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CBS News - November 2012

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Cluster hiring attracts 865 candidates

As of Monday, November 12, CBS’ cluster hiring effort has attracted 865 applications. The quality as well as quantity of candidates is excellent, according to cluster leaders. Theoretical Biology and Functional Proteomics will begin interviews in late November and early December, respectively; candidates for the other searches will begin arriving on campus in January. All of the clusters will continue accepting applications at least through the end of 2012.

Number of applications by cluster

  • Genome Variation, 248
  • Cellular Biophysics, 190
  • Fungal Evolution, 82
  • Microbial Systems and Synthetic Biology, 122
  • Functional Proteomics, 77
  • Theoretical Biology, 146

This summer CBS launched the three-year cluster hiring effort to recruit 16 new faculty to form collaborative research teams including new and current faculty. Cluster themes were selected to build upon research strengths, position faculty to compete more effectively for funding, and enhance undergraduate and graduate education.

Plant biologists release new core concepts for learning

Sue Wick (PBIO) was part of a National Science Foundation-sponsored group that worked with the American Society of Plant Biologists and Botanical Society of America to create a set of core concepts and learning objectives to help undergraduate and college-bound students learn, apply and expand the body of plant biology knowledge. The concepts are organized into the four life science domains of the new framework for K-12 science education developed by the National Academy of Sciences' Board on Science Education: (1) From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes, (2) Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics, (3) Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits, and (4) Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity. View the core concepts

Cedar Creek hosts national program for K-12 ecology education

Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve hosted the Ecological Society of America’s SEEDS program (Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity and Sustainability) 2012 Fall Field Trip in late September. The 24 students came from across the nation with varied cultural and educational backgrounds to explore careers in biology. The day-long event included field work, data analysis and bird monitoring, a research symposium led by CBS graduate students, a trip to the Wildlife Science Center in Columbus, MN and a fireside talk on Dakota and Ojibwa culture. These annual field experiences are held at different Long-Term Ecology Research sites to encourage underrepresented students to become ecologists and leaders.

Get to know CBS social media

Are you a fan of Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories? There’s a Facebook page for that! The College of Biological Sciences’ social media offerings include college-wide Facebook and Twitter pages, a LinkedIn group as well as Facebook pages for our field stations and Student Services. You’ll find college and research highlights, events and, most important, a sense of community online. Here's a guide to the college's social media offerings.

Also check out the recent web feature: Why should scientists bother with social media? A handful of CBS researchers give reasons and their recommendations for who to follow online.


Voytas plays key role in international effort to improve rice yield

Dan Voytas (GCD) will contribute his genomic engineering expertise to a new international effort to improve rice yield in order to feed the world’s growing population in underdeveloped nations. Voytas and colleagues will use TALENS, a technique he developed to create “C4” rice that converts sunlight into grain more efficiently, resulting in up to 50 percent higher production using less water and nutrients. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, United Kingdom government, and International Rice Research Institute have contributed $14 million to fund the project over the next three years. Plants are classified as C3 or C4 based on how they convert energy from light into sugar (photosynthesis). Rice has a C3 photosynthetic pathway, which is less efficient.

Microbes in human and chimpanzee gut predate a common ancestor

Nature Communications | 11.13.12

Mike Wilson (EEB, Anthropology) is co-author of an article titled “Chimpanzees and Humans Harbor Compositionally Similar Gut Enterotypes." The research shows that chimpanzees and humans have similar microbial communities (enterotypes). This finding suggests that these microbial communities have been co-evolving with humans and chimpanzees at least since the time their common ancestor lived, five to seven millions years ago, rather than being the product of recent dietary changes resulting from agriculture and processed foods. Anne Pusey, a former EEB professor now at Duke University, was also a co-author.

Charles Argue (PBIO) has written a book titled The Pollination Biology of North American Orchids: North of Florida and Mexico that was published by Springer ( and favorably reviewed in the July 2012 edition of CHOICE. Argue also published an article titled “The Pollination Biology of the Cowhorn Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum) in Florida” in the July-September 2012 Native Orchid Conference Journal.

Grayson Wawrzyn, Sarah Bloch and Claudia Schmidt-Dannert (BMBB) published a chapter titled “Discovery and characterization of terpenoid biosynthetic pathways of fungi” in Volume 515 of Methods in Enzymology.


Hai Nguyen-Tran received this year's President's SEED Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement for her work with the student group Circle of Giving, which focuses on addressing health disparities, and involvement in Minnesota's Future Doctors and the Center for Health Equity Undergraduate Research Program. Read a Q&A with Hai about her involvement with equity and diversity and how it has shaped her future goals.

Sarah Dittrich has joined the Department of Plant Biology as the new executive assistant. Sarah will provide administrative support for the departmental office. She will also assist with the department head's calendar. Sarah earned her B.S. in finance with a minor in economics from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. She comes to us from State Farm Insurance where she served as front office manager.

Nicole Letawsky Shultz, assistant dean for student affairs and international programs, received the Outstanding Advising Administrator Award from the National Association of Academic Advisors (NACADA). NACADA is an association of more than 10,000 advising professionals (advisors, counselors, faculty and administrators) devoted to the educational development and retention of students in higher education.

Lisa Novack (CBS Student Services) received the 2012 National Association for Student Personnel Administrators  IV-East Outstanding New Professional Award. This award is given to a professional with no more than three years full-time experience in student affairs who has demonstrated outstanding service to his/her institution as well as innovation or creative efforts within his/her institution.

Friedrich Srienc (BTI) has accepted the position of director of the Biotechnology, Biochemical and Biomass Engineering Program of the National Science Foundation. He will serve in this capacity until fall 2013.

Claudia Schmidt-Dannert (BMBB/BTI) was selected to receive the Outstanding Mentor of Postdoctoral Scholars Award from the Office of the Vice President for Research.

Nakao Shima (GCD) received an Outstanding Academic Adviser award from the Graduate and Professional Student Association in October. Shima was nominated by graduate student Spencer Luebben.


November 28

Single biophysics with a twist

CBS and the School of Physics and Astronomy present Michelle Wang of Cornell University who will discuss recent efforts in using an angular optical trapping instrument to measure the torques involved in gene expression and regulation.

150 Tate Lab | East Bank | 3:35 p.m.

December 6

Fracking: Facts, fiction and fixes

Join Larry Wackett (BTI) as he discusses how hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is impacting the United States, and how his research seeks to use biotechnology to mitigate the potential environmental impacts of fracking.

Continuing Education Conference Center | St. Paul | 7 p.m. | Register