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Highlights of the 8th Annual Biochemistry Retreat

Thursday, August 31st, 2017

The Department of Biochemistry held their 8th Annual Retreat on August, 26, 2017, in the Pomerantz Center on the University of Iowa Campus. The retreat featured talks by Brittany Ripley (Graduate Student-Washington Lab), Pamela Geyer (Professor), Adam Rauckhorst (Postdoc.-Taylor Lab), and Maria Spies (Professor) and 32 poster presentations.

It was exciting to learn about all the science happening in the Department! Congratulations to the winners of the various contests listed below.

Graduate Student/Postdoc Poster Competition
There was a three way tie for 1st place.
Emily Malcolm Cushing (Davies Lab) “GPIHBP1-independent mechanisms of triglyceride clearance”
Lalita Oonthonpan (Taylor Lab) “A conserved role for the MPC1 C-terminus in MPC complex assembly and function”
Arpit Sharma (Taylor Lab) “Loss of skeletal muscle Mpc1 in mice stimulates fatty acid oxidation, leanness, and nitrogen retention”

Undergraduate/Others Poster Competition
Myles Young (Taylor Lab) “Nutritional-metabolic regulation of mitochondrial morphology”

Art Show Competition
Tingting Duan (Geyer Lab) “The Beauty of Drosophila”

Congrats Summer 2017 Biochemistry PhD Graduates!

Thursday, August 17th, 2017

Jennifer Bays, a Biochemistry PhD student mentored by Dr. Kris DeMali, received a PhD on August 4, 2017. Jen’s thesis is entitled, ” Mechanisms of E-cadherin Mechanotransduction”. Jen has accepted a postdoctoral position with Dr. Chris Chen at Boston University.




John Brogie, a Biochemistry PhD student mentored by Dr. David Price, recieved a PhD on August 4,2017. His thesis is entitled,”Reconsitution and functional analysis of 7SK snRNP”. John has accepted a postdoctoral position at Iowa State University


Xun (Allison) Chi, a Biochemistry PhD student mentored by Dr. Brandon Davies, received her PhD on August 4, 2017. Her thesis is entitled, “Extracellular regulation of LPL activity by angiopoietin-like proteins”. Xun has accepted a postdoctoral position with Dr. Steve Bensinger at the University of California Los Angeles.




Sarah Hengel, a Biochemistry PhD student mentored by Dr. Maria Spies, received her PhD on August 4, 2017. Her thesis is entitled, “Dissecting RAD52 function in DNA repair”. Sarah has accepted a postdoctoral position in Dr. Kara Bernstein’s Lab at the University of Pittsburgh in the Hillman Cancer Center.

Tim Collingsworth Recieves CIRTL Fellowship

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

Timothy Collingsworth, a graduate student in Mike Schnieders’ lab, has received one of ten fellowships from the UI Center for the Integration of Teaching, Research and Learning (CIRTL). This fellowship is awarded to graduate students “who have demonstrated an interest in developing innovative, teaching-focused research here at the University of Iowa.” Tim’s proposed project is, “Effect of Recording Lectures on Student Success”. Congrats Tim!

Biochemistry Undergrads Present at Latham Science Engagement Initiatives Project Engage Showcase

Monday, May 15th, 2017

Biochemistry majors Lance Heady (BS 2018) and Steven Huang (BS 2018) presented their outreach projects at the Latham Science Engagement Initiatives Project Engage Showcase and Reception at the IMU on April 29, 2017. Latham fellows learn about science communication and public engagement and in the spring semester and develop individual out reach projects. Lance’s project was on the impact of governmental funding on disease research. Steven’s project was on developing virtual laboratory tours to make research more accessible to the general public.

Lance Heady

Steven Huang

13th Annual Gene F. Lata Undergraduate Research Symposium

Friday, May 5th, 2017

Eight students presented at this year’s Undergraduate Honors Program. This year marks the thirteenth year for the Gene F. Lata Undergraduate Research Symposium. Please join Professor Marc Wold, Director of Undergraduate Studies and Honors Advisor, in congratulating these 2017 graduates and their research mentors for a job well done.

(left to right): Emily Britt, Sarah Gardner, Zachary Wehrspan, Maria Núñez Hernandez, Maureen O’Connor, Sarah Van Dorin, Nicholas McCarty, Nicholas Mullen
  • Emily C. Britt
    Mentor: Brandon Davies
    Investigating the Interactions Between ANGPTL3, ANGPTL8, and Lipoprotein Lipase
  • Sarah H. Gardner
    Mentor: Sheila Baker
    Post-Synaptic Development of the First Visual Synapse
  • Maria Núñez Hernandez
    Mentor: Madeline Shea
    Calcium-Dependent Regulation of Calcineurin Activity
  • Nicholas S. McCarty
    Mentor: E. Dale Abel
    Exploring Mechanisms by which the Insulin Responsive Glucose Transporter GLUT4 is Regulated in High-Fat Fed Hearts
  • Nicholas J. Mullen
    Mentor: David Price
    Oxidative Stress Reveals Mechanistic Insight into Human 5’ mRNA Capping
  • Maureen O’Connor
    Mentor: Lori Wallrath
    Lamin localization and genome integrity in rare types of muscular dystrophy
  • Sarah Van Dorin
    Mentor: Ronald Weigel
    Role of TFAP2A in Transcriptional Regulation of Melanoma
  • Zachary Wehrspan
    Mentor: Ronald Weigel
    TFAP2C orchestrates pH regulation in breast tumors, and its loss leads to EMT, facilitating the Warburg Effect

The symposium also included the presentation of two undergraduate awards, made possible by a gift from Alap Subramanian. The H.G. Wittmann Scholar Award was presented to Nicholas J. Mullen (Price lab) and the H.G. Khorana Scholar Award was presented to Emily Britt (Davies lab), recognizing their exceptional understanding of biochemistry and its value to society.

Congratulations to everyone named above and all of our 2017 graduates!

Highlights of the 7th Annual Biochemistry Retreat

Monday, September 12th, 2016

The Department of Biochemistry held their 7th Annual Retreat on August 20, 2016, in the Coralville Public Library. The retreat featured 5 faculty talks and 34 poster presentations.

It was exciting to learn about all of the science happening in the Department! Congratulations to the winners of the various contests listed below.

Graduate Student Poster Competition:
1st Place: Lalita Oonthonpan (Taylor Lab) “Elucidating structure-function relationship of the mitochondrial pyruvate carrier”
2nd Place: Will Hacker (Elcock Lab) “Modeling the E. coli nucleoid subject to experimental restraints”
3rd Place: Mark Miller (Elcock Lab) “Re-parameterization of protein force fields guided by osmotic coefficient measurements from molecular dynamics simulations”

Postdoctoral/Medical Fellows and Research Staff Poster Competition:
Shyamal Subramanyam, Postdoc (M. Spies Lab) “Tyrosine phosphyorylation stimulates activity of human RAD51 recombinase through altered nucleoprotein filament dynamcs”

Undergraduate Poster Competition:
Rick Young (Wallrath Lab) “DNA damage associated with muscular dystrophy”

X-Scientist Theme Competition:
Sarah Hengel, aka Aqua Structure Girl (ASG) with her superpowers to shrink herself to the size of a water molecule, jump into protein solutions, and with her eyes shoot X-rays at the protein of interest for structural determination

Hayes and Weeks Featured on the June Cover of Biology Open

Thursday, August 18th, 2016


An image from an article by Michael Hayes (MSTP, MCB) and Dan Weeks was featured on the June cover of Open Biology. The article was entitled, “Amyloids assemble as part of recognizable structures during oogenesis in Xenopus”. Amyloids (ordered protein aggregates) are traditionally associated with pathologic conditions like Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s diseases. However, there is a growing appreciation that amyloids assemble and disassemble as part of many  biologically important activities.  Hayes  and Weeks found that amyloids were easily detectable in the cytosol and nucleus of Xenopus oocytes. Nuclear amyloids were part of structures involved in transcription by all three RNA polymerases and in RNA processing; while cytosolic amyloids were observed with in yolk platelets and other yet to be identified structures. The cover image shows the co-localization of amyloid (green), DNA(Blue) and the nucleolar protein nucleolin (red).

Congrats Mike and Dan!

Jessica Peterson helps save life on campus

Monday, February 8th, 2016

Jessica Peterson, an undergraduate Biochemistry major, was involved in saving a life on campus last month. When officers responded to a call to the Recreational Building for a male not breathing, they found that Jessica Peterson, Jacob Reynolds, and Mark Brewer had immediately responded to the subject and were preforming CPR. The three individuals had retrieved the automated external defibrillator and applied it to the unconscious subject. According to Sargent Ohnemus, the actions of these three individuals saved the subjects life. Their actions showed significant assistance to the University of Iowa Department of Public Safety in achieving its mission.

Jessica will receive a civilian commendation from the Department of Public Safety and letter of recognition from President Herrold.

Biochemistry Honors Presentation

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

IMG_2038Hannah W. Shows, an undergraduate major in the Davies laboratory, presented her research during a special Biochemistry Honors Seminar on December 1, 2015. She gave a talk entitled, “Regulation of LPL Activity by ANGPTL3 and ANGPLT8.”

Congratulations to Hannah!

Dr. Maria Spies Featured in The Scientist

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Dr. Maria Spies was featured in an article in The Scientist as a Scientist to Watch. Written by Abby Olena and titled, “Maria Spies: Molecular Machinist,” the article highlights her career, including a difficult decision she made to focus on chemistry and theoretical physics exams as an undergraduate at Leningrad Polytechnic Institute in Russia instead of fighting for a spot on a synchronized swimming team. The article also outlined the timeline of her career before she was recruited to the University of Iowa, including her work in a lab at the Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute, her doctorate work at Osaka University in Japan, and her work investigating DNA repair at the University of California, Davis, where she made a breakthrough discovery on double-stranded DNA repair in E. coli. In the article, Dr. Brenner noted that she is “a very creative, high-energy scientist” whose interdisciplinary approach has fostered collaborative efforts both within and outside of the biochemistry department.