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BIO - Winter 2010

Research News

Corn genome yields clues for improving food and fuel

Imagine the benefits of boosting the protein content of corn for human consumption or increasing its glucose content to produce better biofuel. Understanding the genetic basis of why the offspring of two corn plants tend to be superior to both parent plants could boost researchers’ ability to tailor crops for such traits. With help from the newly released DNA sequence of a common strain of corn, Nathan Springer and colleagues have begun doing just that.





A master switch for metamorphosis

Think scientists know all there is to know about metamorphosis? Think again. Michael O’Connor and fellow researchers recently solved a 20-year mystery about the process, opening the door to greater understanding of human puberty and the possibility of less toxic insecticides. O’Connor identified the receptor for the hormone that triggers metamorphosis, which is similar to human puberty. The discovery shows how organisms sense increasing body size and enter the next stage of development on schedule.




Lifting the curtain on lion behavior

Why do lions band together? For many years, researchers thought they did so to gain an advantage over prey while hunting. Ask Craig Packer and you’ll get a very different answer. Packer’s insights into lion behavior are the subject of the cover story of the January issue of Smithsonian magazine. “The Truth About Lions” draws on the renowned lion expert’s decades of research observing the animals in the field.





Video podcasts as a biology teaching tool?

Whether texting, watching video clips or listening to music, digital media has become ubiquitous on campus. Students are constantly “plugged in.” An undergraduate researcher asks whether video podcasts—topical video clips—are an effective way to extend learning beyond the classroom.

Paleobotanist returns to his Itasca roots

CBS alumni David Dilcher discovered the oldest known fossil flower. This fall he received an honorary doctorate at Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories from the University of Minnesota for his scientific contributions. Find out how the field station inspired Dilcher’s passion for plants.

Alumni News

The purple finches of Itasca

Many CBS alumni recall fondly their experiences at Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories. For some, the field station is more than a happy memory. Sarah Knutie (BS, Ecology, Evolution, Behavior ’06) conducts research at Itasca each summer. Knutie explains her ongoing relationship with Itasca and why it’s one of the best places around for field biology.

Donors commit $1.3 million to Itasca plan

Private donors have already committed $1.33 million of the $1.8 million needed to match funds from the state legislature for a new campus center at Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories. Help close the gap. Contact Laurie Hennen ( | 612-624-9460) if you would like to play a role in ensuring that biology students and researchers at the U continue to have the opportunity to work and learn in this living laboratory.

And the prize for best student-alumni event goes to …

Each spring, the Biological Sciences Alumni Society hosts the Biology House Dinner as a fun way of connecting alumni and undergraduates. Alumni quiz students about the college and hand out prizes for correct answers. Last year, the event won the U’s Program Extraordinaire Award. If you would like to donate items to give as prizes or find out how to get involved with the event, contact Rebecca Brzezinski ( | 612-624-4770).

Get LinkedIn to CBS

Did you know that the College of Biological Sciences has a LinkedIn group? It’s open to all students and alumni. Share your professional insights or network with other alums working in science-based industries, education and other fields.

Class Notes moves online

Share the latest developments in your life with fellow alumni, students and faculty. Send us your updates and we’ll post them to the new Class Notes blog. Include your name, graduation year and major along with details about the latest developments in your life and a recent photo, if you have one. Send your class note to

Being a BSAS member has its benefits

Join the College of Biological Sciences Alumni Society, a collegiate group of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association (UMAA), and take advantage of a whole range of benefits available to UMAA members. Get discounts on tickets to events, Gopher apparel and more. Call UMAA Member Services at 612-624-2323 or visit the UMAA membership page.

U job fair open to recent alumni

Recent University of Minnesota alumni are invited to attend a job and internship fair February 22 at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Representatives from more