The University of Iowa
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
The Department of Biology

Archived News

News and Events

Newspaper
UI Biology professor to present lecture on what she has learned from studying snails
By Casey Westlake, Museum of Natural History
April 29, 2014

Could New Zealand snails hold the secret to why some creatures rely on sexual reproduction while others don’t?

Maurine Neiman, University of Iowa assistant professor of biology, will answer that question and discuss what she and the colleagues in her lab have learned from studying snails in her talk, “Sex in Nature (And Especially in New Zealand),” which will be presented at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 8, in the Biosphere Discovery Hub at the UI Museum of Natural History. The free public lecture is the final UI Explorers Seminar of the 2013-2014 season. The program will resume in the fall.

Read full article...
I-Bio Career Options Lunch Talk to be held on May 5
By Steve Kehoe, University of Iowa Department of Biology
April 22, 2014

James (Jay) Demas, Assistant Professor of Biology and Physics at St. Olaf College; Judith Thorn, Associate Professor of Biology and Chair of Neuroscience Program at Knox College; and Mark McKone, Professor of Biology at Carleton College will be the featured speakers for the Integrated Biology (I-Bio) Career Options Lunch Talk. The I-Bio Graduate Program is dedicated to student success and this includes all career options available to graduates of the program. The I-Bio Career Options Lunch Talk is held each semester and provides students with exposure to a wide variety of successful people who share the story of their science-related career paths in a friendly, informal lunchtime setting.

The Career Options Lunch Talk is to be held on Monday, May 5, at 11:00am. It will be in room B20 of the Biology Building at the University of Iowa.

Jay Demas: http://wp.stolaf.edu/biology/people/jay-demas/

Judith Thorn: http://www.knox.edu/academics/faculty/thorn-judith.html

Mark McKone: http://www.acad.carleton.edu/curricular/BIOL/faculty/mmckone/

Students show deep-rooted concern for environment
By Erin Irish, Associate Professor of Biology
May 27, 2013

A patch of native Iowa plants along the Iowa River in an Iowa City park found itself in the path of destruction this spring. The railroad berm of the CRANDIC line is being raised to serve as a floodwall for businesses along 2nd Street in Coralville. The stretch of berm that is in CRANDIC Park has been home to a number of native woodland species, including trilliums, wild ginger, rue anemone, jack-in-the-pulpit, and Canada anemone, as well as morels. Although these plants and fungi are not rare species in this part of the state, their presence indicated that this was one patch of ground, unlike most of the banks of the Iowa River as it flows through Iowa City, that had escaped substantial alteration by human enterprise—until now.

When it became clear that the construction plans were fixed and the ground where those plants and fungi lived would be churned and crushed by heavy machinery and ultimately buried, a plan was devised to dig up as many of the plants as possible and transplant them to a similar and safer location. This site is about one-half mile down the river from CRANDIC Park on the grounds of the Ashton House, recently acquired by the City of Iowa City and incorporated into City Park. 

On April 25, word came from the city engineer that in order to save the plants, the work had to be done by nightfall, that day. With a plan to move the plants and an appropriate site for transplantation, all that was needed was final permission and a crew to do the work, on short order. Permission from the Parks and Recreation Department came at noon. E-mail requests for volunteers were immediately sent to Plant Biology majors as well as students in the Environmental Biosciences (green) program and a team was quickly assembled. In addition to the undergraduate students, Department of Biology faculty and staff and City of Iowa City personnel pitched in. In one hour, the plants were carefully dug, loaded into flats borrowed from the Department of Biology Greenhouse, driven to the Ashton House and planted. The students played a central role in getting this work done.

Whereas plants such as jack-in-the-pulpit that were not out yet could not be saved, nor could the morels, at least many trilliums and wild ginger plants were rescued. If all goes well, these plants will flourish and provide offshoots that can be moved back to CRANDIC Park once the construction is completed.

For a related article about this project in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, please click here.

Individuals who partcipated include: Adam Foresman1, Maurine Neiman2, Erin Irish2, Alex Kokshanian1, Matt Applebaum, Katherine Beydler1, Donny Warren1, Matt Colson1, Jeremy Spiwak1, Angie Cordle3, Ben Clark4, Julie Tallman4

1 Biology student, 2Biology faculty, 3Biology staff, 4City of Iowa City

The developmental genetics of space and time
By Albert Erives, Associate Professor of Biology
May 15, 2013

Albert Erives, associate professor in the University of Iowa Department of Biology, and his graduate student, Justin Crocker, currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Janelia Farm Research Campus, have conducted a study that reveals important and useful insights into how and why developmental genes often take inputs from two independent “morphogen concentration gradients.”

The study appears in the Genomes & Developmental Control section of the online June 1 issue of the journal Developmental Biology. The complete paper can be found at: www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0012160613001310.

Understanding the concept of morphogen gradients—the mechanism by which a signal from one part of a developing embryo can influence the location and other variables of surrounding cells—is important to developmental biology, gene regulation, evolution, and human health.

Morphogen gradients subdivide a field of cells into territories characterized by distinct cell fate potentials and allow cells to “know” their position within a developing embryonic tissue and to differentiate appropriately. In order to function, such systems require a genetic mechanism to encode a spectrum of responses at different target genes.

This genetic mechanism takes the form of transcriptional enhancers, which are DNA sequences that display a cryptic code of transcription factor (TF) binding sites. During development and/or environmental perturbation, these enhancers serve as assembly scaffolds for TF protein complexes that orchestrate differential gene expression.

However, enhancers targeted by morphogen signaling may drive temporally inappropriate expression because morphogen gradients also provide temporal cues. That is, the morphogenic gradient builds up and decays over a specific window of developmental time.

Using the powerful Drosophila (fruit fly) genetic system, which includes diverse species with fully sequenced genomes, the Erives Lab identified a case of spatial and temporal conflict in the regulation of the ventral neurons defective (vnd) gene, which must be precisely regulated in order for the fly’s nervous system to be properly specified. The vnd gene is induced by a concentration gradient of a key embryonic factor (dorsal/NFkB) that patterns the dorsal/ventral (D/V) axis of the embryo. In particular, the vnd gene plays a critical role in specifying distinct D/V neural columnar fates of the ectodermal compartments by encoding a repressor of additional regulators.

The role of vnd in this regulatory hierarchy requires early temporal expression, which is characteristic of low-threshold responses, but its specification of ventral neurogenic ectoderm demands a relatively high-threshold response to the morphogen.

The study shows that the vnd gene’s Neurogenic Ectoderm Enhancer (NEE) takes additional input from a complementary gradient of the Dpp morphogen via a highly-conserved Schnurri/Mad/Medea silencer element (SSE), which is integral to its NEE module. In this regard, the NEE at vnd is unlike NEEs at other genetic loci, which are not involved in the neural specification circuit and have no resident SSE. They also show that an SSE could be added to a single-input NEE and cause spatial restriction of its activity. These results show how requirements for conflicting temporal and spatial responses to one morphogen gradient can be solved by additional inputs from complementary morphogen gradients.

The Erives Lab at the UI’s Department of Biology studies the structure, function, and evolution of enhancers within the context of gene regulatory circuits underlying the evolution and development of animals by using molecular, genetic, and evolutionary genomic approaches. Within these areas, the Erives Lab has published several landmark papers notable for demonstrating how whole genome sequences can be used to accelerate biological research on outstanding questions in biology.

The study is supported by an NSF CAREER award to Albert Erives (NSF IOS1239673).

Read full article...
Biology Graduate Student receives funding to determine whether accelerated accumulation of harmful mutations can help explain why most organisms reproduce sexually
By Maurine Neiman, Joel Sharbrough, Steve Kehoe, and Gary Galluzzo
May 10, 2013

Joel Sharbrough, a UI graduate student working in the laboratory of Maurine Neiman, assistant professor of biology, recently won a two-year, $20,000 National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant to extend his research.

The project will compare sexual and asexual specimens of a New Zealand freshwater snail to determine whether the accelerated accumulation of harmful mutations experienced by the asexual lineage can help explain why most organisms reproduce sexually, rather than asexually.

One of the first investigations of its kind, the research will include data collection by more than 100 high school students, thereby enabling the students to engage in a scientific project addressing a central question of evolutionary biology. The research is also of direct relevance to the many biologists and medical researchers who study the links between mutations and organismal function, including those who focus on the causes of human disease.

For more information about the Neiman Lab, see: www.biology.uiowa.edu/neiman/.

Read full article...
Biology student group to hold Plant Sale on Thursday, May 9
By Steve Kehoe, Department of Biology
May 6, 2013

The University of Iowa Biological Interests Organization (UI BIO) will hold a Plant Sale from 11am to 3pm on Thursday, May 9, in the Kautz Plaza located on the T. Anne Cleary Walkway. In case of rain, the sale will be held from 11 am to 3pm on Friday, May 10, at the same location.

Herbs will be sold at $4 for a pack of six and flowers at $3 for a pack of six.

UI BIO is dedicated to student development in the biological fields. The organization provides research opportunities, career networking, and pre-professional experiences intended to cultivate interest in biology while fostering an environment of fellowship among students and faculty.

For more information, email biology-at-iowa-@googlegroups.com, or find UI BIO on Facebook at www.facebook.com/UIBIO and Twitter at www.twitter.com/UIBIO.

 

UI research finding may lead to better understanding of inner ear development
By Gary Galluzzo, University Communication and Marketing
April 23, 2013

University of Iowa research has resulted in a discovery that may help physicians and other researchers to better understand normal inner ear development as well as diseases of the inner ear.

Doctoral student and lead author Jeremy S. Duncan, currently a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University, and Bernd Fritzsch, professor in the UI Department of Biology, published their results April 16 in the online edition of the journal PLOS ONE.

Fritzsch says that the latest finding builds upon previous research conducted in his lab and indicates that a particular protein transcription factor called Gata3 is necessary for normal inner ear development.

“We begin to understand the ear development puzzle and the gene we are working on is playing a major role in this puzzle,” Fritzsch says.

Duncan says that the research, conducted with mice, shows that Gata3 likely acts in concert with several other factors and is essential to promote genes that enable proper cochlear development.

“We found that Gata3 is playing a role during many steps of development, and for each of them ‘you gatta have Gata,’” Duncan says.

A molecular developmental neurobiologist, Fritzsch is internationally known for his research on the evolution of sensory neurons of the inner ear, which has provided insights into the genetic basis of hearing loss. His research program is funded by the National Institutes of Health and by a federal Small Business Innovation Research Grant for the development of neuronal tracers.

The research was supported by NIH grants #R01DC005590 (to B.F.) and #P30 DC 010362. Duncan was supported by an Evelyn Hart Watson Fellowship as well as the UI Office of the Vice President for Research and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Read full article...
Biology Professor receives prestigious award
April 10, 2013

The Medical Mycology Society of the Americas has named David R. Soll, Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver/Emil Witschi Professor of Biology in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the winner of the 2013 Rhoda Benham Award.

The award is given “to an individual from the Americas for continuous outstanding or meritorious contributions to medical mycology.” The Medical Mycology Society of the Americas was founded in 1966 in part “to provide recognition to medical mycology as a flourishing and distinct division of medical microbiology.”

Soll will formally receive the award May 20 during the society’s annual meeting in Denver.

Soll, who directs the W.M. Keck Dynamic Image Analysis Facility as well as the the Monoclonal Antibody Research Institute, in 2009 received his field’s other major award: the Lucille K. George Medal, given every three years for the outstanding medical mycologist from the International Society for Human and Animal Mycology.

Soll, who joined the UI faculty in 1972, is internationally known for his work on Candida albicans, cell motility, and monoclonal antibody technology, as well as his investigations in a variety of other research fields.

A Fellow of both the American Academy of Microbiology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science since 2006, he is currently director of the Developmental Studies Hybridoma Bank, an NIH National Resource located in the UI Department of Biology. The facility distributes proteins, called monoclonal antibodies, used to study, diagnose, and treat cancer throughout the world.

Read full article...
Biology Career Night on April 10
By Steve Kehoe, Department of Biology
April 4, 2013

The University of Iowa Department of Biology will hold a career information session on Wednesday, April 10, 2013, at 6:30pm in the Biology Building East (BBE) on the campus of the University of Iowa.

The session will focus on providing current university students and potential transfer students with information about Biology degrees and tracks, biology-related careers, and opportunities for undergraduate research and teaching.

Speaker presentations will begin at 7:00pm in Kollros Auditorium (BBE) and include Megan Watt, UI Career Center Advisor; Bryant McAllister, Director of Undergraduate Studies; Ted Neal, Clinical Instructor – Science Education Program; Lori Adams, Biology Honors Program Advisor and Adjunct Assistant Professor; and a student career panel. 

Prior to the presentations from 6:30 – 7:00pm, students can learn about several campus organizations and programs such as Iowa Biosciences Advantage (IBA), Iowa Center for Research by Undergraduates (ICRU), Supplemental Instruction (SI), the UI BIO student organization, and more.

For more information, please contact the University of Iowa Department of Biology at 319-335-1050 or biology@uiowa.edu

Biology student's research may provide therapy for individuals with Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease
By Steve Kehoe and Alison Crissman
March 22, 2013

Steven Henning, a Biology Honors Program student in Assistant Professor Veena Prahlad’s lab in the Department of Biology, will present his research at the Research in the Capitol day on March 26, 2013.

Henning’s research is on protein aggregation, which is a result of the misfolding of proteins within cells. Protein aggregation is associated with a number of neurodegenerative illnesses including Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and others. Although repair mechanisms exists within cells that can alleviate aggregation, in the case of disease, they aren’t activated.

Henning and the Prahlad Lab proposes that the thermosensory neurons are what inhibits the repair mechanism from being activated when an organism experiences chronic stress (disease).

By modulating neuronal pathways that normally inhibit the activation of the repair mechanism in disease patients, it is hoped that misfolding can be greatly suppressed and serve as therapy for individuals who suffer from neuorodegenerative illnesses.

Research in the Capitol is a day dedicated to allowing Honors Program students from the three public universities in Iowa present their research to state officials and reporters. For more information about Research in the Capitol, please visit http://www.uiowa.edu/icru/conf_capitol.shtml

You can also learn more about research in the Prahlad Lab at http://www.biology.uiowa.edu/faculty_info.php?ID=2295

In Remembrance of Biology Professor, Dr. Richard Kessel
March 15, 2013

Name:
Richard G. Kessel

Dates:
Birth date: July 19, 1931
Death date: March 13, 2013

Obituary:

Richard Glen Kessel, 75, of Rapid City, SD passed away on Wednesday March 13, 2013. Funeral services will be held on Tuesday March 19th at 10:00 am at lensing Funeral and Cremation Service, 605 Kirkwood Ave, Iowa City. Visitation will be one hour prior to the service. In lieu of flowers memorial donations may be directed to Richard G. Kessel Medical Scholarship Fund. C/O University of Iowa Foundation, 1 West Park Road Iowa City, Iowa 52242 Richard was born 19 July 1931 in Fairfield, Iowa, the son of Oscar G. Kessel and Hazel M. Humston Kessel. He graduated from the Fairfield Public High School in 1949, then attended Parsons College in Fairfield and received the B.S. Degree summa cum laude in Chemistry in 1953. He entered the University of Iowa Medical School in 1953, but financial constraints caused a change in plans. He enrolled in the Graduate College of the University of Iowa in Biological Sciences in 1954 and received the M.S. Degree in 1956 and the Ph.D. Degree in 1959. His training and research for the Ph.D. were in the area of cell structure and function and involved the use of the transmission electron microscope which was a new and important tool in the investigation of cell structure and function at that time. Subsequent research tools used included scanning electron microscopy, cell culture, autoradiography, ultrastructural cytochemistry and freeze fracture studies on cell membranes. Following graduation, Kessel accepted a teaching and research position in the Anatomy Department of Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. From 1959-1961, he was instructor, then Assistant Professor of Anatomy there. In 1961, he accepted an invitation to return to the Biology Department at the University of Iowa. He remained in this position as Assistant Professor, Associate professor and then Professor until retirement in 1997. During his tenure at the University of Iowa, Kessel performed research in cell and developmental biology and taught under-graduates and graduate students in cell biology, electron microscopy and microscopic anatomy (histology). During this time he published some 120 scientific research and review articles and 5 books. Much of his research dealt with the biology of the female gamete and cell organelle structure and function. His last book, shortly before retirement was BASIC MEDICAL HISTOLOGY published by Oxford University Press in 1997. He also collaborated with his colleague at Iowa, Professor H.W. Beams on the effects of high centrifugal force on living cells. Kessel taught the first course in Transmission Electron Microscopy at the University of Iowa. He was the first recipient of a five year U.S. Public Health Service Research Career Development Award at the University of Iowa and served as Chairman of the University Scanning Electron Microscope Steering Committee for many years. He was also a program Director of a U.S. Public Health service sponsored Developmental Biology Training Grant for many years. The training grant provided tuition support as well as financial support for the research activities of those graduate students appointed to this grant. He was a member of several University committees including the University Research Council (Chairman) and Library Committee (Chairman). Over a period of more than three decades, he taught thousands of pre-professional students in his undergraduate lecture-laboratory course in cell, tissue and organ biology. Professional society memberships included the American Association of Anatomists, the Society of Developmental Biology, the American Society foe Cell Biology, the Microscopy Society, Physiology and Biophysical Societies, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Sigma Xi, and Beta, Beta, Beta. He was a life member of the Iowa Alumni Association. He is listed in Who’s Who is America. Other associations include the President’s Club of the University of Iowa, the Dean’s Club of the University of Iowa College of liberal Arts. The 1847 Society of the University of Iowa and the Whitman Society of the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in woods Hole, Massachusetts. Kessel established the Richard G.Kessel Medical Scholarship at the University of Iowa College of Medicine, the Richard G. Kessel Scholarship in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Cornell College, Mt Vernon, IA., the Richard G. Kessel Embryology Course Scholarship at the MBL in Woods Hole, MA. He also established and funds a visiting lecturer program for the Embryology Course at the MBL. Kessel was a student in the Embryology Course at the MBL in 1957. Following retirement, Kessel lived for eight years at Melrose Meadows in Iowa City. In late November of 2012, he moved to Rapid City, SD to be close to his nearest living relatives, a nephew Stepehn M. Babbitt III, a professor at Black Hills State University and his wife, Dr.Nancy Babbitt, a physician in Rapids City. Shortly after moving to Rapid City, Kessel was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and spent his ensuing time at Somerset Retirement Residence and Hospice House, both in Rapid City. Kessel was preceded in death by his parents, a sister Willa Kessel Babbitt, and a brother-in-law, Stephen M. Babbitt II. He is survived by two nephews, Stephen M. Babbitt III and family of Rapids City, South Dakota, Bret Richard Babbitt and family of Livermore, CA and a niece, Darcy Jean Babbitt of Oakland, California.

Memorials:
Richard Kessel Medical Scholarship Fund. C/O University of Iowa Foundation 1West Park Road, Iowa City, Iowa 52242

Visitation:
9:00 am to 10:00 am on Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at Lensing Funeral & Cremation Service - Iowa City 605 Kirkwood Avenue, P.O. 167 Iowa City Iowa 52244 (map/driving directions)

Service:
10:00 am on Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at Lensing Funeral & Cremation Service - Iowa City 605 Kirkwood Avenue, P.O. 167 Iowa City Iowa 52244 (map/driving directions)

Cemetery:
Hillcrest
Brighton, Iowa

Read full article...
Hendrix receives top teaching award
By Steve Kehoe, Department of Biology
March 13, 2013

Professor of Biology, Stephen Hendrix, received the President and Provost Award for Teaching Excellence for the 2012-2013 academic year. The award, which is administered by the UI Council on Teaching, was created in 2004 as a university-wide recognition for faculty members who have demonstrated a sustained, high level of teaching excellence.

Each college is eligible to submit up to three nominations to the Council on Teaching on behalf of clinical-track or tenure-track faculty and up to two nominations for those in lecturer, visiting faculty, or adjunct faculty positions. Hendrix’s nomination and supporting letters stood out from the many superb candidates from across the university that the Council on Teaching considered.

The award is a testament to Hendrix’s dedication and success in enhancing the quality of education at the University of Iowa and is evident of the strong support he garnered from students and colleagues. For more information about the President and Provost Award for Teaching Excellence, please visit http://www.uiowa.edu/~cot/CTA/ctamenu.htm

Project HOPE helps students explore the health sciences
By Steve Kehoe, Department of Biology
February 27, 2013

Employment opportunities in the health science fields will be the topic of discussion when students from two eastern Iowa middle schools visit the University of Iowa Department of Biology during the next six weeks.

Around 140 eighth grade students from Fairfield middle school will visit the UI Friday, March 1, while students from Columbus Junction and North Scott are scheduled to visit April 11. The visits are the culmination of a six-week program called Project HOPE (Healthcare, Occupations, Preparation and Exploration), a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics)-based career education program designed to connect minority and low socioeconomic middle school students to the health science professions early in their education.

The project, developed by Saba Ali, an associate professor in the UI Counseling Psychology Department in the UI College of Education, addresses the need to increase diversity in the American healthcare workforce and works with students in rural Iowa communities with large Hispanic immigrant populations.

Less than one percent of the healthcare workforce in Iowa is composed of minorities and only between five and nine percent nationwide, says Ali.

The program is currently in place in West Liberty and Columbus Junction, two Iowa communities with large Latino populations, and at four other locations in southeastern Iowa. (Students from West Liberty and Eldridge, Iowa, visited the UI in January.)

While on campus, the eighth graders meet with health science professionals to experience career simulations of various health care and research careers. One such research career simulation conducted in the Department of Biology is coordinated by Lori Adams, a lecturer in the department, and undergraduate student volunteers, including those in the Iowa Biosciences Advantage (IBA) program, the Biology Honors program, and the UI BIO (University of Iowa Biological Interests Organization) student organization.

Ryan Ries, a Biology Honors Program student in the Fritzsch Lab (UI Department of Biology), and Carl Soderlund, a student in the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) in Science Education program, were recently hired by Adams through a grant titled “Expanding and Enhancing STEM Initiatives within CLAS” ( College of Liberal Arts and Sciences).

Funded by an initiative called “Better Futures for Iowans,” the two students will work with Adams on planning and coordinating outreach events, such as Project HOPE. This initiative, supported primarily by the Office of the Provost, extends university resources to Iowans and addresses an important goal of the University Strategic Plan—to provide better futures for Iowans.

Adams and the two UI students will engage the middle school students in scientific inquiry where they take part in hands-on activities designed to simulate the work of a scientist.

Project HOPE is a collaboration between the UI Colleges of Education, Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing, Pharmacy, Public Health, Business, Engineering, Liberal Arts and Sciences (Departments of Biology, Physics and Astronomy, and School of Art and Art History), School of Urban and Regional Planning, Hardin Library for the Health Sciences, and the State Hygienic Laboratory at the University of Iowa. Because Project HOPE was selected as one of 12 of Gov. Terry Branstad’s STEM Scale-Up projects in 2012-13, the program will be allowed to expand into additional communities.

For more information about Project HOPE, contact Ali at saba-ali@uiowa.edu.

Read full article...
Project HOPE helps students explore the health sciences
By Steve Kehoe and Alison Crissman
February 5, 2013

Middle school students from West Liberty and Eldridge, Iowa, who participated in Project HOPE (Healthcare, Occupations, Preparation, and Exploration), traveled to the University of Iowa (UI) on Thursday, January 10, 2013, for the culmination of a six-week program that provided them with opportunities to explore health science occupations.

Project HOPE is a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics)-based career education program designed to connect minority and low socioeconomic middle school students to the health science professions early in their education.

The project, developed by Saba Ali, an associate professor in the UI Counseling Psychology Department, addresses the critical need to increase diversity in the American healthcare workforce and specifically works with students in rural Iowa communities with large Hispanic immigrant populations. The program is currently in place in West Liberty and Columbus Junction, two Iowa communities with large Latino populations, and four other locations in the SE region of Iowa. According to Ali, less than one percent of the healthcare workforce in Iowa is composed of minorities and only between five and nine percent nationwide.

While at UI, the group of eighth graders interacted with students in the Iowa Biosciences Advantage (IBA) program, as well as health science professionals. IBA is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and provides undergraduate students who have traditionally been underrepresented in biomedical and behavioral Ph.D. programs [e.g. African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans (including Alaska natives), natives of the U.S. Pacific Islands, and individuals with disabilities or economically disadvantaged backgrounds] with research training and support to prepare them for entry into doctoral programs in the biosciences. IBA is administered in the Department of Biology and is co-directed by Dr. Lori Adams, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Biology; and Dr. Vincent Rodgers, Professor of Physics & Astronomy. More information about IBA can be found at www.uiowa.edu/iba

IBA students engaged the middle school students in scientific inquiry through three, thirty-minute sessions where they were able to take part in hands-on activities developed by the IBA students. During the sessions, the middle school students identified a simple scientific question, performed an experiment, and then discussed their findings and how it related to health careers. Activities required creativity, curiosity, and use of the scientific method that exemplified the nature of science.

At one station, students competed to build the strongest bridge using toothpicks and Dots candy, which demonstrated engineering principles required to build various prosthetic devices. Another station featured an egg drop contest where the students designed packaging to protect an egg from breaking when it was dropped. This simulated the protective layers found in the body. Finally, the students created and tested homemade stethoscopes that would be effective at listening to heartbeats. IBA students explained to the eighth graders how the heart works and various measures that can be used to listen to the heart.

One West Liberty student said learning about health-related science for the day was enjoyable. “Science was fun today. I like learning about the human body and getting to actually do stuff,” the student said.

Just as the Project HOPE participants learned about science from the IBA students, the IBA students also gained new perspective from the middle school students.

“I learned a different way to approach problem-solving. They have a basic knowledge, and it’s neat to go back to the basics. Sometimes it doesn’t need to be as complex as we make it,” said IBA student Mariah Bankert.

Project HOPE is a collaboration between the UI Colleges of Education, Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing, Pharmacy, Public Health, Business, Engineering, Liberal Arts and Sciences (Departments of Biology, Physics and Astronomy, and School of Art and Art History), School of Urban and Regional Planning, Hardin Library for the Health Sciences, and the State Hygienic Laboratory at The University of Iowa. Project HOPE was selected as one of twelve Governor Terry Branstad’s STEM Scale-Up projects in 2012-13, which will allow the program to expand into additional communities. 

For more information about Project HOPE, please contact Saba Ali (saba-ali@uiowa.edu).

Biology Engineering Shop Provides Valuable Opportunities for Student Employees
By Alison Crissman
January 17, 2013

With today’s job market, college students look for any advantage that will make them qualified candidates for employment after graduation. Thanks to the Engineering Shop in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Biology, three University of Iowa undergraduate students will have a leg up on the competition when they graduate.

Luke Benischek, Will Sharpe, and Dan McCarville are all student employees in the Biology Engineering Shop under the direction of Hanh Kratz and Jeremy Richardson. When the students receive new projects, Kratz and Richardson work with them to develop a plan of direction and to provide guidance and answers to questions as they oversee the students’ projects.

The two take the approach of teaching the students as much as they are interested in learning and inviting them to become involved with various projects in the shop. “We give them projects that they’re interested in, which keeps them engaged. This type of job is a break from any monotonous, routine job that college students may encounter,” Richardson said.

The students are encouraged to think independently and interact directly with clients for whom they work. Clients of the students include several university departments, as well as CERN Laboratory in Switzerland. Benischek and Sharpe are both mechanical engineering majors, and McCarville is a biology major, so each of them has the opportunity to work on projects related to their respective field of study. “All three of them [Benischek, Sharpe, and McCarville] are very creative, and this gives them the opportunity to use creativity that they may not be able to use in the classroom,” Richardson said.

AutoCAD and CorelDRAW are two computer programs the students use in their work for manipulating graphics. These are programs the students may not be taught in school but will be valuable after graduation. In addition, the Engineering Shop utilizes a laser that allows them to make small and precise cuts. Each of the students in the shop uses the laser in their projects. This provides a benefit to their projects because it allows them to take the quality of the work to a higher level and test the limits of the laser.

Benischek’s current work focuses on constructing a piece of equipment with the Steven Green Laboratory in the Department of Biology. He is building a rotator that must be able to withstand very cold temperatures. In order to do so, it must rotate very slowly so it maintains its functions despite the cold.

Sharpe’s main project involves working with the University of Iowa School of Art and Art History to create an “animated” watermark. The watermark is in the shape of a book having its pages flipped. As the pages are flipped quickly, it appears as if the watermark is also a book with its pages turning. The School of Art and Art History approached Sharpe about this project because they were having trouble with making precise cuts on the edges of the book. Before the problem had even been fully explained, Sharpe had found a solution to making the cuts accurate.

McCarville is working with Jean Fitzgerald, a Lecturer for Vertebrate Zoology in the Department of Biology, to redesign exhibits of many different animal skulls and skeletal feet. As an added feature, the exhibits will also include footprints of the animal carved into wood using the Engineering Shop’s laser cutter. The exhibits will be made into a display that can be used in class and will give students the ability to learn about the animals from multiple perspectives.

In addition to the project with Fitzgerald, McCarville is also working on a project with CERN Laboratory in Switzerland. He is designing a project to be used at CERN that involves manipulating Kapton, a material that reflects high energy particles, into a cylinder that is put in a steel bar at their physics department. “We get lots of freedom in this job,” McCarville said. “I like the opportunity to come up with ideas to solve problems for our clients.”

For more information about the Biology Engineering Shop, please contact Hanh Kratz or Jeremy Richardson at 319-335-1066.

Comeron Lab Publishes Landmark Study On Recombination Variation in Drosophila
By Josep Comeron
January 17, 2013

Associate Professor Josep Comeron and former students Ramesh Ratnappan (Ph.D. December 2011) and Sam Bailin (B.S. May 2011), members of the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Biology, published an article in the journal PLoS Genetics describing the first integrated, high-resolution, whole-genome sur­vey of recombination patterns both across a genome and within a species using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. The study lies at the intersection of genomics, molecular genetics, and evolutionary research and provides fundamental new insight into the molecular mechanisms responsible for recombination hotspots and the evolutionary advantages of sex and recombination.

Evolutionarily, recombination increases the effectiveness of selection in natural populations, thus explaining the pervasiveness of recombination and sex. But any meaningful characterization of the advantages of recombination requires an equally precise description of recombination rates across genomes and among individuals of the same species. At a molecular level, hot-spots for recombination events are not well characterized either, thus limiting our understanding of where recombination occurs across genomes.

This study is the first of this kind, coupling the power of classical genetics, next generation Illumina sequencing and new bioinformatic methodologies to map more than 100,000 recombination events after genotyping 139 million informative single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). The results and conclusions of this study are shedding unprecedented light on the genetic and molecular basis of recombination and its evolutionary consequences.

The research for this study was completed solely in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Biology and funded by the National Institutes of Health. 

Click here to read the full article. Commentaries and reviews of the article can also be found in PLoS Genetics, Nature Reviews Genetics, and F1000 Prime.

For more information about Comeron’s research, please visit http://www.biology.uiowa.edu/labs/comeron/

Biology Professor learns mechanism of hearing is similar to car battery
By Daniel Eberl, Department of Biology and Gary Galluzzo, University Communication and Marketing
January 7, 2013

University of Iowa biologist Daniel Eberl and his colleagues have shown that one of the mechanisms involved in hearing is similar to the battery in your car.

And if that isn’t interesting enough, the UI scientists advanced their knowledge of human hearing by studying a similar auditory system in fruit flies—and by making use of the fruit fly “love song.”

To see how the mechanism of hearing resembles a battery, you need to know that the auditory system of the fruit fly contains a protein that functions as a sodium/potassium pump, often called the sodium pump for short, and is highly expressed in a specialized support cell called the scolopale cell.

The scolopale cell is important because it wraps around the sensory endings in the fly’s ear and makes a tight extra-cellular cavity or compartment around them called the scolopale space.

“You could think of these compartments as similar to the compartments of a battery that need to be charged up so they can drive electrons through circuits,” says Eberl, whose paper made the cover of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “In the auditory system, the charge in the scolopale space drives ions, or electrically charged atoms, through membrane channels in the sensory endings that open briefly in response to activation by sounds.

“Our work shows that the sodium pump plays a particularly important role in this cell to help replenish or recharge this compartment with the right ions. The human ear also relies on a compartment called the scala media, which similarly drives ions into the sensory cells of the ear,” he says.

How was the research done? This is where the fruit fly love song comes into play.

Testing whether or not a fruit fly can hear the love song—a sound generated by a vibrating wing—enables Eberl to learn whether electrical recharging is occurring in the fly ear. The fruit fly love song played a role in the research by stimulating the fly to move whenever a sound was emitted and received.

“In these experiments we tested the fly's hearing by inserting tiny electrodes in the fly's antenna, then measuring the electrical responses when we play back computer-generated love songs,” he says.

Eberl notes there are many similarities between fruit fly and human mechanisms of hearing. That means his work on the fly model to identify additional new components required for generating the correct ion balance in the ear will help scientists to understand the human process in more detail.

Eberl’s co-authors on the paper are Madhuparna Roy, postdoctoral associate at the University of Pittsburgh, and Elena Sivan-Loukianova, UI biology research scientist. At the time of the research, Roy was a graduate student in the UI Graduate College studying in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Biology.

The title of the paper, published last week, is "Cell-type-specific roles of Na+/K+ ATPase subunits in Drosophila auditory mechanosensation."

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grant number 5P30DC010362-03) and the Iowa Center for Molecular Auditory Neuroscience at the UI (grant number P30DC010362).

Read full article...
Biomed Virtual Grad School Fair October 25, 2012
By Phillip Ecklund
October 22, 2012
Biomed Virtual Grad School Fair October 25, 2012

Planning to apply to Graduate Schools of Biomedical Sciences?

You are invited to attend the Biomed Virtual Grad School Fair on October 25, 2012.

The Biomed Virtual Grad Fair will allow you to have your admissions questions answered by representatives from over 20 graduate institutions during this live event.

  • REGISTER NOW to attent the FREE virtual fair to learn more about Graduate Schools of Biomedical Sciences programs.
  • Save your valuable time by meeeting school representatives in live chate sessions online.
  • Have you questions answered without ever leaving the comfort of your computer.
  • Only a One-Time Registration required to meet multiple schools.

*Option to upload your CV prior to the event (CV upload not required to participate)

Virtual Fair Date: October 25, 2012

Register at http://biomed.careereco.net/students-alumni/virtual-fair-registration/

For more information:

Gayle Oliver-Path | 770.980.0088 | biomed@careereco.com

Read full article...
Biology Graduate Student Receives Award at 2nd Annual Bioinformatics T32 Retreat
By Alison Crissman
October 14, 2012

Andrew Adrian, a third year graduate student with the Comeron Lab in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Biology, received an award for the best talk by a graduate student at the 2nd Annual Bioinformatics T32 Retreat held on Saturday, October 6, at the University of Iowa.

Adrian’s winning presentation, titled, “The Early Meiotic Transcriptome of Drosophila melanogaster Females,” was chosen from thirteen presentations given by graduate students from the University of Iowa and Iowa State University. The Bioinformatics T32 Retreat is a collaboration of students’ work at the University of Iowa and Iowa State University departments of bioinformatics and computational biology.

For more information about the retreat, visit http://public.eng.uiowa.edu/whitmores/retreat/

Department of Biology to Hold Information Session
By Alison Crissman
October 8, 2012

The University of Iowa Department of Biology will be hosting an information session that will provide potential students, as well as current University of Iowa students, the chance to learn about the Biology program at the University of Iowa. The information session will take place on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012 at 6:30 p.m. in the Kollros Auditorium of the Biology Building East (BBE). 

During the event, attendees will hear from several speakers, including the departmental executive officer, Dr. Bernd Fritzsch, academic and career advisors, and representatives from the University of Iowa College of Public Health and the University of Iowa Biological Interests Organization (UI BIO), a student organization on campus. Information presented will cover a variety of topics including the requirements for a Biology degree, opportunities for research and teaching, and biology-related careers, among others. An optional lab tour will also take place after the session for those interested in seeing a research lab.

More details about the event can be viewed here, or contact Steve Kehoe with the Department of Biology: steve-kehoe@uiowa.edu, 319-335-1050.

Fritzsch's Research Sheds Light on Origins of Inner Ear Hair Cells
By Alison Crissman
October 2, 2012

Bernd Fritzsch, Departmental Executive Officer and professor in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Biology, is a co-author on a paper discussing the similarities between the inner ear hair cells of humans and the lateral line hair cells of fish.

Read full article...
Biology Professor's research may lead to new insight on stem cell division and tumor formation
By Steve Kehoe and Alison Crissman
September 27, 2012

Bryan Phillips, an assistant professor in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Biology, was recently awarded a three-year grant by the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust in the amount of $372,828. With the grant, Phillips will study proteins that regulate asymmetric stem cell division and cell fate specification during development. Defects in asymmetric stem cell division are seen in a host of cancers and metastases, including colorectal cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Over 90 percent of all colorectal tumors contain mutations that result in defects in the Wnt pathway, a conserved cell communication pathway currently under study in the Phillips lab.

Phillips’ research will more specifically focus on studying the Wnt cell communication pathway in C. elegans, a powerful and widely used experimental model animal that utilizes Wnt signaling in its hypodermal stem cell divisions. This pathway also regulates asymmetric cell divisions in the intestine of mammals where it regulates differentiation and asymmetric division of intestinal stem cells. With his research, Phillips hopes to gain new insight into the activation of the Wnt cell signaling pathways and how they control asymmetric cell division and tumor formation. This could translate to the development of new drugs aimed at Wnt signaling components during defective asymmetric division in human disease.

The Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust was created in 1987 and is one of the largest private philanthropic foundations in the state of Iowa. During the course of its history, the Trust has distributed more than $258 million in the form of nearly 2,000 grants. For more information about the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust, please visit carvertrust.org

Read full article...
2012 Alumni Fellows offering public presentations
September 10, 2012

The University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts & Sciences welcomes its 2012 class of Alumni Fellows to campus this week.

Each year, up to six CLAS alumni are honored as Alumni Fellows for their outstanding contributions to society, their professions, the College, and The University of Iowa. Each Fellow is hosted by his or her home department, where they speak to classes, meet socially with small groups of faculty and students, and make a public presentation based on his or her experiences since leaving the University. The program is made possible by funds from the UI Alumni Association Dean’s Chair in the Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Click the link below to read the brief bios of this year’s Alumni Fellows with information about the public presentations they are offering to the University and community.

Read full article...
Jahan Wins Hearing Health Foundation Grant
By Alison Crissman
August 8, 2012

Israt Jahan, a postdoctoral research scholar working with Professor Bernd Fritzsch’s lab in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Biology, was recently awarded a year-long research grant totaling $25,000 by the Hearing Health Foundation.  Jahan’s grant application, entitled “Misexpression of Neurog1 Combined with Delayed Deletion of Atoh1 Provides a Novel Model for Studying Organ of Corti Development”, earned the grant based on its scientific merit and program relevance as determined by a panel of reviewers.  The funding will be used towards Jahan’s research in investigating a protein called Atoh1 which is critical for the differentiation of inner ear hair cells.  Jahan’s research will examine the substitution of Atoh 1 with Neurog1, another protein found in the ear that normally determines neuronal development, in addition to a delayed loss of Atoh1 expression in animals.  Potentially, this research could offer insight into the molecular mechanism that regulates the distribution of the two different hair cell types of the organ of Corti, the human hearing organ.  In addition to receiving the grant, Jahan will also be featured with the other grantees on the Hearing Health Foundation’s website as well as in the fall 2012 issue of their magazine.

For more information about the Hearing Health Foundation, please visit www.hearinghealthfoundation.org

Discoveries in the lab
By Heather Spangler, College of Education
August 6, 2012

Aradhana Parikh has made scientific discoveries this summer that could someday improve the lives of people suffering from epilepsy.

Parikh is a high school junior from Ahmedabad, the largest city in India’s westernmost state. She spent six weeks in Iowa City this summer doing innovative research in a biology lab as part of the University of Iowa College of Education’s Connie Belin and Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development’s Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP).

SSTP is a residential summer research program that places gifted high school students from across the country and around the globe in UI laboratories with faculty mentors as guides. Students conduct hands-on research and present a project or paper at the end of their stay.

Susan Assouline, a professor in the College of Education and the associate director of the Belin-Blank Center, says SSTP, which has been an integral part of UI programming for at least 30 years, allows talented students to be actively engaged in the research process and exposed to the life of researchers and academics. This year, the program drew 36 students from the United States, Turkey, Hong Kong, Italy, and India.

“We set it up for them to thrive, and the final product is proof of the approach’s effectiveness,” Assouline says.

John Manak, an assistant professor of biology and pediatrics who studies human disease, served as Parikh’s host and mentor during her six weeks on campus. He says his goal with the program was to showcase the life of a scientist.

“A lot of kids don’t really get a feel for what it’s like to be a researcher doing front-line research,” he says. “It’s the most gratifying career in the world, full of rich rewards.”

Read full article...
Biology Professor appointed to NIH study section
By Alison Crissman
August 1, 2012

Josep Comeron, an associate professor in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Biology, was appointed to a position as a member of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study section.  Comeron will serve as a member of the NIH’s Genetic Variation and Evolution study section for four years in a term that began on July 1, 2012 and will continue through June 30, 2016.

One of 18 study members, Comeron and his team will be responsible for reviewing grant applications for studies involving the origin, distribution, maintenance, and evolutionary consequences of genetic variation. This research will be used to expand fundamental knowledge about living systems.  Understanding this topic area is necessary for modern approaches to areas such as biomedicine, epidemiology, health, and disease. The studies reviewed by Comeron and his team will utilize mathematical models, computer simulations, viruses, microbes, plants, animals, laboratory model systems, and humans.

Members of NIH study sections are chosen based on achievement and competence in their scientific field. This is determined based on quality of research accomplishments, publications in scientific journals, and other significant scientific activities, achievements, and honors. 

For more information about Comeron’s study section, visit

public.csr.nih.gov/StudySections/IntegratedReviewGroups/GGGIRG/GVE/Pages/default.aspx

Department of Biology Professor Elected to Prestigious Academician Position
By Alison Crissman
July 27, 2012

Chun-Fang Wu, a professor in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Biology, was recently elected as a prestigious academician of Academia Sinica, the most preeminent institution in Taiwan.  Academia Sinica was founded in 1928 to promote and undertake scholarly research in sciences and humanities.  Twenty new academicians and one honorary academician were elected at its Convocation of Academicians that was held from July 2, 2012 to July 5, 2012 in Taipei, Taiwan.

Being elected an academician is one of the highest honors that can be earned in the academic field in China.  Each time the Convocation meets, they elect a maximum of ten members in three divisions – mathematics and physical sciences, life sciences, and humanities and social sciences.  Wu was elected into the Division of Life Sciences.

As an academician, Wu is now part of the Academia Sinica Convocation that meets every other year.  Composed of academicians, the group functions to elect academicians, honorary academicians, members of the Council of Academia Sinica, make policies on academic research, and plan and carry out research at the request of the government.  Wu will serve in this position for life. 

For more information about Academia Sinica, please visit www.sinica.edu.tw/

With Future of Roche NimbleGen Arrays in Question, Customers Bet on New Platforms
By Justin Petrone, editor of GenomeWeb's BioArray News
July 26, 2012

This story has been updated to include comments from a Roche NimbleGen service provider and

a Roche spokesperson.

Roche's decision to discontinue the majority of NimbleGen's array portfolio by the end of the year has its customers asking questions about the future of their own array-based projects and offerings.

Last month, the company announced its plans to shutter its NimbleGen array portfolio, save its sequence capture products, and lay off the majority of Roche NimbleGen's staff if it cannot find a buyer capable of supporting the business (BAN 6/13/2012).

A spokesperson said this week that nothing has changed since the company first discussed the restructuring.

Some customers interviewed by BioArray News said that they feel "sad" and "helpless" about Roche's decision and now must evaluate other platforms for use, while others said they have moved on to next-generation sequencing-based projects, and will continue to use NimbleGen sequence capture products.

Patrick Law, scientific officer for the Chinese University of Hong Kong's core facilities, said it "would be a pity" if the arrays are discontinued. CUHK is a certified service provider of NimbleGen arrays, and Law said that the university has an "increasing number of customers" interested in using NimbleGen chips, which he described as "very good research tools."

Now faced with the potential discontinuation of the platform, Law said that CUHK is "feeling helpless" as it does not have the budget to switch to another platform. Instead, it is looking to find a vendor that supplies arrays that will run on NimbleGen's hybridization and scanning systems. In the meantime, Law said that CUHK hopes that "someone will buy NimbleGen, ASAP."

Jón Jóhannes Jónsson, medical director of the department of genetics and molecular medicine at the National University Hospital of Iceland, said he would continue to use NimbleGen arrays should they continue to be available.

"I think the NimbleGen microarrays are fine and I would continue to buy them if they would be still produced," Jonsson said. Still, he added that array technology is "developing rapidly and you need to further develop your product to stay competitive."

Jónsson said that his department maintains a fully equipped array lab, and that it has used NimbleGen arrays "with success" for various applications, both in research and diagnostics.

"I am sad that they are discontinuing their service and don't understand why," Jónsson said. "I still think there will be market for microarrays and they had a good product."

Whatever happens to NimbleGen's chips, Jónsson said that his department will continue to use arrays, but has yet to determine what platform it will adopt should NimbleGen arrays be discontinued.

Some customers were less troubled by the news. Patrick Schnable, director of the Center for Plant Genomics at Iowa State University, had previously used NimbleGen comparative genomic hybridization arrays to study maize, but recently transitioned to sequence capture and next-gen sequencing for the analysis of structural variation, "because we prefer the greater information content of the resulting data."

The center also switched from NimbleGen's array-based sequence capture approach to its liquidphase sequence capture products, and Schnable said his team "prefers liquid phase capture due to the simplicity of its workflow." Overall, Schnable said that the center plans to stick with NimbleGen sequence capture "because we believe their design pipeline yields excellent probes and probe coverage."

Loren Rieseberg, professor of botany at the University of British Columbia, was the corresponding author on a paper published earlier this year that described the development of NimbleGen-made arrays for five different groups of weeds.

While "pleased" with the arrays, Rieseberg said that his lab has been moving to sequencing-based analysis of expression variation, and said that if NimbleGen arrays are discontinued, it "will not be a problem for us."

'Proactive Steps'

Whether or not Roche ultimately finds a buyer for its NimbleGen array portfolio, Ambry Genetics hopes to be ready.

Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based Ambry became a certified service provider of NimbleGen sequence capture, CGH, chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP)-on-chip, methylation, and expression arrays last year.

Ardy Arianpour, vice president of business development at Ambry, said that the firm is now working on recalibrating its Roche NimbleGen hardware in order to process other types of arrays.

"We have lots of arrays running at Ambry, and [making] our NimbleGen instruments capable of running other arrays is actually an advantage and a cost savings on additional capital equipment," Arianpour said.

Since learning of Roche's plan to discontinue the business, Arianpour said that Ambry is "taking proactive steps" in moving projects forward to other platforms that Ambry currently offers. Ambry is also a certified service provider of Agilent Technologies' arrays, and Agilent makes Ambry's internally designed CHO Cell Expression Array, StemArray, and CancerArray chips.

Arianpour said that most of the firm's offerings are on the Agilent platform, and that Roche NimbleGen arrays have been used by specific customers. He added that Ambry can "easily transition" these clients' future projects onto other platforms.

Echoing CUHK's Law, Arianpour said that "someone should buy NimbleGen" as it offers "great products." Still, he cautioned that Roche's decison to discontinue most of its NimbleGen array portfolio is a "perfect example of why you should not be married to just one platform."

Valerie Reeb, manager of the Carver Center for Genomics at the University of Iowa, had similar sentiments. The CCG has been a Roche NimbleGen service provider for several years, and Reeb said the academic center was "surprised" and "disappointed" with Roche's decision to discontinue NimbleGen arrays, citing a high "level of interest" across the "full complement" of NimbleGen's portfolio.

Despite the decision, the CCG is moving ahead with array-based projects, and is considering a move to the Agilent platform.

"With the number and variety of projects we have done for investigators not only from the University of Iowa but from universities all across the country, we believe there remains considerable interest and need for this [microarray] technique," Reeb told BioArray News.

"As such, we continue to be committed to providing researchers a source for obtaining high quality data from their microarray projects," she said.

Should CCG adopt Agilent, Reeb said the transition for the center would be "relatively easy with little downtime or impact on the quality of services." She also pledged that CCG will continue to offer services on the Roche NimbleGen platform through the end of 2012.

Biology Professor receives Diversity Catalyst Award
By Alison Crissman
July 1, 2012

Daniel F. Eberl, a professor in the Department of Biology, was a co-recipient of the Diversity Catalyst Award for his work in diversity recruitment and retention activities. The award, given annually in a number of categories by the University of Iowa Chief Diversity Office, was presented on April 12, 2012 during the 13th Annual Diversity Catalyst Award Reception at the Sheraton Hotel in Iowa City.  Recipients of this award are chosen based on the development or implementation of an innovative program, policy, or activity that enhances diversity within the university community.

Eberl’s diversity initiatives involve recruitment of students to the Department of Genetics from institutions with large populations of underrepresented minorities. Through his work, Eberl has been able to form partnerships with these institutions and implement two important opportunities for students who attend them.  One involves providing summer research opportunities to students from these institutions. The other opportunity involves sending faculty members to give seminars and speak about the genetics program at the University of Iowa. Eberl has also sent students who attended some of these institutions as undergraduates back to their alma mater to talk about their research and experiences at the University of Iowa. The main goal of Eberl and his colleagues in their diversity initiatives is the retention and excellence of underrepresented minority students who attend the University of Iowa.

For more information about the Diversity Catalyst Award, visit

http://www.uiowa.edu/~eod/diversity/catalyst-awards/criteria.htm

Neuroscience Student Wins Publication Award for Research Article on Brain
By Alison Crissman
June 15, 2012

Mark Lobas, a student in the Neuroscience Graduate Program and a member of Professor Joshua Weiner’s lab in the Department of Biology, was recently awarded the Publication Award for his article that was published in the March 2012 issue of the Journal of Neurochemistry.  The award, given by the Neuroscience and Genetics Graduate Program at the University of Iowa, is given to a neuroscience graduate student for the best primary research article within the past year and carries a monetary award of $500.

Lobas’ winning paper examined the existence of γ-protocadherins in the choroid plexus (CP) epithelium of mice.  The CP epithelium plays a critical role in the development and function of the brain.  Lobas et al. showed in their research that the 22-member γ-protocadherin (γ-Pcdh) family of cell adhesion molecules was found to exist at the apical membrane of the CP epithelium.  Their existence in this space is unusual because this is a location in which there is little for them to bind.  Lobas’ findings were not only surprising due to the unusual existence of the γ-protocadherins in the CP epithelium, but also due to the fact that all 22 of them are expressed at the CP epithelium, the site of the blood-cerebrospinal fluid barrier.  Cerebrospinal fluid plays a vital role in protecting the brain from mechanical and chemical insult. 

“The γ-protocadherins are highly expressed at the apical membrane of the choroid plexus…This is tissue sitting in empty space which means that there are adhesion molecules in an area where there is nothing for them to adhere to,” Lobas said.

In the study, researchers found that expression of the protocadherins varied among individual epithelial cells.  To determine a possible explanation for this, researchers in the study used conditional γ-protocadherin knock-outs that do not express γ-protocadherins in the CP.  As a result, they found that a shrinking of the volume of the cerebral ventricles in the brains of the mice occurred. 

Lobas said this result was especially interesting because shrinking of the cerebral ventricles is quite rare.  In fact, it is usually the opposite that occurs most often with cerebral ventricles when a defect exists.

However, this finding could have important medical implications as it would help those suffering from hydrocephalus, an excess of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain that can lead to swelling.  Currently, treatment involves the placement of a shunt in the brain, but unfortunately, a large majority of them fail after about two years.

Lobas said the next step in their research is to determine the cause of the shrinking ventricles in mice where a portion of the protocadherin has been knocked out.  He also said they are looking into the cause of the existence of the γ-protocadherins in the CP epithelium since it is such a strange location for them to be found.

 

Alder Receives Stanley Undergraduate Award
By Steve Kehoe and Alison Crissman
June 1, 2012

Daniel Alder, a junior majoring in Biology and Environmental Sciences, is a recipient of the Stanley Undergraduate Award for International Research in the amount of $2,000. The award, made possible through the generous support of the Stanley-UI Foundation Support Organization, is given annually to outstanding University of Iowa undergraduates for the pursuit of learning activities in international studies that are not available on the UI campus. Awards are given to students who, in close consultation with faculty members, have developed well-conceived, small-scale research or fieldwork projects on international topics, which require travel abroad. Daniel, a member of Professor Steve Hendrix’s lab in the Department of Biology, plans to travel to the island of Roatan, Honduras for six weeks beginning at the end of May to research the impact of hunting on invasive Lionfish populations.

For more information about the Stanley Undergraduate Award for International Research, please visit

http://international.uiowa.edu/funding/stanley-undergraduate-awards-international-research

Jannie Earns Teaching Assistant Award
By Steve Kehoe and Alison Crissman
June 1, 2012

Karry Jannie, a Spring 2012 PhD graduate of the Department of Biology, was recently awarded an Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award for her philosophy of teaching and learning, classroom evaluations, and support from students and faculty. The award, in its 24th year, is presented annually by the University of Iowa Council on Teaching to teaching assistants who have demonstrated outstanding ability in teaching at the University of Iowa. This year, the Council presented 30 awards totaling $1,000 each.  Teaching assistants from all academic departments are eligible to be nominated for this award. To be nominated, they must have had formal student contact during the Spring 2011, Summer 2011, or Fall 2011 semester. Nominations may be initiated by students, faculty, colleagues, departmental executive officers (DEOs), or deans. Jannie was nominated for her work teaching ­­Fundamental Genetics.

For more information about the Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award, please visit http://www.uiowa.edu/~cot/TA%20Award/otamenu.htm

A Better View of How We Hear
By Gary Galluzzo, University Communication and Marketing
May 30, 2012

University of Iowa researchers and their colleagues have developed imaging techniques that may allow researchers and physicians to better understand normal inner ear development as well as inner ear diseases.

Graduate student Benjamin Kopecky and Bernd Fritzsch, professor and departmental executive officer in the UI  Department of Biology, published their results in the March issue of the journal Developmental Dynamics.

Using an improved 3D analysis of mouse ears during normal embryonic development, the researchers showed:

  • New insights into ear development.
  • A technique permitting the first full quantification of volumetric and linear aspects of ear growth.
  • Data providing the framework for future analysis of mutant conditions currently under-appreciated using only two-dimensional imaging.

Regarding the benefits of their 3D imaging technique, the researchers say current 3D reconstructed images are limited by a paint-filling process that leaves images distorted. Also, the segmentation process used to create images takes significant time. Meanwhile, current microcomputer tomography (CT) and high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging yield low resolution—sufficient for the human ear, but not for smaller samples.

Physicians could use the new process to provide faster, better images that may benefit patients suffering from inner ear diseases by correlating human ear defects with defects in mice that have fully characterized mutations. The process works by using a thin-sheet laser imaging microscope (sTSLIM) to compile high-resolution images of the ear through nondestructive computerized optical sections.

Read full article...
Biology student receives Sanxay Prize
By Steve Kehoe, Department of Biology
May 9, 2012

Patric Vaelli, an undergraduate senior majoring in Biology and member of John Logsdon’s lab, is the recipient of the Sanxay Prize. The Sanxay Prize is awarded annually to a University of Iowa liberal arts senior from Iowa who shows the highest promise of achievement in graduate work. Students must plan to enter a doctoral program in 2012. Graduates in December 2011, May and August 2012, are eligible for this award. Candidates must have been born in Iowa or be current permanent residents of Iowa. The prize, which carries a stipend of $1,000, may be used at the University of Iowa or at any other university in the United States or abroad. Patric is planning to attend Michigan State University starting in the Fall 2012 Semester to pursue a doctoral degree in Zoology with a specialization in Evolutionary Biology.

For more information about the Sanxay Prize, please visit www.grad.uiowa.edu/aid-youre-nominated-for/sanxay-prize

 

Biology students receive Poster Awards
By Steve Kehoe, Department of Biology
May 9, 2012

Senuri Jayatilleka and Nathan Balukoff, undergraduate seniors majoring in Biology, are among the 2012 poster award winners at the 13th Annual Student Interdisciplinary Health Research Poster Session. The event, held by the University of Iowa Interdisciplinary Health Group on Tuesday, April 10, 2012, in the First Floor Atrium, Eckstein Medical Research Building (EMRB), provides UI students working on health-related research an opportunity to highlight their work and interact with researchers from other disciplines. Ten awards of $100 each were presented at the event.

Senuri won the award for her research on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), a disease caused by maternal alcohol use during pregnancy. Symptoms include abnormal facial features, growth deficiency, and central nervous system (CNS) problems. It is estimated that one out of every 1000 newborn children are affected with FAS and costs the U.S. about $2 million during a child’s lifetime. Senuri is an honors student in the lab of Dr. Michael Dailey, associate professor in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Biology.

Nathan, an honors student in the lab of Dr. Sarit Smolikove, assistant professor in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Biology, won the award for his research on meiosis, a specialized cell division that results in the formation of gametes (sperm and eggs). Errors occurring during the cell division often results in chromosome abnormalities. In humans, these errors increase exponentially as women age, which can lead to infertility, miscarriages, and children with developmental disabilities. Despite the importance of understanding these age-dependent processes, it is not clear what mechanisms are controlling them. Nathan and the Smolikove lab are investigating the mechanism of chromosome segregation using genetic, cytological, and biochemical techniques.

For more information about the 13th Annual Student Interdisciplinary Health Research Poster Session, please visit http://ppc.uiowa.edu/health/ihg/poster

 

Department of Biology professor selected for Distinguished Mentor Award
By Steve Kehoe, Department of Biology
May 8, 2012

Sarit Smolikove, assistant professor in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Biology, was selected for a 2012 Iowa Center for Research by Undergraduates (ICRU) Distinguished Mentor Award. This award was created to recognize the outstanding mentoring of undergraduate students in research and creative projects at the University of Iowa. To be eligible for the award, current University of Iowa students nominate UI faculty or professional and scientific staff who have contributed significantly to the mentoring and overall support of undergraduate research. Recipients are provided funding for one ICRU Research Fellow for the 2012-2013 academic year and were recognized at the Spring Undergraduate Research Festival on March 24, 2012, in the Iowa Memorial Union. Dr. Smolikove was nominated by one of her undergraduate lab assistants, Rini Kasinathan, a third year biochemistry and microbiology major.

For more information about the ICRU Distinguished Mentor Award, please visit www.uiowa.edu/icru/icrudistinguishedmentoraward.shtml

Biology Advisor selected to Emerging Leaders Program
By Steve Kehoe, Department of Biology
May 6, 2012

Amy Korthank Gabaldon, a Senior Academic Advisor with the Department of Biology, is one of only ten internationally who has been selected for the 2012-2014 Class of Emerging Leaders with the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA). The purpose of the Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) is to provide an intentional and focused mentoring experience to members who are interested in becoming more involved in the association.

ELP is a two-year program in which Amy will work closely with a mentor from NACADA to gain skills, experiences, and knowledge needed to move into a leadership position in the association. In this program, Ms. Korthank-Gabaldon and her mentor will develop a plan for her involvement based on Amy’s interests, expertise, and goals for the future. As an Emerging Leader, Amy will be provided $1,500 that can be used for travel and registration costs to any NACADA Regional or Annual Conference or Institute.

NACADA promotes and supports quality academic advising in institutions of higher education to enhance the educational development of students. It evolved from the first National Conference on Academic Advising in 1977 and has over 10,000 members representing all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and several other international countries.

For more information about NACADA, please visit www.nacada.ksu.edu

How human cells 'hold hands'
By Gary Galluzzo, University Communication and Marketing
April 27, 2012

University of Iowa biologists have advanced the knowledge of human neurodevelopmental disorders by finding that a lack of a particular group of cell adhesion molecules in the cerebral cortex—the outermost layer of the brain where language, thought and other higher functions take place —disrupts the formation of neural circuitry.

Andrew Garrett, former neuroscience graduate student and current postdoctoral fellow at the Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor, Maine; Dietmar Schreiner, former postdoctoral fellow currently at the University of Basel, Switzerland; Mark Lobas, current neuroscience graduate student; and Joshua A. Weiner, associate professor in the UI  College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Biology, published their findings in the April 26 issue of the journal Neuron.

Cell adhesion is the way in which cells “hold hands”—how one cell binds itself to another cell using specific molecules that protrude from cell membranes and bind each other together. The process is necessary to form all body tissues. The UI researchers studied a clustered family of 22 genes (gamma-protocadherins) that make such cellular hand-holding possible by encoding cell adhesion molecules.

Read full article...
Biology Student Organization to hold Plant Sale on May 1
By Steve Kehoe, Department of Biology
April 24, 2012

The University of Iowa Biological Interests Society (UI BIO) will hold a Plant Sale from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday, May 1, on the Kautz Plaza, located on the T. Anne Cleary Walkway between Calvin Hall and the Pappajohn Business Building. In case of rain, the sale will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday, May 2, at the same location.

The sale will feature herbs at a cost of $4 for a pack of six and single flowers at $3 or $5 for a pack of six.

UI BIO is dedicated to student development in the biological fields. The organization provides research opportunities, career networking, and pre-professional experiences intended to cultivate interest in biology and the surrounding community while fostering an environment of fellowship among students and faculty.

For more information, email biology-at-iowa@googlegroups.com, or find UI BIO on Facebook at www.facebook.com/UIBIO and Twitter at www.twitter.com/UIBIO.

Read full article...
Sixth Raymond Fong Memorial Lecture set for April 27
By Steve Kehoe, Department of Biology
April 23, 2012

Ed Callaway of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, Calif., will be the featured speaker at the Sixth Raymond Fong Memorial Lecture at 4 p.m. Friday, April 27, in Kollros Auditorium, Biology Building East, with refreshments preceding the event at 3:30 p.m. in the lobby.

Raymond Fong was a graduate student in the UI Department of Biological Sciences from 1986 to 1993. At the time of his death in July 1993, he was in the process of writing his thesis, “Reciprocal Interference Between the Pr and Prm Promoters of Bacteriophage Lambda.” He was awarded the Ph.D. posthumously in December 1993. Raymond was a significant positive influence on his colleagues through the quality of his research, his humanity, and his friendship.

A reception will be held at 8 p.m. at the residence of Gary Gussin, Department of Biology professor emeritus, at 316 Lee St., Iowa City.

Read full article...
Fly Mutations Offer Quicker Clues To Human Diseases
By Roxanne Palmer, International Business Times
March 25, 2012

Scientists have long used mutations in fruit flies, worms and mice as tools to identify genes associated with diseases in humans, but the path from animal to human often takes years.

But a collaboration between Baylor College of Medicine scientists studying fruit flies and Canadian human genetics researchers linked a gene that caused neurodegeneration in flies to a human disease called "autosomal recessive spastic ataxia with frequent leukoencephalopathy," or ARSAL, in a matter of months, according to a study published Tuesday in PLoS Biology.

"While the discovery of mutations in fly genes has been linked to human disease before, it has often taken many years to decades to accomplish this," Hugo Bellen, developmental biologist at Baylor College of Medicine and senior author, said in a statement.

John Manak, a biologist at the University of Iowa unaffiliated with the study, estimates that about 75 percent of genes related to human diseases and cancer are conserved in flies.

The fly model of a human disease is powerful, Manak says, "because not only can we readily do genetic screens to identify other genes in the disease pathway, but we can also start screening drugs in the fly."

Manak uses fruit fly models to study epilepsy. In a January 2011 paper published in the American Society for Human Genetics, his team reported that mutations in similar genes can cause seizures in mice, flies and humans. They also discovered that the fruit flies suffering seizures are responsive to human anti-epileptic medication.

Read full article...
UI biologist wins NSF grant to research biodiversity
By Gary Galluzzo, University News Services and Andrew Forbes, Assistant Professor of Biology
March 15, 2012

University of Iowa assistant professor of biology Andrew Forbes has received a three-year, $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to investigate the origins of biodiversity.

 In particular, he will determine whether new species can be generated through interactions between a particular species of plant-eating insect and its parasites –- whether speciation of the apple-eating fly Rhagoletis pomonella has led to the creation of new diversity among its three insect parasites, Diachamsa alloeum, Diachasmimorpha mellea, and Utetes canaliculatus

 The broader biological question involves a foundational principle of evolutionary ecology: Can biodiversity beget biodiversity? As new species form, they may create new niches for other life forms to exploit, thereby creating a chain reaction of biodiversity.

 In addition to supporting basic research activity, the grant will fund science training, education, and research activities by Forbes and his colleagues at local, university, and international levels. This project is part of a collaboration between Forbes and professors at the University of Notre Dame and Cornell University.

 The Department of Biology is part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

UI center contributes sequencing data to a landmark study on photosynthesis
By Gary Galluzzo, UI News Services
February 17, 2012

How did plants and algae get their ability to turn carbon dioxide and water into sugar and oxygen in the presence of light, a process known as photosynthesis?

It turns out that they stole it through an activity called endosymbiosis, according to a landmark study published in the Feb. 17 issue of the journal Science.

Harsha Doddapaneni, study co-author and director of the University of Iowa¹s Roy J. Carver Center for Genomics (CCG), which contributed to the study, says the paper for the first time answers a long-standing question in the evolution of eukaryotes -- organisms whose cells have membrane walls and a nucleus. The question: How many primary endosymbioses, or biological thefts, have occurred that gave rise to the plastid, the organelle where photosynthesis takes place in algae and plants?

The answer, garnered from an analysis of the Cyanophora (an algae) genome, is just one. And it occurred more than a billion years ago when a single-celled organism captured and retained a cyanobacterium that itself had once been an independent organism.

According to lead author Debashish Bhattacharya, former UI biology professor currently at Rutgers University, ³Analysis of the Cyanophora genome provided conclusive evidence that all plastids trace their origin to a single primary endosymbiosis.² He adds that the genome also tells why the theft is very rare.

³It turns out that the first algae relied not only on the captured cyanobacterium, but also ancient endoparasites, related to modern-day Chlamydiae, that were present in the cells at the time of endosymbiosis. These latter, now silent, partners left dozens of genes in the nuclear genome of algae and plants as footprints of their past existence,² Bhattacharya says.

Highlighting the CCG¹s role in the study, Doddapaneni notes that access to ³NextGen² sequencing technologies is a fine example of how small genome centers are becoming major players by making important contributions to genome sciences. The CCG provided the 454 sequencing data for the study, and Doddapaneni also participated in the bioinformatic analyses.

The researchers say the study brings scientists one step closer to determining not only what unites all algae as plants, but also what key features make them different from one another and from the genes underlying various functions.

The complete article can be viewed at:

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/335/6070/843.full?sid=67f2ac46-e64b-4b60-95ab-a6b1a6d7872b

The research was funded by grants from the National Science Foundation.

The CCG is a research center in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Biology. For more information, see http://www.biology.uiowa.edu/ccg/

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Center One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, University News Services, 319-384-0009, gary-galluzzo@uiowa.edu

Read full article...
Department of Biology receives grant to assess student learning
By Dr. Lori Adams, Biology Honors Advisor and Adjunct Assistant Professor
February 12, 2012

The Department of Biology was awarded a $5,000 Assessment Innovation Grant from the Office of the Provost as part of the University of Iowa’s initiative to renew emphasis on assessment of student learning. Academic departments were invited to apply for Assessment Innovation Grants up to $5,000 to support the development of creative, practical strategies that they can use to assess how well the department is preparing students to apply their knowledge and skills in new settings and situations. Priority was given to proposals that address how their strategies can be replicated on an ongoing basis and can be applied in other departments that share similar goals.

The Department of Biology’s proposed plan is to develop an assessment tool that will measure the depth of understanding of students enrolled in introductory biology. It is important to uncover deficiencies in understanding core biological concepts as mastery of foundational knowledge acquired in introductory biology contributes to a student’s success in upper level courses. Assessment questions will be designed to uncover common biological misconceptions and to measure the depth of conceptual understanding that students achieve throughout the introductory biology course series. Results of this assessment tool will inform instructional change and serve as a baseline to measure gains in student learning as they progress through courses required for the Biology major.

The department’s proposal was submitted by Dr. Lori Adams, Biology Honors Advisor/Adjunct Assistant Professor along with assistance from Brenda Leicht, Lab Coordinator/Adjunct Assistant Professor, and Bryant McAllister, Associate Professor. Karry Jannie, a Biology graduate student and member of Dr. Joshua Weiner’s laboratory, will play a large role in creating the assessment tool with guidance from members of the Department of Biology Curriculum Committee. Grant recipients will be asked to summarize lessons learned from the project at a future campus event or on the Iowa Outcomes Assessment website.

UI Museum of Natural History seminar: 'Wild bees, landscapes, and food security'
By UI News Services
February 9, 2012

"Wild Bees, Landscapes, and Food Security in the Age of Colony Collapse Disorder" is the subject of a lecture by University of Iowa Biology Professor Stephen Hendrix at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16, in the Biosphere Discovery Hub of the UI Museum of Natural History. Hendrix's talk is the latest in the museum's Spring 2012 Explorers Seminar Series.

The lecture is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be provided.

Hendrix's talk focuses on the honeybee, which is the primary pollinator of many crops but is threatened by colony collapse disorder. Hendrix will discuss recent breakthroughs in our understanding of colony collapse disorder, whether wild bees are also being affected, and the extent to which wild bees contribute to pollination at small produce farms and in large monocultures. He will also discuss how landscape features affect bee abundance and diversity and how both urban gardens and prairie restorations offer resources for wild bees that may be critical to our food security.

The Department of Biology is a unit of the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
For more information, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/mnh, call 319-335-0606, or email uimnh@uiowa.edu.

National Geographic researcher shares project
By Emily Schettler, Iowa City Press-Citizen
February 1, 2012

Geneology is one of the most popular hobbies in the U.S. and something Spencer Wells has been pursuing actively for the past six years.

Although many Americans focus on learning the history of their own family’s lineage, Wells, a renowned geneticist and current explorer-in-residence at National Geographic, has taken a much broader approach.

He has traveled to more than three dozen countries to collect data and conduct research as director of National Geographic’s Genographic Project, an effort to track the migratory history of the human species and answer questions about our genetic diversity through the study of DNA.

On Wednesday, February 1, Wells was in Iowa City to share what he has learned so far in a public speech at The Englert Theatre that was sponsored by the University of Iowa’s Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Genetics.

“It’s the first global concerted effort to study this,” Wells said. “Everybody is interested in their ancestry and the idea that you can help them see aspects of their history that they didn’t know about is very exciting.”

John Manak, a faculty member of the UI Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Genetics and principal investigator in biology and pediatrics, was instrumental in getting Wells to speak as part of a genetics retreat.

Read full article...
Biology professor discovers link between prickle gene and epilepsy
By The University of Iowa Graduate College
December 28, 2011

Since the 1930s, scientists have studied the prickle gene, known to be a contributing cause of human epilepsy. Meanwhile, other researchers have noted that flies carrying mutated prickle genes exhibit physical malformations, such as body bristles pointed in abnormal directions.

Until a Sunday morning two winters ago, no one had connected these two sets of research data.

John Manak, Assistant Professor of Biology and Pediatrics and faculty member in the Genetics Interdisciplinary Graduate Program at the University of Iowa, made the crucial connection, leading to his discovery that mutations of the prickle gene produce seizures in fruit flies. His finding was a key component in a research paper, published February 11, 2011 in the American Journal of Human Genetics, showing that mutations in prickle genes are associated with seizures in humans, mice, and flies.

Read full article...
Biology professor receives two research grants for cell development studies
By Gary Galluzzo, UI News Services
December 8, 2011

Bryan Phillips, assistant professor in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Biology, has received two research grants totaling $863,275 for cell and developmental biology studies.

A four-year, $713,275 grant from the American Cancer Society will enable him to study the processes by which cells acquire their fate that directs proper form and function. The pathway under investigation, the Wnt/beta-catenin signaling pathway, regulates normal cell fate specification, but is often also disrupted in human cancers.

A two-year, $150,000 grant from the March of Dimes will support research aimed at identifying the mechanisms by which Wnt signaling proteins are regulated, both by functional modification and via redistribution to various subcellular locations. During animal development, Wnt/beta-catenin signaling regulates gene expression in many tissues, directing dorsal axis specification, mesoderm induction and central nervous system patterning. Correspondingly, mutations in this pathway have been linked to a host of developmental defects.

His specialized research areas involve the processes by which cells communicate with one another during development. The results of his studies using model systems such as nematodes and human cells will open doors to new avenues of human disease treatment.

Learn more about Phillips' research at: http://www.biology.uiowa.edu/faculty_info.php?ID=1783.

 

Dean, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences applications and nominations
December 7, 2011

Welcome

The University of Iowa invites applications and nominations for the position of Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, with appointment to begin July 1, 2012.

The Dean exercises intellectual leadership, promotes comity, encourages and facilitates faculty enterprise, and has administrative responsibility in a large college that takes pride in its national and international prominence in the fine and performing arts, humanities, social sciences, mathematical sciences, and natural sciences. The Dean must elicit, inspire, articulate, and sustain a vision for the future of the College. The Dean represents the College in its relations with University administration, with alumni, donors, and other external constituencies, securing the support and resources necessary for the College to maintain and strengthen the quality of its teaching and research mission across the full range of its disciplines. As the College's chief academic and administrative officer, the Dean serves the faculty and reports to the Provost and Executive Vice President.

The University of Iowa, a member of the Association of American Universities, currently enrolls a total of nearly 30,900 students in its eleven colleges: Business, Dentistry, Education, Engineering, Graduate, Law, Liberal Arts and Sciences, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, and Public Health. The campus is in Iowa City, a UNESCO City of Literature and a cosmopolitan community of 69,086, with exceptional cultural resources, excellent public schools and libraries, and outstanding medical care.

With 16,400 undergraduate students and 626 tenure-track, research-active faculty in 42 departments and professional schools, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is the largest college within the University. The College administers the General Education Program for virtually all undergraduate students and offers undergraduate degrees in 79 fields of study. In addition, the College’s departments offer graduate programs enrolling 2,262 students in 44 fields. (Please consult the College’s homepage at http://www.clas.uiowa.edu/.)

The successful candidate must be a prominent leader in his/her field and must demonstrate a commitment to advancing a multidisciplinary college in a comprehensive public research institution. S/he will have a record of effective service at the collegiate and university level; a record of administrative/budgetary success at the department level or beyond; and a documented commitment to and success in increasing diversity among faculty, staff, and students. The successful candidate must have the ability to work in a collaborative and collegial manner with a diverse faculty and staff, having demonstrated qualities that contribute to effective communication, including receptivity, responsiveness, and willingness to consult. It is desirable that the candidate be experienced at supporting internally and externally funded research, and that s/he be a successful fundraiser, able to work with foundations and individual donors.

For more information and to apply, please visit http://www.provost.uiowa.edu/search/clas/index.html

Read full article...
Biology Professors receive NSF Grant to study evolutionary consequences of abstinence
By Gary Galluzzo, UI News Services
November 17, 2011

Why do living organisms engage in sexual, rather than asexual, reproduction?

That question will be investigated by Maurine Neiman, assistant professor of biology, and John M. Logsdon Jr., associate professor of biology -- both in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences -- along with collaborator Jeffrey Boore of the University of California, Berkeley, and CEO of Genome Project Solutions, Inc., thanks to a 4-year, $876,752 grant from the National Science Foundation.

It turns out that answering the question may be more complicated than it appears.

Neiman says that the commonness of sex is surprising because asexual females should be able to produce twice as many daughters as sexual females that make both male and female offspring. "Because only females can directly produce offspring, the production of sons by sexual females creates a two-fold 'cost of males' that should culminate in the rapid elimination of sex," she notes.

Despite this and other costs, nearly all organisms reproduce sexually at least some of the time. This means that sex must be associated with profound advantages, while asexual reproduction must have significant evolutionary consequences.

Neiman, Logsdon, and Boore will use high-throughput genomics -- advanced DNA sequencing technologies that rapidly generate massive amounts of DNA data from genomes -- to compare the nuclear genomes of sexual and asexual varieties of a New Zealand freshwater snail, Potamopyrgus antipodarum. The research will test ideas for why sexual reproduction persists, including the hypothesis that sex is needed to prevent the buildup of harmful mutations.

An earlier study by Neiman and Logsdon of the much smaller mitochondrial genome found that the sexually reproducing snails had accumulated harmful DNA mutations at about half the rate of the asexual snails.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009, gary-galluzzo@uiowa.edu

Biology Professor to repeat 'Corn' lecture Nov. 17 in Old Capitol Museum
By UI News Services
November 7, 2011

The University of Iowa Professor of Biology Erin Irish will repeat her lecture "Corn: Only as high as an elephant's eye" at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 17, in the Old Capitol Museum Supreme Court Chamber.

The free public lecture is by sponsored UI Pentacrest Museums and coincides with the extension of the current Old Capitol exhibit "Maize," which originally scheduled to close on Oct. 16 but now will remain open until Nov. 27. The traveling exhibit explores the science and history of maize: what it is, why it is important, and how it has changed over the thousands of years that humans have cultivated the crop. More information on the exhibit can be found at: http://news-releases.uiowa.edu/2011/august/081511maize-exhibit.html.

As a result of interest from Dr. Irish's initial Oct. 28 lecture, she appeared as a guest on Iowa Public Radio "Talk of Iowa" show. That show aired Nov. 3 and is now available on the IPR website: http://iowapublicradio.org/news/talk-of-iowa/.

The Pentacrest Museums are open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday; and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. They are closed Mondays and national holidays. For more information, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/oldcap and www.uiowa.edu/mnh.

Biology Seminar to feature David Mindell
By Steve Kehoe
November 4, 2011

The University of Iowa Museum of Natural History's Directors' Lecture Series will wrap up its fall lineup with a public talk by Dr. David Mindell, Dean of the California Academy of Sciences. Mindell's lecture, "Life's Genealogy and Why It Matters", will be held on Thursday, November 10 at 7:00 p.m. in the Old Capitol Museum Senate Chamber.  The lecture is free and open to the public. The lecture will be immediately followed by a dessert reception where Mindell will be available to sign copies of his 2006 book, "The Evolving World: Evolution in Everyday Life" (Harvard University Press).

"Dr. Mindell is a renowned scientist and writer and was an obvious choice for a Directors' Lecture," says John Logsdon, Director of the University of Iowa Pentacrest Museums and Associate Professor in the Department of Biology.  "A major goal of the series was to bring top scientists to the UI and the MNH (Museum of Natural History) to share their knowledge and excitement about new discoveries in museum-based research with the community.  This fall's lectures have been a huge success and we have more great speakers planned for next spring."

David P. Mindell is the Dean of Science and Research Collections and the Harry W. and Diana V. Hind Chair at the California Academy of Sciences, home of the Kimball Natural History Museum, in San Francisco. Before taking this post in July 2008, Mindell was Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Michigan and Curator of Birds at the Museum of Zoology. His current research focuses on determining the evolutionary relationships among birds using genetics and on the conservation biology of birds of prey. An accomplished researcher, Mindell is also a talented writer with an interest in communicating science - especially evolution - to the general public. In addition to his 2006 book, he has written multiple articles for the popular press, including a 2009 feature article in Scientific American entitled "Evolution in the Everyday World."

The public lecture will be followed by a professional seminar, co-sponsored by the Department of Biology, entitled "Dating Avian Divergences and Conservation Genetics in Birds of Prey" on Friday, November 11 at 4:00 p.m. in Kollros Auditorium (Room 101) in Biology Building East. 

For more information on the UI Museum of Natural History and the Directors’ Lecture Series visit www.uiowa.edu/mnh.

For more information on the California Academy of Sciences visit http://www.calacademy.org/.

Biology Graduate Student receives award
By Steve Kehoe
November 4, 2011

Benjamin Kopecky, a graduate student in the Department of Biology, has received a Linked Training Award (TL1) from the Institute for Clinical and Translational Science (ICTS) at the University of Iowa. The award supports pre-doctoral research training opportunities for individuals interested in careers in biomedical, behavioral, or clinical research and helps to ensure that a diverse and highly trained workforce is available to assume leadership roles related to these research agendas.

Awarded individuals receive a stipend at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) allowed annual maximum, tuition support up to the NIH approved maximum, $1,000 funding to defray the cost of the research expenses and travel to required national meetings, access to the ICTS services and staff, and an opportunity to participate in the annual National Pre-doctoral Clinical Research Training Program Meeting at Mayo Clinic this spring.

Trainees are selected based on a competitive application process in which trainee academic qualifications, career goals, and the quality of the training environment will be considered for funding. Applicants must identify a mentorship team and develop a proposed research plan.

Ben is a member of the Bernd Fritzsch lab and is currently enrolled in the Medical Scientist Training Program (MD, PhD) at the University of Iowa.

University of Iowa, NYU biologists describe key mechanism in early embryo development
By James Devitt, New York University
October 25, 2011

New York University and University of Iowa biologists have identified a key mechanism controlling early embryonic development that is critical in determining how structures such as appendages - arms and legs in humans - grow in the right place and at the right time.

In a paper published in the journal PLoS Genetics, John Manak, an assistant professor of biology in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Chris Rushlow, a professor in NYU's Department of Biology, write that much research has focused on the spatial regulatory networks that control early developmental processes. However, they note, less attention has been paid to how such networks can be precisely coordinated over time.

Rushlow and Manak find that a protein called Zelda is responsible for turning on groups of genes essential to development in an exquisitely coordinated fashion.

"Zelda does more than initiate gene networks - it orchestrates their activities so that the embryo undergoes developmental processes in a robust manner at the proper time and in the correct order," says Rushlow, part of NYU's Center for Developmental Genetics.

"Our results demonstrate the significance of a timing mechanism in coordinating regulatory gene networks during early development, and bring a new perspective to classical concepts of how spatial regulation can be achieved," says Manak, who is also assistant professor of pediatrics in the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and researcher in the UI Roy J. Carver Center for Genomics.

The researchers note that their findings break new ground.
"We discovered a key transcriptional regulator, Zelda, which is the long-sought-after factor that activates the early zygotic genome," says Rushlow.

"Initially, the embryo relies on maternally deposited gene products to begin developing, and the transition to dependence on its own zygotic genome is called the maternal-to-zygotic transition," she adds. "Two hallmark events that occur during this transition are zygotic gene transcription and maternal RNA degradation, and interestingly, Zelda appears to be involved in both processes."

The research showed that when Zelda was absent, activation of genes was delayed, thus interfering with the proper order of gene interactions and ultimately disrupting gene expression patterns, the researchers noted, adding that the consequence to the embryo of altered expression patterns is a drastic change in the body plan such that many tissues and organs are not formed properly, if at all.

The researchers used Drosophila, or fruit flies, to investigate these regulatory networks. The fruit fly has the advantage of being a tractable genetic model system with a rapid developmental time, and many of the genetic processes identified in flies are conserved in humans. Additionally, pioneering fly research has led to many of the key discoveries of the molecular mechanisms underlying developmental processes in complex animals.

The study brought together Rushlow, who discovered Zelda and is an expert in genetic regulatory networks in development, and Manak, a genomics expert whose laboratory focuses on how a genome is constructed and coordinately functions.

"I had always wanted to work with Chris, and this was a wonderful opportunity for us to combine our complementary areas of expertise in a truly synergistic fashion," says Manak.

"Our collaboration is a marvelous example of how a problem can be viewed from two different perspectives, a systems view of early gene networks and an individualistic view of single genes and single embryos, and result in novel and significant discoveries," says Rushlow.

###

The project's author researchers were Stephen Butcher of the UI Departments of Pediatrics and Biology; and Chung-yi Nien, Hsiao-lan Liang, Yujia Sun, Shengbo Fu, Tenzin Gocha, and Nikolai Kirov, all of the Center for Developmental Genetics, part of NYU's Department of Biology.

The research was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health.

Biology professor receives $450,000 grant to study the behavior of chromosomes
By Steve Kehoe and Gary Galluzzo
October 19, 2011

Sarit Smolikove, assistant professor in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Biology, has received a three-year, $450,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to focus research on the behavior of chromosomes during the biological process called meiosis.

Meiosis is a specialized cell division that results in the formation of gametes (sperm and eggs). This division reduces the number of chromosomes by half. Upon fertilization, the number of chromosomes is restored so that it is identical to the one found in the parental cells. The accurate reconstitution of chromosome numbers is crucial for the development of a healthy embryo. Alterations in chromosome numbers are the leading known causes for serious birth defects including Down syndrome as well as miscarriages and stillbirths. Therefore, the accurate separation of maternal and paternal (homologous) chromosomes during meiosis is a key event for successful sexual reproduction and is of tremendous importance for human health.

Despite the crucial importance of meiosis to human health, many of its aspects are still poorly understood. Recent progress has been made but the goal of this grant is to advance research in this area.

Learn more about Dr. Smolikove's research.

Holbrook, Phillips named National Academies Education Fellows in the Life Sciences
By Steve Kehoe and Gary Galluzzo
October 18, 2011

Mark Holbrook, lecturer, and Bryan Phillips, assistant professor, in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Biology, have been named National Academies Education Fellows in the Life Sciences for the 2011-2012 academic year.

This honor is bestowed by virtue of their selection to and enthusiastic participation in the 2011 National Academies Northstar Summer Institute on Undergraduate Education in Biology that was held June 18-23, 2011, at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

The Summer Institute is the direct result of a key recommendation from the 2003 National Research Council report, Bio2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists, which called for programs of professional development to engage faculty at research-intensive institutions in taking greater responsibility for high-quality undergraduate biology education. Teams from 12 research universities from across the United States assembled in Minneapolis for five days of workshops, discussions, intensive teamwork and analysis, all focused on enhancing undergraduate education, with themes of active learning, assessment, and diversity as the primary foci.

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is a private, non-profit society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research. More information about NAS can be found here.

Chun-Fang Wu Receives 2011 Distinguished Science Alumni Award
September 20, 2011

Professor Chun-Fang Wu received a 2011 Distinguished Science Alumni Award from Purdue University. Joining fellow faculty member Sally K. Mason who won an award in 2010.

Distinguished Science Alumni (DSA) Awards were established in 1990 to recognize outstanding achievement in professional and related fields of endeavor. Awards are given to alumni whose work and achievements have made a significant difference in our communities and lives.

Hendrix discusses bee-colony collapse
By Cindy Hadish
September 16, 2011

SOUTH AMANA -- Up to 40,000 worker bees bustle in one nightstand-sized hive at Nobel Bee Honey.

That healthy buzz hasn't been the norm in recent years because of colony collapse disorder.

"We've never had a problem like this when I started in the 1990s," owner Matt Stewart said of the phenomenon, first identified in the United States' bee population in 2006. "Ones with the disease, they're leaving. They're going off to die somewhere."

Read full article...
The Roy J. Carver Center for Genomics (CCG) Achieves Certified Service Provider status for Roche NimbleGen microarrays
By Burkhard Ziebolz
August 25, 2011

In May 2011, The University of Iowa, Roy J. Carver Center for Genomics (CCG), entered into an agreement with Roche NimbleGen to provide microarray services through the Roche NimbleGen Certified Service Provider (CSP) program for the US market. In July 2011, after passing their rigorous certification test plan, CCG received official certification as a Roche NimbleGen CSP for two microarray applications: array Comparative Genomic Hybridization (CGH) and gene expression.

"As a certified service provider, The Roy J. Carver Center for Genomics (CCG) will provide a full range of services for Roche NimbleGen applications including the recently certified array CGH and gene expression. The CCG is the first academic center in the US to attain this status, which emphasizes our expertise and commitment to provide high quality data to our investigators", said Dr. Harsha Doddapaneni, Director of CCG. He further added, we have a dedicated climate controlled facility for processing all the critical array steps to ensure best quality results.

About this agreement, Dr. Bernd Fritzsch, DEO, Department of Biology said, "The Roy J. Carver Center for Genomics is progressively exploring the opportunities inherent to the recent progress in genomic analysis. Becoming a certified service center for NimbleGen arrays is only the logical next step in this direction, guided by the leadership of Dr. H. Doddapaneni. Combined with the Developmental Studies Hybridoma Bank (DSHB), run expertly by Dr. David Soll, this is the second community outreach and service program provided by the Department of Biology to the Science Community. The association with Roche NimbleGen is unique and signifies a strong partnership with a major force in genomics."

"Roche NimbleGen is extremely excited to welcome the CCG as a Certified Service Provider for NimbleGen microarrays. This addition will provide more researchers with access to the innovative NimbleGen technologies, such as our ultra-high resolution 4.2M CGH arrays and high-throughput gene expression arrays. We look forward to this partnership and the innovation and value it will provide to the research market" said Dr. Frank Pitzer, CEO of Roche NimbleGen, Inc.

About Roche
Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Roche is a leader in research-focused healthcare with combined strengths in pharmaceuticals and diagnostics. Roche is the world's largest biotech company with truly differentiated medicines in oncology, virology, inflammation, metabolism and CNS. Roche is also the world leader in in-vitro diagnostics, tissue-based cancer diagnostics and a pioneer in diabetes management. Roche's personalized healthcare strategy aims at providing medicines and diagnostic tools that enable tangible improvements in the health, quality of life and survival of patients. In 2009, Roche had over 80,000 employees worldwide and invested almost 10 billion Swiss francs in R&D. The Group posted sales of 49.1 billion Swiss francs. Genentech, United States, is a wholly owned member of the Roche Group. Roche has a majority stake in Chugai Pharmaceutical, Japan. For more information: www.roche.com.

For more information about Roche NimbleGen, please visit www.nimblegen.com.

About the CCG
The Roy J. Carver Center for Genomics (CCG) is a research and service center within the Department of Biology on the campus of The University of Iowa. The CCG provides comprehensive service options for a number of genomic applications with strong emphasis on 'NextGen' sequencing (454 pyrosequencing and Illumina) and microarray applications. The CCG has a unique history of offering custom tailored project solutions for genomic applications and has expertise in handling projects with small starting quantity of RNA and DNA, whole cells and tissues. The CCG also offers services for construction of normalized cDNA, adapted to 'NextGen' sequencing for model as well as non-model species. For more information about the CCG, please visit www.biology.uiowa.edu/ccg/.

External Links
Business Wire

Genome Web

UI Biologist Finds One Species of Pathogen Can Produce Two Distinct Biofilms
By Gary Galluzzo
August 3, 2011

Many medical devices, ranging from artificial hip joints to dentures and catheters, become sites for unwelcome guests -- complex communities of microbial pathogens called biofilms that are resistant to the human immune system and antibiotics, thus proving a serious threat to human health. However, researchers may have a new way of looking at biofilms, thanks to a study conducted by University of Iowa biologist David Soll and his colleagues published in the Aug. 2 issue of the online, open access journal PLoS Biology.

Read full article...
Museums' faculty director eyes new connections
By Steve Parrott
May 3, 2011

Evolutionary biologist John Logsdon has made a fresh contribution to the body of evidence supporting the old adage "Be careful what you ask for. You may get it."

As a member of an internal review committee charged with reviewing the University's Pentacrest Museums - Old Capitol Museum and the Museum of Natural History - Logsdon made a pitch for a faculty director. Now he is that director, having been appointed to a three-year term by Vice President for Research Jordan Cohen.

"I've always been a fan of natural history museums," says Logsdon, an associate professor of biology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. "And I've always been interested in the natural history museum here but hadn't really figured out how it fit in."

Read full article...
Jeffrey Nirschl Receives the First Place Ernest R. Johnson Memorial Prize
By Kathy Rushlo
April 11, 2011

Jeffrey Nirschl has been selected to receive the first place Ernest R. Johnson Memorial Prize. First and second place Ernest R. Johnson Memorial Prize winners will be recognized at Commencement, Saturday, May 14, 2011.

The Ernest R. Johnson Memorial Prizes were established in 1935 by Anna H. Johnson as a memorial to her son and are presented each year to the graduating students with the highest and second highest academic standing in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. Students eligible for consideration were those earning "highest distinction" during the graduation periods of August 2010, December 2010, and May 2011. Mr. Nirschl had an academic record with University of Iowa grade point average of 4.17 and total cumulative grade point average of 4.02.

Congratulations Jeff!

Undergraduate Spotlight - Jeff Nirschl '11
By Jenna Hammerich
March 25, 2011

Jeff Nirschl spends the better part of his days with a fly-sucker around his neck. A long tube, in other words, that researchers use to transfer tiny fruit flies from one vial to another. "You put one end in your mouth," Nirschl demonstrated, "and suck a fly into the tube, then gently blow it out where you want it. And no," he laughed, "I've never accidentally sucked a fly into my mouth." Nirschl is an undergraduate research assistant in Dr. Chun-Fang Wu's neurogenetics laboratory, where, amid walls stacked with vials of living flies, he studies the interaction between healthy flies and those that have a genetic mutation that, in humans, causes a type of Lou Gehrig's disease. As he explains it, "The sick flies are very short-lived, but when you house them with healthy flies, they live twice as long as they would otherwise. Twice! The social interactions can actually change gene expression, possibly helping the sick flies live longer." Jeff's enthusiasm is not only well-founded (insights about neurodegenerative disease are of major interest to the field), but it's also infectious - give him ten minutes, and he'll have you sporting a fly-sucker, too.

Like many CLAS students, Nirschl began with only a general interest - in biology: "I've always been curious about nature," he says. "As a kid, I'd visit my grandfather's farm and explore the surrounding fields and prairies looking for bugs and flowers I thought were cool." Over the course of his four years in college, particularly during Introduction to Neurobiology with Dr. Jeffrey Denburg - the class for which he's now an undergraduate TA - he honed his interest into a specialty. But this doesn't mean he studies only neuroscience, only fruit flies, 24/7; he spends a lot of his time outside the lab, taking courses in other disciplines. "They can really give you perspective," he says. "Neuroscientists study things like 'What is consciousness?' and 'What's the nature of human experience and existence?', but science fiction writers and philosophers are asking those questions, too."

Nirschl began his college career at Kirkwood Community College and transferred to Iowa in the fall of '08 - and he's convinced that "getting involved at the UI before transferring was the biggest factor in my success at Iowa. Before I had my foot out the door at Kirkwood, I was contacting people at the UI about joining the Honors Program and finding a research lab to work with. " During his time at Iowa, Jeff has dedicated himself to strengthening the relationship between community colleges and four-year universities, working with faculty and staff to help assimilate transfer students into the UI community and the honors program. When, two years ago, he sensed a disconnect between transfer students and local professional and academic opportunities, Jeff collaborated with the UI honors program and several graduate programs at the UI to organize a networking dinner for new and incoming transfer students. And this March, he'll meet with potential honors transfer students at Kirkwood to discuss the advantages of choosing the UI. Nirschl has also been instrumental in launching the Honors Nexus Living Learning Community at the Mayflower residence hall, a program that encourages students to "leave their mark" through leadership, service, research, or art.

In short, Jeff Nirschl is busy. (He plays violin and flag football, too.) But if he has one recommendation for first-year students, it's to do exactly that: get busy. "Definitely get involved," he says. "The best part of my time at Iowa has been meeting and talking with professors, working with different groups, going out and doing community service - that's what has made it a treat to be here. And it's really made the time fly."

When he finishes his honors thesis, Jeff plans to enroll in a joint MD/PhD program at a teaching hospital and prepare for a career of researching and treating neurodegenerative disorders.

For more information on the social-interaction mediated lifespan extension in fruit flies, see: Ruan HY, Wu CF. 2008. Social interaction-mediated lifespan extension of Drosophila Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase mutants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 105(21): 7506-7510.

Read full article...
UI biologist describes genome of 'canary in coal mine' for freshwater ecology
By Gary Galluzzo
February 8, 2011

Genes that may appear, at first glance, to be duplicates can be essential to the nature of an organism.

That is the message of a paper published in the Feb. 4 issue of the journal Science by John Manak, assistant professor of biology in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and colleagues. They describe the draft genome of an organism that serves as a kind of "canary in the coal mine" for the ecology of freshwater streams and ponds.

The water flea, also known as Daphnia pulex, is important to freshwater ecosystems as a principal grazer of algae, a primary food source for fish and a sentinel of healthy still-water, inland ecosystems.

The tiny crustacean shows a range of development, such as switching between clonal and sexual reproduction, in response to varying environmental conditions. Also, some species change migration behavior and develop exaggerated morphological defenses in response to predators.

The researchers found that the water flea's genome contains at least 30,907 genes - a very high number - with more than a third having no counterparts in any similar organism and with the most amplified gene groups being specific to the Daphnia lineage.

The finding suggests that the maintenance of duplicate genes is not random. The analysis of gene expression under different environmental conditions reveals that numerous gene groups acquire divergent expression patterns soon after duplication.

In summary, it's the genes specific to Daphnia that show the greatest response to ecological challenges, according to Manak, also a researcher in the Roy J. Carver Center for Genomics.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009, gary-galluzzo@uiowa.edu

Read full article...
Cancellation of Classes
February 2, 2011

The University of Iowa has cancelled classes for today, February 2. Students should check their course ICON site or the Biology Course Website for information regarding specific course information and make up lab sections. If you have any questions, please contact your lab section instructor or Faculty instructor.

Remembering Roger Milkman
By Kathy Rushlo
January 24, 2011

Roger Dawson Milkman, professor, population geneticist, and polyglot, died from a stroke and complications of Alzheimer's disease on January 5, 2011, in Washington, D.C. He was 80.

As a scientist, Milkman will be most remembered for his contributions to the selectionist vs. neutralist debate, for his 1978 paper "Selection differentials and selection coefficients" that unified two conceptualizations of selection, and for his development and application of a "clonal frames" theory accounting for the structure of genomic diversity in E. coli.

Roger Milkman was an extraordinary teacher and mentor. He had a passion for teaching, frequently using metaphor, song, and limerick to explain and clarify complex topics in genetics in a lucid and often humorous way. His students had to re-enact the dance of chromosomes as they learned about cell division. He enjoyed working with students, teaching them the methods and joys of research, while demanding very high standards.

Professor Milkman will be remembered for his vigorous engagement of people and ideas. He observed with sharp eyes, ready tongue, and keen wit. He loved his teaching, science, life, classical music, good food, fine wine, chocolate, languages, instant repartee, and humor. He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Marianne, four children Ruth, Louise, Janet, and Paul, and six grandchildren.

Read full article...
Professor Wu Honored
By Kathy Rushlo
November 4, 2010

Professor Chun-Fang Wu has been elected as the distinguished alumnus for 2010 for Tunghai University in Taiwan. Five distinguished alumni of Tunghai University are elected each year to recognize achievements in Entrepreneurship/Arts and Sciences/Social Sciences. Dr. Wu obtained his B.S. from Tunghai University in 1969. Tunghai University was once a small Christian liberal arts college. Founded in 1954, Tunghai University was one of the school opened to revive the Christian college systems of China. Many missionary universities were closed down after the communist take-over of mainland China. Today, Tunghai University has more than 10,000 graduates each year.

Researcher Receives Grant to Study Causes of Renal Disease in Children
By Kathy Rushlo
October 7, 2010

John Manak and Patrick Brophy (Pediatrics) have been awarded a subcontract on an NIH grant "Genetic Variations and Development of Vesicoureteral Reflux and Sequelae" through the Research Institute Nationalwide Children's Hospital.

Vesicoureteral reflux (VUR) nephropathy is the 4th leading etiology of end stage renal disease in children. However, little is known about the genetic basis for this disease. The work on the grant will identify copy number variants (CNVs) that cause VUR using genetic-based technology called array-based comparative genomic hybridization (aCGH). CNVs are relatively easy to detect and are now considered common causes of disease; however, high-throughput genomic methodologies have yet to be undertaken to help elucidate the genetics of VUR. Therefore, we are using aCGH to screen through a large number of VUR patient samples to identify the CNVs, and ultimately the genes within them, associated with this disease.

This is a highly competitive field and only 64 groups across the country received this award.

Iowa Center for Molecular Auditory Neuroscience Funded
By Kathy Rushlo
October 1, 2010

Researchers in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Carver College of Medicine will work together under funding provided by the National Institutes of Health to establish the Iowa Center for Molecular Auditory Neuroscience (ICMAN). Areas of research that will be studied include deafness genetics and gene therapy, inner ear development, sensorineural cell function and maintenance, and cochlear implants. These areas of research are fundamental to the prevention of deafness, optimization of current treatment of deafness, and to future cochlear sensorineural regeneration. Steven Green is the principal investigator on the grant which also includes 17 other investigators.

UI biologists publish findings on cell interactions in national journal
By UI News Service
August 3, 2010
UI biologists publish findings on cell interactions in national journal

Two University of Iowa biologists have published a paper on how cells make specific interactions during development -- in the hope of one day learning more about human developmental disorders -- in the Aug. 2 issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Dietmar Schreiner, postdoctoral researcher, and Joshua A. Weiner, assistant professor of biology in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Biology, write on the subject of cell adhesion. Cell adhesion is the way in which one cell binds itself to another cell by using specific molecules, one large family of which is known as the cadherins.

Read full article...
ICTS Pilot Grant Recipients Forge New Ground to Identify Disease-Causing Mutations
By Jenn Laskowski
July 26, 2010

Assistant Professor of Biology John Manak, PhD, recently received a $50,000 ICTS pilot grant to partner with his departmental colleague, Associate Professor Josep Comeron. They are developing a one-of-a-kind microarray technological tool designed to both ease and accelerate the identification of disease-causing genetic mutations in humans. Genetics researchers studying human disease could immediately utilize this new tool worldwide.

"Microarray technology allows you to readily find copy number variants, a common type of mutation that alters entire chunks of DNA," Manak explained. However, this technique does not allow identification of single base pair changes (which account for up to 90% of disease-causing mutations) to be readily detectable in the genome. So Manak and Comeron decided to develop a technique they call MENA (Mismatch EndoNuclease microArray) to hone in on these mutations.

Read full article...
Biologist finds key to the evolution of signal pathways in yeast cells
By UI News
May 14, 2010

Signal pathways regulate biological processes, including those related to human physiology, and understanding them is fundamental to learning how cancers arise. Recently University of Iowa biologist David Soll and his colleagues opened a unique window into this area of research by examining a newly evolved pathway in the cells of the pathogenic yeast Candida albicans.

In an article published in the May 4 issue of the journal PLoS Biology, a flagship publication of the Public Library of Science, Soll and his colleagues describe the evolution of an entire pathway that evolved 40 million years ago in the ancestor of Candida albicans, the most pervasive human fungal pathogen and the cause of a variety of oral, genital and other human illnesses.

Significantly, the way in which this pathway evolved may be similar to the way in which comparable pathways evolved in human cells.

Read full article...
Faculty and staff recognized by graduating seniors
By Kathy Rushlo
May 7, 2010

The graduating class of 2010 recognized 23 members of the staff and faculty in biology by listing them as having the most positive effect in their lives while they were at The University of Iowa. Jonathan Poulton received 10 mentions from graduating seniors ranking him among the top 25 faculty and staff mentioned in the survey. (A full listing can be found in the May 7, 2010 edition of The Daily Iowa.)

Read full article...
Delving into DNA
By Sam Lane
May 6, 2010

University of Iowa scientist Valerie Reeb excitedly explained the capabilities of a hulking white structure with a window displaying empty white trays.

"You can put the sample in the machine and analyze it right away," the postdoctoral researcher said clicking around on a nearby computer.

The mechanism, known as an "ABI Sequencer," is able to determine the order of parts of 48 DNA samples in two hours. Without the sequencer, it could take days or even months.

Read full article...
Jonathan Poulton is first winner of new Outstanding Honors Advising Award
By The University of Iowa Honors Program
May 1, 2010
Jonathan Poulton is first winner of new Outstanding Honors Advising Award

At its April 2010 Recognition Ceremony, the University of Iowa Honors Program presented its Student and Staff Award for Outstanding Honors Advising to Jonathan Poulton. This new award recognizes his 16 years of extraordinary effort as the Biology Honors Advisor. The UIHP particularly celebrates his strong support for students and his startling numbers of Honors theses.

Honors Advisors for colleges and departments play crucial roles in honors education at Iowa: advocating for courses, arranging for student research, explaining requirements, scouting talent and opportunities, along with an endless list of other contributions. Further information about this award can be found at: http://honors.uiowa.edu/people/fame/advisors.shtml. Jonathan came to The University of Iowa in 1979 and will retire in June.

Dr. Lori Adams-Phillips, who received her Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will become Biology Honors Advisor on July 1.

Read full article...
Cordle wins Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award
By UI News
April 28, 2010

Angela Cordle was selected to receive the Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award from the University of Iowa Council on Teaching. The University of Iowa Council on Teaching annual Outstanding Teaching Awards are awarded to teaching assistants who have demonstrated outstanding ability as teachers at The University of Iowa. Angela is a doctoral student with Chi-Lien Cheng and is scheduled to graduate in July 2010.

Read full article...
UI experts coordinate special Journal of Heredity issue on evolution of sex
By Gary Galluzo
April 26, 2010

Why is sexual reproduction so common, and why did sex evolve in the first place?

That question was center-stage at a 2009 University of Iowa symposium attended by about 130 researchers from around the world, and now it will be reflected in the publication of a series of articles in the Journal of Heredity, whose March/April 2010 supplementary issue is devoted to papers authored by meeting participants.

Symposium planners and UI biology professors John Logsdon and Maurine Neiman note that all meeting attendees were invited to contribute to the issue, which is sponsored by the journal's publisher, the American Genetic Association. The result was 17 peer-reviewed original articles written by 40 authors representing 21 institutions across five countries.

"The whole issue is devoted to sex," Logsdon said. "The last time the journal did a similar issue on this topic was 17 years ago. We want to inform people both inside and outside the research field that this is still an exciting and growing area of investigation."

Highlights of the special issue include historical treatments of the ideas and people central to the sex debate, and studies of the often unusual sexual biology of organisms ranging from digital to microbial to multicellular animals, plants and fungi.

Taking place from May 31 to June 3, 2009, at the University of Iowa, the first symposium held by the UI's Roy J. Carver Center for Comparative Genomics and organized by UI Biology faculty was titled "Evolution of Sex & Recombination: In Theory & In Practice." Logsdon and Neiman said that the goal was to bring together scientists taking both empirical and theoretical approaches to a wide range of problems in the evolution of sexual reproduction and recombination.

Read full article...
UI's REACH program helps student adapt
By B. A. Morelli, Iowa City Press Citizen
April 19, 2010
UI\'s REACH program helps student adapt

The sweet fragrance of a Ponderosa lemon tree circulated the greenhouse as students passed one of the tree's white-petaled flowers around.

First- and second-year University of Iowa REACH program students in this career seminar class are touring UI's greenhouse on the top floor of Biology Building East to gauge interest for a possible post-graduation job.

Students in REACH, or Realizing Educational and Career Hopes, have learning and cognitive disabilities but hope to gain greater independence through the two-year, campus-based certificate program.

Ross Boltz, 20, a second-year REACH student from Sycamore, Ill., took a long sniff of the Ponderosa flower. He is considering a job in a greenhouse or garden center, or parks and natural resources in general, after he leaves REACH next month.

"I'm thinking about it," Boltz said. "I think it's cool. It's good work because you are growing plants and flowers and other things as well."

Boltz also is considering a job at the YMCA, recreation center or school district back in his hometown, he said.

Read full article...
UI researchers get grant money
By Iowa City Press Citizen
March 16, 2010

University of Iowa researchers will receive $300,000 in grant seed funding from the Iowa Department of Economic Development, the UI Office of the Vice President for Research and the IOWA Centers for Enterprise said Monday.

The funding, appropriated to the Iowa Board of Regents under the Grow Iowa Values Fund, will back six researchers in developing innovations with commercial potential, a news release said. They were:

• Michael Schultz, assistant professor of radiology, who received $49,500 for PROSTAVISION, a diagnostic imaging agent for prostate cancer.

• Chris Adams, assistant professor of internal medicine, who received $50,000 for application of a compound as a therapy for skeletal muscle atrophy.

• John Manak, assistant biology professor, who received $48,949 to develop a new way to identify human disease-causing mutations.

Read full article...
Laboratory at UI receives gift to advance cancer diagnostics and treatments
By Office of University Relations
March 10, 2010

The Developmental Studies Hybridoma Bank (DSHB) centered at The University of Iowa recently received a $100,000 gift from Mercy Health Systems of Des Moines and its CEO Dave Vellinga to advance a collaborative program in applying hybridoma technologies to the development of new diagnostics and treatments of major cancers.

The collaboration will hopefully grow into a larger program or institute at Iowa that will tap into the unique techniques and resources of the DSHB, says David Soll, DSHB director and Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver/Emil Witschi Professor in the Department of Biology.

The DSHB is a national resource initiated under the auspices of the National Institutes of Health Institute of Child Health and Human Development and is housed in the UI Department of Biology.

The DSHB, in partnership with the National Cancer Institute’s Clinical Proteomic Technologies for Cancer Initiative, is the exclusive bank and worldwide distributor of proteins produced by the National Cancer Institute. The proteins - called monoclonal antibodies and produced by hybridomas - are used to study, diagnose, and treat cancer.

Read full article...
Slusarski receives 2009-2010 Collegiate Teaching Award
By Kathy Rushlo
March 1, 2010
Slusarski receives 2009-2010 Collegiate Teaching Award

Diane Slusarski has received the Collegiate Teaching Award for 2009-2010 from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Collegiate Teaching Awards are given each year to faculty who demonstrate outstanding performance in the classroom, laboratory, or studio. They are recognized by their peers for stimulating and satisfying students' desire to learn, developing innovative and effective methods of presenting the most current and exciting knowledge in their disciplines, and for fostering productive and generous mentoring relationships with individual students.

Diane shares this honor with past award winners Joe Frankel and Michael Dailey.

Read full article...
Spotlight: From the gift of a microscope, a life's work
By Matt Schommer, The Daily Iowan
February 4, 2010
Spotlight: From the gift of a microscope, a life\'s work

Where there’s smoke, there’s… science?

That sounds unlikely, but for biology Professor Joseph Frankel, it was a pack of cigarettes that sparked a deep-seated passion he continues today.

In 1947 in Germany, a friend of Frankel’s father traded a pack of smokes for an old microscope, brought the instrument back to the United States, and gave it to an eager 12-year-old Frankel.

“I went out to local ponds, and looked at single-cell organisms, and studied them,” the 74-year-old said. “And then decided I really wanted to go into biology.”

It’s been more than 60 years since then, and Frankel, originally from Vienna, Austria, is still enjoying his life as a professor and researcher at the UI.

Even after 47 years of teaching biology, he still finds innovative ways to educate his students, thanks to a continually evolving field.

“There is one advantage to teaching biology over, say, teaching calculus or physics,” he said, sitting at his desk next to four tanks of liquid nitrogen — used to preserve his research organisms. “And that is that biology is such a young science. New discoveries are being made all the time.”

A colleague of his, Professor John Menninger, has been working with Frankel since 1973, and the two collaborate on the curriculum for the biology department. Menninger said he has a great deal of respect for Frankel, especially his dedication to the seminar aspect of teaching.

“He’s one of the most thorough readers and attentive listeners of biology seminars,” he said. “He’s the quintessential biology teacher.”

And when Frankel isn’t using those notes to improve his Principles of Biology II class, he is focused on his research, which specializes in protozoa — single-cell organisms — and using random mutations to alter the genetics of the cell to analyze how its structures are organized. He hopes such endeavors will assist future scientists, he said.

Read full article...
Study shows value of sexual reproduction versus asexual reproduction
By University News Services
January 20, 2010
Study shows value of sexual reproduction versus asexual reproduction

Living organisms have good reason for engaging in sexual, rather than asexual, reproduction according to Maurine Neiman, assistant professor of biology in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and researcher in the Roy J. Carver Center for Genomics. In an article published in a recent issue of the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution, she and her colleagues, including John M. Logsdon Jr., associate professor of biology, examined the theory that sexual reproduction, while requiring more time and energy than asexual reproduction, is also much more common among living organisms and, therefore, must be very beneficial. The study looked at sexual, as well as asexual, varieties of a New Zealand freshwater snail (left), Potamopyrgus antipodarum, by sequencing mitochondrial genomes and found that the sexually reproducing snails had accumulated harmful DNA mutations at about half the rate of the asexual snails.

Read full article...
AAAS names Donelson and Fritzsch fellows
By Gary Galluzzo
January 5, 2010
AAAS names Donelson and Fritzsch fellows

Two University of Iowa faculty members -- one from the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and one from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences -- have been awarded the distinction of 2009 Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world's largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science.

The two new AAAS Fellows, recognized by the AAAS section on biological sciences, are John E. Donelson, Ph.D., UI professor of biochemistry and former head of the department of biochemistry from 1998 to 2008; and Bernd Fritzsch, Ph.D., UI professor of biology, Iowa Entrepreneur Professor and head of the department of biology from 2008 to present.

The two UI recipients are among 531 members awarded the honor by AAAS because of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. The new Fellows will be honored in February at the 2010 AAAS Annual Meeting in San Diego.

Donelson was recognized for distinguished contributions to understanding how parasitic protozoa that cause major tropical diseases evade the human immune system. Donelson, who received his doctorate in biochemistry from Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., in 1971, joined the UI in 1974. His research focuses on understanding gene expression in organisms such as Trypanosoma brucei, which causes African sleeping sickness; Trypanosoma cruzi, which causes Chagas' disease; and Leishmania chagasi, which causes visceral leishmaniasis. For more information see http://www.biochem.uiowa.edu/donelson/johndonelson.html.

Fritzsch was recognized for influential research on cranial evolution and development -- particularly neurosensory elements of the inner ear -- that has yielded insights into the genetic basis of hearing loss. Fritzsch, who received his doctorate from the Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany, in 1978, joined the UI faculty in 2008. His research remains focused on understanding the evolution of the sensory neurons of the inner ear, as well as translating laboratory discoveries into new therapeutics for those suffering from hearing loss. For more information see http://www.biology.uiowa.edu/faculty_info.php?ID=1503.

The nonprofit AAAS (http://www.aaas.org) was founded in 1848 and includes 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Its journal, Science (http://www.sciencemag.org), has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of one million. AAAS hosts a Web site, EurekAlert!, at http://www.eurekalert.org.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Jennifer Brown, 319-336-7124, jennifer-l-brown@uiowa.edu; Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009, gary-galluzzo@uiowa.edu.

Read full article...
UI researchers aim to prevent birth defects
By Shane Ersland, The Daily Iowan
November 30, 2009

Jeff Murray is searching for a way to prevent cleft palate.

But the UI Carver College of Medicine professor isn’t sure what causes the defect. In fact, researchers nationwide have yet to fully understand how the human face is formed — and how that process can go awry.

Murray, who specializes in cleft lip and palate, which affects the upper lip and roof of the mouth, and a team of UI researchers have joined a nationwide project to create the first-ever encyclopedic database on how children’s faces develop and what may cause defects in them.

The UI and the University of Pittsburgh will serve as hubs for FaceBase, a five-year initiative funded with a $9 million grant from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Murray said new technology in the health field led to the opportunity for a project such as FaceBase. NIH officials thought that “because of technological advances that have taken place, a project such as this might be useful,” said Murray, a co-principal investigator for the project.

Other universities also garnered grants to study how the middle region of the face — which includes the nose, upper lip, and roof of the mouth — develops. Scientists are unsure how embryonic cells morph into bone, cartilage, and other tissue to form the facial structure detected by the first ultrasounds.

The causes of roughly 70 percent of birth defects are unknown, according to the March of Dimes.

Over the past couple months, Murray has been researching microarrays — glass slides that contain millions of fragments of DNA — to determine what role genes play in birth defects.

John Manak, a UI assistant professor of biology who is collaborating with Murray on the project, said Murray’s knowledge on the issue is a major reason the UI is involved in the project.

“We have Murray; he’s been at the forefront of cleft lip and palate research,” he said.

Nationwide, around 4,200 babies are affected by cleft lip and palate defects per year, according to the March of Dimes.

Read full article...
Department Honors Gary Gussin
By Kathy Rushlo
September 25, 2009
Department Honors Gary Gussin

A one-day symposium on "The Impact of Basic Molecular Genetics on Current Biological Research" was sponsored by the Department of Biology to celebrate the distinguished career of Prof. Gary Gussin, who has been a member of the Department for 40 years and was Chair from 1994 to 1999. Since receiving his Ph.D. in 1966 under the direction of Nobel Laureate James D. Watson, Dr. Gussin's research career has been devoted to understanding at the molecular level how genes can be turned on and off at various stages of development. His "organism" of study, the bacterial virus lambda, has been a traditional model system for analysis of complicated genetic "networks" and Dr. Gussin has used this system to study how the sequence of base pairs in DNA can influence how often particular genes are expressed (turned on).

An illustrious group of speakers participated in the event including: Drs. Sankar Adhya and Susan Gottesman of the National Cancer Institute (NIH); Dr. Peter Moore, of Yale University; Dr. Louis Reichardt, of the University of California, San Francisco; and Dr. Mario Capecchi, of the University of Utah, as well as our own Drs. David Soll and Jeff Murray. Drs. Adhya, Gottesman, Moore, and Capecchi are all members of the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Capecchi received the Nobel Prize in 2007 for developing methods now used to "knock out" mouse genes. His research provides the basis for constructing mouse models of human diseases and also has revealed how HOX genes regulate early development of mouse - and by extension - human embryos.

The speakers outlined their exciting research on a range of topics that spanned gene regulation and drug design in bacteria, the relation between mating and pathogenesis in yeast, nervous system development, genomics of human diseases, and model systems for studying human cancers. In addition, the speakers spent an entire day meeting with large numbers of graduate students and faculty, and participated in an evening reception in Dr. Gussin's honor.

Read full article...
Fruit flies and frog skin: How obscure discoveries lead to scientific advances
By Anne Kapler, Spectator
September 1, 2009
Fruit flies and frog skin: How obscure discoveries lead to scientific advances

Hans Ussing probably never imagined that his work would have a major impact on understanding human disease. Back in the 1950s, the Danish scientist was studying ion transport across frog skin. In layman's terms: He was looking at how frogs absorb salt from pond water.

Big deal, right?

Turns out, it was.

Twenty-some years later, researchers looked at his data and methodology, and applied it to their work with cystic fibrosis.

"Using his techniques and theories, we and others learned that cystic fibrosis involves a defect in the movement of the salt chloride across the bronchial lining. That finding was important to understanding the disease, and set the field on a path to discovery," says Michael J. Welsh, a professor of internal medicine and molecular physiology and biophysics at The University of Iowa since the 1980s.

"Now we know the gene that causes this disruption - it was discovered by researchers in Toronto and Michigan. But Ussing's research was the first insight into what was going on."

The lesson: Basic science is important - and not nearly as esoteric as it sounds. Those studies - about yeast cells or bacteria or fruit flies or frog skin - build a knowledge base that can propel science forward. The findings, methodology, and analysis techniques gained from that research can be - and often are - applied to studies that tackle more complex problems, like developing a cure for a specific disease.

Read full article...
UI biologist and colleagues describe new technique to assist genetic researchers
By Gary Galluzzo
July 14, 2009
UI biologist and colleagues describe new technique to assist genetic researchers

A University of Iowa biologist and researcher in the Department of Biology and Roy J. Carver Center for Genomics, along with colleagues at Harvard and in the Carver Center for Genomics, describes a new and more effective way of identifying where important RNA transcripts are located in the human genome in a paper published in the June 28 online issue of the journal Nature Genetics.

The studies helped demonstrate that mutations that cause colorectal cancer were not altering the expression of novel RNA transcripts on a region of the 8th chromosome and helped show that the mutations were likely altering regulatory regions of a known cancer gene, referred to as c-Myc.

John Manak, assistant professor of biology in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said that the new technique should help researchers to discover new genes as well as new RNA transcript isoforms for any organism, including humans, with much greater precision and with less worry of identifying false positives. Manak worked with another Iowa colleague, Harsha Doddapaneni, to employ the methodology.

"This methodology sorts through complex data generated from a genomics platform called a tiling microarray and allows researchers to get to the real genes associated with disease much faster than previously possible," said Manak. "Imagine a gumball in a jar of marbles. If you are able to identify the gumball with a high degree of accuracy, you won’t wind up with a mouthful of broken teeth. You want to get to the relevant stuff and leave the rest behind."

"The technique changes the way of analyzing this type of genomic data. In the past, this technique was prone to erroneously identifying new transcripts and genes due to the fact that the technique did not have the proper internal controls. The old way of doing it provided evidence for RNA transcripts that really weren’t there at all. Using our new method, researchers can now subtract artifacts, or false data, from their results and they will have the real data," he said.

Manak’s collaborators at Harvard University found that an inherited variant located on a particular region of the 8th chromosome of the human genome (8q24) has a significant association with colorectal cancer. Manak and his fellow researchers found that the region containing the variant is not transcribed but is actually a “transcriptional enhancer” of the known cancer gene c-myc (enhancers are short regions of DNA that regulate transcription, which, in turn, is defined as the synthesis of RNA from a DNA template). That information and other data provide strong support for c-Myc being the causative gene for this type of colorectal cancer.

"Years of work are now called into question," Manak said. "Basically, any transcriptional data generated with tiling arrays, especially studies that propose large amounts of novel transcription, must be re-examined. With this new technique, we force researchers to carefully re-evaluate their old data."

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500
MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, writer, 319-384-0009, gary-galluzzo@uiowa.edu

UI biologist studies ocean plant cell adaptation in climate change
By Gary Galluzzo
April 13, 2009

UI biologist studies ocean plant cell adaptation in climate change

How will plant cells that live in the oceans and serve as the basic food supply for many of the world's sea creatures react to climate change?

A University of Iowa biologist and faculty member in the Roy J. Carver Center for Comparative Genomics and his colleagues came one step closer to answering that question in a paper published in the April 9 issue of the journal Science.

Debashish Bhattacharya, professor of biological sciences in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is studying a tiny (about one micrometer in diameter) and diverse group of organisms called picoeukaryotes. So far, he has found that organisms from two isolated groups of the genus Micromonas -- which thrive in ecosystems ranging from tropical to polar -- look the same, but have evolved to contain different gene pools.

Bhattacharya said that understanding how these organisms change involves many issues.

The question, he said, is: "How do photosynthetic cells in the world's oceans recognize and adapt to their ever-changing environment and how will their latent abilities allow them to respond to climate change that will result in increased stratification and lower nutrient levels in the upper productive zone in oceans?

"To understand these complex issues, investigators need to generate gene catalogs from dominant plant organisms and understand how their genomes have evolved to thrive in vastly different oceanic regions ranging from near-shore to open ocean environments."

He said that the lead author of the Science article, Alexandra Z. Worden of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and collaborators, addressed these key issues in oceanography by sequencing to completion the nuclear genome of two globally distributed, bacterial-sized green algae named Micromonas. One isolated sample (RCC299) came from tropical waters in the Pacific Ocean, whereas the other (CCMP1545) came from temperate Atlantic coastal waters off Plymouth, England.

"These picoeukaryotes are indistinguishable using cell morphology but turn out to be enormously different at the genome level," Bhattacharya said. "On average, these isolates share only 90 percent of the roughly 10,000 genes each contains, indicating they comprise distinct species. More remarkable is the finding of novel repeated sequences that have spread into genes of Atlantic sample that are completely missing in the Pacific sample."

He said that it is unclear how these ubiquitous elements originated or what their function might be in the Atlantic sample, but their presence demonstrates the distinct genomic trajectory that the two species have taken.

"Overall the genomes of these Micromonas species show clear indications of selection acting on the gene pool with each containing a set of unique genes acquired by horizontal gene transfer that are not shared with the other," he said. "These genes likely hold clues to how each species has adapted to its own specific marine environment."

"The work highlights the extent to which genomic diversity is hidden by a simple, shared morphology and points to the need to decipher gene functions in Micromonas to understand their role in adapting to regimes that define myriad marine environments," he said.

Genome sequencing was done by the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute. Research in Bhattacharya's lab was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500
MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009, gary-galluzzo@uiowa.edu

Read full article...
Undergraduate Scholarships Available
By The Department of Biology
January 1, 2009

The Department of Biology is pleased to announce the availability of several scholarships for Biology undergraduates. Please follow the link for more information.

Read full article...
UI Leads Discovery of Gene Associated with Epilepsy
By Becky Soglin
November 18, 2008

A University of Iowa-led international research team has found a new gene associated with the brain disorder epilepsy. While the PRICKLE1 gene mutation was specific to a rare form of epilepsy, the study results could help lead to new ideas for overall epilepsy treatment. The findings, which involved nearly two dozen institutions from six different countries, appear in the Nov. 7 issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics.

In epilepsy, nerve cells in the brain signal abnormally and cause repeated seizures that can include strange sensations, severe muscle spasms and loss of consciousness. The seizures may not have lasting effects but can affect activities, such as limiting a person's ability to drive. Most seizures do not cause brain damage but some types of epilepsy lead to physical disabilities and cognitive problems. Medications can control symptoms, but there is no cure.

"The study results were surprising not only because the PRICKLE1 gene had never been associated with epilepsy but also because the gene was not associated with any other human disease," said the study's lead author Alex Bassuk, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and a pediatric neurologist with UI Children's Hospital.

The nine families involved in the study all lived in the Middle East and came from one of three family lines. Of the 47 individuals in the three family lines, 23 had a form of progressive myoclonus epilepsy accompanied by ataxia -- a condition that causes imbalance. One family line has been extensively described by Hatem El-Shanti, M.D., a UI adjunct professor of pediatrics who now leads genetics research for the country of Qatar. The two other family lines had been researched by Sam Berkovic, M.D., at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

"By sharing and analyzing data sets, we realized there was a common mutation in the PRICKLE1 gene in the family members with this form of epilepsy," Bassuk said.

To verify that the mutation might be related to the epilepsy, the team needed to test it in an animal model. This next step to find a suitable animal model involved a surprising coincidence: Bassuk, who had only recently joined the UI, realized through online research that the PRICKLE1 gene in zebrafish had been previously identified by another UI researcher, Diane Slusarski, Ph.D., associate professor of biology in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

"I walked across the river to Diane's side of campus, and we designed an experiment to test the human mutation in the zebrafish," Bassuk said. It was 'Iowa luck.'"

Slusarski and Bassuk's collaboration revealed that the mutated PRICKLE1 gene does not behave normally in zebrafish. Bassuk noted that collaboration, whether on-campus or international, was essential to the success of the research study.

"We never could have done, or could continue to do this type of research, with just one person thinking about it," he said. "From the clinicians who found and took histories on the study participants, to antibody testing at Stanford University to DNA shared from colleagues in Japan, the study required a lot of collaboration and coordination. And of course, we greatly appreciated the participation of the Mideastern families."

Bassuk, and colleagues are now developing other animal models to investigate how PRICKLE1 gene is involved in epilepsy, and are investigating whether PRICKLE1 mutations are involved in the general population of patients with epilepsy. With that information, there is potential to develop new drugs for people with different forms of epilepsy in the general population, as well as for the study participants with the disease.

This study was supported in part by funding from the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the NIH National Center for Research Resources, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5137 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 5224-1178
MEDIA CONTACT: Becky Soglin, 319 335-6660 becky-soglin@uiowa.edu

Image: "PRICKLE1 gene expression appears in green in human brain cells, with neurons appearing in red and nuclei in blue. Mutated PRICKLE1 gene has been implicated as a cause of a certain form of epilepsy."

Image Credit: American Journal of Human Genetics, Vol. 83, Issue 5, Bassuk et al., Figure 3e from "Homozygous Mutation in Human PRICKLE1 Causes an Autosomal-Recessive Progressive Myoclonus Epilepsy-Ataxia Syndrome," 572-581, Copyright Elsevier, Nov. 7, 2008.

UI biologist studying genes of fruit flies to understand gene development in human cancer
By Gary Galluzzo
October 30, 2008
UI biologist studying genes of fruit flies to understand gene development in human cancer

John Manak, assistant professor of biology in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and researcher in the Roy J. Carver Center for Comparative Genomics, published his research in the Sept. 4 online edition of the journal Public Library of Science-Genetics. He and his collaborators found that a class of DNA bound proteins normally thought to be involved in the repression of genes is also bound to active genes.

By looking at the whole organism as well as in a particular tissue, they were able to hone in on specific functions of these proteins. Since members of this class of proteins have been shown to produce cancers when altered, these data show that linkages between the genes of drosophila (fruit fly) and humans are gradually becoming clearer, bringing scientists closer to the goal of one day understanding the genetic causes of various cancers and other diseases in man.

"I use the drosophila homologues of human genes to help understand how the human genes function," Manak said. "I tease out how the products of these genes function normally. Then I try to understand how the processes they are involved in go awry when the genes are mutated.

"My lab uses a methodology I developed in fruit flies to map mutations to the genes they affect in humans. I am using this strategy to try to identify hard-to-find mutations in a variety of human diseases and disorders," he said.

Manak noted that at least 60 percent of the genes involved in human disease and cancer are conserved in flies. The genes he is studying encode proteins that bind to DNA or chromatin in the cell nucleus. He and his colleagues hope to determine where and how these proteins bind across the entire fly genome, and how these proteins act to assemble the basic building blocks of chromatin.

He said that because several of these proteins are homologous to both tumor suppressor and tumor promoting proteins in humans, the ultimate goal will be to determine not only how these proteins function in the context of normal cell growth, but also how the loss or alteration of these proteins can lead to cancer.

His co-authors include: Camilla Kwong, Lisa Meadows, Steven Russell and Rob White of the University of Cambridge; Ian Bell of Affymetrix Inc.; and researcher Boris Adryan.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500
MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009, gary-galluzzo@uiowa.edu

UI Biologist Helps Discover Novel Organism Adding to
By Gary Galluzzo
February 25, 2008
UI Biologist Helps Discover Novel Organism Adding to

What can a tiny marine alga that resembles a little brown ball tell scientists about how different types of organisms are related on the family tree of all life on Earth?

Quite a bit, it turns out, when it stands at a critical junction where one form of life can provide a clear evolutionary connection between otherwise distant cousins, according to John Logsdon (left), associate professor of biology in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

In the Feb. 21 issue of the journal Nature, Logsdon and his colleagues announced the discovery of a new type of eukaryotic algae that provides just such a bridge between two previously thought-to-be separate branches on the tree of life. Called Chromera velia, the organism is now the closest-known photosynthetic relative to apicomplexan parasites (like the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum) -- much closer than their distant algal relatives called dinoflagellates (some of which cause harmful "red-tides"). Together, these unicellular organisms, along with ciliates (like Paramecium), are called "alveolates."

Logsdon said the find sheds light on a formerly dark corner of the evolution of photosynthesis and indicates that further, similar discoveries lie ahead. Also, this new organism will be a powerful model for studying parasitism and disease in Apicomplexa. "Chromera opens new chapters in the evolutionary history of eukaryotic cells and will provide important clues to understand the biology of apicomplexan parasites and how they have evolved. In turn, this basic knowledge will be crucial in developing new therapeutics for the treatment of widespread diseases such as malaria and toxoplasmosis," said Logsdon.

Logsdon, who also directs the UI Roy J. Carver Center for Comparative Genomics, said the discovery is one more piece of a larger puzzle that seeks to fill in the picture of how all life on earth is interrelated. He currently serves with UI biology professor Debashish Bhattacharya as co-principal investigator on a $1.6 million National Science Foundation (NSF) project "Assembling the Tree of Eukaryotic Diversity" that seeks to decipher the evolutionary relationships primarily among microbial eukaryotes. The collaborative project is part of a larger NSF-funded effort to construct a comprehensive family tree of life on Earth called "Assembling the Tree of Life."

Logsdon noted: "it's not often that we find an organism that fits on the tree of life as a major "missing link" of sorts. Quite often we are looking at relatives that, while sharing a clear common ancestor, have diverged into separate, distinct lineages. This was previously the case for Apicomplexa, which derive from photosynthetic ancestors, but are very distant from their formerly closest photosynthetic cousins, the dinoflagellates. Our study provides a clear demonstration that there is much left to discover and learn about the diversity of life on earth, especially in the microscopic world."

Logsdon's colleagues on the project include lead authors Robert B. Moore of the University of Sydney, Australia, where he did the initial work with senior author Dee A. Carter; and Miroslav Obornik of the Biology Center of the Academy of Sciences and the University of South Bohemia, Czech Republic. Moore is formerly of the UI Roy J. Carver Center for Comparative Genomics where he worked on this project in Logsdon's laboratory.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.
MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009, gary-galluzzo@uiowa.edu

Biology Department adds a new Neurobiology Lab
By The Department of Biology
February 1, 2008

This semester, The Department of Biology added a new Neurobiology teaching lab in the Biology Building. The lab is being team taught by Associate Professors Mike Dailey and Alan Kay and is an upper level biology course which requires the consent of the instructor to register. The course will give students a “hands on” laboratory experience focusing on Neurobiology. The main focus of the lab is to develop fundamental technical skills necessary for success in biomedical and health related careers, and to provide specific training in the principles and practices of modern neurobiological and neurophysiological research. Included in the lab are computer-based simulations, electrophysiology, cell and tissue culture, and microscopy and digital imaging to explore nervous system structure and function in diverse invertebrate and vertebrate organisms. The state-of-the-art lab includes computer monitors to allow the professor to demonstrate a technique while students watch at each lab station. Students will be assisted in the labs by Teaching Assistants and a course lab coordinator.

Fritzsch named biological sciences head, Iowa Entrepreneurial Endowed Professor
By UI News Services
February 1, 2008
Fritzsch named biological sciences head, Iowa Entrepreneurial Endowed Professor

The University of Iowa has named Bernd Fritzsch to an Iowa Entrepreneurial Endowed Professorship and has appointed him chair of the Department of Biological Sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS). Fritzsch is currently professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and director for basic research in the School of Medicine at Creighton University, Omaha. He will begin his UI appointment July 1.

Linda Maxson, CLAS dean, said, "Bernd Fritzsch is an outstanding senior scientist, a gifted leader, and a seasoned administrator who will build on the strengths and prominence of our Department of Biological Sciences. He has been a leader in federally funded Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence Grants, intended to mentor and develop the kind of excellent young scholars we have been so successful in recruiting to our department."

A molecular developmental neurobiologist, Fritzsch is internationally known for his research on the evolution of the sensory neurons of the inner ear, which has provided insights into the genetic basis of hearing loss. His research program is funded by the National Institutes of Health and by a federal Small Business Innovation Research Grant for the development of neuronal tracers.

Read full article...
UI Biology Professor Receives $450,000 grant from NSF
By The Department of Biology
December 20, 2007
UI Biology Professor Receives $450,000 grant from NSF

Professor Robert Malone in the Dept. of Biology at the University of Iowa has received a $450,000, 3 year grant from the National Science Foundation. This grant focuses on the behavior of chromosomes during the biological process called meiosis, those special cell divisions which occur during the formation of gametes (e.g., sperm or eggs). This unique process is highly conserved and the events which occur are very similar in organisms varying from maize to man to simple single cells like yeast. The work investigates a new mechanism by which two steps of chromosome behavior unique to meiosis are coordinated and regulated so that they both occur at the proper time to insure the proper number of chromosomes in each gamete.

UI biologists collaborate in genomic study of genetic, evolutionary processes
By Gary Galluzzo
November 12, 2007
UI biologists collaborate in genomic study of genetic, evolutionary processes

Three University of Iowa biologists are among some 100 scientists who contributed to a study, published in the Nov. 8 issue of the Journal Nature, that is one of the most comprehensive genomic studies of its kind and will greatly aid scientists conducting basic research in disease, genetics and many other fields. The study involved a comparative analysis of the genomes of 12 species of Drosophila (fruit flies) and illustrated how the rates and patterns of genetic change can vary significantly among closely related species, thereby indicating mechanisms of evolutionary change, according to assistant professors Bryant McAllister and Josep Comeron and assistant research scientist Ana Llopart, all in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences' Department of Biological Sciences. "The study's genome sequences will add to the formidable genetic tools that have made the fruit fly a pre-eminent model for animal genetics and help drive fundamental research on mechanisms of development, cell biology, genetics, disease, neurobiology, behavior, physiology, and evolution," McAllister said. "The Drosophila species chosen for sequencing represent a small subset of the diversity among flies, yet we identified many genetic changes that may underlie differences in the ecology and behavior of the various species." Said Comeron, "This paper summarizes years of collaborative work among many laboratories interested in understanding how genes and genomes evolve. The analysis of complete genomes of 12 related species of fruit flies allows us to investigate a wide variety of evolutionary processes with an unprecedented level of detail. Ultimately, these '12 genomes' will provide an exceptional insight into the relative contribution of natural selection on protein evolution, gene gain/loss, the evolution of 'junk' DNA, etc." Of the 12 Drosophila species involved in the study, the genomes of 10 were presented for the first time, perhaps reflective of the fact that the study represents a four-year effort of so many individuals. "Although the actual sequencing of these 10 genomes took less than one year thanks to modern DNA sequencing technologies, three additional years were required to give meaning to this massive amount of genetic information through the development of new analytical and theoretical tools," Llopart said. "Future studies involving non-Drosophila genomes will benefit from having these new tools." In their paper, the researchers note that the study has provided a powerful means for answering questions -- not only about evolution, but also about the function of Drosophila genome features -- and that it has raised more questions than it has answered. "Because much of this rich and extraordinary comparative genomic dataset remains to be explored, we believe that these 12 Drosophila genome sequences will serve as a powerful tool for gleaning further insight into genetic, developmental, regulatory and evolutionary processes," they conclude. The complete Nature article, "Evolution of genes and genomes on the Drosophila phylogeny," can be found at http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v450/n7167/full/nature06341.html

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500
MEDIA CONTACT: Josep Comeron, Department of Biology, 319-335-0628, josep-comeron@uiowa.edu; Bryant McAllister, Department of Biology, 319-335-2604, bryant-mcallister@uiowa.edu; Gary Galluzzo, University News Services, 319-384-0009, gary-galluzzo@uiowa.edu

UI biologist uses $1.47 million NIH grant to study brain cell connections
By Gary Galluzzo
November 6, 2007
UI biologist uses $1.47 million NIH grant to study brain cell connections

A University of Iowa biologist has received a five-year, $1.47 million grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to study how neurons in the brain are wired together. Joshua Weiner, assistant professor and Presidential Biological Scholar in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Science Department of Biological Sciences, says he will use the grant to study defects in nerve cell connecting points, called synapses, that are believed to underlie a wide range of debilitating neurological and psychiatric disorders, including autism, Alzheimer's disease, mental retardation, and schizophrenia. "What my lab would really like to understand is how, during brain development, nerve cells, called neurons, establish connections with each other," he says. "In particular, we're fascinated by the exquisite specificity with which these cells form synapses. Neurons 'know' how to wire up with each other in the correct patterns needed for the brain to process information." He adds that researchers have long understood that proteins on the surface of neurons act as a kind of "molecular Velcro" to hold synapses together. He notes also that a particular family of proteins, called gamma-protocadherin, is a great candidate for mediating such synaptic adhesion in a specific way because the proteins are so diverse, with different neurons having various arrangements of some 22 proteins. "We had already shown that gamma-protocadherins are critical for the development of the nervous system," he says. "In our new, NIH-funded work, we will determine their function in a number of identified circuits, which will help us get a handle on their possible role in synaptic specificity." His UI colleagues on the project are: Andrew Garrett, neuroscience doctoral student; Tuhina Prasad, biology doctoral student; and Leah Fuller, research assistant. Weiner, who received his doctorate from the University of California in 1999 and joined the UI faculty in 2004, says he hopes that their work will advance public health by contributing to the basic science foundation needed for the development of new therapeutic approaches to neurological and psychiatric disorders.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500
MEDIA CONTACTS: Joshua Weiner, assistant professor of biological sciences, 319-335-0091, joshua-weiner@uiowa.edu; Gary Galluzzo, University News Services, 319-384-0009, gary-galluzzo@uiowa.edu

UI Biologist Receives $1.1 Million NIH Grant
By Gary Galluzzo
October 26, 2007
UI Biologist Receives $1.1 Million NIH Grant

Is a particular type of microscopic animal -- one thought to have reproduced asexually for at least 35-40 million years -- actually capable of having sex? A University of Iowa biologist hopes that his answer to that question will help solve a long-standing mystery in evolutionary biology: Why do organisms reproduce by means of sex at all? John Logsdon, associate professor in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Biological Sciences and director of the Roy J. Carver Center for Comparative Genomics, has received a five-year, $1,128,500 research grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study sex and meiosis in asexual rotifers.

Read full article...
Biology's Bhattacharya Elected 2007 AAAS Fellow
By The Department of Biology
October 25, 2007
Biology\'s Bhattacharya Elected 2007 AAAS Fellow

The Department of Biology faculty member, Debashish Bhattacharya has been awarded the distinction of the 2007 Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. A Professor in Biology, Bhattacharya is also a faculty member of the Roy J. Carver Center for Comparative Genomics and director or the UI Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program in genetics. Professor Bhattacharya was given the fellowship "for fundamental studies of the origin and spread of photosynthetic organelles through endosymbiosis, genome evolution and phylogeny of microbial eukaryotes, and group I intron evolution". Bhattacharya, who received his doctorate in 1989 from Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada, joined the UI faculty in 1997. He currently has a two-year, $2 million National Science foundation (NSF) grant to research how early plant cells developed the ability to make use of sunlight through photosynthesis.

Welcome New Graduate Students
By The Department of Biology
October 1, 2007
Welcome New Graduate Students

The Department of Biological Sciences would like to welcome 3 new graduate students, Erin Bailey, Stephen Butcher, Sarah Derry. Erin Bailey is a former University of Iowa Biology major that graduated in May 2005 with a BS in Biological Sciences. Since graduating, Erin was employed at Tyson Foods in the Quality Control Laboratory as a Lab Chemist/Microbiologist. Stephen Butcher graduated from the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse in May 2007 with a BS in Biology. While at UW, he worked on several independent research projects, one under the guidance of a former doctoral student of ours who is now an Associate Professor of Biology at UW-La Crosse: Anne Galbraith. Sarah Derry graduated from Iowa State University in May 2004 with a BS in Genetics. She also received training for a teaching certificate at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, TX. Until coming to the The University of Iowa, Sarah worked as a high school science teacher in the Houston Independent School District. Before a student is selected to join our program, their previous academic history is checked by a committee of departmental professors and graduate program advisors. The new students are chosen from among hundreds of other applicants to come for a campus visit. After the campus visit, they are invited to join our program. Welcome to all of our new graduate students!

UI Biology Researcher Receives Over $800,000 in Grants for Tumor Cell Study
By The Department of Biology
September 26, 2007
UI Biology Researcher Receives Over $800,000 in Grants for Tumor Cell Study

The laboratory of Christopher Stipp, assistant professor in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Biological Sciences, recently received two grants totaling more than $800,000 to study how tumor cells migrate. The first grant is a four-year, $703,000 grant from the American Cancer Society, while the second is an 18-month, $110,610 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense.

Read full article...
Soll Lab Plays Major Role in Diagnosing Cancer
By Gary Galluzzo, David Soll
September 6, 2007
Soll Lab Plays Major Role in Diagnosing Cancer

The unique laboratory of Dr. David Soll at the University of Iowa, Department of Biological Sciences is making a big footprint in the field of cancer research, thanks to a new agreement reached between Soll and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NCI and its $104 million Clinical Protoemics Technologies Initiative for Cancer (http://proteomics.cancer.gov) recently selected the Developmental Studies Hybridoma Bank (DSHB) as the worldwide distributor of cancer-fighting proteins, called monoclonal antibodies, and the specialized cells, called hybridoms, that produce them. The DSHB was moved in 1995 from Johns Hopkins University to the laboratory of Dr. David Soll, Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver/Emil Witschi Professor in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Biological Sciences.

Read full article...
Center for Comparative Genomics purchases flow cytometer
By The Department of Biology
September 5, 2007
Center for Comparative Genomics purchases flow cytometer

The Roy J. Carver Center for Comparative Genomics, located within the Department of Biological Sciences, has purchased a Flow Cytometer. After testing several machines, the Cell Lab Quanta SC manufactured by Beckman Coulter was chosen. It is equipped with a blue laser (488nm) and a UV light source optimized for excitation at 366, 405, 435nm. It is also equipped with a Multi-Platform Loader which will allow the use of vials and 96-well plates. With this set-up we will be capable of detecting cell staining of labeled markers as well as measuring DNA content and ploidy level.

Read full article...
Dancing in the Dark with Termites
By Barbara Stay
August 27, 2007
Dancing in the Dark with Termites

Professor Barbara Stay will be giving a Saturday Scholars talk on Saturday, September 1, 10:00am in room 40 Schaeffer Hall. Her presentation will discuss Termites and their social interaction. Termites, like bees, ants and humans, are social creatures. We, and they, depend on interactions of individuals within families and colonies for continued existence. Not only we humans, but these social insects have enormous impact on our habitat, the Earth. How do these insects, one millionth of our size do this? It is by enormous numbers of individuals who sacrifice reproduction for the benefit of the colony. In termites, a queen and her king, the primary reproductives, produce enormous numbers of offspring that develop into different castes. Workers provide food and care, not only for the king and queen, but also for the soldiers, defenders of the colony. Chemical communication between caste members maintains the composition of the colony for the benefit of the whole. The termites studied in the Stay laboratory is the local subterranean termite Reticulitermes flavipes in which developmental pathways are very flexible; workers, if need be, can develop into soldiers or into supplementary reproductives. Our interest is in how the social environment is communicated through the brain to the endocrine system that regulates developmental pathways and reproductive ability.

Biological Sciences Professor Emeritus Jerry J. Kollros loses his battle with cancer
By Eugene Spaziani
June 8, 2007

Biological Sciences Professor Emeritus, Jerry Kollros died on June 8, 2007 after a long battle with cancer. He was 89 years old. Kollros came to the University of Iowa in 1946 as an Assistant Professor. He served as Acting Chairman of the Department and then Chairman of the department from 1954 to 1977. During these years, he taught many Biology courses, had an active research lab devoted to neurodevelopment in amphibians and led the department through many years of changes. See the whole story.

Read full article...
Joshua Weiner to Receive Carver Trust Grant for Cell Study
By Gary Galluzzo
May 22, 2007
Joshua Weiner to Receive Carver Trust Grant for Cell Study

Joshua Weiner, assistant professor in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Department of Biological Sciences, has received a three-year, $309, 510 grant from the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust to study the role of glial cells in neuro-transmission and various brain disorders. In particular, he and his colleagues will study the function of glial cells - cells that provide nutrition, protection and other support to neuronal cells and participate in signal transmission in the nervous system.

Read full article...
UI Biology Research Team Receives Carver Trust Grant
By Gary Galuzzo
December 6, 2006
UI Biology Research Team Receives Carver Trust Grant

The research laboratory of Christopher Stipp, assistant professor in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Department of Biological Sciences, has received a three-year, $349,825 grant from the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust to study an aspect of cell behavior that plays important roles both in normal cell development and in tumor cell progression.

Read full article...
UI Biologist Receives $347,340 Carver Grant To Study Sex And Meiosis In Fungi
By Gary Galluzzo
November 3, 2006
UI Biologist Receives $347,340 Carver Grant To Study Sex And Meiosis In Fungi

John M. Logsdon Jr., assistant professor in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Biological Sciences and the Roy J. Carver Center for Comparative Genomics, has received a three-year, $347,340 grant from the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust to study the evolution of sex and meiosis in fungi. The study would be an important milestone in understanding sexual reproduction by providing the first comprehensive analysis of the evolution of genes needed for sex in eukaryotes. Eukaryotes are cells with nuclei, including those found in plants, animals and fungi.

Read full article...
UI Biologist Nets $1,973,449 NSF Grant To Study Origins Of Photosynthesis
By Gary Galluzzo
October 27, 2006
UI Biologist Nets $1,973,449 NSF Grant To Study Origins Of Photosynthesis

A University of Iowa, Department of Biological Sciences faculty member and member of the Roy J. Carver Center for Comparative Genomics will use a two-year, $1,973,449 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to research the answer. Debashish Bhattacharya, principal investigator, associate professor of biological sciences in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and director of the UI Interdisciplinary Program in Genetics, will sequence, or map, the genome of a key, single-celled organism.

Read full article...
UI Hybridoma Bank Establishes Graduate Student Endowment
By Gary Galluzzo
August 21, 2006

The University of Iowa Developmental Studies Hybridoma Bank (DSHB), under the direction of Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver/Emil Witschi Professor David Soll, has announced that it will provide a gift toward the Graduate Student Endowment in the Department of Biological Sciences of a minimum of $250,000 over the next five years. The endowment will help expand graduate student research within the department.

Read full article...
UI Biologist to Study Red Tide
By Gary Galluzzo
June 19, 2006
UI Biologist to Study Red Tide

University of Iowa Biologist, Debashish Bhattacharya, Ph.D., has received a grant from NIH to study "red tide". Red Tide is the ecologically and financially costly biological phenomenon that periodically kills millions of fish and shellfish along the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

Read full article...
Center for Comparative Genomics Moves
By Julie Rogers
May 23, 2006

The Roy J. Carver Center for Comparative Genomics has moved!! The Center is still in the Biology Building but has moved from the 2nd floor to the 1st floor. This move allows the Center to consolidate all equipment, including imagers, real-time PCR, sequencing and microarray equipment, into a single space. Samples for DNA sequencing can be dropped off in room 101 BB or 107 BB.

Evolutionary Discovery
By Stephanie Colgan
December 20, 2005
Evolutionary Discovery

University of Iowa Assistant Professor of Biology, John Logsdon, along with other UI researchers, made a discovery that earned them national attention earlier this year.   Logsdon and his colleagues found that a single-celled organism called Giardia, once thought to reproduce asexually, may actually have sex. Sexual reproduction has not been directly proven yet, but the UI researchers studied the DNA of Giardia and concluded that the organism has genes necessary for sexual reproduction.

Fall 2005 Departmental Newsletter
By The Department of Biology
September 1, 2005
Fall 2005 Departmental Newsletter

View the Fall 2005 Departmental Newsletter either online or download a copy. This file is in PDF format and requires Acrobat Reader. (23 MB)

Read full article...
October 2004 Departmental Newsletter
By The Department of Biology
October 1, 2004
October 2004 Departmental Newsletter

View the October 2004 Departmental Newsletter either online or download a copy. This file is in .pdf format and requires Acrobat Reader. (23 MB)

Read full article...
The Herbarium has moved!
By The Department of Biology
November 30, -0001

The University of Iowa Herbarium, an important collection both historically and with respect to its representation of Iowa plant diversity, has recently been merged with the Ada Hayden Herbarium at Iowa State University. The combined collections contain approximately 640,000 specimens, and together have the largest and most complete holdings representing the flora of Iowa. The unified herbarium also contains important holdings of Midwestern flora. Please contact Lynn Clark (lgclark@iastate.edu), Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa 50011-1020, for further information.

The Interdisciplinary PhD Program in Genetics
By The Department of Biology
November 30, -0001

The Offices of the Interdisciplinary PhD Program in Genetics have moved to the Department of Biological Sciences.

Biology faculty member Debashish Bhattacharya has assumed the leadership of the Interdisciplinary PhD Program in Genetics at the University of Iowa. This is one of the largest interdisciplinary programs at the University with over 50 faculty members and 40 graduate students. The move to Biological Sciences is anticipated to forge strong ties between the faculty here and in the College of Medicine and other participating Colleges. Joining Debashish are Program Associate Anita Kafer and Secretary Chloe Allgood. Offices are located on the 3rd floor of the Biology Building (BB) at Jefferson and Dubuque Streets.

Read full article...