June 2018 News   

Recently, the Molecular Biosciences department gathered together to celebrate scientific career of Peter Gegenheimer (associate professor) and his more than thirty years as a faculty colleague at KU. Peter was presented with painting of RNAse P - a molecule Peter worked on extensively - decorated with comments from his friends and colleagues. Peter joined the Biochemistry Department (now Molecular Biosciences) in 1985 after very productive doctoral work in the laboratory of Dr. David Apirion at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and postdoctoral work with Dr. John Abelson at UC San Diego. Peter’s research, then and since, has mainly focused on the mechanism and evolution of transfer RNA processing enzymes. Among his many scientific contributions, his 2000 paper published in the journal RNA especially stands out in providing the first direct confirmation that the chloroplast RNAse P enzyme is a protein enzyme rather than an all RNA enzyme. This is considered by many to be a landmark piece of work and it has been heavily cited. Peter trained numerous undergraduate and graduate students in his laboratory who have gone on to very productive careers around the country. We all wish Peter the very best.


Josie Chandler (assistant professor) in collaboration with Berl Oakley (Irving S. Johnson Distinguished Professor) are recipients of a J.R. And Inez Jay Award from KU Higuchi Biosciences for work entitled, "Blocking quorum sensing to potentiate antibiotics in Pseudomonas aeruginosa.” The funding will be used to identify and study novel inhibitors of quorum sensing, a type of cell-cell communication that is critical for many bacterial pathogens to cause disease. Ajai Dandekar (University of Washington) will collaborate on the study.


Audrey Lamb (professor) is the recipient of a Kansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence Bridging Award for her proposal entitled “Opine Metallophores from Bacterial Pathogens.” The goal of this work is to provide fundamental understanding of the enzymes that generate a recently discovered metal acquisition system, one used by bacterial pathogens that are becoming increasingly antibiotic resistant. 


Kristi Neufeld (professor) and Eileen Hotze (lecturer) were recognized as “Favorite Professors” by the Biology Class of 2018 at the University of Kansas Undergraduate Biology Recognition Ceremony on May 12.




David Davido (associate professor) chaired the "Herpesvirus-host interactions" session at the Colorado Alphaherpesvirus Latency Symposium in Vail, CO on May 16-19 and served on its planning committee.  



Molecular Biosciences participated in the University of Kansas Doctoral Hooding Ceremony on May 12.  From left to right:  Hikmat Al Hashimi and his mentor Matthew Buechner, Berl Oakley mentor to Tori Paolillo, Kara Evans (her mentor, Josie Chandler, is not shown), Muhekta Gujar and her mentor Erik Lundquist, Lingfei Liang, Trey Ronnebaum and his mentor Audrey Lamb, and Susan Egan (mentor to Lingfei).

Molecular Biosciences participated in the University of Kansas Master’s Hooding and Undergraduate Distinction/Highest Distinction Ceremony on May 12. From left to right: Susan Egan (mentor to Nicole), Nicole Massa, Reshma Bhattacharya, Berl Oakley (mentor to Reshma).


Ranjan Preet (postdoc, Dixon lab) received a Digestive Disease Week 2018 Basic Science Travel Award to gave a talk in the Gastrointestinal Oncology Distinguished Abstract Plenary session entitled “RNA binding protein HuR regulates extracellular vesicle secretion in colorectal cancer” at the Digestive Disease Week 2018 American Gastroenterological Association Annual Meeting in Washington, DC on June 4.


Cindy Ly (graduate student, Davido lab) received the Kathleen McCluskey-Fawcett Woman Mentoring Women Award at the Emily Taylor Center Recognition Program. This award is given to a "woman-identified student, staff, or faculty who has demonstrated outstanding commitment to supporting and mentoring women at the University of Kansas."

Jenna Lea joined the Unckless lab in May 2018 as a research assistant. Jenna recently graduated from the University of Georgia where she was an undergraduate working in the labs of Andrew Park, Kelly Dyer, and Courtney Murdock. Jenna will study the evolutionarygenetics of meiotic drive in Drosophila affinis.


Aubrie Stricker (undergraduate student, Lundquist lab) has been named a Kansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (K-INBRE) Star Trainee. The K-INBRE Star Trainee Program is designed “to identify outstanding prospective biomedical researchers during their junior year in college, and provide financial support during the senior year.” Aubrie will use the model organism nematode worm to investigate the molecular mechanisms of axon pathfinding during nervous system development. These studies have implications for human neurodevelopmental disorders and recovery after central nervous system injury.

Letty Beltran (undergraduate, Hefty Lab) won the Sigma Xi and the Outstanding Presenter Awards at the 2018 Undergraduate Research Symposium. Letty was also admitted to the 2018/19 KU PREP program.



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June 2018 Presentations

Christian Ray (assistant professor) gave an invited talk entitled, “Quantifying Cellular Individuality” at the Allen Institute for Cell Science in Seattle, WA on May 14.

Rob Unckless (assistant professor) gave a talk entitled “Genomic consequences of genetic conflict in Drosophila” at the Stowers Institute on May 22nd.

Dan Dixon (associate professor) gave a talk entitled “The RNA binding protein HuR regulates exosome secretion in colorectal cancer” at the 4th Annual Midwest Tumor Microenvironment Meeting in Iowa City, IA on May 22.

Audrey Lamb (professor) gave an invited seminar in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at Texas A&M University on May 17. Her talk was entitled, “From Opine to Evidence: Staphylopine, pseudopaline, yersinopine biosynthesis.”

Tom Hill (postdoc Unckless lab) gave a talk entitled “Antiviral genes are not fast evolving in D. innubila” at the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution Satellite Meeting: Molecular Evolution and the Cell in Deer Valley, Utah on May 11th.

Vikalp Vishwakarma (postdoc, Dixon lab) gave a talk entitled “The RNA-binding protein Tristetraprolin controls intestinal cell differentiation and bacterial symbiosis through the Notch signaling pathway” at the Digestive Disease Week (DDW) 2018 American Gastroenterological Association Annual Meeting in Washington, DC on June 5.

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June 2018 Publications

Abisado R, Benomar S, Klaus JR, Dandekar AA, Chandler JR. Bacterial quorum sensing and microbial community interactions. MBio 2018 May 22;9(3). pii: e02331-17. doi: 10.1128/mBio.02331-17.

Klaus JR, Deay J, Neuenswander B, Hursh W, Gao Z, Bouddhara T, Williams TD, Douglas J, Monize K, Martins P, Majerczyk C, Seyedsayamdost MR, Peterson BR, Rivera M, Chandler JR. Malleilactone is a Burkholderia pseudomallei virulence factor regulated by antibiotics and quorum sensing. Journal of Bacteriology. 2018 May 7. pii: JB.00008-18. doi: 10.1128/JB.00008-18. [Epub ahead of print]

Miao Y Acceleration of Biomolecular Kinetics in Gaussian Accelerated Molecular Dynamics. Journal of Chemical Physics, 149(7):072308. 2018.

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Molecular Biosciences

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

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