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CBS News - April 2011

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Class of 2011 student academic and leadership awards:

Goldwater Scholarship: Xiaoying Lou (biochemistry), Mitch Biermann (biochemistry); Scholarly Excellence in Equity and Diversity President’s Award for Scholar-Activism: Damé Idossa and Yee Xiong; President’s Student Leadership and Service Awards: Damé Idossa, Leah Grengs, Joseph Lahti, Xiaoying Lou and Neli Mottey; Donald R. Zander Award for Outstanding Student Leadership: Xiaoying Lou; University of Minnesota Alumni Association Student Leadership Award: Neli Mottey and Joseph Lahti; Thomas Burnett Advanced Leadership Program: Joseph Lahti, Xiaoying Lou and Paul Strain

National Science Foundation graduate fellowships:

Kristen Becklund; Christine O'Connell; Charlotte Riggs; Johnathon Fankhauser; Amanda “Cece” Martin

National Institutes of Health graduate awards:

Naa-Adjeley Ablorh; Bengt Gustavsson; Kim Ha; Yun Lin; Rebecca Moen; Lauren Beach; Corinne Fairchild; Michelle Hamline; Katie Vermillion

College news

Research from Hobbie lab featured in Science Museum exhibit, creates window

In conjunction with the Future Earth Initiative, Sarah Hobbie’s lab (EEB) has created an online “flux” calculator to measure the influence of individual households on the cycle of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus in the urban environment. The calculator is featured on the Science Museum of Minnesota’s website along with an online segment on urban ecology with Daniel Nidzgorski, a Ph.D. student in Hobbie’s lab. Hobbie’s research will also be featured in an exhibit at the museum as part of the Future Earth Initiative project.

The Science Museum of Minnesota and the National Center for Earth-Surface Dynamics launched the Future Earth Initiative project, supported by an NSF grant of nearly $3 million over four years, to explore what it means for humans to live in an era in which they are playing an unprecedented role in planetary change.

CBS biochemistry student awarded 2011 Goldwater Scholarship

Jacob Inda, a junior majoring in biochemistry, has received a Goldwater Scholarship. Inda is a Presidential Scholar and a State of Wisconsin Academic Excellence Scholar. He also works as a computational biology teaching assistant and volunteers in a hospital. Inda plans to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. in molecular biology focusing on the development of clinical treatments for biochemical and genetic anomalies.

CBS launches website with new design, navigation

The college has launched a website with a new design and streamlined navigation. The redesign, which covers the college’s core website and the Student Services website, features a cleaner interface with emphasis on simple, engaging images and text. The redesign stems from a University-mandated move to wider website templates. CBS is also in the process of implementing a content management system (CMS), which will make web development more cost-effective and web tools more accessible across the college. The CMS will also ensure that the college’s site is accessible on mobile devices.

Please forward feedback and report usability issues to Stephanie Xenos, assistant director, communications, at

Research news

Reuben Harris awarded five-year, $10 million grant

Reuben Harris (BMBB) has been awarded $10 million over five years to direct a multi-institution effort to create a high-resolution image of the antiviral protein APOBEC3G and learn how it interacts with cellular proteins and a key HIV accessory protein (Vif). The ultimate goal is to provide fundamental knowledge that will enable the development of novel treatments for HIV and other diseases. This is an innovative approach that focuses on the host rather than the virus. Harris will lead a team of five PIs with complementary skills in molecular biology, virology, NMR spectroscopy, X-ray crystallography, biophysics and biochemistry. Matsuo Hiroshi (BMBB) is also a project leader, and Joachem Mueller (Physics) is a key interdepartmental collaborator. Other sites include the University of Massachusetts Medical School, University of Nebraska and Hebrew University in Israel. Funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, this Program Project grant will support training opportunities for students while advancing research.

Wackett lab closes in on way to make renewable “petroleum”

Journal of Biological Chemistry | April 1, 2011

Researchers in the lab of Larry Wackett (BMBB/BTI) are a step closer to making renewable petroleum fuels using bacteria, sunlight and carbon dioxide. A recent project led by Janice Frias, who earned her doctorate earlier this year, outlines a new method for using a protein to transform fatty acids produced by bacteria into ketones, which can be cracked to make hydrocarbon fuels. Other team members included Jack Richman (BMBB) and CBS undergraduate Jasmine Erickson. The research was funded under a $2.2 million United States Department of Energy grant. Wackett is the PI on the grant.

Effects of tropical deforestation on carbon stored in soil analyzed

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences | April 12, 2011

Jennifer Powers (EEB) was lead author of a study analyzing changes in the amount of carbon in soil that follow land use changes in the tropics. It’s well known that changes in use of tropical land, primarily deforestation, release CO2 into the atmosphere. Most of that comes from biomass above ground, but losses of soil carbon are also significant. Scientists have known this for at least a century, but despite many efforts, haven’t been able make generalizations about increases or decreases of carbon in soil related to land use changes. Powers and colleagues collected data from numerous field studies and analyzed them for general patterns. They found that minerals in the soil and rainfall determine the fate of soil carbon following land-use change. Most of the field studies they reviewed were conducted in areas with high rainfall and volcanic soils, which skewed results. They concluded that in order to make general observations, future studies need to represent a broader range of tropical areas and results will need to be stratified by soil characteristics.

Faster, more cost-effective gene editing developed by Hendrickson lab

Eric Hendrickson (BMBB) has been awarded a research contract of $400,000 over two years with Horizon Discovery for new technologies to improve gene editing in human cells using recombinant adeno-associated viruses. Horizon expects Hendrickson’s innovations to yield a ten-fold increase in gene-editing frequency of its rAAV GENESIS™ platform technology, which will substantially reduce manufacturing costs and generate models for diseases such as cancer in half the time. In addition to the research contract, Horizon has already signed two licensing agreements with Hendrickson and the University of Minnesota for cell lines produced by, and for technologies related to, rAAV-mediated gene targeting.


The recipients of the 2010 CBS Graduate Teaching Assistant Awards are Alicia Knudson (PBIO) and Beth Pettitt (EEB), who were recognized for their contributions in Biology 1009 and 1001, respectively. Kate Reise and Amanda Waters received Undergraduate TA Awards in recognition for their work in Biology 1010.


April 20-21
CBS Plant Sale
Choose from a large selection of blooming annuals, tropical plants, herbs, carnivorous plants, succulents and orchids at this annual sale organized by the CBS Greenhouses and CBS Phytograduate students. An orchid and succulent expert will be on hand to answer questions.

DETAILS: St. Paul Student Center | 9 a.m. -4 p.m.

April 21
CBS Year-End Picnic
Faculty, students and staff are invited to come celebrate the close of another academic year at the annual CBS Year-End Picnic presented in collaboration with the CBS Student Board and BioDays. CBS t-shirts in teal or purple with the slogan “Our Four Year Language Requirement” will be available for $5.

DETAILS: McNamara Alumni Center |East Bank | 4:30-6 p.m.

May 13
13th Annual Bollum Symposium

Nobel Laureate and CBS' 2011 commencement speaker Phillip Sharp (MIT) will speak at this year's Bollum biochemistry lectureship series.  Michael Fried (University of Kentucky), Ioulia Rouzina (University of Minnesota), and Mark Williams (Northeastern University) will also speak.

DETAILS: May Auditorium | East Bank | 1-5 p.m.


Register for Itasca summer courses now
Spend the summer studying field biology at Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories. Course offerings include field zoology, ecology, animal behavior, field digital photography, animal telemetry, field mammalogy, field ornithology and metagenomics of the Mississippi River. The Itasca scholarship application deadline is April 22.

Minnesota Cup
Entrepreneurs and inventors are invited to submit their breakthrough business ideas to the Minnesota Cup, a statewide contest designed to seek out, support, celebrate and promote Minnesota’s newest and most innovative business ideas. More than $150,000 in prizes will be awarded in six categories including high tech, biosciences, clean technology and renewable energy, social entrepreneurship and general. There is also a special category for students. Deadline: May 20, 2011.