Link: University of Iowa

Dr. Fuentes receives NIH R21

June 20th, 2018 by Maren Rogers

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

June 18th, 2018 by Maren Rogers

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.

Alumna Dr. Liskin Swint-Kruse named Interim Chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at KUMC

June 18th, 2018 by Maren Rogers

Biochemistry Alumna, (1995 PhD with Dr. Andrew Robertson), has been named  the Interim Chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC). Dr. Swint-Kruse was recruited to the University of Kansas School of Medicine in 2004 after completing postdoctoral fellowships at Rice University and the University of Houston.  Since arriving at KUMC, she has developed a successful and well-funded research program that focuses on ways to improve genomics-based diagnoses for personalized medicine.   These studies of protein structure-function also have applications in protein engineering for biotechnology and in transcriptional control of metabolism in pathogenic bacteria. On a national level, Dr. Swint-Kruse has been very active in committees of the Biophysical Society and is also Secretary of the Gibbs Society of Biological Thermodynamics.

Biochemistry major Amy Evans wins a Fight for Sight 2018 Summer Student Fellowship

June 7th, 2018 by Judy Means

Amy is an Honors student working towards a Biochemistry and Philosophy double major with a minor in Theater Arts. She conducts research in the Baker Lab where she is learning a suite of molecular biology approaches to investigate the subcellular trafficking of HCN1, an ion channel important for regulating neuronal activity.

Fight for Sight has been working to support and inspire vision research by providing funds to promising scientists early in their careers for over 70 years. The Summer Student Fellowships is a competitive award given to junior students so that they can engage in 2-3 months of full time research. Amy will use this time to investigate how HCN1 moves from its site of synthesis out to the cell membrane where it can carry feedback currents to regulate neuronal circuits throughout the cerebellum, cortex, and eye. Amy will also be using behavioral studies to probe how loss of HCN1 affects vision under various lighting environments.

Spring 2018 Wallrath Lab Accomplishments

May 25th, 2018 by Briana Horwath

Lori Wallrath (Professor and Vice Chair, Biochemistry) was featured in the Spring 2018 addition of Quest, a Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) new publication, where she praised MDA’s “umbrella” structure of supporting dozens of neuromuscular diseases so that researchers and clinician’s benefit from the “cross-fertilization” of ideas. The article can be found at: http://www.mda.org/quest.

Recent research from the Wallrath Lab was published in Aging Cell. This article describes a new model and potential therapy for cardiac disease associated with several types of muscular dystrophy that are caused by mutations in the human LMNA gene. This project was in collaboration with Dr. Girish Melkani (San Diego State University). https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/acel.12747

Dr. Weeks appointed the Harold A. Myers Professor in the Basic Sciences

May 16th, 2018 by Maren Rogers

Dr. Daniel Weeks has been appointed as the Dr. Harold A. Myers Professor in the Basic Sciences. This three year professorship, effective August 1, 2018, was established to support a PhD faculty member who exhibits exemplary skill and passion for the teaching of medical students and who is a leader in understanding and developing new methods of medical education. This well-deserved honor is a testament to Dr. Week’s outstanding commitment and dedication to the education of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.

Biochemistry Senior Laura Fischer Featured in The Daily Iowan

May 15th, 2018 by Judy Means

Laura Fischer, recent Biochemistry graduate, was featured in the May 10, 2018, edition of The Daily Iowan.  Please click on Laura’s picture for link to the May 10th Daily Iowan.

Tien Thuy (Jane) Nguyen Awarded the Hancher-Finkbine Undergraduate Student Medallion

May 15th, 2018 by Judy Means

Tien Thuy (Jane) Nguyen was awarded the Hancher-Finkbine Undergraduate Student Medallion at the 101st Finkbine Dinner on April 10, 2018.  Vice President for Student Life Melissa Shivers was emcee, and UI President J. Bruce Harreld presented the Hancher-Finkbine Medallions and Distinguished Student Leader certificates. 

Jane Nguyen, from Sioux City, Iowa, is majoring in biochemistry in the Carver College of Medicine. Nguyen is an active leader, participant, and co-founder of the Conversation Center, an integrated learning platform designed to provide non-confident English speakers the opportunity to explore and better understand the English language. The center, now a part of the rhetoric department’s curriculum, has provided over 3,101 independent one-on-one sessions since the spring of 2016. In addition, Nguyen has actively participated in more than 800 hours of undergraduate independent research in the Department of Biochemistry, focusing on Replication Protein A and its effect on DNA repair. She exemplifies leadership not only in the classroom but also in her extracurricular activities. As current president and co-founder of Alpha Kappa Delta Phi, Nguyen has played an integral part in the organization’s accomplishments, including achieving active status in the Multicultural Greek Council, establishing the Chapter Alumnae Association, and hosting campuswide workshops aimed at increasing mental health awareness within the Asian community. In the spring of 2017, Nguyen was awarded the T. Anne Cleary scholarship and the Helen Reich scholarship for her scholarship, leadership, and service.

Congratulations, Jane!

Two Biochemistry Students Recognized by the Honors program as Honors at Iowa Scholars

May 15th, 2018 by Judy Means

Each year, the Honors program identifies extraordinary graduating seniors across the University of Iowa for celebration as Honors at Iowa Scholars. This high recognition acclaims student work in and beyond the classroom, with an emphasis on the applicant’s knowledge, skill, and experience as well as outstanding academic performance, excellence within their chosen discipline(s), and any contributions made to Honors and the University of Iowa community through performance, research, organizational leadership, volunteer service and intellectual or creative engagement.  Two of our graduating seniors were recognized by the Honors program:

Lance Heady, Quincy IL, Neurobiology, Biochemistry

Lance will graduate in May with degrees in Biochemistry and Neurobiology. Lance will be pursuing a PhD in neuroscience from UT Southwestern with hopes of continuing his pursuit of understanding how cells in the brain die. While there Lance also wants to continue growing mentoring skills to help guide students, a true love of his. He will also continue training in the art of ballroom dancing and hopes to one day be a national amateur champion. After graduating in May, Lance will be pursuing a PhD in neuroscience at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Alora Kraus, Biochemistry, Iowa City, IA

Alora Kraus will graduate in May with a degree in biochemistry and a certificate of writing. Alora has been involved with the Writing Fellows program through the UI Writing Center, where she helps peers improve their writing skills in classes of all disciplines. Alora has also worked with Michael Schultz, Craig Just, and Eric Taylor in research labs in Radiology, Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Biochemistry. During the 2016-2017 academic year, Alora studied abroad in Glasgow, Scotland, where she cultivated a love for culture and travel. Her next step will be applying to the Peace Corps for a position in the health sector. Alora will be applying for a Peace Corps position in the health sector for anywhere. Upon her return, she would like to enroll in a graduate program for public health.

Congratulations, Alora and Lance!

14th Annual Gene F. Lata Undergraduate Research Symposium

May 3rd, 2018 by Judy Means

Ten students presented at this year’s Undergraduate Honors Program. This year marks the fourteenth year for the Gene F. Lata Undergraduate Research Symposium. Please join Professor Marc Wold, Director of Undergraduate Studies and Honors Advisor, in congratulating these 2018 graduates and their research mentors for a job well done.

(back row – left to right): Steven Huang, Gabriel Fortunato, Preston Anderson, Benjamin Spector
(front row – left to right): Devin Reusch, Alexandra Bess, Tien Thuy (Jane) Nguyen, Laura Fischer, Titus Hou
(far right) – Lance Heady
  • Preston Anderson
    Mentor: John Engelhardt
    Submucosal Gland Myoepithelial Cells Are Reserve Stem Cells That Can Regenerate Mouse Tracheal Epithelium 
  • Alexandra Bess
    Mentor: Jennifer Fiegel
    Protein Effects of BALF on Various Polystyrene Nanoparticles
  • Laura Fischer
    Mentor: Marc Wold
    A Potential Role of Alternative Replication Protein A in Huntington’s Disease Progression
  • Gabriel Fortunato
    Mentor: Amnon Kohen
    Uncovering the Evolutionary Mechanism of Enzyme Catalysis
  • Lance Heady
    Mentor: Andrew Pieper
    A Neuron and it’s Survival: A Tale of Drug Discovery
  • Titus Hou
    Mentor: Ernesto Fuentes
    A Newly Identified Sub-Pocket That Plays a Unique Role in Scribble PDZ1 – SGEF iPBM Interaction
  • Steven Huang
    Mentor: Ernesto Fuentes
    The Structural Characterization and Ligand Identification of the SrrB Cache Domain
  • Tien Thuy (Jane) Nguyen
    Mentor: Marc Wold
    Diverse Interactions of the Multifunctional, Regulatory Domain of Replication Protein A
  • Devin Reusch
    Mentor: Todd Washington
    Polymerase Switching During Translesion Synthesis: A Tale of the Tail
  • Benjamin Spector
    Mentor: David Price
    Association of the Pol II CTD Phosphatase Ssu72 with Transcription Complexes

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 Steven Huang (Fuentes lab) and the H.G. Khorana Scholar Award was presented to Laura Fischer (Wold lab), recognizing their exceptional understanding of biochemistry and its value to society.

Congratulations to everyone named above and all of our 2018 graduates!