Link: University of Iowa

Department of Biochemistry’s 70th Anniversary Celebration & 9th Annual Scientific Retreat

March 19th, 2018 by Judy Means

Mark your calendars for the Department of Biochemistry’s 70th Anniversary Celebration and 9th Annual Scientific Retreat, featuring a special session with former Department Heads Drs. Alan Goodridge and Arthur Spector.  All events will be held at the new Hancher Auditorium

For a schedule of events and to register, go to:

Registration deadline is July 20, 2018


Dr. Schnieders receives NSF CAREER Award

March 14th, 2018 by Maren Rogers

Dr. Michael Schnieders has received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award for his project entitled “CAREER: Chemical Theory for the Protein Crystal Folding Problem.” Organic molecular crystals play an important role in a range of fields including chemistry, biochemistry, materials science, pharmacology, and engineering. One everyday example of organic molecular crystals are pharmaceutical tablets, which are typically formulated to optimize properties such as shelf-life (i.e. thermal stability) and solubility (i.e. dissolution upon ingestion). A perhaps less appreciated role of organic crystals has been their pivotal impact in understanding the structure and function of biomolecules (i.e. proteins) via X-ray crystallography experiments.

Whereas drug molecules typically consist of only a few dozen atoms, proteins generally consist of thousands of atoms whose packing (i.e. 3-dimensional arrangement) is described by a process called “protein folding”. A driving force behind the folding of proteins is the hydrophobic effect, which is also responsible for the commonly observed tendency of oil and water to separate. The work in Dr. Schnieder’s group focuses on the rigorous incorporation of all forces that contribute to protein folding into efficient algorithms for the computational prediction of peptide and protein crystal structures (polymorphs).

The approach combines advanced models of molecular interactions commonly used to predict small molecule crystal polymorphs with sophisticated molecular dynamics sampling algorithms needed to describe protein folding. The impact of this project will be to expand the boundaries of the crystal structure prediction (CSP) field beyond small organic molecules (i.e. dozens of atoms) to include peptides and proteins (i.e. hundreds or thousands of atoms).

Adam Rauckhorst receives ADA grant

March 14th, 2018 by Maren Rogers

Dr. Adam Rauckhorst, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Taylor Laboratory, received a new American Diabetes Association (ADA) grant entitled “Regulation of hepatic glucose metabolism by a candidate mitochondrial glutamine carrier.” The goal of this proposal is to use novel genetically engineered mice harboring a liver specific deletion of the mitochondrial glutamine carrier (QC1) to study its function during the progression of Type 2 Diabetes (T2D).  Successful completion of the proposed research will generate new knowledge on the function of QC1 and its role in hyperglycemia during T2D.

Dr. Price receives NIH MIRA grant

March 14th, 2018 by Maren Rogers

Dr. David Price received a five-year $2.9 million NIH R35 MIRA grant beginning in April 2018. His project entitled “RNA Polymerase II Elongation Control” will allow Dr. Price to continue projects aimed at understand basic mechanisms of RNA polymerase II transcription and how transcription interfaces with chromatin and DNA replication.

Dr. Sarah Hengel Awarded Grant

March 12th, 2018 by Briana Horwath

Sarah Hengel, Ph.D. (PhD mentor: Maria Spies), was awarded a two year Diversity Supplement as part of NIH grant R01ES024872 entitled “Replication Fork Dynamics and Repair by RAD51 paralogues after DNA Alkylation”.  Dr. Hengel, a recent graduate at the University of Iowa is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine studying DNA repair and cancer with Dr. Kara Bernstein.  By determining what environmental factors contribute to who may develop cancer, Dr. Hengel aims to prevent cancer for people harboring mutations in the DNA repair genes called the RAD51 paralogues. Individuals with mutations in RAD51 paralogues are predisposed to breast and ovarian cancers.  However it remains unknown how exposure to environmental toxicants contribute to cancer development in these individuals. DNA alkylating agents are ubiquitous in our environment and can damage DNA. The RAD51 paralogues are important to repair the DNA damage caused by DNA alkylation.  Dr. Hengel’s project is to biochemically define and characterize how the RAD51 paralogues recognize damaged DNA and promote its repair to prevent cancer.

Dr. Andrew Norris receives new NIH R01

March 7th, 2018 by Maren Rogers

Dr. Andrew Norris, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Biochemistry, received a new NIH R01 in collaboration with Dr. John Engelhart, Professor and Chair of Anatomy & Cell Biology, entitled “Splanchno-Hormonal Mechanisms of Cystic Fibrosis Related Diabetes.” For unclear reasons most people who have cystic fibrosis will develop diabetes by middle age, placing them at much higher risk of lung failure and death. Drs. Norris and Engelhardt’s data suggest that low levels of a hormone called pancreatic polypeptide (PP) raises diabetes risk in patients with cystic fibrosis. This study aims to understand why PP is low in cystic fibrosis and to apply this knowledge to develop new therapies for diabetes in cystic fibrosis patients.  PP-based therapies may have potential to treat other types of diabetes as well.

Dr. Shea’s Biophysical Society Blog “Making the Most of the Annual Meeting: Tips for First-Timers”

February 15th, 2018 by Maren Rogers

Dr. Madeline Shea will be presented with the Emily M. Gray Award in Education at the 62nd Annual Meeting of the Biophysical Society in San Francisco on February 19. In advance of the meeting, Dr. Shea published a blog piece to help first-time attendees at the meeting. Read her advice here:

Congrats Fall 2017 Biochemistry PhD Graduates

January 16th, 2018 by Briana Horwath

Shuxiang Li, a Biochemistry PhD student mentored by Dr. Adrian Elcock, received a PhD on December 15,2017 entitled, “Computer simulations exploring conformational preferences of short peptides and developing a bacterial chromosome model”. Shuxiang has accepted a postdoctoral position with Dr. Wilma Olson’s Laboratory at Rutgers University.


Liyang Zhang, a Biochemistry PhD student mentored by Dr. Miles Pufall, received a PhD on December 15, 2017 entitled, “Defining the DNA Binding Energetics of the Glucocorticoid Receptor”. Liyang has accepted a position with Integrated DNA Technologies.

Congrats Shuxiang and Liyang!

Dr. Weeks receives 2017 CCOM Faculty Service Award

December 22nd, 2017 by Maren Rogers

Congratulations to Dr. Daniel Weeks, who was awarded the 2017 Faculty Service Award from the Carver College of Medicine (CCOM). Dr.  Weeks is an internationally known nuclei acid biochemistry and developmental biologist who has had a productive research career and won many teaching awards. Dr. Weeks has dedicated three decades of service to CCOM. His service activities have been diverse and of the highest impact. Thousands of students have benefited from his guidance and educational programming, establishing a strong foundation for their future careers. Of special note is Dr. Weeks’ strong dedication to curriculum development. He served on the Medical Education and Curriculum Committee from 1989-2003 and on the College of Medicine Curriculum Review/Steering Committee from 2014 – present. CCOM’s recent re-accreditation and the success of the New Horizons Curriculum are due in part to his tireless efforts.



Dr. Fuentes receives 2017 CCOM Collegiate Teaching Award

December 22nd, 2017 by Maren Rogers

Congratulations to Dr. Ernesto Fuentes for being chosen to receive a Carver College of Medicine (CCOM) Collegiate Teaching Award for 2017. Dr. Fuentes’ didactic teaching has included an unusually wide range of topics such as protein structure analysis, enzyme kinetics and molecular biology. He has taught a broad range of students in undergraduate laboratory courses (Biochem. 99:140) and large lecture courses (BIOC:3110) and graduate students in small group discussions (MCB 156:210) and larger didactic (BIOC:5242). In addition, he has organized workshops centered on NMR methodology for a wide range of individuals including faculty members. Whether it is in a classroom, conference room, or at a laboratory bench, his primary goal is to make sure that students understand concepts of biochemistry and their research projects.

Among current Biochemistry primary faculty, Dr. Fuentes joins Drs. Peter Rubenstein, Adrian Elcock, Lori Wallrath, Dan Weeks, Todd Washington, Kris DeMali, Pamela Geyer, and Marc Wold as recipients of the CCOM Collegiate Teaching Award.