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Department announces hiring of Drs. Maria and M. Ashley Spies

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

The Department of Biochemistry is pleased to announce the 3rd and 4th faculty hires from the “best available athlete” faculty search initiated in September 2009. In July 2010, Biochemistry welcomed Dr. Sheila Baker from Duke University, an R01 funded investigator focusing on protein localization in vertebrate photoreceptor cells. In July 2011, Biochemistry welcomed Dr. Miles Pufall from University of California, San Francisco, an R00 funded investigator focusing on glucocorticoid receptor function in leukemia. In July 2012, Biochemistry will welcome Dr. Maria Spies and Dr. M. Ashley Spies from University of Illinois. Maria will join the Department as a tenured associate professor. Ashley was jointly recruited by the College of Pharmacy’s Division of Medicinal & Natural Products Chemistry. He will have a 60% appointment as assistant professor in Pharmacy and a 40% appointment in Biochemistry, accompanied by full privileges in both academic units.

Maria Spies, nee Koudrova, a native of St. Petersburg, Russia, is a 1994 BS and a 1996 MS from St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University, and a 2000 PhD from Osaka University. As a post-doctoral fellow with Dr. Stephen Kowalczykowski at University of California, Davis, she obtained a series of high profile results on the RecBCD helicases of E. coli, which were published in Nature, Cell and Molecular Cell. As an assistant professor at Illinois, she has expanded her work to characterize Rad52, Brca1 and several helicases using novel single molecule methods. Her research program has been funded by the American Cancer Society and by an Early Career Award from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Ashley Spies, a native of Kansas, is a 1991 BA, a 1994 MA, and a 1997 PhD from the University of Kansas, where he calculated the intrinsic base-flipping rate constants for DNA and RNA with Dr. Richard Schowen. From 1997 to 2000, as a post-doctoral fellow with Dr. Katsuyuki Tanizawa at Osaka, he worked on quinone biosynthesis. He then joined Dr. Michael Toney’s laboratory at the University of California, Davis, where he developed novel methods to characterize individual steps in the alanine racemase catalytic cycle. As Illinois, he developed an independent research program using computational and experimental approaches to inhibit glutamate racemace, funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Drs. Spies and Spies attribute much of the driving force for their recruitment to the facilities and the collaborative atmosphere available in the Department of Biochemistry. They both collaborate with Drs. Marc Wold and M. Todd Washington on a program project application that focuses on replication, recombination and repair of DNA. In addition, they both collaborate with Dr. David Price and others in a proposed center to perform structural analysis of HIV-host interactions.

Please join me in welcoming the two Spies research groups to the University of Iowa. Expansion of Biochemistry will continue. The Department will begin interviewing candidates for one or more positions focused on diabetes and obesity on January 19.