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Archive for August, 2012

Highlights of the third annual Biochemistry Retreat

Monday, August 27th, 2012

The 2012 Biochemistry Retreat, organized by Lori Wallrath, Todd Washington, John Brogie and Julie Lueth, was held on Saturday, August 24 at the Coralville Public Library. Short talks were given in the morning by Ernesto Fuentes, Karina Kruth (Rubenstein lab), Shyamal Subramanyam (M. Spies lab), Michael Schnieders, Brandon Davies, Charles Brenner, Jessica Maiers (DeMali lab) and Adrian Elcock. After lunch, talks were given by Maria Spies, David Price and Eric Taylor.

The poster session featured 29 posters. Eight total awards were given in three categories: in the undergraduate division, James Bullard (Geyer lab), Melinda Martin (Geyer lab) and Alexander Greiner (Rubenstein lab) won first, second and third, respectively; in the Postdoc/Research Assistant/Associate category, William Jones (M. Spies lab), Jiannan Guo (Price lab) and Christy Mei (Brenner lab) won first, second and third, respectively.

Two Lois Bigger Gehring Awards were given to support graduate student travel to research conferences. Xiaowen Sun (DeMali lab) and Yuan Pan (Baker lab) each won this award for best poster in the graduate student category.

Thanks to everyone for participating.

Next year the retreat will be centered around the Department’s 65th Birthday. Be sure to save the dates: August 23-25, 2013.

2012 Biochemistry newsletter now available

Monday, August 27th, 2012

The 2012 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! Newsletters from 2011, 2010 and 2009 are also available online.

Former postdoc Sandra Schulze earns tenure

Friday, August 17th, 2012

Dr. Sandra Schulze, a former postdoctoral fellow in the Wallrath lab, was promoted to associate professor with tenure in the Department of Biology at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington. Dr. Schulze published her recent studies on prenyl proteases in the June 2012 issue of G3, available here.

Department announces hiring of Dr. Michael Schnieders

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

The Department of Biochemistry, Department of Biomedical Engineering and the Genetics Initiative are pleased to announce the hiring of Dr. Michael Schnieders. Dr. Schnieders starts on August 15 with a joint 12 month appointment as an assistant professor of Biomedical Engineering (60%) and of Biochemistry (40%). His research space is being built in Biochemistry.

Dr. Schnieders is a 1999 BS in Engineering with High Distinction in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Iowa.  At Iowa, he was a Stebler Scholar in 1995, a Paul D. Scholz Memorial Scholar in 1996, a Goldwater Scholar in 1997, and a Rhodes Dunlap Scholar in 1998.  His undergraduate research produced one first author and one middle author publication in orthopaedics and bioengineering.

He completed his doctorate in 2007 at Washington University in St. Louis with Professor Jay W. Ponder.  There, he advanced the development of a polarizable force field that has allowed precise computation of solute-solvent interactions.  His graduate work consisted of two first author publications with Dr. Ponder and one paper in which Dr. Schnieders is the penultimate author.

In 2007 Dr. Schnieders began his postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University with Professors Vijay S. Pande and Axel Brunger.  There, he extended his computational studies to greatly improve protein Xray structure refinement with a program that he named Force Field X.

In 2011 he moved to the University of Texas, Austin to continue as a post-doctoral fellow with Professor Pengyu Ren.  There he moved into two additional areas at the forefront of computational chemistry and biophysics.  First, he is working on calculations of free energy of binding, solvation and crystal stability.  Second, he is aiming to improve docking technologies so that high resolution structures can better be used to identify inhibitors by computational methods.

As a new member of the Genetics Initiative, he plans to advance personalized medicine by using genomic and structural information to develop algorithms that will allow doctors to predict which of a set of related drugs will be most effective on patients as a function of coding polymorphisms in drug targets. Dr. Schnieders is looking forward to training biomedical engineering and biochemistry graduate students.

Nicole Vanderpool defends MS thesis

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Nicole Vanderpool, a Master’s student mentored by Heather Bartlett, has successfully defended her thesis, entitled “Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm (TAAD)-Causing Mutation in Actin Alters Regulation by Cofilin and Aip1p.” After graduation Nicole plans to return to central Illinois to work with the Illinois State Police Forensics Lab . Congratulations to Nicole!