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CBS News - December 2012

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CBS Student Services moves to East Bank

CBS Student Services is packing up and moving to the Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB) Building on the East Bank of the Minneapolis campus this month. Wednesday, December 19, is their last day on the St. Paul campus. All appointments and drop-ins will be in 229 Snyder Hall that day. On Thursday, December 20, Student Services will be open in MCB 3-104, former home of the Biology Program. From that day on, all appointments and drop-ins will be in their new location. Student Services' phone number, 624-9717, will remain the same.

Dean Elde to Chair ESUP Executive Oversight Committee

CBS Dean Robert Elde has agreed to chair the Enterprise Systems Upgrade Program (ESUP) Executive Oversight Committee when current chair Tim Mulcahy, vice president for research, retires this month. The committee includes leaders of the functional areas directly affected by ESUP: Vice President Kathy Brown (Human Resources), Vice Provost Bob McMaster (Students), Vice President Richard Pfutzenreuter (Finance) and Vice President Scott Studham (Information Technology). “This is a valuable opportunity to improve the University’s operational excellence by coordinating and simplifying administrative processes in key areas,” Elde says.

CBS launches Minnesota reserve network; strategic planning for Itasca, Cedar Creek

CBS has affiliated with the Belwin Conservancy which manages a 1,364-acre nature reserve in the St. Croix Valley. The move is a first step toward developing a statewide network of reserves that complement University field stations and offer new opportunities for research, education and outreach. The affiliation was arranged by John Rotenberry, special assistant to Dean Elde, who was recruited earlier this year from the University of California-Riverside, where he was campus director of the University of California Reserve System and a professor of ecology.

The Belwin Conservancy nature reserve, which spans oak savanna and woodlands, tall grass prairie, wetlands and fens, is home to numerous rare and threatened plants and animals. Part of the property abuts a spring-fed lake that appears to be one of Minnesota’s top-of-the-watershed lakes. The conservancy’s restoration of native prairie and woodlands has served as a model for ecological restoration in the St. Croix Valley.

Rotenberry also will lead a strategic planning process to develop a unified vision for Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories and Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve. Toward that end, he plans to convene a faculty committee in January.

Cluster hiring interviews begin

The Theoretical Biology cluster kicked off interviews for the Cluster Hiring initiative with its first two candidates the week of December 10. 
Interviews with candidates from all clusters will continue over the next few months. 
The Dean’s Office is sending weekly announcements of candidate presentations. Interviews are also posted on the cluster hiring calendar.

Annual legislative briefing

The University will hold its annual legislative briefing on Wednesday, January 23 in McNamara Alumni Center. Check-in and a light buffet dinner begin at 5 p.m.; the program is at 6 p.m. Registration is required.

The University is asking the 2013 Minnesota Legislature for:

  • $14.2 million to freeze undergraduate tuition for the 2014-15 biennium.
  • $1.5 million in recurring funds to forgive loans of health sciences students who agree to practice in underserved areas of Minnesota.
  • $18 million in recurring funds to create the Minnesota Discovery, Research and InnoVation Economy (MnDrive) program, which consists of four initiatives to advance research that will benefit both the state’s economy and environment. These include:
    • Biotechnology that advances energy, mining and agriculture industries by resolving environmental issues.
    • Robotics, sensors and advanced manufacturing.
    • Strategies to secure the global food supply.
    • Discoveries to advance treatment of brain conditions.

CBS Dean Bob Elde and BTI Director Mike Sadowsky helped developed the initiative to advance industry and conserve the environment.

CBS annual donor report online now

The 2012 issue of Renew, the CBS annual report for donors, was mailed earlier this month. This issue features a profile of Nobel Laureate Paul Boyer and his grandson Josh Boyer, who is a new University of Minnesota graduate student.

Nominate outstanding TAs for annual awards

All teaching assistants in CBS courses (undergraduate and graduate) who have demonstrated excellence in teaching or other instructional activities that enhance the educational experience at the U of M are eligible for the annual CBS Outstanding Performance Award for Teaching Assistants. Nominations are now being accepted for the current (2012) award period, for CBS courses taught Spring through Fall 2012. TAs can be nominated by students taking a CBS course, or graduate students, faculty, and staff associated with a CBS course. Although the deadline is January 25, 2013, timely submissions are encouraged.

Please submit nominations to the TA Award Committee coordinator, Bruce Fall,, or by campus mail to 3-154 MCB. Please include the name of the TA, course, and a brief justification for the nomination. For more information, see the nomination form.


Lion Research Center launches Zooniverse ‘citizen science’ effort

Snapshot Serengeti a public research effort created by EEB professor Craig Packer and graduate students Ali Swanson and Margaret Kosmala, was launched December 11 on Zooniverse, the world’s largest and most successful citizen science project. The goal is to enlist volunteers to help identify and categorize millions of photos taken by heat-and-motion-detecting cameras placed over a 1,000-square-mile grid in Serengeti National Park.

The three ecologists hope to learn how large mammals co-exist in their habitat and how predators and herbivores interact across a large area. The camera trap survey began as fieldwork for Swanson’s Ph.D. research on carnivore coexistence. “Understanding how these species coexist has broad implications for conservation, especially for large carnivores,” she says. Snapshot Serengeti joins several research projects on the Zooniverse portal. Others range across fields as diverse as space exploration, climate change, archaeology, marine biology and cancer research.

Burckhard Seelig reports first artificial enzyme created with directed evolution

Nature Chemical Biology | 12.9.12

Burckhard Seelig (BMBB) and colleagues have reported the structure of an artificial enzyme they created with directed evolution. Unlike enzymes found in nature, its structure is wobbly rather than stable and the long chain of amino acids folds much differently. Seelig speculates that his fledgling enzyme resembles primordial ancestors of existing enzymes, which have been refined by billions of years of evolution. But tests show it functions in much the same way. While a handful of labs worldwide are using rational design to construct the proteins on computers, Seelig is using directed evolution. For decades, industry has tweaked naturally occurring enzymes to make more effective products, from detergent to biofuels. The ability to create enzymes from scratch using a natural process opens the door to a vast array of new products that provide business opportunities and improve quality of life without harmful environmental effects.


Marlene Zuk (EEB) has a new book, Paleofantasy:

What Evolution Really Tells Us about Sex, Diet, and How We Live, coming out from W. W. Norton on March 13, 2013. The book has already earned a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly.

Robin Wright (GCD) has been named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Wright, associate dean and professor of genetics, cell biology and development, was recognized for significant contributions in the area of academic administration and education, specifically for contributing to national education discussions, and for research in yeast molecular biology. 

Gary Nelsestuen (BMBB) has developed a treatment for hemophilia (Modified Blood Clotting Factor VII) that is being evaluated by Bayer Healthcare in a phase II/III clinical trial. 

Reuben Harris (BMBB) has been awarded $600,000 from the V Cancer Foundation for a project titled “Enzyme Catalyzed Mutation in Breast Cancer.”

Anika Bratt (EEB) has been awarded a STAR (Science to Achieve Results) fellowship and $126,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to support her graduate work in aquatic ecology. Her proposal was titled “Using Stable Isotopes to Identify Sources of Organic and Inorganic Phosphorous and Nitrogen in the Twin Cities Watershed.”

Former EEB professor and head Claudia Neuhauser, now vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Minnesota, Rochester, has been named a fellow of the American Mathematical Society for the program's initial year.


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