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News, features and events from the College of Biological Sciences


Meet a few of the College of Biological Sciences faculty using their biology expertise to develop commercial solutions to environmental, health and education needs.


Larry Wackett never planned to get involved in translational research, but in the mid-2000s he realized that he might have a solution to a pressing problem: melamine contamination in china's milk supply. In 2008, reports began rolling in about milk and infant formula tainted with melamine, a chemical that gives the appearance of higher protein content. Hundreds of thousands of people, including many children and babies, fell ill. But without a test that could be used in the field and provide on-the-spot results, identifying the source of the melamine remained problematic.

Anita Schuchardt observed the effectiveness of integrating STEM disciplines as a high school science teacher. Now, the new BTL faculty member wants to show why concept-based learning works.

Anita Schuchardt

Anita Schuchardt knows that teaching biology by emphasizing concepts and using math to unlock student understanding of biological processes works. She recently joined the Department of Biology Teaching and Learning with an eye to adding to our understanding of eactly why it works.

Schuchardt’s path to becoming a biology education innovator began after completing a doctorate in genetics and conducting post-doc research on how nerves grow in the spinal cord at Columbia University. Once her post-doc appointment wrapped up, she switched gears and headed back into the classroom. She moved to Pittsburgh and into a high school teaching position where she developed a keen interest in how students learn science.

CBS faculty among the recipients of the new interdisciplinary research grants

The first round of University of Minnesota Grand Challenges Research grants, totaling $3.6 million, were awarded to 29 teams of faculty from across the Twin Cities campus. The research collaborations address the University's five interrelated Grand Challenges areas of special focus, with one integrative initiative spanning multiple areas. Areas of focus include:

  • Advancing Health Through Tailored Solutions
  • Fostering Just and Equitable Communities
  • Enhancing Individual and Community Capacity for a Changing World
  • Assuring Clean Water and Sustainable Ecosystems

Six research teams that received funding include members of the college’s faculty. Here’s a quick overview of the projects and associated CBS faculty.

Sehoya Cotner recognized with top honor from the National Association of Biology Teachers for her excellence as an educator.

Sehoya Cotner (BTL) received the National Association of Biology Teachers’ University Biology Teaching Award. The award goes to an outstanding biology educator who demonstrates creativity and innovation in an undergraduate course.

“This is a major accomplishment” says Randy Moore (BTL), who nominated Cotner for the award. “It’s easily the equivalent of receiving a major grant. The National Association of Biology Teachers is the country’s largest professional organization of biology teachers, and they recognize only one teacher per year with this award. This year, they chose Sehoya as their best biology teacher. That’s impressive, and she is, too.”

Synthetic organic chemist Kate Adamala develops cell-mimicking systems with just the right amount of complexity.

Kate Adamala

It’s not easy being a cellular biologist. Try to study molecules and what they do in an intact cell, and you end up with so many variables and cascades of interaction that it’s impossible to figure out what’s going on. But take the cell apart to try to understand the roles of individual components in making its internal clockwork tick, and you end up with bits and pieces that don’t work as they do when intertwined within a living system.

The evolutionary biologist received an honorary doctorate at a formal ceremony at the University of Jyväskylä in August.

honorary doctorate ceremony

This Grand Challenges in Biology research team looks to develop a clearer picture of sex chromosome evolution, key to a better understanding of chromosomal disorders.

Brandvain, Zarkower, Blackmon
From left: Yaniv Brandvain, David Zarkower, Heath Blackmon

Third in a four-part series on the first round of research projects funded through the College of Biological Sciences' Grand Challenges in Biology Postdoctoral Program.

It all started with beetles. As a graduate student considering the invertebrates’ chromosomes, Heath Blackmon observed that the insects drop their Y chromosomes on a fairly regular basis. But why? Now a post-doctoral researcher in the College of Biological Sciences, he spotted an opportunity to investigate a question with very real consequences for humans with chromosomal disorders such as Turner's and Klinefelter syndromes.

This postdoctoral associate in the Department of Biology Teaching and Learning came full circle back to the Twin Cities.

Max Kramer

You grew up in St. Paul. Where did you get your undergraduate and graduate degrees?

I received my undergraduate BA from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, OR, and my Ph.D. from New York University in New York City.

What do you miss most about Oregon and New York?

I miss the Cascade Mountains in Oregon and New York's egg-on-a-roll sandwiches from the corner stores. 

Dan VoytasDan Voytas, professor in the Department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Development, and director of the Center for Genome Engineering, has been profiled in the most recent issue of Science. Dan is doing incredible work in advancing gene editing in plants. He is aptly described as a world leader in plant engineering, and we are thrilled to see Dan's contributions to the field recognized by a top journal.

Posted in: CBS Connect, GCD, Faculty
The ecology research station fosters a broader conversation about science and culture with a summer youth camp and an indigenous research symposium.
Students participate in Gida camp


With its open prairies, leafy groves and evergreen forests, Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve is an ideal site for long-term ecology research. It’s also uniquely positioned to engage in a very different kind of work bridging science and culture. This summer, Cedar Creek hosted a science camp and a symposium designed to engage indigenous communities and create a dialogue about the multi-faceted history of the land.