Timing of Caenorhabditis elegans Q Neuroblast Migration” to spend 6 weeks in the lab of Dr. Guangshuo Ou at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China.  This trip is also funded by the Carr Travel Award from KU Molecular Biosciences.  The goal of his work in China is to learn and apply the live imaging protocol pioneered by Dr. Ou to augment his dissertation research on Q neuroblast migration. 

 

Denny SwartzlanderDenny Swartzlander (graduate student, Gleason lab) was awarded $2000 from the KU Doctoral Student Research Fund for his proposal entitled “The Genetic Basis of Pheromone Production in Drosophila”. The goal of this project is to identify the regulatory regions of the D. sechellia desatF and eloF genes by attempting to drive expression of a reporter gene. This work will support Denny’s dissertation research on the genetics of reproductive isolation in Drosophila.

 

 

 

March 2014 News

Dr. Roberto De GuzmanRoberto De Guzman (associate professor) – The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease of the National Institutes of Health has renewed Dr. De Guzman’s Research Project Grant (R01) entitled "NMR Studies of Bacterial Needle and Tip Proteins."   The aim of this five year project is the elucidation of how bacterial pathogens assemble a needle-like nanoinjector that is used to inject virulence proteins directly into human cells to cause infectious diseases.  Understanding in atomic detail how bacterial nanoinjectors are assembled is needed in developing novel anti-infectives targeted at disrupting the assembly of bacterial nanoinjectors.  Read the KU Today article entitled "Nasty nanoinjectors pose a new target for antibiotic research."

 

Dr. Liang XuLiang Xu (associate professor) has a Research Highlight in Nature Reviews Gastroenterology and HepatologyThe highlighted article is entitled “Antibody against CD44s inhibits pancreatic tumor initiation and postradiation recurrence in mice” and appears in the journal Gastroenterology.  Read the KU Today article entitled, "Research at KU offers promising breakthrough for pancreatic cancer patients."

 

Dr. Stuart Macdonald Stuart Macdonald (associate professor), along with Drs. Belinda Sturm of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering, Sharon Billings and Ben Sikes of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Jennifer Roberts of Geology, was awarded a Level I Strategic Initiative Grant entitled Creating a Center for Metagenomic Microbial Community Analysis.” This project applies existing next-generation DNA sequencing and computing infrastructure at KU to advance knowledge of microbial communities in diverse environments.

 

Dr. Chris GamblinChris Gamblin (associate professor) was a faculty representative for the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Winter Mini College February 1-2 in San Antonio, Texas.  As part of the weekend of events, he presented a lecture entitled “The Fight Against Rogue Proteins in Alzheimer’s Disease”.  

 

 

Dr. Berl OakleyBerl Oakley (professor, left) and Chris Gamblin (associate professor, pictured above) had their research highlighted by the KU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for their article entitled “Inhibition of Tau Aggregation by Three Aspergillus nidulans Secondary Metabolites: 2,ω-Dihydroxyemodin, Asperthecin and Asperbenzaldehyde” which appears in the journal Planta Medica.  Read the KU Today article entitled, "Natural fungal products could offer potential Alzheimer's therapy."

 

Dr. Erik LundquistErik Lundquist (professor), along with Drs. Marco Bortolato of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Merlin Butler of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences (KUMC) Paula Fite of Clinical Child Psychology and Ann Manzardo of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences (KUMC), was awarded a Level I Strategic Initiative Grant entitled Developing a Research Consortium on Aggression and Drug Abuse.” The consortium will be the first multidisciplinary network in the country for studying how and why pathological impulsive aggression and substance abuse and addition disorders exist concurrently but independently in a subject. Using a unique combination of clinical and preclinical studies, the goal is to develop effective preventive and therapeutic interventions.

2014 Newmark Lecturer Chaitin Khosla2014 Newmark Award Winner Yan XiaOn February 3, the Newmark Lecture in Biochemistry was presented by Professor Chaitin Khosla of Stanford University (left with Dr. Audrey Lamb).  Yan Xia (Karanicolas lab) was presented the Newmark Award for outstanding graduate work in biochemistry (right with Dr. Bill Dentler).

 

Jessica van Loben Sels (undergraduate, Davido lab) is the recipient of a Kansas IDeA Network for Biomedical Research Excellence Undergraduate Research Scholarship for her project entitled “Identifying Mechanisms of Action by Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 Infected Cell Protein 0 that Impair the Interferon β Response.”  The award provides research funding for the spring and summer of 2014.

February 2014 News

Dr. Kristi NeufeldKristi Neufeld (associate professor) organized a conference for the KU Cancer Center Cancer Biology Program of which she serves as co-leader.  The retreat, held on January 9 at the James P. Davis Hall on Wyandotte County Lake, included short talks from Stowers Institute members, a keynote lecture by Jason Mills, MD, PhD of Washington University School of Medicine, and PechaKucha-style talks by program members, including Molecular Biosciences faculty Mizuki Azuma, Yoshi Azuma, David Davido, and Neufeld.

 

 

Connor Bowman (undergraduate, Xu lab) is the recipient of a Kansas IDeA Network for Biomedical Research Excellence Undergraduate Research Scholarship for his project entitled “Molecular cancer therapy modulating autophagy.”  The award provides research funding during the spring and summer of 2014.

January 2014 News

Department Chair Search The Department of Molecular Biosciences at the University of Kansas is soliciting applications for the position of Chairperson. To apply please visit the KU employment website. The deadline is January 17th, 2014.

Dr. Erik LundquistErik Lundquist (professor), along with Principal Investigator Dr. Jun “Luke” Huan from Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and co-Investigators Drs. Jeff Aube and Blake Peterson from Medicinal Chemistry and Dr. Susan Lunte from Chemistry, was awarded a Level I Strategic Initiative Grant entitled “Establishing a multidisciplinary data science research team at the University of Kansas.” The project will focus on new methods for storage and analysis of large datasets, including image analysis, cheminformatics, and genome sequence data. Dr. Lundquist’s role in the project will be to assist with the analysis of genome sequence data generated using the Genome Sequencing Core Laboratory of the Center for Molecular Analysis of Disease Pathways NIH COBRE project.

 

Adam Miltner (Lundquist lab), Betsy Ramirez (Lamb lab), Alexa Roy (Xu lab), Reann Whitney (Timmons lab) and Bailey Wilkerson (Xu lab) are the recipients of Spring 2014 KU Undergraduate Research Awards. The $1000 stipends provide support to pursue independent research projects.

December 2013 News

Dr. Mark RichterMark Richter (professor), in collaboration with Pinnacle Technology, Inc. of Lawrence, is the recipient of a Small Business Technology Transfer Award from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for the proposal entitled: "Applications and Methods for Continuous Monitoring of Physiological Chemistry."  The goal of this project is to develop a platform methodology to screen, clone, evolve and stabilize oxidase enzymes for the measurement of metabolic biomarkers via biosensors.

 

 

Through the Provost's Strategic Initiative Grant Program at KU, a Level I proposal was funded to develop a multi-disciplinary Center for Anti-Infective Discovery and Development. The Center will be headed by a leadership team consisting of Susan Egan (Professor, Molecular Biosciences); Scott Hefty (Associate Professor, Molecular Biosciences); Jeff Aubé (University Distinguished Professor, Medicinal Chemistry); Berl Oakley (Irving S. Johnson Distinguished Professor of Molecular Biology, Molecular Biosciences); Mario Rivera (Professor; Chemistry) and Michael Parmely (Professor and Chair, KUMC, Microbiology, Molecular Genetics, and Immunology). Two major initiatives of this center are to fund six preliminary high throughput screens against infectious disease targets and to support monthly meetings to bring together individuals from across KU with interests in anti-infective discovery and development. The grant will also provide funds toward the outfitting of an ITV room in Haworth that will enable real-time video conferencing with remote sites.

Kristi Neufeld and Liang Xu (associate professors) received an award from the KU Cancer Center as participants in a Program Project Development Proposal entitled “RNA Binding Proteins in Colorectal Cancers”.  The research team, led by Shrikant Anant from the KU Medical Center, includes three investigators working directly on RNA binding proteins and colorectal cancer, two with expertise in developing compounds that target RNA-protein interactions, and one with extensive experience in drug discovery.

Eric Deeds (assistant professor) and Audrey Lamb (associate professor) served as mentors and poster judges at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee, November 13-16.  Several MB undergrads were delegates at the conference and presented their research as posters:  Christopher Trezza (Buechner lab), Simon Kelow (Karanicolas lab), Serena Senegal (Xu lab), and Alexander Fondaw (Karanicolas lab).

Alexandria RoyAlexandria Roy (undergraduate, Xu lab) won a poster presentation award in the undergraduate molecular bioscience division at the annual meeting of the Society for the Advancement of Hispanics/Chicanos and Native Americans in Science in San Antonio, October 15-19.

 

 

 

Brad HutchinsonBrad Hutchison (undergraduate, Lamb lab) is the recipient of the Paul A. Kitos Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Biochemical Research.

 

 

 

 

November 2013 News

Mark Richter (professor), in collaboration with Pinnacle Technology, Inc. of Lawrence, is the recipient of a Small Business Innovation Research Award from the National Institute of Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health for their proposal entitled “A nicotine biosensor for addiction studies.”  The goal of this project is to build a nicotine biosensor for pre-clinical in vivo use.

 

 

 

Two Molecular Biosciences faculty, Kristi Neufeld and Liang Xu, are the recipients of a Level 1 project funding from the Research Investment Council for their proposed project, “Chemical Biology Team Science Approach to Cancer Drug Discovery”.  With this funding from the Provost’s Strategic Initiative Grant Program, Neufeld and Xu will lead a team of basic cancer biologists to validate a novel therapeutic target they recently discovered, the protein Musashi.  With the inclusion of protein biochemists and medicinal chemists on their multidisciplinary team, the ultimate goal is to identify new small molecules and natural products that can be used to probe Musashi function in living systems and as Musashi inhibitors in a therapeutic setting.

Blake Balcomb (graduate student, Lamb lab) is the recipient of the Carr Travel award.  Blake will travel to Austin, TX in January of 2014 to participate in the Tenth New Enzymology Kinetics Workshop.

October 2013 News

 

Dr. Wonpil ImWonpil Im (associate professor) has been named a Docking Young Faculty Scholar.    These awards are to honor faculty who have distinguished themselves early in their career and are intended to allow KU to retain outstanding faculty.



 

Dr. Ilya VakserIlya Vakser (professor) is the recipient of two new grant awards.  The National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health has renewed Dr. Vakser’s Research Project Grant (R01) entitled "Integrated resource for protein recognition studies." The aim of this four-year project is to develop protein docking algorithms along with the supporting system of databases towards integrated protein docking environment.  Dr. Vakser is also the recipient of a National Science Foundation Advances in Bioinformatics Innovation award entitled “Target – template structural and functional relationships in modeling of protein – protein interactions.”  The goal of this research is to investigate and optimize the relationships between protein-protein targets and their structural templates based on a systematic analysis of a large set of structural and functional characteristics of protein-protein complexes. 

Dr. Kathy SuprenantKathy Suprenant (professor) was invited by the Cell Press to submit her vault images to a curated Picture Show on Cell Curiosities




 

As part of the Provost’s Strategic Initiative Grant Program, the Research Investment Council has funded a Level 1 project to Dr. Berl Oakley (Molecular Biosciences), Dr. Paul Hanson (Chemistry), Dr. Lester Mitscher (Medicinal Chemistry) and Dr. Scott Hefty (Molecular Biosciences) to develop novel, safe and effective anti-fungal therapeutic agents.  Preliminary data have revealed that a naturally occurring non-toxic compound, kramerixin, demonstrates antifungal activity. The goal of this project is to synthesize analogs of kramerixin to identify compounds that have low toxicity to mammalian cells, are effective against a wide range of pathogenic fungi, can be administered by oral or topical routes, and can be produced economically.  The immediate goal is to identify attractive lead compounds that can be evaluated for their therapeutic potential in vivo in a subsequent grant period.

Ryan Xiao (undergraduate, Ackley lab) and Elizabeth Braden (undergraduate, Y. Azuma lab) are the recipients of KU Undergraduate Research Awards.  The $1000 stipend provides support for their respective projects entitled “How does FMI-1 affect the anterior-posterior specification of the VD neurons of C. elegans?” (Xiao) and “N-terminal localization of PIAS enzymes” (Braden).

September 2013 News

Dr. Christian RayChristian Ray (assistant professor)  joins the Department of Molecular Biosciences this Fall.  Dr. Ray received his doctorate from The University of Michigan before proceeding to postdoctoral studies at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.   His research area involves using concepts from systems and synthetic biology, evolution, networks, and condensed/soft matter physics to explore the basic biological principles that underlie living matter.


 

Roberto De Guzman (associate professor) has one of the top ten “most read” articles published in Biochemistry between April and June, 2013.  The article is entitled “Structure and biophysics of Type III secretion in bacteria” and coauthored by MB graduate students Srirupa Chatterjee, Sukanya Chaudhury, Kawaljit Kaur and Andrew McShan.



 

Dr. Kristi NeufeldDr. Kristi Neufeld (associate professor) has accepted a joint appointment to the faculty of the University of Kansas Medical Center (Kansas City, KS) in the Department of Cancer Biology.  She currently serves as a co-leader for the Cancer Biology Program at the KU Cancer Center.


 

 

Erik Lundquist (professor) has been named to the Fellowship Award Committee of the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, based in New York City.  The Fellowship Award Committee reviews post-doctoral fellowship applications from scientists across the country and participates in mentoring of fellows.


 

August 2013

Audrey LambAudrey Lamb (associate professor) served as the discussion leader for the Flavoenzymes session at the Enzymes, Coenzymes, and Metabolic Pathways Gordon Research Conference, July 14-19, in Waterville Valley, NH.

 

 

Dr. Kristi NeufeldBBA Reviews on CancerDr. Kristi Neufeld (associate professor) has her research highlighted on the cover of the journal Biochimica et Biophysica Acta: Reviews on Cancer.

 

 

Steve BenedictSteve Benedict (professor) has a Highlighted Article in Clinical Immunology.  The article, entitled “Elimination of T cell reactivity to pancreatic β cells and partial preservation of β cell activity by peptide blockade of LFA-1:ICAM-1 interaction in the NOD mouse model,” was chosen by the Editor-in-Chief to be made free access and the honor also includes a short biography on the journal website.  

The following Molecular Biosciences faculty were elected to College of Liberal Arts and Sciences governance committees:

Angela FowlerAngela Fowler (graduate student, Davido lab) received the Cassandra Ritter Travel award.  She presented a poster entitled “Identification of specific cellular kinases as potential regulators of HSV-1 ICP0 transactivation activity” at the 38th Annual International Herpesvirus Workshop in Grand Rapids, MI, on July 21.


 

Srirupa ChatterjeeSrirupa Chatterjee (De Guzman Lab) has accepted a postdoctoral position at the Washington University in Saint Louis School of Medicine in the lab of Dr. Gaya Amarsinghe.  Srirupa will be studying host immune evasion mechanisms of the human respiratory syncytial virus.

 

Sukanya ChaudhurySukanya Chaudhury (De Guzman lab) has accepted a postdoctoral position at Georgia State University at the Center for Inflammation, Immunity and Infection in the lab of Dr. Richard Plemper. Sukanya will be studying the interaction of the measles virus glycoproteins (H and F), which facilitates membrane merger leading to infection.


 

Heba MostafaHeba Mostafa (graduate student, Davido lab) received the Cassandra Ritter Travel award.  She gave an oral presentation entitled “HSV-1 ICP22 but not its truncated form US1.5 is required for VICE domain formation and efficient acute replication and latent infection in mice” at the 38th Annual International Herpesvirus Workshop in Grand Rapids, MI, on July 21.


 

Yamini MutrejaYamini Mutreja (graduate student, Gamblin lab) is the recipient of a Mabel A. Woodyard Fellowship in Neurodegenerative Disorders from the Institute of Neurological Discoveries of the University of Kansas Medical Center to study the role of tau mutations in Progressive Supranuclear Palsy.

 

We welcome the following new graduate students to our program:

  • Anuja Bhatta, University of New Orleans
  • Dwight Deay, University of Kansas
  • Christian Gomez, Washburn University
  • Yuxiao Guo, Wuhan University, China
  • Kara Hinshaw, Stephens College
  • Lingfei Liang, Beijing Institute of Technology
  • Erin Suderman, Goshen College
  • Luke Wenger, Kansas State University
  • Sanjay Yadava, Newman University
  • Zhe Yang, China University of Mining and Technology

Tim Turkalo

 

Tim Turkalo (undergraduate, M. Azuma lab) was the recipient of a KU Honors Opportunity Award to travel to the 8th European Zebrafish Meeting in Barcelona, Spain.  He presented a poster entitled “Ewing sarcoma Ewsa protein regulates skeletogenesis by modulating SOX9” on July 19-23.

July 2013

Dr. Josie ChandlerJosie Chandler (assistant professor) joins the Department of Molecular Biosciences faculty following a post-doctoral fellowship with E. Peter Greenburg (University of Washington). Dr. Chandler’s scientific interests are to elucidate the mechanisms and the role of social behavior in bacteria. Her research focus is quorum sensing regulation of cooperative behaviors such as biofilm formation and antibiotic production in Burkholderia.  This bacterial genus includes members that infect plants and animals as well as severe human pathogens.

Lynn HancockLynn Hancock (associate professor) joins the Department of Molecular Biosciences faculty from Kansas State University.  His primary scientific interests are on mechanisms of pathogenesis for the opportunistic bacterial pathogen, Enterococcus faecalis. His research focus is in determining the genetic pathways and molecular processes associated with specific virulence determinants such as capsule production and biofilm formation. In concert with these studies, and to address the extensive spread of antibiotic resistance associated with these infections, he is also focused on developing new anti-infectives against E. faecalis.

Dr. Victoria CorbinVicki Corbin (associate professor) will begin a new position as the Director of Education Outreach and Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences in the College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Life Sciences at Clemson University in the fall.  We will miss Dr. Corbin here at the University of Kansas and wish her all the best in her new endeavors.

Dr. Stuart MacdonaldStuart Macdonald (associate professor) begins a four year term as Molecular Biosciences Director of Graduate Studies on July 1.

 

Steve Benedict

Steve Benedict (professor) and Marcia Chan (Immunology Research, Children’s Mercy Hospital) are the recipients of a Patton Trust Research Grant from the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute entitled “Influence of a genetic variant on the adaptive immune response in childhood allergic asthma.”  The goal of this proposal is to examine the effects of a single gene polymorphism, known to be associated with allergic asthma, for its effects on the B cell (CMH) as well as T cell (KU) responses in the immune systems of children with asthma.  The polymorphism is associated with differential symptoms and different responses to therapy, and objectives of this work are to better understand the disease mechanism and to learn how to predict an optimal therapeutic approach for each individual patient.

Dr. Susan M. EganSusan Egan (professor) is the recipient of a Pilot Project Award from the National Institutes of Health Center for Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) in Novel Approaches for the Control of Microbial Pathogens for her project entitled “Inhibitors of AraC family virulence activators in Enterotoxigenic E. coli and Shigella."  The project will involve initial steps in elucidation of the structure activity relationship and the binding site for a small-molecule inhibitor of AraC family activators.  The inhibitor blocks expression of key virulence genes in the important human pathogens Enterotoxigenic E. coli and Shigella, and thus has potential to be developed into a novel antimicrobial agent. 

KU Mini CollegeThree Molecular Biosciences faculty taught courses in the fifth annual KU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Mini College June 3-6.  The event, open to all adults gave students the chance to “spend a week on campus reconnecting with KU through lectures, tours and special events with top faculty and university leaders.” Faculty members and their course titles are:

• Brian Ackley, The Brain: Function and Fiction

• Stuart Macdonald, Using Flies to Help Explore and Treat Human Disease

• Kristi Neufeld, One Renegade Cell: Understanding Cancer

Ben CombsBen Combs (Gamblin lab) has accepted a postdoctoral position at Michigan State College of Human Medicine in the lab of Dr. Nick Kanaan.  Ben will be studying the underlying mechanisms in neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease using in vitro and in vivo approaches.

 

DotsonAbby Dotson (Benedict lab) has accepted a postdoctoral position at the Oregon Health and Science University  in the laboratory of Dr. Halina Offner.  Abby will be studying sex differences in brain inflammation during experimental stroke.

 

June 2013

 Seven Molecular Biosciences graduate students were presented with Doctoral Hoods by their mentors at the ceremony on May 18: Dr. Scott Hefty (1), mentor of Kyle Kemege (2); Dr. Chris Gamblin (3), mentor of Ben Combs (4); Dr. Brian Ackley (5), mentor of Elvis Huarcaya Najarro (6); Dr. Steve Benedict (7), mentor of Kelli Williams (8); Dr. Yoshi Azuma (9), mentor of Raghavi Sudharsan (10); Dr. Dave Benson (11), mentor of Sudharsan Parthasarathy (12); and Dr. Roberto De Guzman (13), mentor of Sukanya Chaudhury (14).

 Three Molecular Biosciences graduate students were presented with Masters Hoods by their mentors at the ceremony on May 18.  Pictured from left to right:  Namita Balwalli with her mentor Dr. Scott Hefty, Katelyn Deckert (mentor: Karanicolas), and Dr. Mizuki Azuma, mentor of Chris Merkes.

Audrey Lamb Audrey Lamb (associate professor) is the recipient of a KU Cancer Center Pilot Project Award for her proposal entitled “Structure determination of Musashi-1, a drug target for brain tumors and breast and colon cancer."  Dr. Lamb will be collaborating with Drs. Neufeld and Xu to provide x-ray crystallographic structures of the Musashi-1 protein in combination with lead compounds for new cancer therapeutics.

 

Stuart Macdonald Stuart Macdonald (associate professor) was honored on May 7th at the 16th Annual Celebration of Teaching Reception hosted by the KU Center for Teaching Excellence. This year the focus was on graduate education, and nineteen faculty were nominated by graduate students from their respective departments. Molecular Biosciences Graduate Students Lakshmi Sundararajan (Lundquist lab) and Sonia Hall (Ward lab) spoke at the ceremony about Dr. Macdonald’s contributions to graduate education.

Bob Cohen Bob Cohen (professor) has been recruited by Clemson University to serve as chair of the Department of Biological Sciences in the College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Life Sciences.   Biological Sciences is a diverse department of sixty faculty and has one of the largest undergraduate and graduate enrollments of any program at Clemson University.  Although Dr. Cohen will be missed at the University of Kansas, this new position to begin July 1 represents new and exciting opportunities for both Dr. Cohen and Clemson University.

Jim Orr Jim Orr (professor) was recognized as “Favorite Professor” by the Biology Class of 2013 at the University of Kansas Undergraduate Biology Recognition Ceremony on May 18.

 

 

Xiaoqing Wu Xiaoqing Wu (postdoctoral fellow, Xu lab) is the recipient of a Kansas – IdeA Network for Biomedical Research Excellence postdoctoral fellowship for her project entitled “Molecular cancer therapy targeting RNA binding protein HuR.”

 

Joseph Campbell Joseph Campbell (undergraduate, Timmons lab) was selected to participate in the University of Kansas Cancer Center Summer Student Research Training Program.  Joe is investigating novel roles for ABC transporters in cellular mechanisms that maintain genome integrity.

 

Matt Miller Matt Miller (undergraduate, Neufeld lab) is the recipient of the 2013 Lance. S. Foster Outstanding Junior in Biology Award.

 

Betsy Ramirez Betsy Ramirez (undergraduate, Lamb lab) is the recipient of a KU Undergraduate Research Award.  The $1000 stipend provides summer support for Betsy to pursue her project entitled “Isolation and Crystallization of a Non-Ribosomal Peptide Synthetase Domain.”

 

May 2013

Vicki Corbin

 

Vicki Corbin (associate professor) is the recipient of the Michael J. Young Academic Advisor Award for 2012-2013 in the Natural Sciences and Math Division. This annual award is given by the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences to honor faculty members of the College who demonstrate exceptional effort, care, and guidance in the advisement of their students.

Kristi Neufeld (associate professor) and members of her lab, Andy Wolfe (graduate student), Matthew Miller (undergraduate), and Maged Zeineldin (postdoc) joined thousands of other members of the medical research community along with patients, politicians, and advocates representing over 200 organizations at the Rally for Medical Research on April 8 in Washington DC.  Congressional reporter and journalist Cokie Roberts moderated the event which was billed as an effort "to make funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) a national priority."

Amber Smith

Amber Smith (graduate student, Xu lab) is the recipient of the Ida H. Hyde Scholarship to support studies in the laboratory of Dr. Xiao-Feng Sun at Linkoping University in Sweden this summer.  Amber was also recognized with a Graduate Research Competition Award at the annual Graduate Student Awards Ceremony on April 23.

 

April 2013

Dr. Brian Ackley has been promoted to associate professor with tenure.  Dr. Ackley earned his Ph.D. at the Northwestern University Institute for Neuroscience and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California Santa Cruz and at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  His research interests are in molecular mechanisms of neural development and using chemical biology to understand physiology.

 

Eric Deeds (assistant professor) had his research highlighted in the “Best of 2012” issue of Biophysical Journal.  The article entitled “Crosstalk and Competition in Signaling Networks” was one of the eight research articles published in the special issue. Papers are selected based on the number of times they are accessed and downloaded online. 

 

On February 28, the University of Kansas Provost's Office and Office of Research and Graduate Studies presented Leading Light Awards, recognizing principle investigators who received external awards of $1 million or more and active during FY2012. Three faculty members in Molecular Biosciences were among the awardees: Brian Ackley, Mizuki Azumaand John Karanicolas.

 

Michael Barta (postdoctoral researcher, Hefty lab) was awarded the prestigious San-pin Wang Award for most-outstanding postdoctoral fellow presentation for his lecture entitled “Structural and functional studies for the C. trachomatis proteome lacking functional annotation” at the Chlamydia Basic Research Society meeting in San Antonio, TX, March 19-22.  The award was presented by Professor Lee Ann Campbell of the University of Washington.

Sonia Hall (graduate student, Ward lab) has been appointed as the graduate student representative to the Genetics Society of America Education Committee. The committee is charged with providing guidance on the Society's activities related to education, career development and public outreach.

 

Kyle Kemege (graduate student, Hefty lab) has accepted a Lecturer position at the Louisiana Tech University in Ruston. He begins his appointment in the fall of 2013.

 

Disha Dasgupta (Olathe high school student, Ackley lab) won first prize at the 62nd Greater Kansas City Science and Engineering Fair held March 13th-16th for her research project entitled “Finding the Role of Aggregation, Hyperphosphorylation, and Mutation of Tau Protein in causing Alzheimer’s disease using C. elegans worms.”  She will next compete at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, Arizona in May.

February 2013

Description: Dr. P. Scott HeftyScott Hefty (associate professor) is the recipient of an Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Award (R21) from the National Institutes of Health.  Dr. Hefty’s proposal is entitled “Development of Conditional Gene Expression Systems in Chlamydia”.  The goal of this proposal is to develop genetic and molecular tools for precise control of gene expression in Chlamydia. These tools will enable widespread functional and biological studies to be performed in Chlamydia and allow for a better understanding for how Chlamydia cause disease.

 

Description: Dr. Berl OakleyBerl Oakley (Irving S. Johnson Distinguished Professor) is a part of a consortium with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory that was recently awarded a Department of Energy Grant to develop new technologies to convert biomass into advanced biofuels.  The goal of Dr. Oakley’s portion of the project is to alter genes to increase the production of fuel molecules in fungi growing on lignocellulosic hydrolysate and to identify new genes that produce compounds with characteristics desirable for biofuels.

 

Description: Dr. David DavidoDavid Davido (associate professor) received a pilot project grant from the National Institutes of Health Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) "Novel approaches for the control of microbial pathogens".   The title of his research project is "HSV-1-mediated proteolysis of cellular targets".   The goal of his project is to identify and understand how cellular proteins targeted for degradation by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) E3 ubiquitin ligase ICP0 affect viral replication.

 

Description: Dr. Stuart MacdonaldStuart Macdonald (associate professor) has been named the director of the K-INBRE Bioinformatics Satellite Core at KU.

 

 

Liang Xu (associate professor) has been named a 2013 Kansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (K-INBRE) Faculty Scholar in recognition of excellence in research, science and technology.  Dr. Xu is pictured receiving his award from K-INBRE Principal Investigator, Dr. Doug Wright, at the 11th Annual K-INBRE Symposium, Manhattan, KS on January 19-20.

 

Sunhwan Jo (graduate student, Im lab) is the recipient of the Twomey Travel Award to present his research project “N-Glycan Structure Modeling and In Silico Glycosylation: Template-Based Structure Prediction of Carbohydrate Structures of Glycoconjugates” at the 57th Biophysical Society meeting in Philadelphia, February 2-6.

 

Nadeem Asad (graduate student, Timmons lab) is the recipient of the Candlin Travel Award to present his research project “Cytoplasmic versus nuclear RNAi mechanisms in transgene-induced gene silencing in Caenorhabditis elegans” at the 19th International C elegans meeting in Los Angeles, June 26-30.

 

Zach Roberts (undergraduate, Lundquist lab) won the best poster award for his presentation entitled “Netrin signaling limits filipodial protrusion in growth cones during repulsive axon guidance”.  Roberts is pictured receiving his award from K-INBRE Associate Director and Principal Investigator, Drs. Dianne Durham and Doug Wright, at the 11th Annual K-INBRE Symposium, Manhattan, KS on January 19-20.

 

Elizabeth Braden (Y. Azuma lab), Samuel Long (Ward lab) and Hailey Baker (Cohen lab) were awarded Undergraduate Research Awards from the Center for Undergraduate Research at KU.

January 2013

Peter Gegenheimer

Peter Gegenheimer (associate professor) delivered one of two inaugural Sidney Altman Endowment Lectures at the 24th International tRNA Conference, held from December 2 to 6 outside of Santiago, Chile.  The Altman Endowment was established to honor and recognize Prof. Sidney Altman’s contributions as an exemplary scientist and mentor, and the lectureship is designed to honor investigators who have made significant contributions to tRNA biology.

Gegenheimer was cited for his two decades of research demonstrating that tRNA 5’ end maturation in plant chloroplasts is accomplished by a protein, rather than by a catalytic RNA as in almost all other organisms and domains of life. The citation reads, “Your pioneering work to establish the protein-based variants of RNase P exemplifies the type of research that the Sidney Altman Endowment Lectureship was meant to honor.”  Ironically, it was Dr. Altman who received the 1989 Nobel Prize for demonstrating that this tRNA processing reaction in bacteria was performed by a catalytic RNA. Gegenheimer shared the Altman award with Dr. Walter Rossmanith (Medical University of Vienna) who, following Gegenheimer’s work in chloroplasts, demonstrated that human mitochondrial RNase P was also a protein, and that its catalytic subunit was a homolog of the chloroplast enzyme. 

 

Kyle Kemege

Kyle Kemege (graduate student, Hefty lab) is the recipient of an American Society for Microbiology and Burroughs Wellcome Fund Teaching Fellowship.  The program aims to prepare doctoral-trained students for science teaching positions at a variety of non-doctoral institutions.  Fellows in the program take part in a 10-month training experience that combines in-depth webinars, pre- and post-webinar assignments, structured mentoring, and a community of practice. 

 

Tyler Darland and Sebastian Schoneich (Lundquist lab), and Shelby Webb (Neufeld lab) were awarded Undergraduate Research Awards from the Center for Undergraduate Research at KU.

Kansas IDeA Network for Biomedical Research Excellence will fund sevenUndergraduate Research Scholarships for undergraduate students who are working in faculty research laboratories during the spring and summer of 2013. The five traineeswith Molecular Biosciences mentorsand project descriptionsare as follows:Elizabeth Braden (Dr. Yoshi Azuma) “Mechanism of Localization of SUMO E3 Ligases”Ashley Ellis (Dr. Audrey Lamb)“EasA Protein Structure”;Nathan Kern (Dr. Wompil. Im)“Simulation of Lipid-Linked Oligosaccharides in Membrane Bilayers”;Raeann Whitney (Dr. Lisa Timmons) “Analysis of a gene involved in RNAi in C. elegans”;andRyan Xiao(DrBrian Ackley) “Role of the Flamingo Protein in Axon Outgrowth”.

December 2012

Dr. Vicki Corbin (associate professor) was honored as an Outstanding Educator by the Torch Chapter of the Mortar Board, a senior honor society, on November 9 at halftime of the KU-Southeast Missouri State men’s basketball game.  The award recognizes dedication to KU and positive influence on students both academically and personally.

Dr. Erik Lundquist (professor) served as chair of the National Institutes of Health Study Section “Neuronal Plasticity and Regeneration” to review grant proposals in the field of developmental neurobiology.  November 28th-29th.

Dr. Jamie Alan (postdoctoral researcher, Lundquist lab) has accepted a position as assistant professor of pharmacology at Central Michigan University College of Medicine (CMED), starting in the spring of 2013.

Srirupa Chatterjee (graduate student, De Guzman lab) won the Best Poster Presentation award at the Great Plains Regional Annual Symposium on Protein and Biomolecular NMR (GRASP-NMR) held at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas on November 2-3, 2012

November 2012

Dr. Audrey Lamb (associate professor) has been chosen to be the program chair of the 2013 Midwest Enzyme Chemistry Conference scheduled for October 12 at Loyola University, Chicago, IL.

Dr. Jim Orr (professor) presented the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) 2012 Distinguished Tribal College Mentor Award to Sharon Condon (Haskell), a Co-PI on the NIH-funded Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) Program, in a ceremony at the SACNAS National Meeting on October 11.

Dr. Liang Tang (associate professor) had his research highlighted on the cover of the Journal of Molecular Biology.

October

Dr. Chris Gamblin (associate professor) and Dr. Mel Feany in the Department of Pathology, Brigham and Women's Hospital at Harvard Medical School have been awarded a multiple-PI R01 grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health to study the research project entitled "Biochemical and in vivo determinants of tau neurotoxicity". This project will combine in vitro biochemistry and model organisms to determine the mechanisms of toxicity of different variants of the tau protein. This work has important implications for Alzheimer's disease and other related neurodegenerative tauopathies.

Dr. Liang Xu (associate professor) has been selected as a first round recipient of a Laboratory for Early Stage Translational Research (LESTR) project for his proposal entitled "Molecular cancer therapy targeting RNA binding protein HuR." This drug discovery project will support assay development and high-throughput screening to identify small molecule inhibitors targeting the tumor-associated RNA-binding protein Hu antigen R (HuR).

Amber Smith (graduate student, Xu lab) won the poster award at the 18th Annual Symposium of the NIH funded Dynamic Aspects of Chemical Biology Training Grant on September 6 held at University of Kansas School of Pharmacy.

 

September

Dr. Liang Xu (associate professor) is the recipient of an Outstanding Scientist Award for International Collaboration by the National Science Foundation of China (NSFC).  This award will fund a collaborative project with Xian Jiaotong University (one of the top Universities in China) to develop novel nanotechnology for targeting cancer and cancer stem cells.

 

Kyle Kemege(graduate student, Hefty lab) is this year's winner of the Borgendale Award. This award is given in recognition of the best graduate student seminar at the Department of Molecular Biosciences Fall Symposium. 

 

Chris Merkes(graduate student, M. Azuma lab) won the symposium poster prize and Kathy Meneely (postdoc, Lamb lab) was the image contest winner.

 

August

The University of Kansas Cancer Center (KUCC) was officially awarded National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation on July 12, 2012. This designation places KU in an elite group of cancer research centers whose mission is the “development and translation of scientific knowledge from promising laboratory discoveries into new treatments for cancer patients.”  NCI designation will expand resources for cancer research and will also benefit the region by increased access to the latest cancer fighting efforts.  Molecular Biosciences faculty members are active in two of the four research programs of the KUCC.  Dr. Kristi Neufeld serves as co-leader of the Cancer Biology (CB) program, which uses model systems to identify targets for drug development and analyze potential chemotherapeutic agents. Many of the chemical compounds evaluated by the CB group are generated by members of the Drug Discovery, Delivery and Experimental Therapeutics (D3ET) program.  KUCC Members include: Drs. Yoshiaki Azuma, David Davido, Erik Lundquist, Berl Oakley, Lisa Timmons, and Liang Xu; Associate members include:  Drs. Brian Ackley, Mizuki Azuma, John Karanicolas, Audrey Lamb, Mark Richter, Kathy Suprenant, Fusao Takusagawa, and Liang Tang. Read about NCI designation here: http://www.kucancercenter.org/about-us/nci-designation

Dr. Wonpil Im (associate professor) is the recipient of a research grant from the Advances in Biological Informatics Program from the National Science Foundation entitled “Development and application of graphical user interfaces for system building and analysis of membrane simulations.”  The division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences of the National Science Foundation has renewed Dr. Im’s research grant entitled “Computational studies of membrane proteins based on NMR observables.”  Dr. Im is also the recipient of a subaward from the National Institutes of Health supported Membrane Protein Structure Dynamics Consortium, a multi-collaborator Glue Grant.

Dr. Erik Lundquist (Professor) is a co-Investigator on an NIH Center for Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) project that was funded for $11 million.  The grant, entitled “Center for the Molecular Analysis of Disease Pathways”, is to provide enabling technologies on campus to analyze human disease pathways using model organisms (flies, worms, zebrafish, and rodents).  Dr. Lundquist’s role in the project is to establish a genome sequencing core facility utilizing “next generation” high throughput sequencing technology.  Dr. Sue Lunte (Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Chemistry) is the Principal Investigator and Dr. Blake Peterson (Medicinal Chemistry) is a co-Investigator.

Dr. Stuart Macdonald (associate professor) had his research highlighted on the cover of the journal Genetics.

Denny Swartzlander (graduate student, Gleason lab) is the recipient of a 2012 Kansas Academy of Science Student Research Grant for his project entitled “The genetic basis for differential pheromone production between two Drosophila sibling species.”  Denny was also the recipient of a scholarship to attend the 17th Summer Institute for Statistical Genetics at the University of Washington in Seattle, July 9 - 18.

Amy Sinclair (undergraduate, Suprenant lab) was one of seven students selected to participate in a five-week, advanced biotechnology lecture and laboratory course at Moscow State University. The “Russian Language and Biotechnology” program is collaboration between the Faculty of Biology at Moscow State University and the Russian Language Centre of Moscow. 

 

We welcome the following new graduate students to our program:

  • Aisha Al Naamani, University of Wales Institute, Cardiff
  • KyeongMin Bae, Kosin University, Busan, Korea
  • Amanda Dunbar, University of Minnesota, Morris, Minnesota
  • Chad Highfill, Missouri State University, Springfield, Missouri
  • Vaishnavi Nagarajan, Vellore Institute of Technology, India
  • Vitoria Paolillo, Northwest Missouri State University, Maryville, Missouri
  • Keasha Restivo, Drury University, Springfield, Missouri

Drs. Vicki Corbin and Rob Ward (associate professors) attended the National Academies Northstar Summer Institute on Undergraduate Science Education in Minneapolis, June 11-16.  The program emphasized the latest research on how students learn and recommended methods to help students learn biology.  They earned certificates as "National Academies Education Fellows in the Life Sciences.”

Nadeem Asad (graduate student, Timmons lab) received the Sally K. Frost Mason and Kenneth A. Mason Award for Excellence in Teaching Undergraduate Biology in 2012.

Ted Christesen (undergraduate, Tang lab) is the recipient of a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship.  This scholarship provides up to $7,500 for educational expenses and are considered the premier undergraduate recognition to honor academically gifted students.  Read more:  http://www.news.ku.edu/2012/april/3/goldwater.shtml or http://cjonline.com/news/2012-04-04/wrhs-graduate-named-goldwater-scholar

Kathryn Songer (undergraduate student, Timmons lab) was selected to participate in the University of Kansas Cancer Center Summer Student Research Training Program.  Kat is investigating novel roles for the cyclic nucleotide signaling pathway in abiotic stress responses and longevity.

Jordan Martinez and Haley Luna (Lawrence High School students, Timmons lab) are the recipients of a Research Assistantship for Minority High School Students (RAHSS) from the National Science Foundation.  This research experience program is intended to encourage talented high school students to participate in NSF-supported research projects.   Haley and Jordan are using RNAi technology to investigate chromosome non-disjunction, a phenomenon associated with Down, Turner, Klinefelter, Edwards, Patau and other syndromes in humans.

Dr. Scott Hefty has been promoted to associate professor with tenure. Dr. Hefty earned his Ph.D. at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California-Berkeley. His research interests are in molecular mechanisms of pathogenesis and gene regulation in Chlamydia.

Dr. Stuart Macdonald has been promoted to associate professor with tenure. Dr. Macdonald earned his D.Phil at the University of Oxford, and was a postdoctoral fellow in both University College London and the University of California at Irvine. The Macdonald lab is interested in the genetics of complex traits, and is currently funded to investigate the genetic basis of variation in stress- and drug-resistance, and male sexual trait morphology in Drosophila.

Dr. Liang Tang has been promoted to associate professor with tenure.  Dr. Tang earned his Ph.D. at the Institute of Biophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences and was a postdoctoral fellow and senior research associate at the Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla. His laboratory has a broad interest in understanding the life cycles of a variety of viruses and bacteria using structural approaches.

Dr. Steve Benedict (professor) is the recipient of two new grants. The first from the Patricia Watkins Emphysema Research Fund is for his proposal entitled “Treatment of autoimmune components of emphysema in a mouse model of the disease.” The second from the American Quarter Horse Foundation is for his proposal entitled “Adapting a human/mouse therapy for autoimmune disease to treat equine recurrent uveitis.”

Dr. Kristi Neufeld (associate professor) has been awarded a National Institutes of Health Center of Biomedical Research Excellence Pilot Project Grant from the Center for Cancer Experimental Therapeutics.  Dr. Neufeld’s proposal is entitled “Novel molecular cancer therapy targeting Musashi.” The objective of this proposal is to identify a new class of molecular cancer therapeutics that inhibits specific protein/RNA interactions required for cancer cell survival.

Dr. Liang Xu (associate professor) is the recipient of a University of Kansas Cancer Center Pilot Project Award entitled “Drug the undruggable: inhibitors of RNA binding protein Msi1”. The aim of the project is to generate proof-of-concept to discover novel small molecule inhibitors that disrupt Msi1-mRNA binding, and thus block Msi1 function, leading to translation of target genes that are critical for inhibiting cancer cell growth and progression.Our ultimate goal is to obtain a few drug candidates for further development as a whole new class of molecular cancer therapeutics that specifically inhibit cancer cells with Msi1 over-expression.

Dr. Erik Lundquist (professor) is the recipient of a 2012 Robert Weaver Graduate Mentor Award in the Biological Sciences in recognition of outstanding graduate student mentorship at the University of Kansas.

Dr. Vicki Corbin (associate professor) was recognized as “Favorite Professor” by the Biology Class of 2012 at the University of Kansas Undergraduate Biology Recognition Ceremony on May 12.

Drs. Jamie Alan and Dyan Morgan (post docs, Lundquist lab) started the KU Post-Doctoral Association and serve as Co-Presidents.  Dr. Lundquist (professor) was named faculty advisor of the group.  Find out more at their website:  http://groups.ku.edu/~kupostdocs/index.shtml

 

Four Molecular Biosciences graduate students were presented with Doctoral Hoods at the ceremony on May 12.  Pictured from left to right, Erick Spears with his mentor Dr. Kristi Neufeld, also the mentor of Maged Zeineldin, Jose Olucha with his mentor Dr. Audrey Lamb, and Abby Dotson with her mentor Dr. Steve Benedict.

Two Molecular Biosciences graduate students were presented with Masters Hoods at the ceremony on May 13.  Pictured from left to right, Andrew Ouellette with his mentor Dr. Audrey Lamb, and Courtney Gdowskiwith her mentor Dr. Steve Benedict.

Sonia Hall (graduate student, Ward lab)presenteda poster entitled “Macroglobulin complement related is a secreted core septate junction protein whose localization is mediated through the transmembrane protein Neuroglian” at the 2012 K-INBRE Award winners reception on May 9 at the BEST Building on the KU Edwards Campus.

Derek Jensen (undergraduate, Neufeld lab) was chosen to participate in the University of Kansas Cancer Center Summer Student Research Training Program for 2012.  The title of his research project is, "Characterization of a genetic polymorphism that affects polyposis in ApcMin mice".

Joel Tamayo (PREP student, Lundquist lab) won 2nd place in the Sigma Xi KU early graduate student research competition, on March 7.

Nichole Miller (summer undergraduate, Timmons lab) from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota was awarded an REU fellowship from the National Science Foundation.  Nichole will be determining the subcellular localization of ABC transporter proteins in order to better understand their roles in RNAi and related gene silencing pathways.

Guy Williams (summer undergraduate, Timmons lab) from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia was admitted into the Morehouse College Minority Biomedical Research Support-Research Initiative for Science Enhancement (MBRS-RISE) Program funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.  The program is designed to enhance research education in the biomedical sciences and provides support for summer research.

At the University of Kansas Undergraduate Biology Graduate Recognition Ceremony, Molecular Biosciences students won the following awards:
Paige Monnet (Orr lab) – The Undergraduate Biology Program Outstanding Senior Award
Ted Christensen (Tang lab), Sven Miller (Karanicolas lab), Matthew Miller and Vinit Nanavaty (Neufeld lab) — The Del and Carol Shankel Biomedical Scholarship
Sven Miller (Karanicolas lab) — The Paul A. Kitos Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Biochemical research

Dr. Chris Gamblin (associate professor) is the recipient of a K-INBRE bridge grant entitled "Biochemical and in vivo determinants of tau toxicity." The goal of this project is to take advantage of the mechanistic strengths of biochemical studies to pinpoint the form of tau that causes neurons to stop functioning normally and eventually die. The outcomes of this study will be combined with the use of fruit flies as a fast, cheap model system in future studies. These studies will help us design better therapies for Alzheimer's disease and related neurodegenerative disorders.

Dr. Liang Xu (associate professor) is the recipient of a K-INBRE bridge grant entitled "Nanovectors targeting pancreatic cancer stem cells." The goal of this project is to develop novel nanoparticle delivery systems for targeting cancer stem cells.

On April 17, the University of Kansas Provost's Office and Office of Research and Graduate Studies awarded Leading Light Awards recognizing principle investigators who received external awards of $1 million or more and active during FY2011. Fourteen faculty members in Molecular Biosciences were among the awardees: Yoshiaki Azuma, David Davido, Roberto De Guzman, Scott Hefty, Wompil Im, Audrey Lamb, Erik Lundquist, Stuart Macdonald, Kristi Neufeld, Berl Oakley, Jim Orr, Liang Tang, Robert Ward, and Ilya Vasker.

Dr. Rebecca Marquez (postdoctoral fellow, Xu lab) is the recipient of a K-INBRE postdoctoral fellowship entitled "microRNA Scaffolds for increased miRNA processing efficiency in cancer cells." The goal of this project is to investigate the miRNA structure and function in cancer and provide insights in developing miRNA-based molecular cancer therapy.

Dr. Maged Zeineldin (postdoctoral fellow, Neufeld lab) is the recipient of a K-INBRE postdoctoral fellowship entitled "Chemoprevention of inflammation-mediated colon cancer with novel activator of heat shock response." The goal of this project is to test the hypothesis that a novel compound developed by collaborator Dr. Brian Blagg (Department of Medicinal Chemistry) reduces tumor burden in a mouse model of chronic colitis by inhibiting inflammation.

Sonia Hall (graduate student, Ward lab) was awarded an NSF GK-12 Fellowship through the KU Center for Science Education for 2012-2013 academic year. Sonia will work with middle school science teachers in the Kansas City or Topeka area to develop science curricula and research experiences.

Jose Olucha (graduate student, Lamb lab) is the 2012 recipient of the Philip and Marjorie Newmark Award for biochemistry research for his project and presentation entitled "Structure of ornithine hydroxylase from Pseudomonas aeruginosa."

Pierce O'Neil (undergraduate, Davido lab) has been awarded a 2012 American Society for Microbiology (ASM) Undergraduate Research Fellowship. His summer research project supported by ASM is entitled "Effects of Interferon Beta on the Transactivation Activity of Wild-Type and N-Terminal Truncation Mutant Forms of Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 Infected Cell Protein 0". This award also includes an ASM membership and travel funds for Pierce to present his results at the 2013 ASM Conference.

John Karanicolas (assistant professor) has been awarded a Research Project Grant (R01) from the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Karanicolas proposal is entitled "Identifying inhibitors of protein interactions using pocket optimization". The goal of this project is to employ insights from computational methodology we have recently developed to address the distinct challenges associated with finding inhibitors of different classes of protein surface. Our central hypothesis is that exploring protein fluctuations leading to formation of surface pockets is critical for understanding the regions of chemical space in which suitable inhibitory compounds may be found.

Sarina Farb, a high school student in the Neufeld lab won the Grand Award at the Greater Kansas City Science and Engineering Fair for her project, "A Comparison of the Endocrine Disrupting Potential Exhibited by Environmentally Relevant Doses of Bisphenol A and Bisphenol S In Vitro in T-47D Breast Cancer Cells." Earlier this year, Farb also took first place at the regional Junior Science Humanities Symposium (JSHS). In May, Farb will advance to compete in the 2012 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Pittsburgh, PA) and the National JSHS (Bethesda, MD).
Read more here: http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2012/apr/02/high-school-senior-turns-science-savvy-prize-winni/

Several faculty in Molecular Biosciences participated in the inaugural meeting of the Program in Microbiology held at the Commons on February 11th. This program includes laboratories from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Pharmacy School and School of Engineering in Lawrence, and the Medical School in Kansas City, and hopes to foster collaboration and future proposal development. More information can be found soon at www.ku.edu/~micro/ (website under construction).

 

Recent Molecular Biosciences doctoral graduate Dr. Natasha DeVore (Spring, 2011) had a portion of her dissertation research published as an article in the journal Nature. Natasha did her dissertation work with Molecular Biosciences affiliate faculty member Dr. Emily Scott (associate professor, Medicinal Chemistry). Read about their article here: http://www.news.ku.edu/2012/
january/24/cancerenzyme.shtml

 

Drs. Robert Cohen (professor) and Vicki Corbin (associate professor) are recipients of a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) grant from the National Science Foundation that will support the summer research projects "From Molecules, To Cells, To Organisms" of 10 students, for each of the next three summers (2012-2014). The program is especially interested in recruiting and training students who do not have the opportunity to conduct summer research at their home institutions and/or are from underrepresented and minority groups. For more information and/or to apply online visit our website at molecularbiosciences.ku.edu/reumb/

2011

Sukanya Chaudhury (graduate student, De Guzman Lab) was selected as an Honorable Mention in the Best Poster Presentation,  at the Fifth Great Plains Regional Annual Symposium on Protein and Biomolecular NMR (GRASP NMR) held on October 28-29, 2011 in Lawrence, KS. Her poster was entitled "Structural studies of the Yersinia pestis LcrG-LcrV complex".

 

Molecular Biosciences mourns the passing of our friend and colleague Professor Emeritus Laurence Draper.
Learn more about his life and work here.

 

Matthew Josephson (first year graduate student) is the recipient of KU's prestigious Madison and Lila Self Graduate Fellowship. "Self Graduate Fellowships are four-year awards to new or first-year Ph.D. students who demonstrate leadership, initiation, and a passion for achievement. The fellowship covers full tuition and fees, provides a $29,000 annual payment, and includes a unique development program."

Akosua Kernizan (undergraduate, Gamblin lab) won an award for her poster presentation entitled "Pseudohyperphosphorylation has Significant Effects on the Polymerization of Tau Isoforms" at the 2011 SACNAS National Conference October 27th – October 30th in San Jose, California.

Kelly Grussendorf (graduate student, Buechner lab) is the recipient of the Cora Downs travel award to attend the American Society for Cell Biology meeting in Denver, CO, December, 2011.

Raghavi Sudharsan (graduate student, Y Azuma lab) is the recipient of a Candlin travel award to attend the American Society for Cell Biology meeting in Denver, CO, December, 2011.

Maged Zeineldin (graduate student, Neufeld lab) is the recipient of a Candlin travel award to attend the American Association for Cancer Research Meeting in Chicago, IL, March 31- April 4, 2012.

Mizuki Azuma (assistant professor) was recently awarded a K-INBRE Major Starter Grant of $175,000 for her research project entitled "Functional analysis of Ewing sarcoma proteins EWS/FLI1 and EWS." The goal of this project is to use zebrafish models to study the cellular consequences of the EWS/FLI1 translocation, commonly found associated with childhood bone cancers.

John Karanicolas (assistant professor) is the recipient of a COBRE-Center of Biomedical Research Excellence in Protein Structure and Function Investigator award of $230,000 for his research project entitled "Structure-based chemical rescue of enzyme activity". The goal of this project is to provide insight into the utility of a novel approach for designing pharmacological control into enzymes. Such an approach will be useful for identifying in vivo substrates of enzymes involved in post-translational modification pathways.

Dr. Rob Ward (associate professor) is a 2011-2012 recipient of a W.T. Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence.  This $7,500 fellowship recognizes “outstanding teachers and advisers at KU as determined by a seven-member selection committee”.  See more here

Natasha DeVore (graduate student, Scott lab) is the recipient of the FEBS J. Klaus Ruckpaul Best Poster Award at the 17th International Conference on Cytochrome P450 held in Manchester, UK, June 26-30.   Natasha received her award from Tsuneo Omura. Omura and Sato first characterized cytochrome P450 enzymes as cytochromes in 1964.

Mirna Perusina Lanfranca (graduate student, Davido lab) is this year's winner of the Borgendale Award. This award is given in recognition of the best graduate student seminar at the Department of Molecular Biosciences Fall Symposium.

Dr. John Karanicolas (assistant professor) participated in a team that is the recipient of a 2011 Human Frontier Science Program Award for their proposal entitled "Photo-controlled transcription factors for probing how mice form memories." This award will support research to design light-switchable variants of CREB, a protein critical for memory formation. These designed proteins will then be expressed in freely moving mice with optical stimulation delivered directly to the mouse’s brain to allow the processes of memory formation to be probed on time scales of seconds to minutes.

Dr.Chris Gamblin (associate professor) received a research grant from CurePSP, a foundation for progressive supranuclear palsy, corticobasal degeneration and related brain diseases (http://www.psp.org).  The grant, entitled “Models to Determine the Toxicity of Tau Aggregates”, will support our efforts to generate new models to assess the toxicity of different aggregated forms of tau.  This is a collaborative research project aimed at generating tau aggregation models in A. nidulans with the Oakley lab and aggregation models in C. elegans with the Ackley lab. 

Dr. Wonpil Im (associate professor) participated in a team that is the recipient of a 2011 Human Frontier Science Program Award for their proposal entitled “Substrate recognition by MARCH ubiquitin ligases: a paradigm of membrane-associated immunoregulation.”  This award will support research to characterize a family of ubiquitin ligases called MARCHs that play major immunoregulatory roles and are anchored to membranes using immunology, cell biology, proteomics, solution NMR and computation biophysics.

Casey McNeil (graduate student, Macdonald lab) is the recipient of the 2011 Richard H. Himes Graduate Teaching Assistant Award.

We welcome the following new graduate students to our program:

  • Blake Balcomb, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
  • Namita Balwalli, University of Pune, India
  • Tania Bonny, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh
  • Mahekta Gujar, University of Pune, India
  • Sonia Hall, University of Kansas
  • Matthew Josephson, South Dakota State University
  • Jittasak Khowsathit, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand
  • Andy Wolfe, Emporia State University
  • Fnu Yamini, Virginia Commonwealth University

A website created by Dr. Jack Brown (professor emeritus) was featured in a technology article in the June issue of The Atlantic. Senior Editor Alexis Madrigal wrote that, as a 6th grader, he found Dr. Brown's website "Bugs in the News" and emailed Brown his question. The response led to an email correspondence that lasted for years and Madrigal's first Internet Friend.

"There were no "social networks" as we think of them now, but the power to connect to people -- anyone! including Kansas biology professors! -- was like a neon arrow pointing from my dark bedroom at the end of a gravel road in a tiny town to the future, when we'd all sort of be everywhere in the world at once."
Click here to view the article.

Dr. Scott Hefty (assistant professor) is a recipient of a 2011 Robert Weaver Graduate Mentor Award in the Biological Sciences. This new award is presented in recognition of outstanding graduate student mentorship in the biological sciences at the University of Kansas.

Dr. Kristi Neufeld (associate professor) received a 2011 J.R. and Inez Jay Award for her proposal entitled "Capitalizing on the APC / Musashi interaction to design novel colon cancer therapeutics". This award will support research to test whether the double negative feedback loop between tumor suppressor APC and translation inhibitor Musashi is relevant to intestinal tumorigenesis.

 

 


Congratulations to Masters and Doctoral students hooded at the ceremonies on May 21!

Dr. Rob Weaver (professor and associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences) is retiring after 40 years of service to the University of Kansas. Rob earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Chemistry in 1964 from the College of Wooster and a doctorate in Biochemistry from Duke University in 1969. After post-doctoral training at the University of California, San Francisco, he joined the faculty at the University of Kansas in 1971. Rob was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 1976 and full professor in 1981. He served as chair of the Department of Biochemistry (one of the precursors of the Department of Molecular Biosciences) from 1984 to 1995. He joined the Dean's Office in 1995. As a professor in our department, Rob is well-known as the instructor of the course Gene Expression, for which he wrote the textbook entitled Molecular Biology. Rob is a very successful research scientist, training 27 PhD and Masters students and publishing over 50 research articles in such journals as the Journal of Virology and the Journal of Biological Chemistry and one research letter in Nature.  Rob is also the recipient of several awards, including two American Cancer Society fellowships in Zurich, Switzerland, and Oxford, England.

Dr. Erik Lundquist has been promoted to full professor. Dr. Lundquist has been at KU since 2000, after a post-doctoral position at UCSF and completion of a Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota. His laboratory is aimed at understanding the genetic and molecular factors controlling the development of the nervous system.

Dr. Yoshiaki Azuma has been promoted to associate professor with tenure. Dr. Azuma earned a Ph.D. from Kyushu University and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the National Institutes of Health. His lab studies the molecular mechanism of chromosome segregation in vertebrate mitosis.

Dr. Roberto De Guzman has been promoted to associate professor with tenure. Dr. De Guzman earned his Ph.D. at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) and was a post-doctoral fellow at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. His research focuses on understanding protein structures that are important in bacterial and viral pathogenesis.

Dr. David Davido has been promoted to associate professor with tenure. Dr. Davido obtained his Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Medical School. His lab studies the interactions between viral and cellular factors that regulate the herpes simplex virus (HSV) life cycle.

Dr. Wonpil Im has been promoted to associate professor with tenure. Dr. Im earned his Ph.D. at Weill Medical College of Cornell University and was a post-doctoral fellow at the Scripps Research Institute. His research area is computational biology with particular focuses on membrane protein structure, dynamics, and function. Dr. Im is also the recipient of the J. Michael Young Academic Advisor Award for 2010-2011 in the Natural Sciences and Math Division. This annual award is given by the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences to honor faculty members of the College who demonstrate exceptional effort, care, and guidance in the advisement of their students.

Dr. Liang XuDr. Liang Xu (associate professor) is the recipient of a COBRE Center for Cancer Experimental Therapeutics Pilot Project grant entitled "Novel Beclin-mimetics modulating autophagy." The aim of this project is to discover novel cancer drugs inducing autophagy.

Dr. Paul Kelly (full professor) was recognized as a "Favorite Professor" by the Biology Class of 2011 at the University of Kansas Undergraduate Biology Graduate Recognition Ceremony on May 21.

Graduate students receiving annual departmental awards are:

Kelly Grussendorf (Buechner lab) — Cora Downs Award for excellence in microbiology research

Heba Mostafa (Davido lab) — Paretsky Award for excellence in microbial pathogenesis research

Miles Smith (Davido lab) — Paretsky Award for excellence in microbial pathogenesis research

Erick Spears (Neufeld lab) — Candlin Award for excellence in physiology or cell biology research

Lakshmi Sundararajan (Lundquist lab) — Twomey Award for excellence in physiology and cell biology research

Arthur Ankeney and Kathryn Songer (undergraduates, Timmons lab) are recipients of KU Undergraduate Research Awards for Fall 2011 to study the role of cyclic nucleotides in cells undergoing environmental stress. Kathryn Songer has also been selected for the KU Cancer Center Summer Student Research Training Program. The program provides a stipend to support her research project entitled "The druggable cyclic nucleotide pathway: new roles in cancer related pathways."

Wen Yih Aw (undergraduate, Timmons lab) has been selected into the Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) program (http://www2.ku.edu/~rise/) and will perform research at the Medical School of Hannover, in Hannover, Germany this summer.

Dr. Liang Xu (associate professor) is the recipient of a sub-award from the University of Michigan for a Susan G. Komen for the Cure Breast Cancer Foundation grant.  The project is entitled "A novel strategy to target breast cancer stem cells utilizing microRNA-100."  The aim of this project is to examine the role of microRNA-100 in breast cancer stem cells and explore microRNA-100 as novel therapeutic for breast cancer stem cells.

Dr. Scott Hefty (assistant professor) chaired the Type III Secretion session at the Fifth Biennial Meeting of the Chlamydia Basic Research Society at Redondo Beach, California on March 18.

Dr. John Karanicolas (assistant professor) chaired a session of the Drug Discovery Chemistry: Protein-Protein Interactions as Drug Targets Conference in San Diego on April 14.

Ichie Osaka (graduate student, Hefty lab) won second place for her poster at the Fifth Biennial Meeting of the Chlamydia Basic Research Society in Redondo Beach, California, March 18 – 21. Her poster was entitled "Inhibitory screen and mechanisms of cellulose based excipient compounds and LPS sequestrant polyamines."

Dan Simon (undergraduate, Hefty lab) is the recipient of an American Society for Microbiology Undergraduate Fellowship. The award provides a stipend to support his summer research project entitled, "Inhibitory Mechanisms of Polymyxin B Chemical Analog Polyamines on Chlamydia trachomatis Infection Processes." In addition, the award provides a two-year society membership and travel funds to present the project findings at the ASM General Meeting in San Francisco in the spring of 2012.

Sonia Hall (undergraduate, Ward lab) won second place for her poster at the 52nd Annual Drosophila Research Conference in San Diego, California, March 30 – April 3. Her poster was entitled "Macroglobulin complement related (Mcr) is an extracellular component of epithelial septate junctions."

Megan Razak (undergraduate, Lundquist lab) won second place in the Sigma Chi competition of the KU Undergraduate Research Symposium for her oral presentation entitled "Mutant screen to identify novel genes regulating neuronal migration in Caenorhabditis elegans."

Dr. Liang Xu (associate professor) is a co-inventor on a newly issued patent, USA Patent # 7,910,621: “Small Molecule Antagonists of XIAP Family Proteins”

Heather Edgerton-Morgan (graduate student, Oakley lab) won the GSA (Genetics Society of America) student poster award at the 26th Fungal Genetics Conference held at Asilomar, CA Mar. 15-20, 2011 for her poster entitled “Spatial regulation of the spindle assembly checkpoint in Aspergillus nidulans”

John Hickey (graduate student, Hefty lab) was awarded the 2011 Newmark Award for Biochemistry research for his project and presentation entitled “Structure and Functional Analysis of ChxR: An Atypical OmpR Response Regulator”

Several MB students received KU Undergraduate Research Awards for Spring 2011

Jason Thomas Stevens (undergraduate, Karanicolas lab) for:
"Switchable Genetic Regulators Using Indole Complementation," a project with implications for synthetic biology that investigates developing a new pharmacological means of controlling regulators that alter the genetic circuitry which underlies cellular behavior.

Jennifer Marilyn Logue (undergraduate, Lundquist lab) for:
"A genetic analysis of neural development in Caenorhabditis elegans," an investigation of neural development using nematode worms in a study that could be useful in the understanding of human neurological disorders.

Marc T. Roth (undergraduate, Neufeld lab) for: "Characterization of Interactions between Topoisomerase IIα and Nuclear Adenomatous Polyposis Coli," a study of a tumor suppressor found mutated in 80 percent of colon cancers.

Danielle Dee Stuhlsatz (undergraduate, Im lab) for: "Properties of Lipid A Bilayers Analyzed by Molecular Dynamics Stimulations," a study of how the molecule Lipid A works, which could have applications in protein-membrane interaction studies and in the development of drugs for bacterial diseases.

http://www.news.ku.edu/2011/march/11/researchawards.shtml

Dr. David Davido (assistant professor) has been awarded a Kansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (K-INBRE) pilot grant entitled "Identifying Targets of HSV-1 ICP0-Directed Degradation."

Dr. Wonpil Im (assistant professor) was the "Biophysicist in Profile" in the Biophysical Society January Newsletter. http://www.biophysics.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=yjekrQ0N5Is%3D&tabid=76

Dr. Liang Tang (assistant professor) had his research highlighted on the cover of the journal Virology.

Dr. Audrey Lamb (associate professor) has been awarded an Independent Scientist Award (K02) from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institute of Health. The title of the proposal is "Structure-function analyses of siderophore biosynthetic enzymes."

Dr. Jim Orr (professor) has been awarded a "Kansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence Undergraduate Campus Faculty Scholar Award."

Dr. Jim Orr (professor and Director of the Office for Diversity in Science Training) has been awarded a $1.5 million training grant from the National Institutes of Health for the Post-baccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) to support students from groups that are currently underrepresented in the sciences and plan to pursue careers in biomedical science. The renewed PREP project has been expanded to support eight post-baccalaureate fellows per year with financial support, a mentored research experience in the lab of a KU faculty member, coursework, and additional pre-professional training. Read more about it here: http://www2.ku.edu/~odst/

Courtney Wilson (graduate student, Benedict lab) has been awarded a Doctoral Student Research Fund Award from the Office of Graduate Studies.

Dr. Audrey Lamb (associate professor) has been awarded a Kansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (K-INBRE) pilot grant entitled “Transient Kinetics of Siderophore Biosynthetic Enzymes.

Dr. Erik Lundquist (associate professor) has been awarded a Kansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (K-INBRE) pilot grant entitled "Analysis of receptor interactions in neuronal migration".

Dr. Kristi Neufeld (associate professor) has been awarded a Kansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (K-INBRE) pilot grant entitled "Nuclear APC as a suppresser of inflammation-mediated colorectal cancer".

Dr. Berl Oakley (professor) Dr. Chris Gamblin (associate professor) and Dr. Clay Wang (Pharmaceutical Sciences and Chemistry, University of Southern California) were awarded a research fellowship from the H.L. Snyder Medical Foundation for $30,000 per year for three years. This project proposes to isolate and purify natural products from the fungus Aspergillus nidulans and test them for their ability to inhibit the polymerization of the microtubule-associated protein tau into filaments similar to those that accumulate in neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) in Alzheimer’s disease. By testing these compounds individually and possibly modifying them to make them safer or nontoxic for humans, they hope to find a compound that will safely dissolve the NFTs. In the future, these compounds might be used to avert or reverse the process of dementia. http://www.snydermf.org/research.htm

Dr. Audrey Lamb (associate professor) chaired the RNA & Founders Award Lecture session at the 22nd Enzyme Mechanisms Conference on January 4th in St. Pete Beach, Florida.

Dr. Mizuki Azuma (assistant professor) has been awarded a two year research grant from the Kansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (K-INBRE). The title of Dr. Azuma's proposal is "Functional analysis of Ewing sarcoma EWS/FLI1 protein." The aim of this project is to understand the process of Ewing sarcoma formation by analyzing the function of EWS/FLI1 protein during mitosis.

Dr. Erik Lundquist (associate professor) and Dr. Kristi Neufeld (associate professor) were inducted as Honorary Members of the Golden Key International Honor Society Nov. 15. They were each nominated for Honorary Membership by a Golden Key member and selected based on their commitment to helping students succeed.

Dr. Kristi Neufeld (associate professor) was awarded a Pilot Project Award from the University of Kansas Cancer Center. The title of Dr. Neufeld's proposal is: "APC & Musashi: Regulators of Colon Stem Cell Homeostasis". The objective of this proposal is to define the function of tumor suppressor protein APC in stem cell self renewal.

Dr. Jim Orr (professor) received three awards this past year to enhance undergraduate education. A one year supplement from the NIH/National Institute of General Medical Sciences was awarded to provide additional funding for the KU / Haskell 500 Nations Bridge project that seeks to enhance the success of American Indian students from Haskell who plan to transfer to a four year institution. The goal of the supplemental project is to develop better methods to track students who transfer from Haskell to four year institutions.

An ARRA Summer Scholar award from K-INBRE will fund four undergraduate students at KU who are working in faculty research laboratories during the summer of 2011. The four trainees are Erin Diel (mentored by Dr. Brian Ackley), Peter Ebeling (mentored by Dr. John Kelly), Phillip Morris (mentored by Dr. Wonpil Im), and Vinit Nanavaty (mentored by Dr. Kristi Neufeld). The STAR Trainee program with the K-INBRE project funds undergraduate seniors at KU who plan to attend graduate school. The award provides both stipend and funding for research supplies for two KU seniors, Chantz Thomas (mentored by Dr. Steve Benedict) and Kayla Nelson (mentored by Dr. Mizuki Azuma).

2010

Dr. John Karanicolas (assistant professor) has been awarded a National Institutes of Health Center of Biomedical Research Excellence Pilot Project Grant from the Center for Cancer Experimental Therapeutics.  Dr. Karanicolas’ proposal is entitled “Identifying Mcl-1 inhibitors using pocket shape optimization.”  The objective of this proposal is to identify novel classes of inhibitors of the anti-apoptotic protein Mcl-1. Since most cancer cells have high levels of Mcl-1, they can be intrinsically resistant to compounds that specifically target other related anti-apoptotic proteins.

Dr. Erik Lundquist (associate professor) has been selected as a faculty member inductee of The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi and will be recognized at the initiation ceremony on November 30th.

Maged Zeineldin (graduate student, Neufeld lab) was one of sixteen PhD and MD students, post doctoral fellows, and junior faculty selected to participate in the 2010 Workshop on Techniques in Modeling Human Colon Cancer in Rodents. The goal of the hands-on workshop, held at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine on October 12-16 was to “teach state-of-the-art methods used in the design and characterization of murine models for colon cancer research.” Maged was awarded the Carr Travel Award from Molecular Biosciences Department to attend this workshop.

Dr. Liang Tang (assistant professor) has been awarded a National Institutes of Health Research Project Grant (R01) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. Dr. Tang's proposal is entitled "Genome packaging in DNA viruses". The objective of this proposal is to understand the molecular mechanisms of genome packaging in DNA viruses such as DNA bacteriophage and herpesvirus, focusing on high resolution structural studies of DNA-packaging proteins and nucleoprotein complexes using X-ray crystallography and electron cryo-microscopy as primary techniques.

Dr. Vicki CorbinDr. Vicki Corbin (associate professor) was selected to serve as an Honors Faculty Fellow with the Kansas University Honors Program. Some of her duties will include serving as a specialized advisor for honors pre-med and biology students, facilitating independent research projects and National Scholarships applications, and teaching an Honors tutorial.

Dr. Eric Deeds (assistant professor) joins the Molecular Biosciences faculty having recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School. His lab is focused on using computational and mathematical methods to study the assembly of macromolecular complexes, such as the proteasome and the ribosome. The Deeds lab is also interested in exploring models of intracellular signaling networks and the allometric scaling of metabolic rate with body mass in mammals. Dr. Deeds has a joint appointment in the Center for Bioinformatics. Read more about his research program here.

Dr. Roberto De Guzman (assistant professor) received the 2010 Faculty Scholar Award for excellence in research, teaching and service to the university from the Kansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence.  The award is designated for outstanding junior faculty and came with a plaque and $10,000 for research.

Adam Norris (graduate student, Lundquist lab) is this year's winner of the Borgendale Award. This award is given in recognition of the best graduate student seminar at the Department of Molecular Biosciences Fall Symposium.

Ulrike Voigt (graduate student, Timmons lab) has received a scholarship from the German-American Fulbright Program to study and perform research in the Timmons lab.  Ulrike is a graduate student in the Pharmacology Department at the Medical School of Hannover.  Ulrike will be using model organisms to expand upon her studies of genes and proteins that are involved in heart failure.

Dr. Liang Xu (associate professor) joins the Molecular Biosciences faculty from the University of Michigan Medical School. Funded by three grants from the National Cancer Institute/National Institutes of Health and one from the Department of Defense, his lab is working on molecularly targeted cancer therapy and chemo/radiosensitization by modulating cell death signaling pathways. In addition, they are using novel nanotechnology to develop nanovectors targeting cancer cells for siRNA/microRNA-based novel cancer therapeutics. They are also developing nanovectors targeting cancer stem cells and exploring novel molecular therapy for cancer stem cells. Read about his research program here.

Dr. Brian Ackley (assistant professor) served as a co-organizer of Neuronal Development, Synaptic Function & Behavior C. elegans Topic Meeting that occurred June 27–30 at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Dr. Erik Lundquist (associate professor) and Dr. Stuart Macdonald (assistant professor) have been awarded a National Institutes of Health Research Exploratory/Developmental Grant (R21) from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, for $397,277 for two years. The proposal is entitled “Using RNA-seq to Identify Hox Transcriptional Targets in Neuronal Migration”. Dr. Lundquist and Dr. Macdonald will use cutting edge next generation sequencing to determine the transcriptomes of wild-type and mutants to identify genes regulated by a Hox transcription factor in neuronal migration. These studies will have implications for human nervous system (brain) development and disease.

Katelyn Deckert (graduate student, Karanicolas lab) was appointed to the National Institutes of Health funded Graduate Training Program in Dynamic Aspects of Chemical Biology Training Grant on July 1 for a term of three years. Read more about the program here.

We welcome the following new graduate students to our program:

  • Hikmat Al-hashimi, Northumbria University
  • Anindita Basu, Heritage Institute of Technology
  • Mauricio Galdos, Truman State University
  • Paulo Leal, Texas A&M
  • Andrew McShan, University of Kansas
  • Chris Merkes, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
  • Smita Paranjape, University of Pune
  • Amber Smith, Baker University
  • Denny Swartzlander, University of Missouri-Kansas City
  • Makoto Yoshida, University of Colorado at Boulder

Dr. Mark Richter (full professor) will serve as the chair of the department of Molecular Biosciences starting July 1, 2010 for a term of three years.

Dr. Chris Gamblin (associate professor) received a 2010 J.R. and Inez Jay Award in the amount of $25,000 for his proposal entitled “Models of Tau Neurodegeneration”. This award will support research aimed at generating new and valuable animal and cellular models for studying tau neurodegeneration.

Dr. Stuart Macdonald (assistant professor) has been awarded a National Institutes of Health Research Project Grant (R01) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.  Dr. Macdonald's proposal is entitled “A Genomic Analysis of Sexual Trait Variation Within and Between Species.” The main goal is to dissect sexual variation in a genetically-tractable model system, specifically male genital morphology in Drosophila. The Macdonald lab will identify the genes and polymorphisms that contribute to trait variation, and in so doing gain insight into the processes that maintain genetic variation in populations.

Dr. Robert Ward (associate professor) was awarded the J. Michael Young Academic Advisor Award for 2009-2010 in the Natural Sciences and Math Division. This annual award is given by the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences to honor faculty members of the College who demonstrate exceptional effort, care, and guidance in the advisement of their students.


Three Molecular Biosciences graduate students were presented with Doctoral Hoods at a Hooding Ceremony on May 15. Pictured from left to right, Dr. Robert Ward mentor of Ph.D. recipient Xiaochen Wang (second from left), Dr. Erik Lundquist mentor of Ph.D. recipient Jamie Dyer (fourth from left), Srividya Suryanarayana (fifth from left) Ph.D. recipient and her mentor Dr. Mark Richter.

Dr. Audrey Lamb has been promoted to associate professor with tenure. Dr. Lamb earned her Ph.D. at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Northwestern University. Her area of specialization is structural biology and enzymology of iron-uptake by bacterial pathogens.

Dr. Kristi Neufeld has been promoted to associate professor with tenure. Dr. Neufeld earned a Ph.D. from the University of Utah where she subsequently served as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Research Assistant Professor. Her laboratory studies the tumor suppressor protein adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) to understand how loss of this particular protein leads to colon carcinogenesis.

Dr. Robert Ward has been promoted to associate professor with tenure. Dr. Ward earned a Ph.D. from Duke University and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Utah. His lab is interested in understanding the mechanisms that control how individual cells and whole tissues change shape and rearrange during development.

For more on Promotions and Tenure, read this Lawrence Journal World article.

Dr. Scott Hefty (assistant professor) was awarded the J. Michael Young Academic Advisor Award for 2009-2010 in the Natural Sciences and Math Division. This annual award is given by the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences to honor faculty members of the College who demonstrate exceptional effort, care, and guidance in the advisement of their students.

Dr. Matthew Buechner (associate professor) was recognized as a “Favorite Professor” by the Biology Class of 2010 at the University of Kansas Undergraduate Biology Graduate Recognition Ceremony on May 15.

Graduate students receiving annual departmental awards include:

  • Rafael Demarco (Lundquist lab) — Twomey Award for Excellence in Physiology and Cell Biology
  • Natasha DeVore (Scott lab) — Carr Research Award for Excellence in Biochemistry
  • Adam Norris (Lundquist lab) — Newmark Award for Excellence in Biochemistry Research
  • John Hickey (Hefty lab) — Arnold Award for Excellence in Microbiology
  • Adam Norris (Lundquist lab) — Twomey Award for Excellence in Physiology and Cell Biology
  • Sudharsan Parthasarathy (Kuczera lab) — Candlin Award for the Best Senior Graduate Student
  • Hyunju Ryu (Y. Azuma lab) — Candlin Award for the Best Senior Graduate Student
  • Erick Spears (Neufeld lab) — Sally K. Frost Mason and Kenneth A. Mason outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award

At the University of Kansas Undergraduate Biology Graduate Recognition Ceremony, Molecular Biosciences students won the following awards:

  • Kalin Holthaus (Benedict lab) — The Del and Carol Sankel Biomedical Scholarship
  • Surya Lakhanpal (Lamb lab) — Sally K. Frost Mason and Kenneth A. Mason Outstanding Senior Award
  • Kayla Nelson (M. Azuma lab) — J.O. & V.H. Edson Scholarship
  • Chantz Thomas (Benedict lab) — The Lance S. Foster Outstanding Junior in Biology Award and The Del and Carol Sankel Biomedical Scholarship
  • Marc Roth (Neufeld lab) — The Paul A. Kitos Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Biochemical research

Molecular Biosciences undergraduates were winners of University Honors Program awards to support original, independent research:

  • Megan Leigh Razak (Lundquist lab) — Identification of New Genes Affecting Neuronal Migration.
  • Patrick D. McGurk (Lundquist lab) — Investigation of Crosstalk Between Rac GTPase and PKC Signaling via RACK-1 in C.elegans Axon Pathfinding.
  • Kayla Marie Nelson (M. Azuma lab) — The Function of Ewing Sarcoma EWS/FLI1 Protein During Mitosis.

Read the KU News Release

Jason Stevens (Timmons lab), a mathematics major performing research on RNA interference, was accepted into the Amgen Scholars program (http://www.amgenscholars.com). Jason will be performing research this summer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in a synthetic biology lab and will be working with team members in the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM) competition. Check it out here.

Dr. Mizuki Azuma (assistant professor) has been awarded a one year research grant from the Sarcoma Foundation of America. Grants are for research involving the development of novel agents against sarcoma or research that could potentially lead to the development of novel agents against sarcoma, and are from the areas of etiology, molecular biology, pathogenesis, diagnosis, and treatment of human sarcomas. The title of Dr. Azumas's proposal is "Identification of causative mutations for Ewing sarcoma."

Dr. Scott Hefty (assistant professor) has been awarded a National Institutes of Health Research Project Grant (R01) from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Dr. Hefty's proposal is entitled "Regulation of Virulence Gene Expression in Chlamydia." This grant will facilitate further elucidation of the role and mechanisms of an atypical OmpR response regulator that appears to play a key role in forming the infectious form of Chlamydia.

Dr. Wonpil Im (assistant professor) has been awarded a National Institutes of Health Research Project Grant (R01) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. Dr. Im's proposal is entitled "Mechanisms and energetics of transmembrane-induced signaling of cytokine receptors." The objectives of this proposal are to determine the interfacial residues of hGHR and hPRLR TM dimers and to elucidate the conformational and energetic changes during the activation process by multidisciplinary combination of versatile computational and experimental approaches.

Dr. Erik Lundquist (associate professor) — The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health has renewed Dr. Lundquist's Research Project Grant (R01) entitled "Cytoskeletal Signaling and Axon Guidance." The aim of this four-year project is to understand the molecular genetic mechanisms of axon guidance using the model organism nematode worm C. elegans. These studies will have implications for human nervous system (brain) development and disease.

Dr. Erik Lundquist (associate professor) has been appointed to the editorial board of the journal Small GTPases.

Dr. Lisa Timmons (associate professor) has been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation. Dr. Timmons proposal is entitled "ABC Transporters and RNAi in Caenorhabditis elegans." The Timmons lab is studying cellular RNAi mechanisms that are triggered in response to dsRNA. This grant will be used to understand the role of ABC transporters in this gene silencing process.

Dr. Bob Sanders (emeritus professor) signed copies of his new book Contributions of African American Scientists to the Fields of Science, Medicine, and Inventions at a reception at Oread Books in the Kansas Union on April 16th.
Check out his book here.

Dr. Del Shankel (emeritus professor) - On April 15th, the KU Structural Biology Center was officially renamed the Shankel Structural Biology Center, honoring Dr. Shankel's outstanding service to the University for 50-plus years. Among his many leadership roles, Dr. Shankel served as Chancellor, Acting Chancellor, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Chair of the Microbiology Department.
Read the Oread article.

Erick Spears (graduate student, Neufeld lab) was one of 9 students from KU awarded a 2010 NSF GK-12 Fellowship.
Read the Oread article.

Dr. Susan Egan (full professor) has been named to the Molecular Microbiology editorial board.

Dr. John Karanicolas (assistant professor) has been selected as an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow. The award provides $50,000 in research support for two years for young faculty members performing promising research in physics, chemistry, computational and evolutionary molecular biology, computer science, economics, mathematics and neuroscience. Read Oread article.

Dr. Kristi Neufeld (assistant professor) has been awarded a proof-of-concept grant, one of 11 awarded to KU faculty. These grants are sponsored by KU's Institute for Advancing Medical Innovation (IAMI), a program funded by the Kauffman Foundation and KU Endowment. The goal of the program is to generate new and innovative drugs, medical devices, and drug- device combinations. The title of Dr. Neufeld's proposal is "Prevention of APC-Dependent Intestinal Neoplasia by Novel Activators of Heat Shock Response." Read Oread article.

Dr. Kristi Neufeld (assistant professor) has been awarded a Kansas IDeA Network of Biochemical Research Excellence (K-INBRE) bridging grant entitled "Musashi: A novel Wnt target controlled by tumor suppressor APC."

Surya Lakhanpal (undergraduate student, Lamb lab) was awarded a J. Michael Young Opportunity Award which she used to travel to the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource to collect protein x-ray diffraction data.


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