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Archive for August, 2013

Highlights from the 65th Anniversary and 4th Annual Retreat

Monday, August 26th, 2013


The 2013 Biochemistry 65th Anniversary and 4th Annual Retreat, organized by Lori Wallrath, Charles Brenner, Maria Spies, Earle Stellwagen, Mark Miller, Lacy Barton, and Maren Rogers, was held on Saturday, August 24. The scientific program at the Levitt Center for University Advancement featured talks by Charles Brenner and Catherine Musselman, Director of the Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center, Dale Abel, and Director of the Iowa Institute of Human Genetics, Richard Smith. In addition, Gary Firestone (1980 PhD with Ed Heath), Tristram Parslow (1977 MD/PhD with Daryl Granner), Bob Deschenes (faculty from 1989-2004),  and Debbie Thurmond (1997 PhD with Alan Goodridge) gave scientific presentations.

The poster session featured 39 posters. Six total awards were given in three categories. In the undergraduate division, first place went to Dylan Thiemann (Wallrath lab), and second place to Liam Hovey (Shea lab). In the Postdoc/Research Assistant/Associate category, Jiannan Guo (Price lab) and Rebecca Fagan (Brenner lab) won first and second places, respectively . Two Lois Bigger Gehring Awards were given to support graduate student travel to research conferences. Lacy Barton (Geyer lab) and Jessica Maiers (DeMali lab) each won this award for best poster in the graduate student category.

The dinner at the Athletics Hall of Fame featured thoughts and reflections from PhD graduates of the department, including Morey Slodki (1955), Charles Fishkin (son of Arthur Fishkin, 1957), Billy Hudson (1966), Liskin Swint-Kruse (1995), and a video message from Alap Subramanian (1964). Along with former faculty members Charles Swenson, Robert Barker, Earle Stellwagen, Arthur Spector, Bryce Plapp, Robert Roskoski, Larry Solomonson, Alice Fulton, and Daryl Granner.

Thanks to everyone for participating.

Wallrath discusses science literacy on Iowa Public Radio's "River to River"

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

Lori Wallrath and Julie Andsager (Professor, Journalism and Mass Communication) discuss science literacy on Iowa Public Radio’s ‘River to River’ with host Ben Kieffer. They provide advice on how to judge the accuracy of science reporting and the importance of teaching scientists how to effectively communicate scientific findings to the public. Listen to the recording here.

Biochemistry Student a NASA (Iowa Space Grant Consortium) Scholarship Winner

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Kyle Strouse, an undergraduate student advised by Dr. Daniel Weeks, has been selected as a NASA scholarship winner at the University of Iowa from the Iowa Space Grant Consortium. The scholarship supports students studying science, engineering, technology, and other subjects that contribute to NASA’s mission.

M. Spies lab featured on the July cover of Nucleic Acids Research

Friday, August 9th, 2013

Maria Spies’ lab was featured on the July cover of Nucleic Acids Research. The article entitled “Single molecule study of the CUG repeat・MBNL1 interaction and its inhibition by small molecules,” describes a single-molecule approach developed to achieve a mechanistic description of the MBNL1 RNA biomolecular recognition event and to facilitate the discovery of drugs to inhibit its formation. This method revealed a mode of inhibition whereby the ligands and MBNL1 can form a ternary complex on the toxic CUGRNA instead of competing for the same binding site. Rational design of a new RNA binding ligand with a 100-fold increase in potency over previously validated compounds highlights the power of the developed methodology. Dr. Masayoshi Honda (postdoctoral scholar with M. Spies’) has contributed to this work along with Dr. Amin Haghighat Jahromi and Professor Steve Zimmerman (University of Illinois Urabana-Champaign).

Yu published in Science

Friday, August 9th, 2013

Liping Yu and Kevin Campbell have coauthored a Science paper on the subject of discovering the functions of two new enzymes on glycosylation of alpha-dystroglycan entitled “SGK196 Is a Glycosylation-Specific O-Mannose Kinase Required for Dystroglycan Function.” The paper has been published on Science website.

M. Spies lab published as a Featured Article in the April issue of “Nucleic Acids Research”

Friday, August 9th, 2013

Maria Spies‘ lab published a Featured Article in the April issue of Nucleic Acids Research entitled “Single-molecule sorting reveals how ubiquitylation affects substrate recognition and activities of FBH1 helicase.” NAR’s Featured Articles represent the top 5% of papers in terms of originality, significance and scientific excellence. Dr. Tokiha Masuda-Ozawa (former postdoc with M. Spies) and Ms. Trish Hoang (former undergraduate student with M. Spies and currently a graduate student at University of Wisconsin Madison) contributed to this work.

M. Spies published in eLife

Friday, August 9th, 2013

Maria Spies pubished in the May eLife article entitled “Sequence-dependent base-pair stepping dynamics in XPD helicase unwinding.” In this article, Spies and colleagues looked under the hood of XPD helicase, a molecular motor involved in nucleotide excision repair and initiation of transcription of DNA into RNA. Other contributors include Professor Yann Chemla and Dr. Zhi Qi (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign), and Spies’ former graduate student Dr. Rob Pugh (currently an HHMI postdoc with Professor Paul Alquist at University of Wisconsin Madison).

Andrew Norris, MD/PhD quoted in Everyday Health

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Dr. Andrew Norris was recently quoted in Everyday Health in a news story about the demographics of diabetes in young people. Follow this link for the story.

Swain accepts Undergraduate Advisor Position in Biochemistry

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Biochemistry has created a new position of Undergraduate Adviser, which will be held by Dr. Elisabeth Swain.  Biochemistry undergraduates will continue to be advised as freshman by the Academic Advising Center.  In the spring of their freshman year, they will transition to departmental advising, which will be handled by Elisabeth.

Elisabeth is a 1993 University of Iowa PhD and has served as a Lecturer in Biochemistry since 1996.  Her honors include the 2005 and the 2011 College of Pharmacy P1 Teacher of the Year.  She was the first to offer an online Biochemistry course at the University of Iowa in the fall of 2010 and she led the redesign of 99:140, the undergraduate Biochemistry laboratory course in the spring of 2011, focusing on lactate dehydrogenase.  In the 2013-2014 academic year, she will continue to teach 99:140 in addition to holding the role of Undergraduate Adviser.

2013 Biochemistry Newsletter

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

The 2013 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 While you are at it, feel free to send us your news and updates! Previous newsletters are also available online.