Link: University of Iowa

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.

Article by Ran Chen and Marc Wold Featured on the Cover of BioEssays

November 14th, 2014 by Briana Horwath

Graduate student Ran Chen (Wold Lab) and Biochemistry Professor Marc Wold recently published an article that was featured on the cover of BioEssays (volume 35, issue 12). The article, entitled “Replication protein A: Single-stranded DNA’s first responder”, reviews recent discoveries from the Wold and other labs that show that replication protein A (RPA), the major eukaryotic single-stranded DNA-binding protein, binds DNA dynamically. It also proposes a new model for RPA binding and discusses the importance of dynamic binding in the correct processing of single-stranded DNA intermediates and genome stability.


2014 Biochemistry Newsletter now available

October 31st, 2014 by Maren Rogers

The 2014 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 While you are at it, feel free to send us your news and updates! Previous newsletters are also available online.

Dr. Andrew Norris Appointed Associate Director, FOEDRC

October 24th, 2014 by Maren Rogers

Dr. Andrew Norris, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Biochemistry at the University of Iowa has been appointed to Associate Director of the Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center (FOEDRC). Dr. Norris is a physician-scientist whose research is focused on the causes and treatments of diabetes across the lifespan. He received his PhD in molecular biophysics and MD from Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis. Dr. Norris was trained in diabetes research and pediatric endocrinology at the Joslin Diabetes Center and Boston Children’s Hospital, both at Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Norris already supports the mission of the FOEDRC by organizing a scientific research development discussion group to increase the success of research grant applications, in addition to providing scientific expertise in developing critical experimental techniques in the metabolism research core laboratories for measuring glucose metabolism and insulin resistance in laboratory animals that will be used by many members of the FOEDRC. In his new role, Dr. Norris will increase his duties by expanding career development tools available to FOEDRC Investigators such as developing and enhancing pre-submission review opportunities and other approaches that will increase the likelihood of success of grant proposals submitted by FOEDRC members. He will also assist in coordinating the weekly Diabetes & Obesity Talk series which draws talented research speakers from around the country. Dr. Norris will work closely with Dr. Abel in providing leadership and strategic planning to foster ongoing success and growth of the FOEDRC.

Congratulations, Dr. Norris!

Biochemistry Alumnus Bradley T. Hyman elected into the Institute of Medicine

October 21st, 2014 by Maren Rogers

Bradley T. Hyman, a 1982 Biochemistry PhD with Arthur Spector and a 1983 MD from the Carver College of Medicine,  has been elected into the Institute of Medicine.  Election to the IOM is considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine and recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service.

Dr. Hyman is the John B. Penney Jr. Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, and the the Director of the Massachusetts Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital. He is in the same IOM class as Nobelists Randy Schekman and Brian Kobilka and  joins a group of fewer than 1800 leading US medical scientists in this elite advisory organization.

Congratulations, Dr. Hyman!

Karina Kruth, Jessica Maier, and Lacy Barton successfully defended their theses during the 2013-2014 academic year

October 1st, 2014 by Briana Horwath

Karina Kruth, a Biochemistry PhD Student mentored by Dr. Peter Rubenstein, successfully defended her thesis on October 31, 2013, entitled “Effects of three deafness-causing gamma-actin mutations on actin structure and function”. Karina is a post-doctoral fellow with Dr. Miles Pufall at the University of Iowa, Department of Biochemistry.


Jessica Maiers, a Molecular and Cellular Biology PhD student mentored by Dr. Kris DeMali, successfully defended her thesis on November 26, 2013, entitled “The role of alpha-catenin and ZO-1 in coupling tight junctions to adherens junctions”. Jessica holds a post-doctoral position with Dr. Vijay Shah at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester,  Minnesota.


Lacy Barton, a Biochemistry PhD student mentored by Dr. Pamela Geyer, successfully defended her thesis on July 11, 2014, entitled “Defining the role of a nuclear lamina LEM domain protein in germline stem cells”. Lacy is a post-doctoral fellow with Dr. Ruth Lehmann at New York University in New York.

Congrats Karina, Jessica, and Lacy!

IEIIS Announces Travel Awards for Women in Science In Honor of Theresa L. Gioannini

October 1st, 2014 by Maren Rogers

In honor of Dr. Theresa L. Gioannini (1949-2014), the International Endotoxin and Innate Immune Society (IEIIS) has announced new travel awards for women in science. The awards will be used to support the attendance and participation of women graduate students, post-docs, and junior faculty at IEIIS-sponsored meetings. For more information and an application link, see

In addition, they are currently setting up a summer research fellowship in Theresa’s memory. One student will be selected each summer from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, an all-women’s catholic college that Theresa attended, to conduct research at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.

Dr. Brenner’s Tribute to Dr. Andy Robertson

August 28th, 2014 by Christa Fraser

Robertson Desk 1The death of our colleague Andy Robertson two weeks ago was unexpected. His death is a reminder of just how important our friendships are. I met Andy in 1989, twenty-five years ago, when I was in graduate school and he was a postdoc at Stanford. He had just come from the University of Wisconsin where he did his PhD with John Markley. The reason Andy meant so much to me is that I spent five to seven days a week with him for a couple of years, seeing and talking with him nearly every day. That was a formative time in my life. Two years later, when he moved to our department as an assistant professor, he spent five to seven days a week seeing five of our colleagues who were then new assistant professors. He was very close with Dan Weeks, Madeline Shea, David Price, Pamela Geyer, Marc Wold—the heart and soul of our department—not to mention many others.

It turns out that, whether we are graduate students, technicians, post-docs, faculty members, or retirees, we’re all in formative periods of our lives and we always need friends.

In science, Andy really cared. He loved the turkey ovomucoid third domain. He loved every ionizable group in the turkey ovomucoid third domain from its amino terminus to its carboxy terminal group and every ionizable group in between. He really cared about that molecule. At Stanford, Andy spent two years working on ribonuclease, which was one of Buzz Baldwin’s favorite molecules, but he returned to turkey ovomucoid third domain when he was on the faculty at Iowa.

Beyond caring about every ionizable group, Andy truly cared about people. He was a very warm and graceful person. What is grace? Grace is the ability to adapt, to turn, to change, and to adjust to one’s surroundings. One of the ways to think about grace in terms of dealing with problems: picture Jacqueline Kennedy when her husband, our president, was shot in 1964. The type of grace she exhibited to hold her family together inspired people that life would go on and that we’ve got to make the best of a very difficult situation. If you look at graceful athletes—and, as a person who surfed and skied, Andy was a graceful athlete—they are constantly changing. At the top of a mountain, skiers imagine a line that they are going to take but, to get to the bottom, they shift their weight and turn on the basis of the wind, other skiers, and conditions encountered going down the mountain. You will not only encounter moguls and changing snow conditions, but actual ice patches. And, friends, there will be ice patches.

We’re mourning the loss of Andy Robertson, because we know that in life he would be available to us at any time. Andy was the kind of person who kept both eyes on you when he talked to you. When I had the opportunity to consider taking a position here, Andy was the first person I consulted about what I would find at the University of Iowa. Even though it was a telephone conversation, I knew that Andy was one hundred percent present with me in that conversation. We are mourning Andy because, not only do we no longer have him to listen to us, but he doesn’t have us to listen to him.

In closing, I emphasize that we need to know our friends, treasure our friends, and rely on our friends. Work hard, but please always talk with each other. We don’t know how long any of us will be here, we don’t know how long our friendships or our lives will last, and we don’t know what another person might be going through at any given time unless we are present, like Andy was.

Andy Robertson was a tremendously valued member of this department and of this world. No one can take his place. And guess what? No one can take anybody else’s place, either. Everyone has a role and everyone has an important contribution to make, not just in science and in the department, but in the world. Your role is a unique one that no one else can fill.

Let’s remember Andy’s life with as much grace as we can muster. Let’s try to shift speeds, shift our weight from one ski to the other without ever giving up our principles or our goals. Please talk with each other, check in with each other because life can be too short.

Thank you, Andy, for being a part of our lives.

Dr. Charles Brenner

Highlights of the Fifth Annual Biochemistry Retreat

August 25th, 2014 by Christa Fraser

The 2014 Annual Biochemistry Retreat, organized by Lori Wallrath, Maria Spies, Elizabeth Boehm, Emily Malcolm, Jiannan Guo, Quinn Li, and Briana Horwath, was held on Saturday, August 23 at the Northridge Indoor Pavilion, Coralville. The Retreat was dedicated to Andy Robertson (former faculty member, 1991-2005), who unexpectedly died on August 14th, 2014. Dr. Brenner delivered a moving tribute to Dr. Robertson, describing his passion for research and teaching.

Oral presentations were given by Todd Washington, Ran Chen (Wold Lab), Larry Gray (Taylor Lab), Thomas Magin, Sheila Baker, Zhen Xu (Fuentes Lab), Casey Andrews (Elcock Lab), M. Ashley Spies, Pamela Geyer, Jiannan Guo (Price Lab), and Miles Pufall.

The poster session featured 28 posters. In the graduate student category, first place award went to Emily Malcolm (Davies Lab), who won the Lois Bigger Gehring Award, which supports travel to research conferences. Second place in this category went to Tyler Weaver (Musselman Lab) and third place to Jacob Litman (Schnieders Lab). Kaylee Lovander (Research Intern, Geyer Lab) won in the Postdoctoral Fellow/Research Intern category and Dylan Thiemann (Wallrath Lab) won in the undergraduate category.


Fifth Annual Biochemistry Retreat poster winners: (Back row, from left): Tyler Weaver, Dylan Thiemann, and Jacob Litman; (Front row, from left) Emily Malcolm and Kaylee Lovander.

Elizabeth Boehm Advanced to Nationals in Lasker Essay Contest

August 25th, 2014 by Christa Fraser

Elizabeth Boehm, a graduate student in Todd Washington’s Lab, was one of three students who won the internal competition for the Lasker Essay Contest ( Her essay was titled “Creation of an Independent Trust for Sustainable Funding of Medical Research.” She advanced forward to nationals, but was not ranked.

The contest, open to medical school students and fellows; doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows in biomedical research; graduate students in public health programs; and graduate students in other health professions programs at U.S-accredited institutions, accepted essays supporting medical research.

Congratulations, Elizabeth!