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CBS News - July 2005


Summer news update from the College of Biological Sciences

Work is under way to define and assemble 20 task forces to implement the U’s strategic positioning plan. Many of the task forces will have an impact on CBS, especially those focusing on the COAFES/CNR merger and large-scale, interdisciplinary research efforts, aka “Big Science.” We have submitted names of CBS faculty and staff to serve on these task forces.

Meanwhile, we are having a busy and productive summer at CBS. Our big news is that Claudia Neuhauser has reeled in a $2.8 million NSF IGERT (Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship) grant for graduate students. The NSF receives hundreds of proposals for these highly competitive grants each year, but funds only small percentage. Congratulations to Claudia and her colleagues for this outstanding achievement.

The Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment is close to announcing $8.5 million in research grants. The grants, which reflect renewable research priorities identified by the Energy Alley Workgroup, will help advance University and state goals for developing and producing renewable fuels and materials.

There’s a lot of activity at Itasca this summer. Many of us will soon leave for the Nature of Life Program at Itasca, where we will welcome all 350 + members of the freshman class, who will attend three-day orientation programs at Itasca between July 17-30. Later in the summer, we plan to begin construction on a new cabin for students with funds raised through Habitat for Biologists. There will be an opportunity for volunteers over one weekend in September. If you’d like to join us, contact CBS Alumni Relations,

I hope you are having a great summer, whether you are in a lab or on a lake.

Bob Elde


NSF awards EEB, IT $2.8 million for graduate training program
Claudia Neuhauser (EEB), Christopher Paola (Geology), Miki Hondzo (Civil Engineering), Raymond M. Hozalski (Civil Engineering), and Shinya Sugita (EEB), along with about 20 faculty from EEB, Civil Engineering, Electrical and Computer Science, Computer Science and Engineering, and Applied Economics have been awarded $2,820,000 from the National Science Foundation for a five-year graduate training program entitled "Non-equilibrium Dynamics Across Space and Time: A Common Approach for Engineers, Earth Scientists, and Ecologists." The grant was awarded through the National Science Foundation’s Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program.

Priorities for renewable energy research released
IREE (the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment) hosted a conference on June 23 to announce the release of the IREE-funded report “Minnesota Research Priorities for Renewable Energy and Energy-Efficient Technologies.” The report, written by representatives from energy-technology businesses, university researchers, environmental organizations, government agencies and the financial community, outlines a set of recommendations to help Minnesota achieve a complementary and sustainable balance between energy, the environment and the economy. It was produced by Minnesota Environmental Initiative and Energy Alley. The purpose of the event was to involve stakeholders from the energy policy, finance, academic and research communities in a discussion of the report and next steps to implement the recommendations.
IREE will soon announce new research grants totaling $8.5 million.

Huber Warner, new CBS associate dean for research
Huber Warner, new CBS associate dean for research, arrived on June. 1. You can reach him at 625-1839 or His office is in 123 Snyder Hall.

Ross Johnson is interim head of Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development
Ross Johnson became interim head of the Department of Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development effective June 13, filling in for Brian Van Ness, who will be on sabbatical through June 2006. Johnson, a CBS faculty member for 37 years, was head of the Department of Genetics and Cell Biology from 1989-1998. As interim head for the coming year, his priority will be to identify opportunities to continue strengthening the department as the University’s strategic positioning process moves ahead. One aspect of that will be planning for new faculty to replace retiring faculty.

Nature of Life program
Entering CBS freshmen will get a head start on life at CBS at the Nature of Life program, to be held this year from July 17 – 30 at Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories. Students attend one of four three-day sessions, which include small-group scientific seminars, field biology experiences, orientation to the CBS curriculum, and social activities. This is the program’s third year.

Habitat for Biologists
Nature continuously restores wildlife habitats at Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories, but hasn't been as kind to human habitats, most of which were built more than 50 years ago. Moreover, state funds aren't keeping pace with renovation needs. So CBS has launched "Habitat for Biologists," a campaign to improve Itasca facilities. The first two ‘habitats’ on the list are cabin 4, an historic log cabin built in 1911, and a new cabin for women students to replace a cabin 30, which was demolished last fall. As of July 6, $100,955, (50.5% of the goal) has been raised. For details or to make a contribution, go to the Itasca website.

Book on “Common Plants of Itasca State Park” published
Plants of Itasca State Park are showcased in a new field guide, “Common Plants of Itasca State Park,” co-authored by and David Biesboer, director of Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories, and Anita Cholewa, professor of plant biology. The guide, published by the Bell Museum, is available for purchase at Itasca State Park Visitor Center, on the Bell Museum’s website at, or by calling (612) 624-4112.

Genotyping Core Lab gets new equipment
The Genotyping Core Lab in the Basic Sciences Biomedical Engineering Building has some new equipment, thanks to a partnership with the International Myeloma Foundation arranged by Brian Van Ness. Van Ness and colleagues are using the system to identify genetic factors that may guide treatment choices. Bank On A Cure, a DNA library of myeloma patients, is collecting DNA samples. The MegAllele System, made by Affymetrix and ParAllele, can assay up to 10,000 genes from one DNA sample on a single gene chip.
For details about the facility and services, go to


125 Questions Facing Scientists Today
In a special collection of articles published beginning 1 July 2005, Science Magazine and its online companion sites celebrate the journal's 125th anniversary with a look forward -- at the most compelling puzzles and questions facing scientists today.


Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics

David Bernlohr, professor and head, has been invited to join the NIH study section on Integrative Physiology of Obesity and Diabetes. His term, which began July 1, continues through June 30, 2009. Selection is based on scientific achievements and judgment. Members review grant proposals and make recommendations on awards. Bernlohr is University Distinguished McKnight Professor and head of the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics.

James Fuchs, professor, has been elected to the University Faculty Senate. Fuchs will join continuing Senators David Fan, Sue Gibson, Alan Hooper, and Richard Peifer.

"Biocatalysis and Biodegradation,” a book by Larry Wackett, professor and head of microbial biochemistry, has been translated into Chinese. Chemical Industry Press, Beijing, is the new publisher.

Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior

Jim Cotner and Shinya Sugita received a $333,000, three-year grant from the University of Minnesota Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment on “Carbon sequestration in Minnesota’s wetlands: An important sink with management implications.”

Joe McFadden (EEB) and Marvin Bauer (Forest Resources) received a $278,233, three-year grant from the University of Minnesota Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment on “New Technologies for Full Carbon Accounting in Developed Land.”

Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development

Judy Berman, professor, received a five-year, $1.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for “Genome Integrity in Candida albicans.” Judy and colleagues have also had a paper accepted for publication in Science.

David Kirkpatrick, assistant professor, has been awarded $1.4 million over five years from the NIH for the grant “Factors Controlling Minisatellite Stability in Yeast.” The overall goal of the research is to understand how genomes destabilize during meiosis. The grant focuses on repetitive DNA tracts called minisatellites that are susceptible to dramatic rearrangements during meiosis. Rearranged minisatellites have been linked to cancer and other human diseases. The proposal has two main aims: to identify the complete set of genes that influence the stability of minisatellites, and to investigate the links between minisatellite rearrangement and breast cancer development.

Kirkpatrick and Peter Jauert also published a paper in recent issue of Genetics titled “Length and Sequence Heterozygosity Differentially Affect HRAS1 Minisatellite Stability During Meiosis in Yeast.” (Genetics 170: 601-612) Much of the work proposed in the grant continues from work in this paper.
To read the article, go to

Anna Petryk, assistant professor, has two papers in print:
• “A role for hFTZ-F1 in regulating ecdysteroid titers during post-embryonic
development in Drosophila melanogaster.” Developmental Biology 282 (2005) 84–94 1; 4C: 6, 7,
• “Twisted gastrulation and chordin inhibit differentiation and mineralization
in MC3T3-E1 osteoblast-like cells.” Bone 36 (2005) 617 – 626

Mary Porter, associate professor, has been selected to receive a MERIT (Method to Extend Research in Time) from the National Institutes of Health. The award will fund Porter’s research for five years, and provide an option to renew for another three to five years. Her research focuses on use of Chlamydomonas flagella as a model system for understanding the mechanisms that target microtubule motors to specific sites inside cells and the mechanisms that regulate their activity.  

Terri Ritz is GCD’s new administrative director. Terri comes from the College of Natural Resources, where she worked in the Department of Bio-based Products for 10 years and in the Dean's office for five years. 

Plant Biology

Anne Caton, administrative director, has been elected to serve as a University Senator representing the Executive Vice President and Provost area.


Merima Helic, genetics undergraduate student, has won a Beckman Scholarship. The Beckman Scholars Program, supported by the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, supports outstanding life science students by providing research training and mentoring opportunities. The award amount is $17,600 for two summers and one academic year. Merima works with Judith Berman in the Department of Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development.

Jenna Stangland, neuroscience honors undergraduate student and CBS Student Ambassador, has been selected to attend the Global Leaders Summit at Northwestern University on July 30.

Mohamed Abdihalim, a biochemistry student who graduated this past spring, has won the Jack Kent Cook Graduate Scholarship. He is the first University of Minnesota student to win this award.

CBS Administration

Sarah Nadermann Johnson has joined the Office of Student Services as an advisor, bringing the total number of Sara(h)s in the office to four. Sarah Corrigan and Sara Georgeson are also advisors. Sarah Swanson is office assistant.


Peregrine Falcon: The Return of an Endangered Species
July 23-October 23, 2005
Bell Museum of Natural History
museum info: 612-624-7083
registration: 612-624-9050
This exhibit shows the how Peregrine Falcons were saved from extinction after exposure to DDT nearly destroyed the species.

LSSURP Poster Session
5:00 p.m. Friday, August 12
Terrace Café, St. Paul Student Center
The Life Sciences Summer Undergraduate Research Program concludes with a poster session at the St. Paul Student Center. Everyone is invited.

Natural History at Cedar Creek
Sunday, September 25, 2-4:30 p.m.
Cedar Creek Natural History Area
$12, $8 members
Paid registration deadline: September 16
museum info: 612-624-7083
registration: 612-624-9050
Resident naturalist John Haarstad will lead a walking tour of Cedar Creek Natural History Area.