July 2018 News   

Molecular Biosciences mourns the passing of Professor Emeritus Charles Wyttenbach on June 11. Charles earned Bachelors and Master’s degrees in Zoology at Indiana University. During that time he became a research assistant to Sears Crowell at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) at Woods Hole in Massachusetts, an affiliation he would continue throughout his career. Charles earned a doctorate from Johns Hopkins University in three years, supported by a National Science Foundation fellowship. After earning his doctorate, Charles became an Instructor and then Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago. In 1966, Charles accepted a position at KU as a member of the (former) Department of Zoology. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1970 and to Professor in 1975. He served as chairman of the Department of Physiology and Cell Biology (a direct predecessor of Molecular Biosciences) from 1976-1983. Charles’ research interests included nervous system development in chick embryos (carried out at KU) and stolon growth in colonial hydroids (carried out during summers at Woods Hole). In collaboration with KU Professor Paul Kitos, Charles was funded by the National Institutes of Health to study the effects of organophosphate insecticides on embryonic development in chick embryos. His major teaching interests were focused on Embryology. He taught Principles of Biology, which grew from 60 to 300 students under his care.  He was recognized as a Hillteacher in 1968 and nominated for “Best Advisor in the College” in 1991. Charles retired in 1997 and continued to spend summers at Woods Hole and winters in Lawrence. Charles was married to Ellen Garnett (Ph.D., Botany, Indiana University), and they raised three children. In addition to science, Charles had an avid interest in classical music. He was a talented photographer, which began while recording marine organisms as an undergraduate assistant at Woods Hole. Charles was a fine colleague and truly interesting individual, and we will miss his many contributions to KU.


Erik Lundquist (professor) has been appointed Interim Associate Vice Chancellor for Research effective June 11. He will work alongside the Vice Chancellor for Research and two other Associate Vice Chancellors for Research to oversee the operations of the Office of Research, and to facilitate the research enterprise at KU. His oversight responsibilities include the Animal Care and Use program, university core laboratories and facilities, and the Higuchi Biosciences Center. In this position, he also serves as Vice President of the KU Center for Research. As this is a 50% appointment, Dr. Lundquist will continue research and teaching activities as a faculty member in Molecular Biosciences.


Rob Unckless (assistant professor) is the recipient of a National Institutes of Health (National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease) R01 grant entitled “The causes of balancing selection on immunity genes: from populations to molecular interactions”. The funding will be used to determine the forces that act to maintain allelic variation in antimicrobial peptides (small peptides that directly inhibit microbes) at the molecular, genetic and population levels.


Kristi Neufeld (professor) in collaboration with Yoshi Azuma (professor) are recipients of a J.R. And Inez Jay Award from KU Higuchi Biosciences for work entitled, "Novel function of APC tumor suppressor in DNA Topoisomerase II-mediated cell cycle checkpoint.The funding will be used to assess interactions between APC and Topoisomerase II that control cell proliferation.


Yoshi Azuma (professor) and Steve Benedict (professor) are each recipients of University of Kansas Cancer Pilot Project Grants from the Cancer Biology Research Program. Azuma’s proposal is entitled “Impact of SUMOylation on cancer cell’s chromatin structure and fitness.” Benedict’s proposal is entitled, “Choice of co-stimulation of naïve T cells controls differentiation to anti-tumor Th1 cells.” 


Three Molecular Biosciences graduate students will be appointed to the National Institutes of Health Graduate Training Program in the Dynamic Aspects of Chemical Biology on July 1: Latavia Hill (Egan lab), David Ingham (Gamblin lab), and Cindy Ly (Davido lab). They will also be pursuing a KU Graduate Certificate in Chemical Biology along with their doctorate in our department.


Nikola Kenjic (graduate student, Lamb lab) has been named the Weaver Graduate Fellow for the 2018-2019 academic year.  This fellowship is awarded annually to an international student.



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July 2018 Presentations

Rob Unckless (assistant professor) was a plenary speaker at the 2018 Workshop on Resistance to Gene Drive in Arolla, Switzerland on June 18th. He gave a talk entitled “The Landscape of Resistance to Natural and Synthetic Gene Drives”. 

Cara Davis (undergraduate, Lamb lab) gave a selected talk entitled “Biosynthesis of Yersinopine: an opine metallophore from Yersinia pestis” at the 7th Biennial National IDeA Symposium of Biomedical Research Excellence (NISBRE) in Washington DC on June 26.  Cara also gave her talk at KU Mini College, explaining her research project to alumni on June 5.

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July 2018 Publications

Hill T (Unckless Lab), Betancourt AJ Extensive exchange of transposable elements in the Drosophila pseudoobscura group in Mobile DNA. 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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