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Research clusters at CBS

Theoretical Biology

Biology stands poised to address some of the most pressing challenges facing the world today. However, this requires the development of general theory in biology with work that pushes the limits of mathematical and computational sciences. The aim of the Theoretical Biology cluster is to build on existing strengths in the College of Biological Sciences (CBS) and at the University of Minnesota in order to further explore the general mathematical properties of complex systems in biology at a wide range of scales from cellular processes to populations, community and global ecosystems.

Emma GoldbergAllison Shaw

Functional Proteomics

Gene products encoded by a genome are processed via a variety of regulatory steps to produce expressed proteins. These proteins are in turn covalently modified via phosphorylation, acetylation, ubiquination, oxidation, sumoylation, etc., events to generate a complex proteome composed of hundreds of thousands if not millions of distinct protein molecules. This complexity is found from archaebacteria to eubacteria, from plants and animals to fungi. A better understanding of these complex molecular systems will impact all fields of biology, from those focused on human health to those focused on plant biology to those focused on the environment. Mass spectrometry-based proteomics provides the most powerful and versatile technology to achieve an understanding of the complex and interwoven network of proteins that collectively drive cellular function. 

This cluster hire in functional proteomics focuses on mass spectrometry-based proteomics and related technologies studying the interrelation between protein post-translational modifications, functional protein complexes and/or dynamic protein networks, and the control of gene expression and signaling that define cell function and disease mechanisms.

Yue ChenLaurie Parker

Biology Education

The University of Minnesota has a national reputation in biology teaching and educational research. To build on existing strengths, the Department of Biology Teaching and Learning was created in July 2014 as a partnership between the College of Biological Sciences and the College of Education and Human Development. The mission of our new department is to discover, apply, and share research-based strategies that transform biology education.

Through their research, these faculty positions will contribute to the growing understanding of how students learn; through their teaching and outreach, they will model the implementation of evidence-based educational research; and through their mentoring of graduate students and colleagues, they will help build a strong community of teaching scholars of national reputation.

Cellular Biophysics

The goal of this cluster hire is to promote novel interdisciplinary approaches to fundamental questions in intracellular transport and cell motility. The University of Minnesota is internationally recognized for its faculty in the fields of protein and tissue engineering, polymer dynamics, molecular biophysics, biological transport, optics and imaging, and biomolecular engineering. We are eager to integrate the strengths of the physical sciences with the biological and biomedical sciences, and to foster a new culture of teamwork in a collegial research environment. We seek to infuse cell biology at the U of M with quantitative physical scientists, including chemists, physicists, engineers, structural biologists, computer scientists and mathematicians.

Naomi Courtemanche • Daniel Schmidt

Genome Variation

The genome variation cluster seeks to capitalize on advances in genomic/genetic knowledge, sequencing technology and data analysis to link genetics to phenotypic diversity in molecular, evolutionary and medical genetics. Outcomes will greatly impact human health, agriculture, the environment and understanding of biodiversity.

Sequencing technology and data analysis have produced a revolution in the ability to advance genetic research, making it feasible to rapidly sequence the genomes or transcripts of multiple individuals within a species, or representative individuals of multiple species. These data provide insight into genetic mechanisms, genetic diversity and evolutionary history that five years ago were barely fathomable. Moreover, such data have led to the discovery of previously unknown genetic and genomic variation and are greatly advancing our ability to link genetic to phenotypic diversity – a grand challenge in molecular, evolutionary and medical genetics.

Suzanne McGaughYaniv BrandvainRan Blekhman

Computational and Genome-Enabled Biology

Part of a larger effort to build a critical mass of researchers using the latest genomic and computational approaches to answer significant questions about genetics, development, or the basis of complex phenotypes and behaviors, the Computational and Genome-Enabled Biology research cluster comprises two distinct but complementary focus areas: Computational Biology: Researchers with a solid computational background who are developing and applying new computational approaches to address impactful questions in biology, and Genome-Enabled Biology: Experimental biologists utilizing a combination of the latest tools in genomics, molecular genetics, biochemistry, and/or bioinformatics to study fundamental biological questions.

Microbial Systems and Synthetic Biology

The aim of the Synthetic Biology cluster is to promote multidisciplinary approaches to understand, design and engineer microbial systems using synthetic biology approaches. Ultimately, this cluster addresses critical research needs in synthetic biology in the College of Biological Sciences and at the University of Minnesota. The synthetic biology-oriented faculty hired through this initiative will investigate and design microbial systems including signaling pathways and metabolic networks.

Mikael EliasMichael SmanskiWill Harcombe

Plant and Fungal Evolution

The plant and fungal evolution cluster represents a nexus of interdisciplinary science with a capacity to discover through diverse approaches and an opportunity to address fundamental problems through synthesis. The addition of faculty to our cluster builds on current strengths in organismal interactions, cellular biology, molecular evolution, population and evolutionary genetics, and phylogenetic systematics.We recognize significant new potential in expanding the plant-fungal evolution cluster. Fungi are model organisms, sources of chemical diversity, and key players in biodegradation, and the pathogenic and mutualistic symbioses affecting plant productivity. Rapid availability of fungal genomes provides unprecedented opportunity for comparative evolutionary study with potential applications to biotechnology, human health and ecosystem services. The pace of innovation in the field of fungal evolution has further created opportunity to bring new discovery into the classroom.

Peter KennedyKathryn Bushley