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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

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.

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!