February 2020 News

The Department of Molecular Biosciences at the University of Kansas invites applications for a faculty position at the tenure-track Assistant Professor level with expected start dates between August 2020 and May 2021.  We are seeking outstanding candidates to apply for a tenure-track faculty position at the Assistant Professor level in the area of Immunology with a focus on host-pathogen interactions whose research aligns with the NIH mission.  The university and department aspire to become a leader among its peer institutions in making meaningful and lasting progress in responding to the needs and concerns of minority and marginalized demographic groups. As such, applications from members of underrepresented groups in higher education are highly encouraged.


The Department of Molecular Biosciences is very sad to share that emeritus faculty member Dr. Dean Stetler passed away on February 9, 2020. Dean earned both bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from KU, and then pursued postdoctoral training at Penn State University. Following an initial faculty position at Penn State, Dean returned to KU in 1985 as a faculty member. Dean’s research initially focused on Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, an autoimmune disease, and later on the genetics of human behavior. Among his most noteworthy accomplishments, Dean’s research contributed to more accurate methods for diagnosing Lupus patients, and led to three US patents related to the diagnosis and severity-monitoring of autoimmune diseases. He also developed an important mouse model of Lupus used for research studies. Dean taught 17 different undergraduate and graduate courses in his years at KU, and provided research training to many undergraduate students in his lab. He trained over a dozen graduate students and postdoctoral researchers who went on to successful careers. Dean established himself as an expert in DNA evidence for the legal system and contributed to nearly 300 legal cases and conducted frequent workshops for legal professionals. Dean’s service to KU was also extensive, including serving as Director of Graduate Studies for Molecular Biosciences, Director of the Genetics Program, and Director of Undergraduate Biology, during which time he founded the Undergraduate Biology Graduate Recognition Ceremony. Dean will be missed by current and former KU faculty, staff and students. Funeral services were held shortly after his passing. We offer our sincerest condolences to Dean’s family members and all those mourning his loss.


Rob Unckless organized the Great Plains Genetic Conflict 2020 meeting that occurred on January 25th in Lawrence, KS. Rob also gave a talk entitled “The genetics of sex-ratio meiotic drive in Drosophila affinis”.



Vaughn Craddock (undergraduate, Chandler lab) received a KU Undergraduate Research Award (UGRA) from the KU Center for Undergraduate Research for the spring 2020 semester to do research focused on identifying fungal secondary metabolites that can inhibit quorum sensing in the bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa.


Payton Markley (undergraduate, Dixon lab) was awarded an Undergraduate Research Award (UGRA) from the KU Center for Undergraduate Research for the spring 2020 semester for her project entitled “Identification and Characterization of the ELAVL1 Promoter Region”.

Jennifer Amrein (graduate student, Dixon lab) received Honorable Mention recognition at the 18th Annual K-INBRE Symposium for her poster presentation entitled “The RNA-binding protein Tristetraprolin: A key factor of intestinal cell differentiation and microbial homeostasis in colorectal cancer”.


Colby Spiess (undergraduate, Dixon lab) received Honorable Mention recognition at the 18th Annual K-INBRE Symposium for his oral presentation entitled “Overexpression of the RNA binding protein HuR promotes chemoresistance by stabilizing AKT in colorectal cancer cells”.



Emma Pagella (undergraduate, Unckless lab) was awarded a K-INBRE Undergraduate Scholarship for her work on Drosophila immunity.




Eduardo Ramirez (undergraduate, Timmons lab) was selected as a 2020 K-INBRE Undergraduate Scholarship Program recipient.



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February 2020 Presentations

Rob Unckless presented a talk entitled “Recurrent evolution of a virulent viral haplotype in a Drosophila / DNA virus system” at the K-INBRE 2020 Symposium in Wichita, KS, January 17-19, 2020.

Tom Hill (postdoc, Unckless lab) presented a talk entitled “Recurrent evolution in viral types in an arms race between a DNA virus and a Drosophila species” at the 2020 Great Plains Genetic Conflict meeting in Lawrence, KS, January 25, 2020.

Mariaelen Nabors (undergraduate, Unckless lab) presented a poster entitled “The genetic basis of divergence in immune defense between Drosophila species” at the K-INBRE 2020 Symposium in Wichita, KS, January 17-19, 2020.

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February 2020 Publications

Schultz, C.W., Preet, R., Dhir, T., Dixon, D.A.* and Brody, J.R.* Wiley Interdiscip. Rev. RNA. 2020; Understanding and targeting the disease-related RNA binding protein HuRin press. *Co-corresponding authors.


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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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