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CBS News - August 2013

college news | research news | people | events | fyi



Nine more faculty hired through cluster hiring effort

A hearty welcome to the nine new faculty members who are joining the college as a result of the first round of cluster hiring. 
Here’s a rundown of our new colleagues, where they are coming from, the cluster under which they were hired and when they will start:

  • Ran Blekhman (Cornell University) | Genome Variation | August 2013
  • Yue Chen (University of Chicago) | Functional Proteomics | August 2013
  • Peter Kennedy (Lewis and Clark College) | Fungal Evolution | August 2013
  • Yaniv Brandvain (University of California at Davis) | Genome Variation | January 2014
  • Kathryn Bushley (Oregon State University) | Fungal Evolution | January 2014
  • Emma Goldberg (University of Illinois at Chicago) | Theoretical Biology | January 2014
  • William Harcombe (Harvard University) | Microbial Systems | January 2014
  • Suzanne McGaugh (Duke University) | Genome Variation | August 2014
  • Allison Shaw (Australian National University) | Theoretical Biology | August 2014 (previously announced)

Ecology greats Gorham, Davis and Wright honored

U of M scientists Eville Gorham, Margaret Davis and Herb Wright, now retired, were recognized at the Ecology Society of America (ESA) annual meeting August 6 in Minneapolis. All three conducted groundbreaking ecology research during the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s that laid the groundwork for current research on climate change, the theme of this year’s ESA meeting. EEB faculty members Jeannine Cavender-Bares, Jacques Finlay, Jon Foley and Sarah Hobbie also presented at the society’s annual meeting.

Restructuring in St. Paul CBS accounting staff

As of July 1, accounting staff from EEB, Plant Biology and BTI have been restructured under the College Finance office umbrella. Ellie Lombardi (EEB/PBio) and Kerry-Ann Hamilton-Rose (BTI) are now located in 128 Snyder Hall. Launa Shun (EEB) is now located in 124C Snyder and Lori Nicol (PBio) is now in 124D. Their phone numbers and email addresses remain the same, the only changes are their new location and supervisor, Juli Pelletier. The accounting contact you had at the end of June is still your same accounting contact now.  We will be streamlining some processes and identifying areas where cross-training can occur. The goal is to provide better services more efficiently. Affected departments in St Paul will be notified of those changes in processes as they occur.

Also of interest…

Construction began in late July on the campus center at Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories. Keep up with developments as they happen at the Under Construction @ Itasca blog and the webcam.

CBS faculty members Anja-Katrin Bielinsky, William Gray, Reuben Harris, Thomas Neufeld, Jennifer Powers, Nathan Springer, and John Ward were recently promoted. Learn more.

Recently retired faculty member Stu Goldstein reflects on his many years in the classroom and the lab, and talks about his post-retirement plans.

Dagley-Kirkwood Award-winning professor Robert Brambl offers his take on teaching and reflects on how he uses technology to keep the content fresh.

Emilie Snell-Rood (EEB) helped organize the Animal Behavior Fair — the final event in Animal Behavior Society’s annual conference. See the photo album on Facebook.

The CBS Advancement team took home a Gold Award from the University of Minnesota Communicator’s Forum for 2012 Renew, the college’s annual donor publication.




Human enzyme linked to several forms of cancer

Nature Genetics | 7.14.13

Reuben Harris (BMBB) and his lab discovered that a human antiviral enzyme causes DNA mutations that lead to several forms of cancer. The discovery follows his team’s earlier finding that the enzyme, called APOBEC3B, is responsible for more than half of breast cancer cases. The previous study was published in Nature in February. APOBEC3B is part of a family of antiviral proteins that Harris has studied for more than a decade. His effort to understand how these proteins work has led to these surprising discoveries that APOBEC3B is a broadly important cancer mutagen.

New crop plant could change agriculture in Minnesota

The Plant Journal | 8.12.13

A humble weed called pennycress may be poised to provide significant economic and environmental benefits to farmers in Minnesota and other states with cold winters. The plant, which grows wild in Minnesota, has potential as a ground cover that could be planted after harvest and grow early in spring to prevent soil erosion caused by rain, which pollutes waterways. And oils in pennycress seeds could potentially be used to make biofuels. Plant biological sciences graduate student Kevin Dorn, who is advised by David Marks (PBIO), has identified all of the estimated 33,873 genes in the pennycress genome, which is a huge step towards selecting genes for traits that will realize the plant’s agricultural potential. Don Wyse, professor of agronomy and plant genetics in the College of Food Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, also contributed to the project.

Female frogs prefer males who can multitask

Animal Behaviour | 8.13

From frogs to humans, selecting a mate is complicated. Females of many species judge suitors based on indicators of health or parenting potential. But it can be difficult for males to demonstrate all of these qualities at the same time. In a study of gray tree frogs, a team of researchers in Professor Mark Bee’s (EEB) lab learned that females prefer males whose calls reflect the ability to multitask well. In this species (Hyla chrysoscelis), males produce “trilled” mating calls that consist of a string of pulses. Typical calls range in duration from 20-40 pulses per call delivered several times a minute. Males face a trade-off between call duration and call rate but females prefer calls that are both longer and more frequent, which is challenging for males. Lead author is Jessica Ward, a postdoctoral researcher in Bee’s lab and adjunct faculty in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology.

Genomics project expands knowledge of primate evolution

Nature | 7.3.13

Michael Wilson (EEB/Anthropology) was part of an international team of researchers that published genomes of six great ape species – including gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans and humans – from across Africa and Southeast Asia. The study confirms the major evolutionary relationships found in previous studies and provides additional detail for population histories within species, such as response to climate change. One finding was that humans have unusually low genetic diversity compared to other ape species, which is consistent with the relatively recent assertion that we originated in Africa 150,000 to 200,000 years ago. Low genetic diversity indicates a population bottleneck at some point in the distant past. This comprehensive catalog of ape genetic diversity provides a framework for understanding evolution and a resource for managing wild and captive populations of apes. Researchers at the University of Barcelona led the team.

Active learning classrooms boost performance

Journal of College Science Teaching | July/August 2013

Students in active learning classrooms do better than their peers in large, lecture-based classes, according to a study led by Sehoya Cotner (Biology Program). Cotner and colleagues made comparisons using the same syllabus, coarse goals, exams and instructor. Using ACT scores as predictive, they found that students in the active learning classes outperformed expectations while those in traditional classes did not. Based on the findings, they recommend active-learning classrooms for teaching science. But since many schools may not have resources to make the conversion, they offer strategies for applying what they have learned in traditional classrooms.

Research funding opportunities + awards

  • The deadline to apply for a fall 2013 Grant-in-Aid awards from the Office of the Vice President for Research is September 19. More information
  • The Global Programs and Strategy Alliance (GPS) will award grants to faculty and graduate and professional degree students to support targeted research and other scholarly initiatives related to the region of South Asia and the issue of global food security. More information
  • Kenneth Beckman (Genomics Center) and Tim Griffin (BMBB) are leading projects that received 2013 Research Infrastructure Investment awards from the Office of the Vice President for Research. The awards are designed to facilitate interdisciplinary partnerships and strengthen the University’s research infrastructure. Beckman’s group will use the funds to acquire single-cell genomics instrumentation for the advancement of single-cell biology at the U of M. Griffin’s group will use the award to acquire a Q-Exactive mass spectrometry system to be located in the Center for Mass Spectrometry and Proteomics.

CBS research in the news

  • Prof learns capital is key to develop technology (Star Tribune)

  • The short, happy life of a Serengeti lion (National Geographic)

  • Tackling Fracking: Bacteria may someday clean leftover frack water (UMNews / U of M homepage)

  • Looking for ways to beat the weeds (New York Times)

  • Antiviral enzyme contributes to several forms of cancer (UMNews / U of M homepage)

  • U research ties enzyme to cancer-causing DNA mutations (Minnesota Public Radio)


Marlene Zuk (EEB) penned an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, "Animals to Hollywood: Get it right," calling for a Bechdel-style test for animal portrayal in film.


Ruth Shaw (EEB) has been named the new editor-in-chief of Evolution. Shaw’s research interests include evolutionary quantitative genetics and plant population biology.


Stephen Polasky (EEB | CFANS) has been named a Regents Professor by the Board of Regents. The designation is the highest level of recognition given to faculty by the University. Polasky’s research combines natural and social science, and specifically ecology and economics to better understand the dynamics of social-ecological systems.

Retired biochemistry professor Vic Bloomfield’s photographs of the art scene in Minnesota in the early 1970s are the subject of an exhibition at the Minnesota Museum of American Art opening August 15.


Mark Bee (EEB) participated in a special World Listening Day event in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden at the Walker Art Center July 18. He offered those in attendance the opportunity to test the recognition factor of popular songs that have been reinterpreted through the hearing apparatus of a fish, a cricket, or a frog. Check out photos from the event.

Abby Conover has joined CBS as coordinator of undergraduate initiatives. She manages Nature of Life, the Guilds, and Common Time, and work on programming efforts for our incoming transfer students. Abby previously worked in CLA as an academic adviser and as an advisor and program administrator at Stanford University’s Haas Center for Public Service.

Michael Waltonen has joined CBS-IT as the assistant director of IT. Michael has been at the University for nearly 14 years and has an M.S. in technology management. He supervises the daily operations of CBS-IT and assists in efforts to expand service offerings in teaching and research support.

The 2013-14 Faculty Senate and CBS Election results are in …

  • University Senate - New Senators: David Biesboer and Deena Wassenberg; Continuing Senators: David Kirkpatrick and Ruth Shaw

  • CBS P&A Senate Elections (Term 2012-15) - Senator: Etty DeVeaux; Alternate Senator: Jeff Schaub       

  • CBS Academic Professional and Administrative Staff Representatives - Consultative Committee: Jeff Schaub; Educational Policy Committee: Stefanie Wiesneski

  • CBS Civil Service /Bargaining Unit Clerical Representative - Consultative Committee: Julia Knoll CBS Civil Service/Bargaining Unit Scientific/Technical Representative - Consultative Committee: Eileen Furlong


August 21

Creativity in learning and education

Brad Hokanson (College of Design) will use lessons learned from teaching and research in the field of creativity to help educators become more creative and develop strategies to help their students also become more creative.

10 McNeal Hall | St. Paul | 9 a.m.-noon | Register

September 9

Evidence-based teaching in introductory biology

Scott Freeman (University of Washington) discusses how evidence-based course designs can increase student achievement and reduce the achievement gap.

402 Walter | East Bank | 1-2 p.m. 

September 11

Ale + Apps

Graduate students are invited to an afternoon of trivia, prizes, food, and drinks by Dean Bob Elde (CBS) and Associate Vice President for Research Tucker LeBien (AHC). Registration opens soon!

Blarney Irish Pub | East Bank (Dinkytown) | 5-6:30 p.m.

September 24

Bio-diversity brown bag with Marlene Zuk

Professor Marlene Zuk will lead off a series on the intersection of gender, race and LGBTQ identities with the sciences with a discussion about her research on gender in the sciences. Professor Sehoya Cotner (October 11) and post-doctoral researcher Jeremy Yoder (November 1) will lead discussions  on the East Bank campus.

IonE's Commons (R-350 VoTech) | St. Paul campus |  noon-1 p.m. | More information



2014 Capital Request to legislature

In October, the Board of Regents will vote on projects for which they will request state funding during the 2014 legislative session. Learn more about the six projects that will be considered. More information

Web-style guide and Drupal how-to now available  

CBS Communications has made available a web-style and Drupal how-to guide. Learn more about best practices for your department or lab website, how to add images, links and uploads to your page, and more!

Nominate an outstanding postdoctoral Scholar  

The Postdoctoral Association is seeking nominations for two $500 awards for the 2013 Outstanding Postdoctoral Scholar. Details and nomination instructions