Link: University of Iowa

Cara Larson Wins “3 Minute Thesis” Award

February 26th, 2015 by Judy Means

Cara Larson, undergraduate Biochemistry major, won a competitive “3 Minute Thesis” award. Cara explained her research on the genetic basis of an infant death syndrome to a broad audience. Cara is an ICRU fellow working on this project in the laboratory of Lori Wallrath. You can check out Cara’s presentation and those of other undergraduates at:

Dr. Musselman receives NSF CAREER Award

February 25th, 2015 by Maren Rogers

Musselman 200x300Dr. Catherine Musselman has received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award for her project entitled “CAREER: The structural basis of the multivalent readout of histone PTMs and PTM/interaction mediated modulation of nucleosome dynamics.” In this study Dr. Musselman will be investigating molecular mechanisms underlying the readout of patterns of histone PTMs. Utilizing state-of-the-art NMR spectroscopy approaches she will dissect the details of how proteins decipher these patterns ultimately leading to regulation of chromatin structure. The results from these studies will provide significant insight into specific and fundamental mechanisms by which the eukaryotic genome is regulated.

In addition to the research objectives of this award, there are significant educational outreach goals. Dr. Musselman has established a collaboration with the Workplace Learning Connection run out of Kirkwood Community College to provide high school students from around the region the opportunity to perform internships in her laboratory. Students will gain 45-90 hours of laboratory experience for which they will receive academic credit. This experience will provide students with a tangible research experience in the basic sciences, allowing them to explore their interest and opportunities to pursue an education and career in a STEM related field.

Wonderful News, a note from Dr. Brenner

February 19th, 2015 by Maren Rogers

Dear members of the Biochemistry Community,

In this fall’s newsletter, I shared our goal of creating a endowment that will support the cost of Biochemistry first year graduate student packages. Our initial goal was $3 million and I told you that we were nearing the first $1 million. Now, I would like to tell you about two of the leadership gifts that we’ve received toward endowing these first year graduate student packages.

The first $750,000 toward our $3 million goal came from unrestricted gifts in Biochemistry’s UI Foundation accounts, from the Elizabeth K. Smith Fund, which was given in memory of Dr. Smith, a 1943 PhD in Biochemistry, and from the gift of Dr. Lois Bigger Gehring in support of graduate education. Lois, who received her master’s at Iowa, was very excited to be part of this initiative and increased her gift in the hopes that other friends of the Department would respond. Notably, income from the first $750,000 toward graduate education will support one first year package beginning this August, namely the Smith-Gehring Fellowship.

In addition, the Department is very excited to thank Dr. Joseph Walder for making a gift in support of Biochemistry graduate education for the next three years. Joe started his independent research career as faculty member in the Department in 1978 and launched Integrated DNA Technologies in 1987. Joe’s gift will support two IDT Graduate Fellows beginning this August.

Just as Biochemistry first year graduate students do, the Smith-Gehring and IDT Fellows will perform research rotations with 3 or 4 members of the Biochemistry faculty while taking the first year curriculum and learning the graduate ropes. In these times of tight Departmental budgets, the support of friends of Iowa Biochemistry is invaluable.

Your support can make possible a 4th or 5th first year graduate student package and can help permanently endow support for graduate education in Biochemistry at Iowa.

Let’s thank the hundreds of people who have contributed to Biochemistry unrestricted funds at the UI Foundation, the supporters of the Elizabeth K. Smith Fund, Lois Bigger Gehring, and Joe Walder for their remarkable generosity.

If you or someone you know can join Lois and Joe in support of Biochemistry graduate education, please do not hesitate to give me a call.

Charlie Brenner

Brenner Laboratory Publishes in PLoS Biology

February 6th, 2015 by Maren Rogers

The Brenner Lab was recently recognized in an IowaNow article entitled, “UI researchers find simple life forms communicate benefits of calorie restriction,” for their study, “Calorie Restriction-Mediated Replicative Lifespan Extension in Yeast is Non-Cell Autonomous,” recently published in PLoS Biology. Brenner Lab Postdoc Szu-Chieh (Christy) Mei was first author of this work. The study revealed evidence that baker’s yeast cells not only extend their own lifespan in response to caloric restriction but also communicate with other cells to share the benefit of caloric restriction.

Xu Liu and Casey Andrews Successfully Defend Theses Fall 2014

January 9th, 2015 by Briana Horwath

Liu, Xu Online Xu Liu, A Biochemistry PhD student mentored by Dr. Ernesto   Fuentes, successfully defended his thesis on December 1, 2014, entitled “Specificity, Structure, Dynamics and Inhibition of the Tiam PDZ Domain/Ligand Complexes”. Xu is currently a post-doctoral research scholar in Dr. Ernesto Fuentes Laboratory. Later this year, he will begin a post-doctoral position in the Laboratory of Georges Mer at the Mayo Clinic.


Andrews, Casey OnlineCasey Andrews, a biochemistry PhD student mentored by Dr. Adrian Elcock successfully defended his thesis on December 2, 2014, entitled “Coarse Grained Potential Functions for Proteins Derived from All-Atom Explicit-Solvent Molecular Dynamics Simulations”. Casey currently holds a post-doctoral research scholar position in the lab of Dr. Adrian Elcock. Casey will also be teaching under Dr. Adam Moser at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa.

Congratulations Xu and Casey!

Professor Geyer receives the CCOM Collegiate Teaching Award

December 12th, 2014 by Maren Rogers

Congratulations to Professor Pamela Geyer for being chosen to receive a Carver College of Medicine Collegiate Teaching Award for 2014. Professor Geyer has demonstrated excellence in teaching for the past two and a half decades at the University of Iowa. The superb ratings and comments from students are a testament of her skill as an instructor. Professor Geyer has had an enormous impact on graduate education at the University of Iowa, chairing a task force that re-shaped the graduate curriculum that is in place today.

Among current Biochemistry primary faculty, Dr. Geyer joins Drs. Peter Rubenstein, Adrian Elcock, Lori Wallrath, Dan Weeks, Todd Washington, and Kris DeMali recipients of the CCOM Collegiate Teaching Award. This is the 5th consecutive year a Biochemistry faculty member has received this award.

Shea recognized as an Outstanding Educator in Medical Education

December 5th, 2014 by Maren Rogers


Professor Madeline Shea was recognized as an Outstanding Educator at the 2014 Medical Education Celebration Day on November 13, 2014. In Dr. Brenner’s nomination for Professor Shea, he wrote “For more than a decade, Madeline’s lectures on hemoglobin function to Carver College students were as central to the fall semester as home games at Kinnick. She taught thousands of doctors how the energetics of protein conformation underlie molecular medicine.” He continued, “Madeline completed an 11 year tour of duty teaching protein structure and function to M1 medical students in the former medical biochemistry course. Her lectures were paragons of clarity and organization and her student reviews were stellar.”

Andrea Diaz’s poster takes 3rd at the 40th Annual National Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers Conference

December 4th, 2014 by Maren Rogers

Andrea Diaz, an IBA undergraduate student working in Dr. Maria Spies’ laboratory attended the 40th Annual National Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers Conference held in Detroit, Michigan on November 5 – 9, 2014.  Andrea placed 3rd, out of 23 undergraduate technical poster competition finalists, for her poster  titled “Characterization of RAD52 Mutant Protein ssDNA Annealing Function.” Congratulations, Andrea!

Rubenstein Elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

December 3rd, 2014 by Maren Rogers

Dr. Peter Rubenstein has been elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) “for distinguished contributions to the fields of actin cytoskeletal biochemistry and cell biology and to innovations in the teaching of basic science in medical education.” Among current Biochemistry primary faculty, Dr. Rubenstein joins Drs. Marc Wold, Charles Brenner and David Price as AAAS fellows.

Dr. Rubenstein  is one of three faculty in the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine who have been awarded the distinction of 2014 Fellow of the AAAS, the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science. The UI recipients are among 401individuals elected this year by peers. AAAS members are elevated to the rank of “Fellow” because their efforts to advance science or its applications are deemed scientifically or socially distinguished. The new Fellows will be presented with an official certificate and a rosette pin on Saturday, February 14, 2014, during the AAAS Annual Meeting in San Jose, California.

Yeal Escobar, Biochemistry Summer Student, Wins Poster Award at ABRCSM

November 19th, 2014 by Judy Means

Summer undergraduate Yeal Escobar won a poster award at the 2014 Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) held in San Antonio, TX. Yeal’s poster titled “The role of lamin-associated muscular dystrophy mutations in gene expression” described research she carried out in the laboratory of Lori Wallrath. Yeal was supported by the U of Iowa MSTP summer research program program and the Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARCS) program at her home institution, the University of Arizona.