Link: University of Iowa

Lacy Barton wins 2016 Clarence Berg Award

November 17th, 2016 by Maren Rogers

Lacy Barton, a 2014 PhD with Dr. Pamela Geyer, has been named the winner of the 2016 Clarence Berg Award. The Berg Award is given biennially in honor of our former Professor Clarence P. Berg to the graduate student who demonstrates “scholarship, integrity, cooperativeness, consideration and a willingness to help others.”

Lacy was also recently named the winner of the 2015 Subramanian Award for best PhD thesis in the Department of Biochemistry.  Lacy is currently a postdoctoral fellow in Ruth Lehmann’s laboratory at New York University School of Medicine in New York, NY. She was awarded a Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation Fellowship for her project entitled “Mechanisms of directed cell migration in a complex in vivo environment.” Damon Runyon fellowships are among the most recognized postdoctoral awards and a high accolade for an early career scientist. Congratulations, Dr. Barton!

2016 Biochemistry Newsletter now available

November 4th, 2016 by Maren Rogers

2016_newslettercoverimageThe 2016 Biochemistry @ Iowa newsletter is hot off the presses and available for download. Alumni and friends should receive a hard copy in the mail this week. If you would like to be added to our mailing list, please send your contact information to biochem@uiowa.edu. While you are at it, feel free to send us your news and updates! Previous newsletters are also available online.

Undergraduate in Maria Spies lab turns internship into job offer at Clorox

October 28th, 2016 by Maren Rogers

Andrea Diaz, an undergraduate studying in Maria Spies’ laboratory, was offered a full-time position with Clorox Co. as a scientist in the company’s research and development department after interning with the company this past summer. Andrea credits her campus involvement and work experience with giving her the opportunities and skills she needed to make the most of her internship at Clorox. Read more about Andrea’s experience and opportunity in the IowaNow feature. Congratulations, Andrea!

Tingting Duan won second place in the Art in Science Competition at the Iowa Microscopy Society

October 20th, 2016 by Miranda Nielson

image-competion-2016-a-testis-carpet-tingting

Tingting Duan, a Biochemistry PhD student mentored by Dr. Pamela Geyer, was awarded second place in the Art in Science Competition by voters attending the Iowa Microscopy Society Fall Symposium. Her image of a tetis carpet “[drew] out beauty on an extremely small scale.” The goal of the Iowa Art in Science Contest is to recognize the combination of outstanding scientific discovery and artistic appeal inherent to microscopy research.

Brenner lab’s clinical trial on the effects of NR in humans shows the compound safely increases levels of important cell metabolite

October 13th, 2016 by Maren Rogers

Brenner_Charles_2015_reducedIn a study published on October 10 in Nature Communications, Dr. Charles Brenner, Roy J. Carver Chair of Biochemistry, in collaboration with visiting Levitt Professor, Dr. Marie Migaud, shows nicotinamide riboside (NR) increases levels of a cell metabolite that is critical for cellular energy production and protection against stress and DNA damage in humans. This was the first controlled clinical trial of the effects of NR in humans. “This trial shows that oral NR safely boosts human NAD+ metabolism,” Brenner says. “We are excited because everything we are learning from animal systems indicates that the effectiveness of NR depends on preserving and/or boosting NAD+ and related compounds in the face of metabolic stresses. Because the levels of supplementation in mice that produce beneficial effects are achievable in people, it appears that health benefits of NR will be translatable to humans safely.” This study was also featured on IowaNow.

Davies and Taylor awarded FOEDRC Pilot & Feasibility Grants

October 3rd, 2016 by Maren Rogers

Drs. Brandon Davies and Eric Taylor have been awarded FOEDRC Pilot & Feasiblity Grants of $50,000 to support their research proposal, with the possibility for a second year of funding, for a total of $100,000 over a two-year period.

Dr. Davies’s proposal entitled “Skeletal Muscle Programming of Capillary Endothelial Cells,” aims to to identify how skeletal muscle cells program adjacent endothelial cells to deliver triglyceride-derived fatty acids to muscle.

Dr. Taylor’s proposal entitled “A novel regulator of glutamine-driven gluconeogenesis,” aims to determine the biochemical activity of a recently discovered  poorly annotated protein that is important for using the amino acid glutamine for gluconeogenesis, the mechanisms underlying its role in glutamine-driven gluconeogenesis, and how its function contributes to hyperglycemia during type-2 diabetes.

Maria Spies lab publishes in PNAS

September 28th, 2016 by Maren Rogers

Dr. Maria Spies laboratory recently published an Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences article entitled “Tyrosine phosphorylation stimulates activity of human RAD51 recombinase through altered nucleoprotein filament dynamics.” In this article the Spies laboratory addressed the regulation of the homologous genetic recombination, an enigmatic cellular mechanism responsible for the stability of our genomes and accurate repair of the most deleterious DNA damage. They combined the tools of biochemistry, chemical biology and single-molecule biophysics to determine the mechanism by which c-ABL kinase (and its oncogenic counterpart BCR-ABL) enhances the activity of human RAD51 recombinase, which catalyzes the central step in homologous recombination. Recent PhD, Shyamal Subramanyam, was first author of this work, which was a cornerstone of his dissertation.

Grant Young Receives Ponsetti Award for Research in Orthopedics

September 16th, 2016 by Judy Means
Grant Young, former Biochemistry undergraduate major, received “The Ponsetti Award for Research in Orthopedics” for his summer research as a U of Iowa medical student.

Highlights of the 7th Annual Biochemistry Retreat

September 12th, 2016 by Briana Horwath

The Department of Biochemistry held their 7th Annual Retreat on August 20, 2016, in the Coralville Public Library. The retreat featured 5 faculty talks and 34 poster presentations.

It was exciting to learn about all of the science happening in the Department! Congratulations to the winners of the various contests listed below.

Graduate Student Poster Competition:
1st Place: Lalita Oonthonpan (Taylor Lab) “Elucidating structure-function relationship of the mitochondrial pyruvate carrier”
2nd Place: Will Hacker (Elcock Lab) “Modeling the E. coli nucleoid subject to experimental restraints”
3rd Place: Mark Miller (Elcock Lab) “Re-parameterization of protein force fields guided by osmotic coefficient measurements from molecular dynamics simulations”

Postdoctoral/Medical Fellows and Research Staff Poster Competition:
Shyamal Subramanyam, Postdoc (M. Spies Lab) “Tyrosine phosphyorylation stimulates activity of human RAD51 recombinase through altered nucleoprotein filament dynamcs”

Undergraduate Poster Competition:
Rick Young (Wallrath Lab) “DNA damage associated with muscular dystrophy”

X-Scientist Theme Competition:
Sarah Hengel, aka Aqua Structure Girl (ASG) with her superpowers to shrink herself to the size of a water molecule, jump into protein solutions, and with her eyes shoot X-rays at the protein of interest for structural determination

2016 IDT & Smith-Gehring Graduate Fellowships

August 25th, 2016 by Maren Rogers

The IDT and Smith-Gehring Graduate Fellowships are awarded to three of the most meritorious second year Biochemistry graduate students based on academic and research achievements.

The 2016 IDT Graduate Fellows are Colleen Caldwell and Timothy Collingsworth:

Caldwell, Colleen

Ms. Colleen Caldwell performed extremely well in classes during her first year in the graduate program.  Work she did during her rotations is likely to earn her a contribution to research papers from two labs. Ms. Caldwell graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and a minor in Neuroscience from the Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN in spring 2015. She had a brilliant undergraduate career and her application to our graduate program definitely stood out. In the laboratory of Dr. Maria Spies, she is working on a project focused on deciphering the molecular mechanism of human DNA helicase RTEL1 (regulator of telomere length). Defects in the RTEL1 helicase are associated with a broad spectrum of human diseases ranging from cancer to Crohn’s. Ms. Caldwell plans to take a full advantage of Dr. Spies’ lab expertise in DNA repair helicases and custom built single-molecule equipment to decipher the RTEL1 mechanism and to gain insights into its physiological roles outside of the telomeres. In collaboration with the X-ray crystallography core and Dr. M. Todd Washington’s lab, Ms. Caldwell will also add a structural biology component to her work on RTEL1 in definition of the association between RTEL1 helicase and the PCNA processivity clamp that integrates RTEL1 activity into cellular processes that ensure accurate replication.

Collingsworth, Tim

Mr. Timothy Collingsworth also had an exemplary first year in the graduate program. In addition, Mr. Collingsworth’s overall positive attitude and enthusiasm stood out to us. Mr. Collingsworth, who grew up in Cedar Rapids, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and minors in Computer Science and Spanish from the University of Iowa in spring 2015. Mr. Collingsworth is training in the laboratory of Dr. Michael Schnieders and is working on a project in collaboration with Dr. Michael Welsh aimed to develop computational tools to combat cystic fibrosis (CF). CF is caused by mutations in the gene that encodes the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) anion channel. In humans and pigs lacking CFTR, unchecked H+ secretion by the nongastric H+/K+ adenosine triphosphatase (ATP12A) acidifies airway surface liquid, while mice that lack CFTR express little ATP12A and secrete minimal H+. Thus, airway surface liquid in CF and non-CF mice have similar pH, suggesting that inhibiting ATP12A can reverse host defense abnormalities and treat CF in humans. The goal of Mr. Collingsworth’s project is to use computer aided molecular design to create specific inhibitors of ATP12A function.

The 2016 Smith-Gehring Graduate Fellow is Hannah Miller:

Miller, Hannah Headshot

Ms. Hannah Miller performed extremely well in classes during her first year in the graduate program. Ms. Miller is the department’s first Fast Track PhD student. The Fast Track program allows for high achieving University of Iowa undergraduate students to take PhD course work during their final undergraduate year. To qualify for this program Ms. Miller participated in an extensive amount of formal research in Dr. Todd Washington’s lab and maintained an exemplary academic record. Ms. Miller stated, “I was interested in the Fast Track PhD program in Biochemistry because it is a unique opportunity to dive deeper into research at a young age. The program gives me the opportunity to join a lab with my first year, giving me a great start on my thesis project. I’m very excited to see how the program will challenge me and allow me to progress as a scientist.” Ms. Miller has joined the laboratory of Dr. Kris DeMali. She is currently working on a project aimed at understanding how cells sense and transmit externally applied forces and dissecting how this process becomes dysregulated during tumorigenesis.

Congratulations to the 2016 IDT & Smith-Gehring Graduate Fellows!