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Archive for the ‘people’ Category

Samuel Trammell receives the 2018 Marion Dave Francis Innovator Award

Wednesday, September 5th, 2018

Dr. Samuel Trammell, a 2016 Genetics PhD with Dr. Charles Brenner, received the 2018 Marion Dave Francis Innovator Award which recognizes a PhD student whose research has demonstrated their singular personal initiative, creativity, and resulting continuous discovery, as exemplified by Dr. Francis. Dr. Trammell’s PhD work represents a quantum leap in analytical chemistry of the nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) metabolome. His body of work greatly advanced methodology and our understanding of regulation and dysregulation of NAD metabolism in health and disease. Sam is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Matthew Gillium at the University of Copenhagen. Congratulations, Dr. Trammell!

Jennifer Bays awarded the 2018 Subramanian Thesis and 2018 Clarence Berg Awards

Wednesday, September 5th, 2018

Dr. Jennifer Bays, a 2017 PhD with Dr. Kris DeMali, has been named the winner of the 2018 Subramanian Award for best PhD thesis in the Department of Biochemistry.  Dr. Bays’ thesis was entitled “Mechanisms of E-cadherin Mechanotransduction.” Jennifer is the 23nd winner of the Subramanian Award, which is made possible by a gift from Dr. Alap Subramanian, a 1964 PhD from the department, who parlayed his training with the late George Kalnitsky, (and with Irving Klotz at Northwestern and both Bernard Davis and Herman Kalckar at Harvard Medical School), into a highly successful career at the Max-Planck-Institut.

Jennifer was also named the winner of the 2018 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.” Clarence P. Berg, an internationally known amino acid biochemist who was a member of the department for 36 years (1932-1968). Dr. Berg is well known as the author of the 1980 book, “The University of Iowa and Biochemistry from their Beginnings.”

Jennifer is currently a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Christopher Chen’s laboratory at Boston University. Congratulations, Dr. Bays!

Highlights of the 9th Annual Biochemistry Retreat and 70th Anniversary

Wednesday, August 29th, 2018

Over 115 faculty, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, research staff members, undergraduates, and alumni attended the Department of Biochemistry’s 9th Annual Retreat and 70th Anniversary Celebration on Saturday, August 25, 2018, at the newly rebuilt  Hancher Auditorium.

Invited oral presentations included:

Junmin Peng, PhD., Professor, Departments of Structural Biology and Developmental Neurobiology, and Director of Center for Proteomics and Metabolomics, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
Title: Omics-based systems biology of human disease
Dr. Peng was a former graduate student in Dr. David Price’s lab, obtaining a PhD in Biochemistry in 1999.

Lois Weisman, PhD, Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, Life Sciences Institute, University of Michigan
Title: From yeast to humans: Insights into myosin V based transport and phosphoinositide signaling
Dr. Weisman joined the University of Iowa, Department of Biochemistry in 1993.  In 2005, Dr. Weisman moved to her current position at the University of Michigan.

James Kranz, PhD, Director, Drug Product Development, Kiniksa Pharmaceuticals
Title: Biochemistry essentials and biopharmaceutical development: Everything I need to know I first learned from Dryer & Lata “Experimental Biochemistry”
Dr. Kranz received a B.S. in Biochemistry with Honors from the University of Iowa under the mentorship of Dr. Madeline Shea.

This event also included a panel discussion with current and former Department Heads:

Charles Brenner, PhD (2009 – present)
Arthur Spector, MD (1996 – 1998)
Alan Goodridge, PhD (1987 – 1996)

The retreat featured 39 poster presentations.  Winners of the poster presentations were (left to right below):


1st place:  Hannah Campbell (DeMali Lab), Force-induced apoptosis and the mechanoprotective role of PAK2
2nd place: Alicia Ortiz (DeMali Lab), Investigating Metabolic Changes in Response to Force on E-cadherin
3rd place:  Christopher Ball (Price Lab), Human Cytomegalovirus IE2 Differentially Modulates Transcription of Select Viral Transcription Units during Late Infection
4th place:  Kelli Sylvers (Davies Lab), Characterizing the interactions between ANGPTL3, ANGPLT8, and endothelial lipase

Dr. Ernesto Fuentes takes over as Director of Graduate Studies after Dr. Daniel Weeks 17 years of service

Wednesday, August 8th, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Daniel Weeks, having served as the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) for Biochemistry since 2001, is handing the reins of the graduate program to Dr. Ernesto Fuentes. This is a major transition for the Department. Dan is not going anywhere. He is just starting a new 4 year National Institutes of Health R01 award and is serving as the Harold A. Myers Professor in Basic Sciences and has agreed to assist Ernie in his first year as DGS.

As you know, Ernie Fuentes began as an assistant professor in the Department in 2006 after completing his PhD at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 2014. Dr. Fuentes has built national prominence for his work on the structure, dynamics and specificity of PDZ domain-containing proteins. A terrific colleague, Ernie has been heavily invested in the recruitment, retention, and mentorship of underrepresented minorities at the University of Iowa. He has initiated new innovative programs, served as key participant in existing programs, and joined national organizations bringing visibility to the University of Iowa. He was awarded the CCOM Collegiate Teaching Award this past academic year and was just awarded a new R21 from the National Institutes of Health.

Dan began as an assistant professor in the Department in 1987 after completing his PhD at Purdue and postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1993, Full Professor in 2001, when he assumed the DGS position. He also served as Vice Chair in 2008-2009. Dan is an internationally known nuclei acid biochemist and developmental biologist who has made multiple contributions to vertebrate oocyte development including his latest discovery and characterization of phase-separated protein aggregates in Xenopus nuclei. He has been honored by the JP Long Award for Teaching, the CCOM Collegiate Teaching Award, the CCOM Outstanding Educator Award, the Graduate College Outstanding Mentor Award, the President and Provost Award for Teaching Excellence, the CCOM Faculty Service Award and he was recently appointed the Harold A. Myers Professorship in Basic Sciences. The faculty and graduates of the Biochemistry PhD program are indebted to him for his remarkably effective 17 years of service in leading the program.

Please join us in congratulating Ernie on this appointment and thanking Dan for his terrific service to Biochemistry!

 

Brittany Ripley Receives AHA Predoctoral Fellowship.

Monday, July 30th, 2018

Brittany Ripley, Biochemistry graduate student in Dr. M. Todd Washington’s lab, has received an American Heart Association Predoctoral Fellowship. Brittany’s proposal entitled, “RAD6-18, the master regulator of translesion synthesis” will be funded at the maximum amount for two full years. Brittany’s project is described below.

“My research focuses on how cells cope with DNA damage during cell division. Specifically I study how cells regulate the replication of damaged DNA via the ubiquitin conjugating and ligase enzymes, Rad6 and Rad18. To understand regulation, I am determining the network of interactions Rad6 and Rad18 make with two vital polymerases in the DNA damage bypass pathway, translesion synthesis, and how these interactions affect translesion synthesis.”

Hannah Campbell Recieves AHA Predoctoral Fellowship

Wednesday, July 25th, 2018

Hannah Campbell, Biochemistry graduate student in Dr. Kris DeMali’s lab, has received an American Heart Association Predoctoral Fellowship. Hannah’s proposal entitled, “Force-induced apoptosis and the mechanoprotective role of PAK2” will be funded at the maximum amount for two full years. Hannah’s project is described below.

“All cells experience forces throughout their lifetimes. These forces are sensed by cell surface adhesion receptors and trigger robust actin cytoskeletal rearrangements and growth of the associated adhesion complex to counter the applied forces. This process is known as cell stiffening and is generally thought to be beneficial to the overall health of the cell.  However there are also instances in hypertensive patients and other diseased settings when cells experience supraphysiological forces that initiate cell death.  The key determinants of whether cells survive or die in response to force are not well understood. Here, we show that application of force on E-cadherin activates p21-activated kinase 2 (PAK2). In addition, force recruits PAK2 to the cadherin containing adhesion complex. At this complex, we hypothesize PAK2 serves as a critical component of a signaling cascade culminating in increased contractility and cell stiffening.”

Congrats Hannah!

Undergrad Alum Receives Prestigious HHMI Gilliam Fellowship

Tuesday, July 24th, 2018

Juanita Limas, a 1999 graduate of the University of Iowa Department of Biochemistry undergraduate program has been awarded the prestigious 2018 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Gilliam Fellowship. As an undergraduate at the University of Iowa, Ms. Limas performed research in the laboratory of Lori Wallrath. At the University of North Carolina, she is performing research on cell cycle control in cancer in the laboratory of Dr. Jean Cook. The Fellowship provides $50,000 to support biomedical research.

Congrats Juanita!

Genetics Society of America Spotlights Lacy Barton, PhD

Wednesday, July 18th, 2018

Lacy Barton, PhD is featured in the Genetics Society of America Genes to Genomes blog in a post entitled, “Early Career Leadership Spotlight-Lacy Barton“. Barton obtained her PhD in Biochemistry at the University of Iowa in 2014 under the mentorship of Pamela Geyer, PhD. Currently, Barton is a Damon Runyon Postdoctoral Fellow at New York University, Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine. She is a member of the Genetics Society of America’s Early Career Scientist Leadership Program where she focuses on science policy. Barton emphasizes the importance of foundational research and strives to bolster public support for government-sponsored funding.

Congrats Dr. Barton!

Dr. Fuentes receives NIH R21

Wednesday, June 20th, 2018

Dr. Ernesto Fuentes was awarded an NIH R21 grant for his project entitled “PAS domain and redox regulation of the S. aureus SrrB sensor histidine kinase.” Antibiotic resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections remain a major global health problem. S. aureus infect their host by adapting their physiology to the environment found at sites of infection. The main objective this of grant is to determine the mechanism(s) by which the SrrAB signaling pathway regulates the ability of S. aureus to adapt to the host environment and infect humans. Congrats, Dr. Fuentes!

Alumna Dr. Rainbo Hultman will join INI and the Dept of Molecular Physiology & Biophysics in January 2019

Monday, June 18th, 2018

Biochemistry Alumna, Dr. Rainbo Hultman (2002 BS with Dr. Madeline Shea), will begin her independent career as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Molecular Physiology & Biophysics  and the Iowa Neurosciences Institute and at the University of Iowa in January 2019.

After completing her BS in Biochemistry from the University of Iowa in 2002, Dr. Hultman did her graduate training at Duke University where she received her PhD in Biochemistry in 2011. From 2011-2012, she was a postdoctoral associate with Dr. Herb Covington in the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience at Duke. Since 2012 she has been a postdoctoral associate in the Laboratory of Psychiatric Neuroengineering with Dr. Kafui Dzirasa. Dr. Hultman’s graduate and postdoctoral studies have been extremely productive, resulting in numerous publications in highly recognized journals. Since 2002, she has published nine peer-reviewed papers (four are first author) in top journals such as Neuron, Nature Communications, Molecular Cell Neuroscience, and the Journal of Neuroscience. Her most recent first author paper was published in March in Cell.

A major focus of Dr. Hultman’s research has been focused on understanding, at the molecular and cellular level, how neural oscillations across brain regions contribute to complex emotional states related to stress susceptibility. In particular, she identified that activity within the prefrontal cortex–amygdala circuit (PFC reactivity 2-7 Hz) provides a measure prior to stress exposure that correlates with resilient behavior after undergoing chronic social defeat stress. This discovery demonstrated that there are measurable neural circuit properties unique to a pre-stress vulnerable brain. She has also used designer receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs (DREADDs) to identify ways in which the specific timing relationships of LFP oscillations between the prefrontal cortex, amygdala, and ventral tegmental area coordinate dynamically post-stress to result in the stress-susceptible phenotype. Through this study, she was able to exactly recapitulate endogenous resilient neural circuit activity in the susceptible animals. As a faculty member, Dr. Hultman plans to develop a research program aimed at identifying molecular drivers of specific depression-related neural circuit activities with the goal of paving a way for precision medicine for depressive disorders. This project has great potential to generate highly significant publications and, importantly, to translate into the development of effective pharmacological treatments for depressive disorders.