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This CBS undergraduate explores broad interests, from medicine to research and social justice.

Anna Wojcicki

Name: Anna Wojcicki

Year: Senior

Major: Biology

You are working toward minors in Comparative U.S. Race and Ethnicity, as well as African American/African Studies. What is intriguing to you about these fields?
I have always been interested in a wide range of disciplines. Much of my life outside of CBS is dedicated to working with underrepresented populations. I appreciate the diversity of perspectives that I encounter through taking courses in the sciences and humanities. It is important to remember that science does not exist in a vacuum and that our ways of knowing are informed by cultural norms.

Now Hiring!

Come work with faculty and staff in the new Department of Biology Teaching and Learning, the only department of its kind in the country. Our primary emphasis is on discipline-based education research (DBER), with a special focus on the education of undergraduate biology students.

We seek one or two postdoctoral associates, beginning summer 2016, to work on one or more of the following initiatives:

  • course-based undergraduate research experiences
  • strategies to promote retention in STEM
  • active learning classrooms
  • scientific teaching certification for undergraduate and graduate-level teaching assistants in BTL

Specific duties will depend on the successful applicant's experience and interests. 

Contact Sehoya Cotner, with any questions.

The department looks to spark collaboration with a new office for faculty and staff based on open-concept workspace.

With the recent launch of BTL Commons in Moos Tower, the Department of Biology Teaching and Learning hopes to build connections and promote collaboration among faculty and staff in their daily work. The new department home features open, accessible, flexible work spaces, lots of glass and natural light.

“The BTL Commons will help catalyze new collaborations, which was a top item on our wish list,” says Robin Wright, BTL department head. “I have personally enjoyed being able to touch base more frequently and get instant advice about everything from an exam question to a grant idea.”

Biology Teaching and Learning Commons

Part of the open concept in the BTL Commons includes cubicles with low walls that make interaction easier.

Posted in: CBS Connect, Staff, BTL

New NSF-funded project will focus on writing-to-learn strategies in large-enrollment classes.

Leslie Schiff  (Microbiology) and Pamela Flash (Center for Writing), along with colleagues from the University of Michigan and Duke University, received a five-year, $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to investigate and implement writing-to-learn strategies in large-enrollment classes in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines.

“Lots of faculty use writing to learn,” says Schiff, “especially in short responses around content, but it can be a real challenge in large-enrollment courses. We want to know how faculty are already doing this and then understand what the impediments are to using writing in those settings.”

Twenty-two undergraduates matched with CBS alumni mentors in a variety of fields.

An alumni mentor program designed to connect current CBS undergraduates with alumni working in a range of fields launched earlier this month. The program, led by Tannica Jacobsen (CBS Advancement) and Rebecca Dordel (Student Services), is designed to offer students an opportunity to connect with alumni working in fields of interest in the Twin Cities. Participants are expected to meet several times over the course of the program, which concludes in April.

“We have many accomplished alumni living and working across the Twin Cities metro with insights valuable for current CBS undergraduates interested in following in their footsteps,” says Reede Webster, who leads the college’s alumni engagement efforts in his role as director of advancement. “We hope this mentor network will help our current students gain a better understanding of how to succeed in their desired career fields.”

Ecology, Evolution and Behavior 2016 calendars and greeting cards are on sale through December 4. 

Images from the 2016 EEB calendar

Proceeds from calendar and greeting card sales will go to support graduate student travel in 2016. Calendars feature photographs taken by EEB graduate students, post-doctoral researchers and faculty during their research. Greeting cards feature natural history illustrations and photographs by EEB members. 

Orders can be placed in 100 Ecology or online at


This CBS undergraduate is diving headfirst into a career with animals.

Jack Tribble

Name: Jack Tribble

Year: Junior

Major: Biology

You recently interned at the Como Zoo. What did you do in that internship and what intrigued you about this opportunity?
I was the enrichment intern at the Como Zoo. In this role, I was responsible for making and preparing various items that stimulated a natural, wild environment for the majority of the animals at the zoo. Enrichment ranged from giving animals different scents, food that they had to work to get at, engaging toys and many other fun and interesting things that stimulated the animals' senses. I wanted to do this internship because I love animals, and I got to work with all different types of wild animals. Also, I basically got to observe the animals play, and who doesn't love watching animals have fun?

Mutant mystery leads to discovery of new mechanism for hormone transport.

"We don’t know what it is yet that’s controlling the movement of these vesicles. ... One of the things we’re doing now is trying to figure out how the steroid gets into the cell.”

Michael O’Connor wasn’t out to revolutionize our understanding of how steroid hormones get around inside organisms. But when mutant fruit fly larvae he was working with mysteriously failed to molt, he knew he had to get to the bottom of it. And at the bottom, it turned out, was a big surprise: Contrary to what’s taught in textbooks, some steroid hormones — a class of chemical messengers found in animals and plants that regulate functions as diverse as immune response and development — don’t just diffuse out of cells. Instead, they’re packed into transport vehicles called vesicles and actively carried across cell membranes.

New faculty member Sivaraj Sivaramakrishnan aims to understand how cellular connectivity is built at the level of the proteome.

Sivaraj Sivaramakrishnan

“To understand cellular life at this mesoscale is not to reduce the system down to every infinitesimally small interaction, but rather to see how all the pieces fit together.”

Sivaraj (Shiv) Sivaramakrishnan, new faculty in Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development, began his career as a mechanical engineer studying the fluid dynamics of liquid steel. Now, he investigates protein interactions both in and outside of living cells.

This surprising career switch arose entirely through serendipity. Days before he was to start a job in computational mechanics, Shiv received a call. His company needed to immediately fill a job studying biological fluid flow through medical devices. He accepted, shifting his focus from steel to cells, while maintaining an engineer’s angle on complex systems.

Posted in: CBS Connect, Connect, GCD, Faculty
This aspiring physician assistant is all smiles after medical internship.

Mary Kate Rivisto

Name: Mary Kate Rivisto

Year: Senior

Major: Ecology, Evolution and Behavior

You interned with the Smile Network while an undergraduate. What did that internship entail?
I was lucky enough to be one of their public health interns for the semester as well as earn upper-division biology elective credits. As a public health intern, I worked with the organization’s international logistics coordinator to help plan the missions. I was also able to do research on the different areas of the world where their missions are held and gather information on each country’s public-health regulations and codes.