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CBS News - May 2010

Direct from the Dean

Dean elde talks about some of the high points in an academic year clouded by economic uncertainties.

College news

Reviewers identify strengths, opportunities for CBS undergrad curriculum

The College of Biological Sciences’ undergraduate curriculum got thumbs up from a national team of external reviewers following an April 25–27 site visit. The reviewers cited the Nature of Life program, research-based Foundations courses, and the quality of students and faculty as examples of excellence. They met with 10 groups of faculty, students and staff over two days, and visited classrooms and labs.

Reviewers included Bruce Alberts, editor of Science, former president of the National Academy of Sciences, and former chair of the National Research Council; Bill Wood, a national biology education leader and member of the National Academy of Sciences and National Research Council; and Ken Burtis, dean of the College of Biological Sciences at the University of California, Davis.

Their report noted that the Nature of Life program could provide a national model for students entering undergraduate science programs and described the active, research-based learning embodied by the Foundations of Biology courses as the pedagogy of the future for science education.

The reviewers also made several recommendations for improvement, including extending the active learning approach to upper-division classes, providing longer appointments for teaching faculty and creating a department or center of biology education staffed by teaching faculty.

Spring BIO newsletter online now

Read about a new effort to assess the diversity of fungi that live inside plants on Papua New Guinea and how one CBS researcher is combining math, biology and computation to gain insight into cell differentiation in embryos. This edition of BIO also includes profiles of retiring GCD professor Ross Johnson, Goldwater winner Xiaoying Lou and a Q&A with commencement speaker and U.C. Berkeley professor Jasper Rine.

Know an outstanding teaching assistant?

Nominate your favorite teaching assistant for a CBS Outstanding Performance Award for Teaching Assistants. All TAs in CBS courses who have demonstrated excellence in teaching or other instructional activities are eligible. Nominations are being accepted for CBS courses taught spring through fall 2010. Submit nominations to Bruce Fall (bafall@umn.edu or by campus mail to 3-104 MCB).

St. Paul campus road closure coming June 14

Buford Avenue will be under construction this summer to repair the damaged road surface above the St. Paul Bookstore. The road will be closed (PDF) from Eckles Avenue to Buford Circle from June 14 to August 15. During that time, Buford will be one way from Eckles west to Cleveland Avenue. Contract parking will remain open at lot SC174 and meter parking will be available on Buford and Eckles.

CBS picnic a success despite rain, cold

Hundreds of CBS students, faculty and staff showed up with umbrellas in hand to celebrate the end of the academic year at the annual CBS year-end picnic. Check out a slideshow of the festivities.

Faculty, staff spruce up Henrietta Miller Garden

A handful of CBS faculty and staff volunteered their time for the annual Henrietta Miller Garden spring cleanup April 28. The garden, located in front of Gortner Laboratories, was dedicated to Henrietta on her retirement in 1983 after more than 40 years with the Department of Biochemistry.

Research

Chlamydomonas Resource Center receives NSF funds

Peter LeFebvre and Carolyn Silflow (both PBIO) will receive $400,000 over two years to fund the Chlamydomonas Resource Center, a collection of wild-type and mutant Chlamydomonas lines, plasmids and molecular libraries that support research in the popular model system. Chlamydomonas is a haploid, biflagellate green alga commonly used for bioenergy production and for basic research on cilia and flagella. More than 3,000 mutants are maintained by the collection, curated by Matt Laudon (PBIO), and distributed to laboratories throughout the world.

NIH awards $1.6 million to BMBB researcher

Eric Hendrickson (BMBB) was awarded two grants from the National Institutes of Health totaling $1.6 million. Hendrickson will receive $1.2 million over four years to study the impact of loss-of-function mutations of human DNA DSB (double-strand break) repair genes on rAAV (recombinant adeno-associated virus) vector integration. He will also receive $400,000 over two years to develop a human somatic tissue culture model system that can be used to identify and characterize mutations in genes that cause PIDs (primary immune deficiencies).

Studies shed light on tBid function, the role of DNA repair protein

[PLoS ONE | 2.22.10 + PLoS Genetics | 2.10]

Eric Hendrickson (BMBB) contributed to a recent study, which shows that a particular alpha helix (#6) in tBid (truncated BH3 interacting domain death agonist) is responsible for tBid’s ability to interact with mitochondria and subsequently induce cytochrome C-mediated apoptosis.

In a separate study, Hendrickson demonstrated that the DNA repair protein, Ku, has two distinct and separable roles in DNA double-strand break repair. On one hand it is positively required for all C-NHEJ (classic non-homologous end joining) events and on the other hand Ku acts as a potent inhibitor of the competing A-NHEJ (alternative NHEJ) pathway pointing to Ku’s role as the master regulator of double-strand break repair pathway choice in human somatic cells.

People

Four CBS undergraduates will receive travel assistance this summer through the Murray D. Rosenberg Memorial. Eftu Boru will travel to Costa Rica to volunteer with Cross Cultural Solutions. Lydia Geiszler will volunteer with the International Volunteer HQ Medical Program in Peru. Erin Theisen and Katherine Hazen will travel to Costa Rica and Panama to work with VIDA (Volunteers for Intercultural and Definitive Adventures).

Lisa Novack, Nikki Letawsky Shultz, and Stefanie Wiesneski presented sessions at the University of Minnesota Tate Advising & Student Affairs Professionals Conference in late April. Novack helped lead a session on student development coaching tools and Letawsky Shultz presented during a session on prompting learning through reflective conversation. Novack and Wiesneski also participated in a new advisor roundtable.

Meet human resources manager Nicole Matteson in the latest edition of CBS People, an ongoing feature highlighting the personalities behind the positions at the College of Biological Sciences.

CBS undergraduate Addison Demer (GCD) received Student Leader of the Semester Award for spring semester from the Biology Colloquium Program. The award is given each term to a student who has shown excellent leadership skills. In addition, Demer and Jamie Rich (Biology) have been named Biology Colloquium Student Coordinators for 2010–11.

Stephanie Xenos, assistant director of communications, has been chosen to participate in the President’s Emerging Leaders Program. The program is designed to identify, prepare, and support new leadership within the University of Minnesota. Xenos has been part of the college’s communications team for the past four years.

Events

DemoLab

Quasar Instruments will bring its mobile laboratory to the St. Paul campus to provide University researchers with an opportunity to test the company’s products.

DETAILS: Corner of Cleveland and Carter | St. Paul campus | May 17

NIH Training Grant Symposium

The University of Minnesota NIH Training Grant Symposium is a daylong event designed to highlight new advances at the interface of chemistry and biology. CBS’ Burkhard Seelig and Elizabeth Lockamy (both BMBB) will be among the speakers.

DETAILS: Mayo Auditorium | East Bank | May 26

FYI

Minnesota Cup deadline: May 21

The Minnesota Cup is looking for that million-dollar product or service idea. From high-tech to high-touch, biosciences to retail, agriculture to social ventures, this is a competition for entrepreneurs, inventors and anybody with an innovative business idea. More than $130,000 in prize money is up for grabs across six divisions: clean technology and renewable energy, biosciences, high-tech, social entrepreneur, general and student.