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CBS News - April 2013

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Two CBS students named 2013 Goldwater Scholars

Karen Leopold, a junior majoring in biochemistry and genetics, and Maxwell Shinn, a sophomore studying neuroscience and mathematics, have been named Goldwater Scholars. Leopold is interested in studying protein function and genetics through biochemical and evolutionary lenses. She is currently investigating the human immune response to Group A Streptococcus working with Patrick Cleary (Microbiology) and Edward Kaplan (Pediatrics). Shinn is drawn to “big questions” about the relationship between consciousness and neurophysiology. He wants to look for mathematical order in human cognitive functions, study how information theory can be used to analyze large biological networks and explore the relationship between information and evolution. Currently, he is studying how artificial neural networks can be used to model ecological phenomena under the direction of Clarence Lehman (EEB). In all, three University of Minnesota students received 2013 Goldwater Scholarships and a fourth received an honorable mention.

First research cluster position filled

Allison Shaw has accepted an offer to join the Quantitative and Theoretical Biology research cluster. Currently a postdoctoral fellow on an NSF International Research Fellowship at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia, Shaw will start in her new role in August 2014. A theoretical ecologist with research interests at the intersection of evolution, behavior, ecology and theory, she constructs theory that spans taxonomic and ecosystem barriers, using analytic models and individual-based simulations to understand how organisms use movement to adapt to their environments. Other interests include population dynamics, life history theory, microbial ecology, social networks and complex systems. So far, the research cluster search process has yielded 957 applications for six searches. Approximately 57 candidates have participated in campus visits to date. 

Muehlbauer named Distinguished McKnight University Professor

Gary Muehlbauer (PBIO) has been named a 2013 Distinguished McKnight University Professor. The goal of this program is to recognize and reward the University of Minnesota's most outstanding mid-career faculty. He will receive a research grant of $100,000 over five years and hold the title for as long as he remains at the university. Muehlbauer, professor and head of plant biology, uses genomics to study plant function and agricultural productivity.

Student Services wins regional innovation award

CBS Student Services has received a Regional Innovation Award from the National Academic Advising Association for its academic advising appointment "checkback" series, which provides students with opportunities to identify, develop, and achieve their academic, career and personal goals through guided reflection at set points in their academic career.

Brewological Sciences alumni event draws a full house

Nearly 80 CBS alumni and friends attended the “College of Brewological Sciences” alumni event April 10 at Harriet Brewery in Minneapolis. Jim Cotner (EEB) presented a short talk on the biology of beer. Participants enjoyed mac n' cheese empanadas, four types of craft beer and a bounty of 60s-inspired psychadelic art. Check out photos from the event.

CBS undergraduate commencement is May 18

The undergraduate commencement ceremony for the CBS class of 2013 will take place May 18 at Mariucci Arena. Minnesota Public Radio host and award-winning journalist Kerri Miller will give this year’s commencement speech. The registration deadline has passed, but the ceremony will stream live online. Visit the CBS commencement website the day of the ceremony to watch.

CBS-IT launches form for requesting software packages, licenses

CBS-IT has developed a new online form to collect suggestions for college-wide software package and license purchasing. CBS-IT will look into purchasing college-wide licenses for most-requested software. As a reminder, CBS currently offers licenses for JMP and Matlab available to install on all university-owned computers.

CBS communications function linked to U of M central administration

President Kaler has created a dotted-line reporting relationship between University Relations and senior collegiate communications officers University wide. The goal of the move is to increase efficiency, promote best practices, align messages and assure a collaborative, non-competitive relationship. Colleges have been asked to  incorporate the University’s goals in annual communications plans. The dotted-line reporting relationship also applies between college level and department level communications.

St. Croix Watershed Research Station now affiliated with CBS

The St. Croix Watershed Research Station, a field station run by the Science Museum of Minnesota, is now affiliated with the College of Biological Sciences. Research at the station focuses on the ecological systems of the St. Croix River basin and watersheds worldwide. Learn more

Take the U-Wide IT Survey

Provide input for senior executives at the University to consider as they determine the Information Technology priorities for the University. Take a few minutes to complete the survey.


Multicellularity, take two

Evolution | 3.13 (online, print to follow)

Last year Mike Travisano and Will Ratcliff (EEB) captured the attention of evolutionary biologists worldwide when they replicated the evolution of multicellularity in their lab in just two months. Using single-celled Baker’s yeast and selecting for fast settling in liquid, they showed that multicellular yeast readily evolve from their single-celled ancestors in as little as seven days. Results were reported in the January 31, 2012 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. After seven months of selection results, they observed that the settling rate continued to increase as the cells increased in number and size and evolved a more hydrodynamic shape. These new results, published in Evolution, confirm that multicellularity is a key initial step in the evolution of biological complexity. The first two adaptations enable multicellular yeast to settle faster. But larger size carries a cost: slower growth rates. The last adaptation, a more hydrodynamic shape, allows for faster settling without imposing a growth rate cost. This suggests that the costs of increased size, which have been seen in algae and bacteria, may drive the evolution of increased complexity by favoring innovation. Undergraduates Stephen Cross and Jessica Nguyen contributed to the study. A grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute supports their involvement. The research is funded by the National Science Foundation.

Loss of plant diversity diminishes soil food webs

PNAS | 4.1.13

Losses in plant biodiversity in prairie communities have sweeping effects on soil food webs, according to a study co-authored by Sarah Hobbie (EEB) and Peter Reich (Forest Resources). Using measurements of soil organisms in the BioCON experiment at Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve, the study shows that as the number of prairie plant species is reduced experimentally, the abundance of a variety of soil organisms that includes microorganisms, nematodes and mites, declines as well. These declines likely are caused by decreased overall plant growth and plant inputs to soils when plant species richness is lowered, leading to reduced soil organic matter and associated resources to support soil food webs. By contrast, elevated atmospheric CO² and nitrogen inputs had few effects on the soil community. Lead author is Nico Eisenhauer (Technical University of Munich), a visiting scholar who worked with Hobbie and Reich on the study.

Protein dynamics of proteasome assembly and activity

Structure | 3.26.13

Graduate student Aaron Ehlinger and Professor Kylie Walters (BMBB) contributed to a study published online in Structure that found an interesting role for protein dynamics at the proteasome. Three of the proteasome ATPases exhibit conformational exchange, one of which undergoes dynamic helix-coil transitions. This work shows that these dynamic properties affect proteasome assembly and activity. The study, “Conformational dynamics of the Rpt6 ATPase in proteasome assembly and Rpn14 binding,” will be published in an upcoming print edition of the journal.

Mark Bee wins Fulbright to study frogs in India

Mark Bee (EEB) has received a Fulbright-Nehru Award to study in India, where he will create a digital archive of the calls of Indian frogs in the Western Ghats, a mountain range along the west coast of India known for its biodiversity. He will use the archive to potentially identify new species and study the evolution of vocal behavior in these animals. Bee will work with Dr. S. D. Biju at the University of Delhi. The two have been collaborating since 2009, when Bee first visited his lab using funds from his McKnight Land-Grant Professorship. Bee is co-advising one of his graduate students, Robin Suresh. Bee, Biju and Suresh published their first two papers earlier this year.

Half of the funding for the Fulbright-Nehru Award, named for Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India, comes from the Indian government and half from the Fulbright Program.

CBS post-doctoral researcher Will Soto wins Fisher Prize

Will Soto, a post-doctoral fellow in the Travisano lab, has won this year's Society for the Study of Evolution's R.A. Fisher Prize, which is given for an outstanding Ph.D. dissertation paper published in the journal Evolution. The prize pays tribute to one of the most distinguished evolutionists of the 20th Century, Sir Ronald Fisher, who with JBS Haldane and Sewall Wright, developed theoretical population genetics and established its central position within evolutionary biology. Soto’s dissertation is titled: “Evolutionary perspectives in a mutualism of sepiolid squid and bioluminescent bacteria.”

CBS in the News
  • New findings about the evolution of multicellularity published by Mike Travisano and Will Ratcliff (EEB) in Evolution were covered by noted science writer Carl Zimmer in his National Geographic blog. The update was also featured in New Scientist.
  • Craig Packer (EEB) was featured in a March 27 New York Times article about his study advocating fencing in lions to protect them as well as humans. Minnpost also ran a story about the study.
  • Marlene Zuk’s (EEB) new book Paleofantasy: What evolution really tells us about sex, diet and how we live was reviewed by the Columbus Dispatch, Boing Boing and Smithsonian and mentioned in a USA Today article about evidence of heart disease found in mummies.
  • Larry Wackett (BMBB/BTI) was interviewed by the St. Anthony Park Bugle about his efforts to develop biotechnology to clean up wastewater used in fracking. The story also ran in the Twin Cities Daily Planet.
  • Dan Voytas (GCD) was profiled in the spring issue of Minnesota, the University’s alumni magazine. TALENs, Voytas genomic engineering technology, was selected as one of 12 breakthroughs for 2012 by the journal Science.
  • CBS undergraduate and Gopher Baseball center fielder Troy Larson's choice of an M.D. over the MLB was featured in the spring issue of Minnesota. Larson is a biochemistry and genetics, cell biology and development double major who plans on attending medical school following graduation.
  • The Biotechnology Resource Center, which is part of the Biotechnology Institute (BTI), was featured in a Minnesota Daily article about how University research centers offer services to businesses to offset their costs. Tim Tripp, BTI assistant director, was interviewed and quoted for the story.


Paul Stadem, biochemistry undergraduate, has been awarded a Fulbright Research Grant. Stadem applied to work in Kampala, Uganda at the Uganda Cancer Institute. The grant funds all travel and living expenses while abroad for 9 months of work. Read more about Paul.

Two CBS alumni have been awarded NSF graduate research fellowships. Andrew Grenfell (Genetics and Biochemistry, ’12) will study at the University of California-Berkeley and Rahel Woldeyes (Biochemistry and Chemistry, ’11) will study at the University of California-San Francisco. NSF graduate research fellowships support promising graduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, pursuing research-based masters and doctoral degrees.

Alexis Friesen and Allan Kerandi have been awarded 2013 President’s Student Leadership and Service Awards.

Larry Wackett (BTI) presented at the 53rd annual American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Upper Midwest symposium on April 12. His presentation, “Hydraulic fracturing in today’s energy landscape,” focused on his research and possible methods for removing contaminants from water resulting from the fracking process.

The University of Minnesota Academic Advising Network (AAN) board and John Tate Academic Advising Conference planning committee announced Lisa Novack and Meaghan Stein's (CBS Student Services) session titled "Exploring the strengths and needs of introverted students," presented at the 2013 Tate Conference, received the award for "Showcase Session." The "Showcase Session" is awarded to the presentation that receives the highest percentage of "showcase" designations on the conference evaluation per number of attendees.


April 18

University Imaging Centers Open House

Visit the University Imaging Centers in St. Paul for equipment demonstrations, including wide-field and confocal microscopes, whole animal and plant imaging as well as scanning and transmission electron microscopy. This will also be an opportunity to learn more about imaging resources in Jackson Hall and the new Cancer and Cardiovascular Research Building in Minneapolis.

23 Snyder Hall | St. Paul | 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. | More information

April 19

2013 UMAA Annual Celebration

Celebrate the University of Minnesota, network with alumni and friends, sample Minnesota wine and U of M cheese, and enjoy dinner and student performances.

McNamara Alumni Center | East Bank | Register

April 26

Arts, Sciences and Engineering Graduate Commencement Ceremony

Earl Lewis, a 1984 graduate of the University of Minnesota and next president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, will serve as keynote speaker at this year's ceremony. Registration for students and faculty to participate in the ceremony is now closed. The CBS community is welcome to attend the ceremony.

Mariucci Arena | East Bank | 1 p.m.

April 29

National Academy of Engineering Regional Meeting + Public Symposium

Six University faculty will present at the public symposium of the National Academy of Engineering Regional Meeting. This year’s topic: “From grand challenges to grand solutions: Moving from knowledge generation to real world action” will include Jon Foley (EEB) discussing “Can we feed a growing population and sustain the planet,” and Stephen Polasky (EEB) presenting “Accounting for nature: Incorporating the value of ecosystem services into decision-making.”

McNamara Alumni Center | Johnson Great Room | East Bank | 1:30 p.m. | Register

April 29

Friends of Eastcliff Book Club: Paleofantasy

Hosted by Karen Kaler, the Friends of Eastcliff Book Club will discuss professor Marlene Zuk's new book, Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us About Sex, Diet and How We Live, at the Kaler residence.

Eastcliff | 176 N. Mississippi River Blvd. | St. Paul |

May 3

CBS Picnic

All CBS students, faculty and staff are invited to attend the annual CBS Year-End Picnic for food, fun, music and prizes. Interested in volunteering at the event? Contact Tannica Jacobson (

McNamara Alumni Center Gateway Plaza| East Bank | 11: 30 a.m.-1 p.m. | Register

May 18

CBS Undergraduate Commencement

Kerri Miller, a Minnesota Public Radio host and award-winning journalist, will speak at this year’s undergraduate commencement. Registration for students and faculty to participate in the ceremony is now closed. The CBS community is welcome to attend the ceremony.

Mariucci Arena | East Bank | 7:30 p.m.


2013 Moos Graduate Research Fellowship

The College of Biological Sciences is pleased to solicit applications for the 2013 Moos Graduate Research Fellowship in Aquatic Biology. Students pursuing MS or PhD degrees in water resources, aquatic biology or limnology are invited to submit research proposals focused on understanding and developing sustainable use of freshwater. Proposals are due April 29. Learn more

Sequestration information

Have questions about the impact of U.S. government’s sequestration on federally-funded research at the U of M? Check this site on the Office of the Vice President’s website.