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Archive for the ‘graduate students’ Category

Lacy Barton wins 2016 Clarence Berg Award

Thursday, November 17th, 2016

Lacy Barton, a 2014 PhD with Dr. Pamela Geyer, has been named the winner of the 2016 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.”

Lacy was also recently named the winner of the 2015 Subramanian Award for best PhD thesis in the Department of Biochemistry.  Lacy is currently a postdoctoral fellow in Ruth Lehmann’s laboratory at New York University School of Medicine in New York, NY. She was awarded a Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation Fellowship for her project entitled “Mechanisms of directed cell migration in a complex in vivo environment.” Damon Runyon fellowships are among the most recognized postdoctoral awards and a high accolade for an early career scientist. Congratulations, Dr. Barton!

2016 Biochemistry Newsletter now available

Friday, November 4th, 2016

2016_newslettercoverimageThe 2016 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 biochem@uiowa.edu. While you are at it, feel free to send us your news and updates! Previous newsletters are also available online.

Tingting Duan won second place in the Art in Science Competition at the Iowa Microscopy Society

Thursday, October 20th, 2016

image-competion-2016-a-testis-carpet-tingting

Tingting Duan, a Biochemistry PhD student mentored by Dr. Pamela Geyer, was awarded second place in the Art in Science Competition by voters attending the Iowa Microscopy Society Fall Symposium. Her image of a tetis carpet “[drew] out beauty on an extremely small scale.” The goal of the Iowa Art in Science Contest is to recognize the combination of outstanding scientific discovery and artistic appeal inherent to microscopy research.

Maria Spies lab publishes in PNAS

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

Dr. Maria Spies laboratory recently published an Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences article entitled “Tyrosine phosphorylation stimulates activity of human RAD51 recombinase through altered nucleoprotein filament dynamics.” In this article the Spies laboratory addressed the regulation of the homologous genetic recombination, an enigmatic cellular mechanism responsible for the stability of our genomes and accurate repair of the most deleterious DNA damage. They combined the tools of biochemistry, chemical biology and single-molecule biophysics to determine the mechanism by which c-ABL kinase (and its oncogenic counterpart BCR-ABL) enhances the activity of human RAD51 recombinase, which catalyzes the central step in homologous recombination. Recent PhD, Shyamal Subramanyam, was first author of this work, which was a cornerstone of his dissertation.

2016 IDT & Smith-Gehring Graduate Fellowships

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

The IDT and Smith-Gehring Graduate Fellowships are awarded to three of the most meritorious second year Biochemistry graduate students based on academic and research achievements.

The 2016 IDT Graduate Fellows are Colleen Caldwell and Timothy Collingsworth:

Caldwell, Colleen

Ms. Colleen Caldwell performed extremely well in classes during her first year in the graduate program.  Work she did during her rotations is likely to earn her a contribution to research papers from two labs. Ms. Caldwell graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and a minor in Neuroscience from the Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN in spring 2015. She had a brilliant undergraduate career and her application to our graduate program definitely stood out. In the laboratory of Dr. Maria Spies, she is working on a project focused on deciphering the molecular mechanism of human DNA helicase RTEL1 (regulator of telomere length). Defects in the RTEL1 helicase are associated with a broad spectrum of human diseases ranging from cancer to Crohn’s. Ms. Caldwell plans to take a full advantage of Dr. Spies’ lab expertise in DNA repair helicases and custom built single-molecule equipment to decipher the RTEL1 mechanism and to gain insights into its physiological roles outside of the telomeres. In collaboration with the X-ray crystallography core and Dr. M. Todd Washington’s lab, Ms. Caldwell will also add a structural biology component to her work on RTEL1 in definition of the association between RTEL1 helicase and the PCNA processivity clamp that integrates RTEL1 activity into cellular processes that ensure accurate replication.

Collingsworth, Tim

Mr. Timothy Collingsworth also had an exemplary first year in the graduate program. In addition, Mr. Collingsworth’s overall positive attitude and enthusiasm stood out to us. Mr. Collingsworth, who grew up in Cedar Rapids, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and minors in Computer Science and Spanish from the University of Iowa in spring 2015. Mr. Collingsworth is training in the laboratory of Dr. Michael Schnieders and is working on a project in collaboration with Dr. Michael Welsh aimed to develop computational tools to combat cystic fibrosis (CF). CF is caused by mutations in the gene that encodes the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) anion channel. In humans and pigs lacking CFTR, unchecked H+ secretion by the nongastric H+/K+ adenosine triphosphatase (ATP12A) acidifies airway surface liquid, while mice that lack CFTR express little ATP12A and secrete minimal H+. Thus, airway surface liquid in CF and non-CF mice have similar pH, suggesting that inhibiting ATP12A can reverse host defense abnormalities and treat CF in humans. The goal of Mr. Collingsworth’s project is to use computer aided molecular design to create specific inhibitors of ATP12A function.

The 2016 Smith-Gehring Graduate Fellow is Hannah Miller:

Miller, Hannah Headshot

Ms. Hannah Miller performed extremely well in classes during her first year in the graduate program. Ms. Miller is the department’s first Fast Track PhD student. The Fast Track program allows for high achieving University of Iowa undergraduate students to take PhD course work during their final undergraduate year. To qualify for this program Ms. Miller participated in an extensive amount of formal research in Dr. Todd Washington’s lab and maintained an exemplary academic record. Ms. Miller stated, “I was interested in the Fast Track PhD program in Biochemistry because it is a unique opportunity to dive deeper into research at a young age. The program gives me the opportunity to join a lab with my first year, giving me a great start on my thesis project. I’m very excited to see how the program will challenge me and allow me to progress as a scientist.” Ms. Miller has joined the laboratory of Dr. Kris DeMali. She is currently working on a project aimed at understanding how cells sense and transmit externally applied forces and dissecting how this process becomes dysregulated during tumorigenesis.

Congratulations to the 2016 IDT & Smith-Gehring Graduate Fellows!

Elizabeth Boehm and Zhen Xu Earn PhD Summer 2016

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

Boehm, ElizabethElizabeth Boehm, a Biochemistry PhD student mentored by Dr. Todd Washington, received her PhD on August 5, 2016. Elizabeth’s thesis is entitled, ” The regulation of translesion synthesis through the binding and activation of polymerases by PCNA”. Elizabeth has accepted a position as a postdoctoral position at Harvard Medical School in Johannes Walter’s lab to study DNA replication and repair in Xenopus laevis.

 

Xu, Zhen

Zhen Xu, a Biochemistry PhD student mentored by Dr. Ernesto Fuentes, received his PhD on August 5, 2016. Zhen’s thesis is entitled, “Auto-inhibition mechanism of the guanine nucleotide exchange factor TIAM1.” Zhen has accepted a postdoctoral position at the University of Iowa in Ernesto Fuentes’ lab.

Congrats Elizabeth and Zhen!

Maria Spies lab publishes in eLife Sciences

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

Dr. Maria Spies laboratory in collaboration with Dr. Ashley Spies laboratory recently published an eLife Sciences article entitled “Small-molecule inhibitors identify the RAD52-ssDNA interaction as critical for recovery from replication stress and for survival of BRCA2 deficient cells.” In this study, Hengel et al. developed a high throughput biophysical method to search through a large collection of small molecules to find those that prevent RAD52 from binding to DNA and then used the information about how the small molecules bind to RAD52 to preform further computational screening. This identified a natural compound that competes with single-stranded DNA to bind to RAD52. The activity of this molecule was then validated using biophysical methods. The methods used by Hengel et al. provide the foundation for further searches for new anticancer drugs. Future studies that employ the small molecule drugs identified so far will also help to determine exactly how RAD52 works in human cells and how it helps cancer cells to survive.

This article was Ms. Sarah Hengel’s first, first author paper. Congratulations, Sarah!

Brenner lab treats type 2 diabetic neuropathy with nicotinamide riboside

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

In the new study, published May 27 in the journal Scientific Reports, Dr. Charles Brenner, together with Randy Kardon, MD, PhD, and Mark Yorek, PhD, who are jointly affiliated with University of Iowa Health Care and the Iowa City VA Health System, and Samuel Trammell (2016 PhD, Brenner laboratory), tested the effects of NR supplementation on mouse models of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. Read more about their study here: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-05/uoih-vnr052616.php

Samuel Trammell successfully defends PhD thesis

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

Oonthonpan and TrammellSamuel Trammell, a genetics PhD Student mentored by Dr. Charles Brenner, successfully defended his thesis on February 22, 2016, entitled “Novel NAD+ metabolomic technologies and their applications to nicotinamide riboside interventions.” Sam has accepted a position as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Copenhagen with Dr. Matthew Gillium working on lipid metabolism in diabetes.

Congratulations, Dr. Trammell!

Taylor Lab publish in the Journal of Biological Chemistry

Friday, February 12th, 2016

Drs. Larry Gray and Adam Rauckhorst of the Taylor Laboratory recently published an article entitled “A Method for MultiplexedMeasurement of Mitochondrial Pyruvate Carrier Activity,” in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Mitochondrial pyruvate uptake is a central metabolic decision that affects cellular energy production, carbon flux through multiple biosynthetic pathways, and commitment to cellular fate. The recent discovery of the genes encoding the mitochondrial pyruvate carrier (MPC), the protein complex that conducts pyruvate into the mitochondrial matrix, has invigorated studies on the regulation of mitochondrial pyruvate uptake. An effective activity assay is important for these efforts but previous methods were constrained by high sample requirements and a single replicate-based workflow. Drs. Gray and Rauckhorst co-developed a 96-well scaled assay that enables much greater throughput with substantially decreased mitochondrial sample requirements. They applied this method to provide the first report on the Km and Vmax of the mouse liver MPC. They expect this assay will be useful for understanding the regulation of MPC activity under diverse physiological conditions in health and disease.