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Archive for September, 2010

Prof Pedram here for homecoming

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

It’s homecoming week for the Hawkeyes and it’s homecoming for Mehrdad Pedram, a 1999 PhD with John Donelson, now Assistant Professor of Molecular Genetics at the Tehran University of Medical Sciences.  Dr. Pedram has spent his career working on the mechanisms of antigenic variation and telomere position effects.  He will be lecturing in the Infectious Diseases Conference at 9 am on October 1 in the Bean Conference Room.

Iowa Biochemistry in the NRC doctoral report

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

After literally years of anticipation, the National Research Council has released data on over 5000 doctoral programs in the United States. 300 graduate programs in biochemistry, biophysics and structural biology were evaluated in 21 categories based on data that were compiled in 2006. The 21 categories are

  • publications per faculty member in the trailing 6 years
  • citations per faculty member in the trailing 7 years for papers published in 1981 or later
  • % of faculty with grants
  • major honors and awards per faculty member
  • % of new students with full support
  • % of grad students who completed their degrees in 6 years or less
  • median time to degree for the last 3 years of PhDs granted
  • % of new PhDs with immediate plans for an academic post-doc or faculty position
  • whether or not the program tracks alumni employment
  • % of faculty who are non-Asian minorities
  • % of faculty who are female
  • % of students who are non-Asian minorities
  • % of students who are female
  • % of students who are international
  • average number of PhDs awarded per year in the trailing 5 years
  • % of faculty with primary appointments outside the program
  • students’ average GRE
  • % of new students with external funding
  • whether or not all students have personal workspaces
  • whether or not students have health insurance
  • how many of a set of 18 activities and support services are provided to doctoral students
  • How did we do?  According to the NRC report, we were in rarified company in having a perfect score in six categories:

  • % of faculty with grants (100%)
  • % of students with full support (100%)
  • whether or not the program tracks alumni employment (yes)
  • whether or not all students have personal workspaces (yes)
  • whether or not students have health insurance (yes)
  • how many of a set of 18 activities and support services are provided to doctoral students (18)
  • We also scored highly in the GRE category (743 of 800).  164 of the 300 biochemistry-related programs received a regression-based quality ranking.  Another 17 programs were only evaluated in professional development and 119 programs, including programs at Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Rockefeller and Michigan, were unranked.  The NRC’s crunching of the data available to them says that we have a regression-based quality ranking of 64-109, which is in the same interval as the Johns Hopkins Biochemistry and Molecular Biology program (65-120).  We are definitely not alone in thinking that the NRC undercounted our publications, citations and awards.  However, we don’t want to spend too much time trying to fix a report that is already out of date.  We focus on where are we now and how we are positioned for the future.

    As the NRC report appreciated, Biochemistry provides extensive support and activities for our students and we proudly track their careers after they graduate.  In the coming months, the department will make available, to the best of our ability, current data on our faculty and students in the categories tracked by the NRC.  We are confident that the outcome data on our students and the quality of our faculty allow us to be compared very favorably with other Biochemistry programs around the US.

    An instant, towering landmark in biophysics

    Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

    Sean McGuffee and Adrian Elcock’s latest paper in PLoS Computational Biology is making a big splash. In the November 2010 issue of Biopolymers, McGuffee and Elcock’s Brownian dynamic simulations of the E. coli cytoplasm were described as “an instant, towering landmark in biophysics” and as “an opening move in computational cell biology.” Congratulations to Sean, now a post-doc at Sloan Kettering, and to Adrian for recognition of this outstanding paper.

    2010 newsletter is out

    Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

    The department’s 2010 newsletter is hot off the presses and is available for download. Alumni and friends should have received a hard copy in the mail. To receive a hard copy, please send your contact information to and, while you are at it, please send us your news. The 2009 newsletter is available here.

    Medical Student Research Day Awards

    Monday, September 13th, 2010

    Carver College of Medicine students have many opportunities to conduct original research and nearly 100 medical students conducted research during the summer of 2010. These students presented their findings at the 42nd Medical School Research Day, which took place on September 10 in the MERF atrium. The Biochemistry Department is proud that Rose Lee, an M2 conducting research with Dr. Heather Bartlett, received the Edward Heath Award, sponsored by the University of Iowa Foundation, for her presentation, “Biological Effects of Alpha Smooth Muscle Actin Mutations Which Cause Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm. Andrew Baldwin, an M1, who is conducting research with Dr. C. Michael Knudson in Pathology, won the Biochemistry-sponsored Rex Montgomery Award, for “SOD2 Inhibition Results in Increased Markers of Oxidative Stress in T-Cell Lymphoma Cells.” Congratulations to Rose, Heather, Andrew and Michael for these well-deserved honors.

    Welcome Shweta Khatri to Biochemistry

    Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

    The Biochemistry Department’s new Project Assistant is Ms. Shweta Khatri, who holds a Master’s in Public Health from the University of Iowa. Shweta’s duties will include supporting the graduate program, recruitment at all levels, and managing departmental communications. Shweta joins a team including Rosemary Stratton, MBA (Administrative Specialist II), Brenda Kunkel (Secretary II), and Karen LeVelle (Account Clerk) who keep the Department running smoothly.