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CBS News - November 13, 2002


CBS shares $2.65 million NSF grant for fungi evolution

The National Science Foundation has awarded $2.65 million to the University of Minnesota – along with Duke, Oregon State, and Clark universities – to study genetic relationships among fungi. The four-year grant is part of NSF's Assembling the Tree of Life program. David McLaughlin, professor of plant biology and curator of fungi, Bell Museum of Natural History, is principal investigator for the University's $510,000 share of the grant. “In assembling the family tree of fungi, our team will look at multiple genes and structural characteristics across a broad spectrum of fungi and put them in a database,” McLaughlin says. "Here at the University of Minnesota, we're studying subcellular characters.  Many ultrastructural characters, such as those associated with nuclear division, have proven to be useful phylogenetic indicators. Our role will be to compile the existing data into a web accessible database as well as to gather new information, especially where there are major gaps in the data, he added." The study could point researchers to species of fungi that, by virtue of their relatedness to medically or commercially important species, may produce new drugs or other useful products.McLaughlin says the evolutionary line leading to fungi split from lines leading to plants and animals more than 1.5 billion years ago. In 1995, researchers determined that fungi are more closely related to animals than to plants, McLaughlin says. Only 5-10 percent of an estimated 1.5 million fungi species are known.

Inaugural College of Biological Sciences Forum

The first CBS Forum – “A Transition from Academic to Applied Science: The Importance of a Minnesota Education,” with Professor Gary Nelsestuen, Samuel Kirkwood Chair in Biochemistry – is at 3 p.m. on Friday, November, 22 in 3-120 MCB. The purpose of the forum is to broaden understanding of advances in all areas of biology because of growing connections among those areas. The series features leading researchers from the college’s four departments. The idea for a CBS forum grew out of a lecture and reception hosted by the college last February to honor David Tilman when he was named McKnight Presidential Professor of Ecology. For more information, contact Ann Johnson, 626-2127.

New faculty boost research enterprise

Hiring new faculty with the combined resources of the MCB Initiative and reallocation has had a transforming impact on the research enterprise, as evidenced by a dramatic surge in new grants awarded to faculty in the core departments. In the Department of Plant Biology, 10 new faculty hired in the past two years have obtained 12 grants (from NSF, USDA, DOE, NIH, Packard Foundation). In the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics (BMBB), eight faculty hired in the past three years have been awarded 11 multi-year national grants (AHA, NIH, NSF). And in the Department of Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development nine new faculty have brought in 11 grants from national and local sources.

Regents approve U’s Legislative Request

Regents have approved the $96 million legislative request proposed by President Robert Bruininks for the 2003-04 biennium, which is the smallest in a decade. The University will fund half of its needs, through a 4.5 percent annual tuition increase and a budget cut and reallocations totaling 2.5 percent of the university's $1.8 billion budget. The request will support four priorities: academic investments; competitive faculty and staff compensation (a 2.5 percent increase plus a $15 million competitive market and merit pool); improvements in the student experience; and maintenance of the academic infrastructure (which includes libraries, technology, research equipment, and facilities). Bruininks expressed optimism about working with the newly elected governor and legislators. "Governor-elect Pawlenty is a University graduate and has a deep understanding of the University's mission and value to the state of Minnesota. I look forward to working with him," he said.

Cedar Creek featured on Science Coalition

Cedar Creek is an “ecologist's dream mix of ecosystems,” according to The website highlighted research at the University of Minnesota, leading with a piece called 60 Years at Cedar Creek. The article also highlights research done by David Tilman and Sarah Hobbie.

Mentor program off to great start

More than 90 alumni and students attended the Mentor Program Kick-off event on November 7 at the St. Paul Student Center. This was the first time that many of the mentors had the chance to meet their mentees. The pairs got acquainted with each other and learned about the Mentor Connection program from Judy Anderson, UMAA. Dean Elde thanked the alumni for sharing their time and experiences, and, he acknowledged the students for seizing an opportunity to learn outside the classroom.

Office for Post Doctoral Affairs

Due to the growing number of post-docs at the University, CBS and other colleges have assisted the Graduate School in establishing the Office of Post Doctoral Affairs. The purpose of the office will be to ensure fair employment conditions, enhance the quality of training post-docs, provide guidance to new post-docs, support the vitality of the Postdoc Association, and serve as a central point for information. Esam El-Fakahany, associate dean of the Graduate School, will serve as director. To become involved in the Postdoc Association, contact El-Fakahany,

Know any outstanding undergrads?

USA Today is looking for nominations for its All-USA College Academic Team. They are seeking outstanding undergraduates at the nation's four-year colleges. Each year 20 students are named to the USA Today First Team. Students selected will be profiled in USA Today in February. For more information on nomination visit:

Henrietta Miller, retired staff member of BMBB, poses next to her newly installed plaque in the Henrietta Miller Garden, located in front of Gortner Laboratories. The garden was dedicated to Henrietta on her retirement in 1983 after more than 40 years of dedicated service to the department. Henrietta and her husband, Phil, have remained very involved with the CBS community

Cynthia Weinig, new member of the Department of Plant Biology faculty, has received a Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation’s Plant Genomics Research Project (PGRP). Weinig uses Arabidopsis to study evolution of plant fitness to the environment. She and her collaborator, Julin Maloof at UC Davis, are interested in understanding how selection acts on crowding responses in agricultural settings. More specifically, plants can modify their phenotype (for instance, shape or form) in response to crowding and the onset of competition for sunlight. There is now strong evidence that flexible developmental responses to crowding, such as stem elongation, confer a fitness advantage to individual plants in natural settings.

Sarah Hobbie and Kendra Mclauchlan, EEB, received $70,00 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to study the importance of soil texture and vegetation type in influencing the dynamics of primary production, soil organic matter, and soil fertility on former agricultural lands.

The Lake Itasca Biological Station received $50,000 from the estate of Thomas Morley, plant biology. Morley, who came to the University in 1949, was an expert on Minnesota’s native flora. He is remembered for his daily walks to work across the expanse of experimental fields, even in the coldest winters, and climbing the eight flights of stairs to his office, which he did until the day before his death last February. For more information on planned giving, contact Janene Connelly,

Wallace Dayton, a longtime supporter of the Bell Museum, passed away on October 27, at the age of 85. Dayton gave up a career in the department store business in 1967 to devote his time and money to conservation. On a national level, he served at the highest levels of organizations such as the National Audubon Society, the Nature Conservancy, the Wilderness Society, the World Wildlife Fund, and the Sierra Club. On a local level, he established a number of fellowships for field biology at the University and was very involved with the Bell Museum

Events & Seminars

November 14
"Mn2+Homeostasis, Central Carbon Metabolism and Salmonella Pathogenesis."
Mike McGuire, Case Western Reserve University.
12 noon 2-101 BSBE
Contact: Rob Brooker, 624-3053

November 14
"Molecular Systematics Reveal the Geographic Origin of Songbirds."
F. Keith Barker, the Bell Museum of Natural History.
12 noon 150 Ecology
Contact: Scott Lanyon, 624-7217

November 21
"Lipomics and Genomics in Zebrafish: Visualizing Lipid Metabolism in Vivo Lipids." Steven A. Farber, Thomas Jefferson University.
12 noon 2-101 BSBE
Contact: Steve Ekker, 626-4509

November 22
Inaugural CBS Forum. “A Transition From Academic to Applied Science: The Importance of a Minnesota Education.”
Gary Nelsestuen, BMBB, Samuel Kirkwood Chair in Biochemistry.
3 p.m. 3-120 MCB
Contact: Ann Johnson, 626-2127

November 22
"MixAlco Process: Biomass to Feuls and Chemicals"
Mark Holtzapple, Texas A&M University
12 noon 239 Gortner
Contact: Larry Wackett, 625-3785

February 12
NSF Workshop
7:30 a.m. rooms 135 B and D Earle Brown Center

March 6
Presentation of Outstanding Achievement Award to Douglas DeMaster,
Ph.D. '78 EEB, Director of Alaska Fisheries Science Center.
Lecture, "Impossible Problems, Improbable Solutions:The Life of a Wildlife Biologist in a Federal Regulatory Agency," to follow.
4 p.m., Earle Brown Center
Contact: Lija Greenseid,