Link: University of Iowa

Dr. Ernesto Fuentes takes over as Director of Graduate Studies after Dr. Daniel Weeks 17 years of service

August 8th, 2018 by Maren Rogers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Daniel Weeks, having served as the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) for Biochemistry since 2001, is handing the reins of the graduate program to Dr. Ernesto Fuentes. This is a major transition for the Department. Dan is not going anywhere. He is just starting a new 4 year National Institutes of Health R01 award and is serving as the Harold A. Myers Professor in Basic Sciences and has agreed to assist Ernie in his first year as DGS.

As you know, Ernie Fuentes began as an assistant professor in the Department in 2006 after completing his PhD at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 2014. Dr. Fuentes has built national prominence for his work on the structure, dynamics and specificity of PDZ domain-containing proteins. A terrific colleague, Ernie has been heavily invested in the recruitment, retention, and mentorship of underrepresented minorities at the University of Iowa. He has initiated new innovative programs, served as key participant in existing programs, and joined national organizations bringing visibility to the University of Iowa. He was awarded the CCOM Collegiate Teaching Award this past academic year and was just awarded a new R21 from the National Institutes of Health.

Dan began as an assistant professor in the Department in 1987 after completing his PhD at Purdue and postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1993, Full Professor in 2001, when he assumed the DGS position. He also served as Vice Chair in 2008-2009. Dan is an internationally known nuclei acid biochemist and developmental biologist who has made multiple contributions to vertebrate oocyte development including his latest discovery and characterization of phase-separated protein aggregates in Xenopus nuclei. He has been honored by the JP Long Award for Teaching, the CCOM Collegiate Teaching Award, the CCOM Outstanding Educator Award, the Graduate College Outstanding Mentor Award, the President and Provost Award for Teaching Excellence, the CCOM Faculty Service Award and he was recently appointed the Harold A. Myers Professorship in Basic Sciences. The faculty and graduates of the Biochemistry PhD program are indebted to him for his remarkably effective 17 years of service in leading the program.

Please join us in congratulating Ernie on this appointment and thanking Dan for his terrific service to Biochemistry!

 

Brittany Ripley Receives AHA Predoctoral Fellowship.

July 30th, 2018 by Briana Horwath

Brittany Ripley, Biochemistry graduate student in Dr. M. Todd Washington’s lab, has received an American Heart Association Predoctoral Fellowship. Brittany’s proposal entitled, “RAD6-18, the master regulator of translesion synthesis” will be funded at the maximum amount for two full years. Brittany’s project is described below.

“My research focuses on how cells cope with DNA damage during cell division. Specifically I study how cells regulate the replication of damaged DNA via the ubiquitin conjugating and ligase enzymes, Rad6 and Rad18. To understand regulation, I am determining the network of interactions Rad6 and Rad18 make with two vital polymerases in the DNA damage bypass pathway, translesion synthesis, and how these interactions affect translesion synthesis.”

Hannah Campbell Recieves AHA Predoctoral Fellowship

July 25th, 2018 by Briana Horwath

Hannah Campbell, Biochemistry graduate student in Dr. Kris DeMali’s lab, has received an American Heart Association Predoctoral Fellowship. Hannah’s proposal entitled, “Force-induced apoptosis and the mechanoprotective role of PAK2” will be funded at the maximum amount for two full years. Hannah’s project is described below.

“All cells experience forces throughout their lifetimes. These forces are sensed by cell surface adhesion receptors and trigger robust actin cytoskeletal rearrangements and growth of the associated adhesion complex to counter the applied forces. This process is known as cell stiffening and is generally thought to be beneficial to the overall health of the cell.  However there are also instances in hypertensive patients and other diseased settings when cells experience supraphysiological forces that initiate cell death.  The key determinants of whether cells survive or die in response to force are not well understood. Here, we show that application of force on E-cadherin activates p21-activated kinase 2 (PAK2). In addition, force recruits PAK2 to the cadherin containing adhesion complex. At this complex, we hypothesize PAK2 serves as a critical component of a signaling cascade culminating in increased contractility and cell stiffening.”

Congrats Hannah!

Undergrad Alum Receives Prestigious HHMI Gilliam Fellowship

July 24th, 2018 by Briana Horwath

Juanita Limas, a 1999 graduate of the University of Iowa Department of Biochemistry undergraduate program has been awarded the prestigious 2018 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Gilliam Fellowship. As an undergraduate at the University of Iowa, Ms. Limas performed research in the laboratory of Lori Wallrath. At the University of North Carolina, she is performing research on cell cycle control in cancer in the laboratory of Dr. Jean Cook. The Fellowship provides $50,000 to support biomedical research.

Congrats Juanita!

Genetics Society of America Spotlights Lacy Barton, PhD

July 18th, 2018 by Briana Horwath

Lacy Barton, PhD is featured in the Genetics Society of America Genes to Genomes blog in a post entitled, “Early Career Leadership Spotlight-Lacy Barton“. Barton obtained her PhD in Biochemistry at the University of Iowa in 2014 under the mentorship of Pamela Geyer, PhD. Currently, Barton is a Damon Runyon Postdoctoral Fellow at New York University, Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine. She is a member of the Genetics Society of America’s Early Career Scientist Leadership Program where she focuses on science policy. Barton emphasizes the importance of foundational research and strives to bolster public support for government-sponsored funding.

Congrats Dr. Barton!

Tingting Duan Featured on the July Cover of Genetics

July 12th, 2018 by Briana Horwath

An image from an article by Tingting Duan (Graduate Student, Geyer Lab) and Pamela Geyer was featured on the July cover of Genetics. The image was taken using a confocal microscope and shows a Drosophila 7-day testis.  Mature spermatozoa form through a process called sperm individualization, wherein an actin rich individualization compex (blue spikes) separates individual sperm (gold) from a 64-spermatid syncytium. Individualization complexes are labeled with phalloidin and sperm are labeled with an antibody to polyglycylated tubulin found in the sperm tails.

Tingting’s article was also featured in Genetics and is described below:

“Drosophila Suppressor of Hairy-wing [Su(Hw)] is a multivalent transcription factor. Although best known for its gypsy retrotransposon insulator function, its functions at non-gypsy genomic binding sites are poorly understood. Duan and Geyer study the newly-discovered requirement for Su(Hw) in spermatogenesis, showing that Su(Hw) is required in testis cyst cells for sustained male fertility. Additionally, their studies build evidence that the prominent function of Su(Hw) at non-gypsy binding sites is as a transcriptional repressor, with its loss causing cell-specific changes in gene expression.”

Congrats Tingting!

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.