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CBS News - October 2009

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From the dean

CBS faculty win federal stimulus awards

I am proud to report that to date, faculty in the College of Biological Sciences have received 19 federal stimulus awards from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy totaling more than $8 million.

The list is long, but I want to recognize all of our recipients. Competition for these awards was intense.

  • Reuben Harris (BMBB) $86,976 for “APOBEC proteins and uracil in retrovirus restriction.”
  • Mark Bee (EEB) $600,000 for “Receiver psychology of acoustic communication.”
  • Jim Cotner (EEB) $443,474 for “Burial of organic carbon in temperate, shallow lakes.”
  • R. Ford Denison (EEB) $298,918 for “Evolution of persistence in the model bacterium Sinorhi” and $262,215 for “Suppression of rhizobium reproduction by legumes: Implications for mutualism.”
  • David Bernlohr (BMBB) $185,431 for “Mitrochondrial dysfunction and adipose insulin resistance.”
  • George Weiblen (PBIO) $625,153 for “Beta diversity of plant-insect food webs along an altitudinal gradient in the tropics.”
  • Jacques Finlay (EEB) $824,761 for “Sources and sinks of stoichiometrically imbalanced nitrate in the Laurentian Great Lakes.”
  • David Kirkpatrick (GCD) $276,413 for “Factors controlling minisatellite stability in yeast.”
  • Deanna Koepp (GCD) $121,968 for “The role of F-box protein Dia2 in cell cycle control.”
  • Hideki Aihara (BMBB) $404,858 for “Crystallographic studies of retroviral integrases.”
  • Thomas Hays (GCD) $521,185 for “Structure and function of cytoplasmic dynein.”
  • Pete Lefebvre (PBIO) $58,721 for “Regulation of flagellar assembly in Chlamydomonas.”
  • William Gray (PBIO) $232,417 for “Molecular mechanisms of auxin response in Arabidopsis.”
  • Kylie Walters (BMBB) $48,380 for “Defining how the proteasome recognizes its ubiquitylated substrates.”
  • Carrie Wilmot (BMBB) $687,824 for “Biosynthesis of amino acid derived quinone co-factors.”
  • Michael O’Connor (GCD) $752,450 for “Cell biology hires in trafficking and optical imaging at the University of Minnesota.”
  • Larry Wackett (BMBB/BTI) $2,200,000 for “Bacteria for producing direct solar hydrocarbon biofuels.”

In addition to these individual awards, CBS received $400,000 for the Minnesota Mississippi Metagenome Project (M3P), a new research project at Itasca to create a DNA database from all microorganisms in the headwaters of the Mississippi. The University made this award with funds directed from the federal government to the state. Mike Sadowsky is leading this effort.

All of these funds are part of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act approved by Congress in February 2009. For details about funding opportunities, go to

Bob Elde, Dean

College of Biological Sciences

College news

Itasca centennial wraps up with on-campus event November 9

The College of Biological Sciences will bring a little bit of Itasca to the St. Paul campus on Monday, November 9 wrapping up a year-long celebration of the field station’s centennial. The program will feature a presentation about the Minnesota Mississippi Metagenome Project (M3P), a new research effort to characterize the microbial diversity at the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Other highlights will include details about the University’s $8 million plan to renovate the Itasca campus; a screening of a new video about the field station; a display of rare, 150-year-old books by Itasca explorer Henry Schoolcraft; a drawing for a weekend at a beautifully restored faculty cabin at Itasca as well as birthday cake and other refreshments.

Don Shelby donates historic Schoolcraft books to mark Itasca centennial

WCCO News Anchor Don Shelby donated a set of rare books by Itasca explorer Henry Schoolcraft to the college in honor of Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories’ centennial. The six-volume set, published between 1851–57, represents the first comprehensive effort to document the history, geographic distribution and cultures of the Native American tribes of North America. Schoolcraft, an American geographer and ethnographer, is best known for his discovery of the headwaters to the Mississippi River in 1832 with the help of an Ojibwe guide named Ozawindib.

Transatlantic Science Week strengthens research ties
between the U and Norway

The University of Minnesota and several Norwegian universities laid the groundwork for new and expanded collaborative research on renewable energy, climate change, neuroscience, mathematics and peace studies during Transatlantic Science Week, held last month in McNamara Alumni Center. The annual forums, which are coordinated by the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Washington, D.C., involve scientists, university administrators and government officials from Minnesota, Norway and Canada. This was the eighth forum and the first to be held in Minnesota. Former Vice President Walter Mondale was opening speaker. Other speakers included U of M President Bob Bruininks (by video), Vice President for Research Tim Mulcahy, CBS Dean Robert Elde, and Jon Foley, director of the U’s Institute on the Environment. A highlight was a discussion on global environmental issues with three of the world’s leading ecologists: David Tilman, University of Minnesota Regents Professor; David Schindler, University of Alberta; and Nils Chr. Stenseth, University of Oslo. Judson Sheridan, director of international programs for the college and joint holder of the Norwegian Centennial Interdisciplinary Chair, had a major role in planning for the event.

Community fund drive participation challenge

By making a contribution through the University of Minnesota community fund drive you can provide meals and shelter, support the environment, the arts or other causes. You can make a one-time gift or arrange for a regular payroll deduction. Even $3 per pay period can make a difference. The department with the highest participation in this year’s fund drive will win a free lunch.

New online

  • A video about the unique role of Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories at the U
  • A profile of CBS alum and acclaimed paleobotanist David Dilcher
  • A CBS People Q&A with the Imaging Center’s Tracy Anderson
  • Photos from last month’s homecoming parade and stadium open house
  • A conversation with retired ecology professor Eville Gorham


Faculty win $2.2 million federal stimulus grant to develop novel biofuel

A team of U of M researchers and BioCee, a University start-up company, have been awarded $2.2 million from the Department of Energy for a research proposal using bacteria to produce biofuel. The grant is one of 37 totaling $151 million funded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), which was created to stimulate American leadership in renewable energy technology. In essence, the team proposes to develop a bioreactor using bacteria embedded in a thin latex coating to produce hydrocarbon fuel. Larry Wackett (BMBB) is principal investigator. Michael Flickinger (a former CBS professor) and the late L.E. (Skip) Scriven (Institute of Technology) devised the latex coating, which is now licensed to BioCee. Collaborators include Jeffrey Gralnick (BTI/Microbiology); Lanny Schmidt and Aditya Bahn (Chemical Engineering and Materials Science) plus researchers from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Wolves lose their predatory edge in mid-life

[Ecology Letters | 9.23.09]

Although most wolves in Yellowstone National Park live to be nearly six years old, their ability to kill prey peaks when they are two to three, according to a study led by Dan MacNulty (EEB), a postdoctoral researcher for Professor Craig Packer. The finding challenges a long-held belief that wolves are successful predators for their entire adult lives. The study suggests that the higher the proportion of wolves over age three, the lower the rate at which they kill elk. For every 10 percent rise in the proportion of wolves older than three, the kill rate declined 10–15 percent. The finding is timely because the park’s elk population is shrinking and wolves are being blamed. Wolves were hunted out of the area in the 1930s and re-introduced in 1995. But the study shows there isn’t a strong correlation between the number of wolves in the park and the number of elk killed.

Using native prairie grasses for biofuel best for wildlife

[BioScience | 10.09]

A recent study by Joseph Fargione of The Nature Conservancy and nine co-authors, including Regents Professor David Tilman and Professor Clarence Lehman (both EEB), identifies diverse native prairie as a promising source for bioenergy feedstocks with an upside for wildlife. Harvesting diverse prairie plants could avoid adverse environmental effects associated with expanding cultivation of corn for ethanol, such as loss of wildlife habitat and high fertilizer runoff. It could also minimize the threat of invasive species posed by cultivation of exotic biofuel crops.

Research grants

Professor Clarence Lehman (EEB) received $500,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a research project titled “Harvesting biofuel from working prairies for environment and commerce”.

The Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE) is now accepting requests for proposals for a variety of grants. IREE plans to make $2.5 million available for four to seven large grants, $750,000 available for 10–15 seed grants, and $750,000 available for five to six early career grants.

The Global Spotlight Advisory Committee in the Office of International Programs has issued a request for proposals for three to five large grants for faculty in the range of $80,000–$250,000; small grants for faculty up to $30,000; two doctoral fellowships and more than a dozen grants for pre-dissertation doctoral students. The grants are meant to promote the establishment of major international research and creative initiatives with global visibility. Letters of Intent are due November 20.


New institute to boost university funding for agricultural research

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack recently outlined plans for increasing federal spending on agricultural research through a new institute approved by Congress last year. Public colleges are expected to receive the bulk of the new funding. The new National Institute of Food and Agriculture will work to elevate farm research, directing more funding to qualified researchers in line with other federal agencies such as the NIH and NSF. Vilsack underscored the need to improve the quality of agricultural research in response to climate change and rising demand for food. “USDA science needs to change to respond to these pressures, to ensure the sustainability of the American food, fuel and fiber system, and to address some of America’s—and the world’s—most intractable problems.”


Professor Sue Wick (PBIO/Biology Program) received an award for most effective poster presentation at the Lilly Conference on College and University Teaching and Learning. The poster “Engaging Students for Enhanced Learning in Introductory Biology” described the course structure, learning objectives and physical space used for concept lab in the Foundations of Biology course sequence.

Professor Alan Hooper (BMBB) presented a keynote address “Oxidation of Hydroxylamine and Detoxification of N- or O-species in Nitrosomonas” at the International Conference on Nitrification at the University of Louisville this summer.

Thuy Nguyen-Tran received a 2009 Scholarly Excellence in Equity and Diversity (SEED) President’s Award for Scholar-Activism. The award honors a handful of outstanding diverse undergraduates each year.

Stefanie Wiesneski and Lisa Novack recently joined CBS Student Services as academic advisors. Stephanie served as a residence director and co-director of the sophomore year experience at the College of Saint Benedict. Lisa comes to the college from a position with Student Unions & Activities. CBS also has a new coordinator for student engagement and retention. Meaghan Stein served as the assistant director of career services at Clark University in Massachusetts. She will work with the Deans’ Scholars program and create and implement student learning opportunities.


Itasca centennial event on St. Paul campus

Celebrate Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories’ 100th birthday on the St. Paul campus with a program that includes a presentation about the Minnesota Mississippi Metagenome Project, a screening of a new video about the field station, a drawing for a weekend at Itasca, and birthday cake and other refreshments. Please RSVP to Katie Hoffman at or (612) 625-2247.

DETAILS: 105 Cargill | St. Paul campus | November 9 | 3:30 p.m.

E3 2009

How do we provide sustainable fuel, food, fiber and fresh water to a global population of nine billion people in our lifetime? That’s one of more than 15 questions to be explored during E3 2009. Larry Kazmerski, a pioneer in the field of solar photovoltaics, will offer the keynote presentation for this year’s conference.

DETAILS: Saint Paul RiverCentre | downtown St. Paul | November 17


Biology lab report tool now available

Helping students navigate lab reports just got a little easier. Lab Report (Biology) helps students organize their time and connect with research and writing resources. After entering an assignment due date, students get a breakdown of 10 steps with examples and guidance for each. In addition, instructors can customize Lab Report with their own course dates. The new tool was developed by Brent Couch and Deena Wassenberg (Biology Program) in collaboration with Amy Hribar and Kate Peterson (U of M Libraries).

U insurance coverage abroad

Not sure if you are covered by University insurance while abroad? The University has broad coverage—property, general liability, workers’ compensation—that applies worldwide. However, countries have differing insurance laws and regulations. University Risk Management has access to current information and can help assess coverage especially as it relates to real estate, property valued at more than $100,000, owned or leased vehicles and any permanent employees. Contact Steve Pardoe to discuss specific coverage concerns.

Stay informed about H1N1

Visit the University’s information clearinghouse for regular updates and resources, including an FAQ and an overview of common symptoms relating to the H1N1 virus.