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CBS News - September 2004

Catching up and looking ahead

I would like to welcome to all new and returning students, faculty, and staff to CBS for the 2004-2005 academic year. If you were elsewhere this summer, there’s a lot to catch up on. I hope you will take some time to read through this newsletter and find out what the college and your colleagues have been up to.

I am very happy to report that we have completed raising funds for the University Enterprise Laboratories (UEL) incubator, which makes it possible to move ahead with renovation plans. The University’s Office of Business Development and Carlson Venture Enterprises are moving in this month. Laboratories will be ready by next summer.

The second year of the Nature of Life Program was a huge success and a lot of fun. Nearly all of our first-year students attended one of four three-day immersion sessions held at Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories. They participated in a variety of educational and social activities to learn about biology at CBS and to get to know each other. It was great to see them arrive as strangers and leave as new members of the CBS community. I would like to thank all of the faculty, staff, and students who made Nature of Life such a wonderful experience for our new students.

There is also some good news from Cedar Creek Natural History Area. David Tilman, Regents Professor and McKnight Presidential Professor of Ecology, is close to completing his effort to raise $1.4 million for improvements, which include a new research and outreach building, restoration of 950 acres of savanna and prairie, and creation of trails for hiking and cross country skiing.

And, I have just learned that the University’s Molecular and Cellular Biology Initiative, which has been a driving force behind CBS’ growth over the past few years, received an excellent review from an external review committee.

But sadly, the news isn’t all good. CBS lost two very good friends this summer, Nobel Laureate Ed Lewis (B.S. ’39) and Thomas Reid (Ph.D. ’43). Lewis, who studied genetics at the U as an undergraduate, was the first to explain how genes control the development of organs in an embryo. Reid, who had a 50-year career with 3M, developed Scotchgard™ stain repellent and several other patented products. They were both very strong supporters of CBS and will be greatly missed.

As we our look ahead toward the coming year, CBS strategic planning tops our list of priorities. The purpose will be to bring goals for the next five years into clear focus. The increasing challenge of gaining public support for higher education means that it’s more important than ever to use limited resources strategically. This is very much in alignment with new Provost Thomas Sullivan’s planning for the University as a whole.

In a recent letter to the University community, Sullivan said:

“We have entered a transformative era for higher education in the country and in Minnesota. There is a certain urgency for fundamental changes. We can start by ensuring that each decision aligns resources, whether from public or private sources, with the academic and intellectual priorities of the university.”

So, welcome back but be sure to watch your step. I’m sure you’ve noticed the excavation and construction around the campus. The good news is that when the dust settles we’ll have a new cooling system and new plant growth facilities with beautiful landscaping along Gortner Avenue.

I look forward to working with all of you again this year.

Bob Elde, dean

College of Biological Sciences


CBS student is Convocation speaker

CBS Freshman Saydi Chahla is a student speaker at the New Student Convocation, to be held TODAY at 4:30 p.m. in Northrop Auditorium. Join the University of Minnesota community including President Robert H. Bruininks, members of the Board of Regents, faculty, staff, and current students at New Student Convocation, to welcome the freshman class. Following the ceremony at Northrop Auditorium, there will be a celebration of pride and spirit in Coffman Memorial Union. This event will include a welcome from President Bruininks and current students, free dinner, music, and a presentation on University of Minnesota history and tradition.

University Enterprise Laboratories’ Incubator moves ahead

Renovation of the University Enterprises Laboratories (UEL) incubator began this summer, as board members moved toward completing fundraising for the effort.

Contributors include Xcel Energy ($2 million), 3M ($1 million), Boston Scientific, Dorsey & Whitney, Ecolab, Guidant, and Medtronic ($500,000 each), Surmodics ($250,000) the City of St. Paul ($6.75 million), and the University of Minnesota ($2 million).

UEL is a nonprofit, public-private partnership created to advance Minnesota’s biotechnology industry by providing lab space and support services for biotech start-up companies. Offices move in this fall; laboratories in July, 2005.

The facility is located within the St. Paul Bioscience Zone and between the University’s Twin Cities’ campuses. It will also house the University’s Office of Business Development (OBD) and Carlson Venture Enterprises (CVE). OBD will help start-up companies with business plans, educate faculty and staff about the benefits of technology commercialization, and provide a point of entry for outside businesses. CVE is an MBA program in entrepreneurial development administered by the Carlson School of Management. Douglas Johnson, Director of the Entrepreneurial Studies Center at the Carlson School of Management, will head both offices.

Tilman raises funds for Cedar Creek improvements

David Tilman, Regents Professor and McKnight Endowed Professor of Ecology, is ieading a campaign to raise $1.4 million through grants, individual contributions, and the state of Minnesota to fund the project for major improvements to Cedar Creek Natural History Area.

Cedar Creek Natural History Area is a 5400-acre ecological research site near Isanti, with natural habitats that represent the entire state. The funds will allow the field station to restore 950 acres to savanna and prairie, create interpretive trails that give year-round access to walkers and cross country skiers, and construct a 7,000-square-foot Science and Interpretive Center that will demonstrate cost effective technologies for energy efficiency, highlight how society can sustain the supply of vital services provided by ecosystems, and provide space essential for outreach and research.

For more information about CCNHA, go to

New CBS students immersed in the ‘Nature of Life’ at CBS

CBS’ incoming freshmen class got a preview of life at CBS during the second annual Nature of Life program, which was held at Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories from July 18-30. Students attended one of four three-day sessions. Each session offered mini-courses on topics ranging from bog biology to molecular biology, opportunities for students to meet each other, returning students, faculty, staff, and administrators and to learn “Hail Minnesota” and the “Minnesota Rouser,” thanks to biochemistry professor John Anderson, who served as singing coach.

The Nature of Life program thanks everyone who helped make this event a success. They are John Anderson , Frank Barnwell, David Biesboer, Sarah Corrigan, Bob Elde, Sara Georgeson, CBS Alumni Relations, Bonnie LeRoy, Nikki Letawsky Shultz, Claudia Neuhauser, Jon Ross, Tony Sanderfoot, Rogene Schnell, Cliff Steer, Peter Tiffin, John Ward, Robin Wright, Bob Zink, and Regina Zmich. Program coordinator was Scott Gilbert, who joined CBS this spring. Scott was formerly assistant director of the Residential College program.

CBS Office of Student Services restructured

To better serve undergraduates, the CBS Office of Student Services has been restructured to reflect its two major functions: academic advising and student life & transitions.

The Academic Advising Team will be lead by Jean Underwood, Director of Student Services. This team will focus exclusively on developing creative, outcomes-based strategies to meet undergraduate academic advising needs. This team will also work to develop and strengthen the roles of faculty mentors in helping students succeed.

Nikki Letawsky Shultz will fill the new position of Director of Student Life & Transitions. This unit will focus on developing an integrated program of co-curricular activities that enrich students' lives and help them develop leadership skills. Recruitment and admissions, the Honors Program, Nature of Life, Life Sciences Summer Undergraduate Research Program, ACES, and Career Services/Internshipswill report to Nikki Shultz.

These changes will help Student Services achieve its mission of empowering students to identify, develop, and achieve their academic, career and personal goals.

Nikki has been with CBS for a year, serving as assistant to the Associate Dean Robin Wright. Previously, she was assistant dean of students at Cornell University, where she managed services for student organizations and leadership development programs. She has also been a research analyst for the Government of Alberta Higher Education Division. Nikki received her Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Alberta and a Master of Arts in Higher Education and Student Affairs from Bowling Green State University.

Jean and Nikki report to Robin Wright, associate dean for faculty and academic affairs.

Neuhauser heads search for Associate Dean for Research

Claudia Neuhauser, professor and head of the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, is chairing the search committee for the associate dean for research position in the College of Biological Sciences. The associate dean for research will p rovide leadership and administrative direction for research initiatives and graduate programs; Ensure accountability for research and graduate teaching activities; and support the dean’s vision and assist with implementing strategic objectives. Submit nominations to Claudia at

Associate Dean Judd Sheridan stepped down September 1, 2004. A member of the CBS administration since 1999, he will continue his research as a faculty member in GCD and oversee international programs on a part time basis. Judd has made numerous valuable contributions to CBS, including planning for research facilities, budgeting for new faculty, and providing leadership for international programs.

“Judd brought a valuable perspective to complex academic issues and represented CBS effectively on many University committees,” said Dean Bob Elde. “We will miss his knowledge and wisdom.”

A reception in Judd’s honor is scheduled for Wednesday, September 29, from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Cargill Building. Everyone is invited.

CBS Human Resources Initiatives

Barb Theno, who joined the Dean’s Office as Director of Human Resources last spring, is developing strategic initiatives to enhance HR services in order to help CBS achieve its goals. These include providing employees with resources to acquire new skills and expertise, proactively managing performance, ensuring consistent policies and practices for all CBS employees, using technology to increase administrative efficiency, and encouraging diversity and affirmative action. Barb has a B.A. degree in psychology and an M.A. in industrial relations from the University of Minnesota. She encourages you to contact her at if you have a question about CBS human resources. She will answer questions in future issues of CBS News.

Advisors named to steer renewable energy initiative

The University of Minnesota’s Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE), funded with $20 million from the state and Xcel Energy, has named 24 leaders from the business, nonprofit, government, and higher education sectors to serve as its advisory council. Members of the advisory council range from 3M and Cargill executives, to heads of large state growers’ associations, to leaders of smaller rural and environmental organizations.

IREE research symposium at Humphrey Center in November

IREE will hold a research symposium on Thursday, November 18, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Cowles Auditorium in the Humphrey Center. The event will feature presentations of IREE research projects, discussions on renewable energy issues, and a report recommending renewable energy research priorities for Minnesota. Watch CBS News for details or check the IREE website at

Dean Elde speaks at biotechnology conference in Sweden

Robert Elde, Dean of CBS, was keynote speaker at the World Technopolis Association Meeting in Uppsala, Sweden last week. Elde’s talk was entitled “The Complementary Roles of Academia, Industry, and Government in Developing Biotechnology Industry.” Elde shared his experiences in developing Biodale and University Enterprise Laboratories and working with state and industry leaders to promote the growth of biotechnology in Minnesota. The World Technopolis Association is an inter city cooperative organization for seeking common prosperity by promoting international cooperation among science oriented cities.

The U partners with Norway on genomics, biomass and bioenergy

“The Environmental Impact of Agriculture and Energy Use” was the focus of a research and technology seminar connecting the University of Minnesota and the Agricultural University of Norway. Held in Staur, Norway, in August, the conference was the first in a joint effort to identify partnership opportunities in genomics and bioenergy. Dean Elde and Kate VandenBosch, professor and head of plant biology, represented CBS.

The Lion's Mane: Science in the Serengeti

The sex appeal -- and hazards -- of a great head of hair is the subject of "The Lion's Mane: Science in the Serengeti." The family-friendly exhibit features the breakthrough science of University of Minnesota lion researchers Craig Packer and Peyton West. Through field experiments with dummy lions in wigs, Packer and West found males are intimidated by long, dark manes, while females are more attracted to them. The exhibit includes videos of lions, sounds of the Serengeti and an actual lion dummy Packer and West used in their behavioral experiments. Visitors can get up close with a life-sized replica of Packer and West's Land Rover Research Station. Through November 28 at the Bell Museum.

Developmental Biology Symposium

The 13th Annual University of Minnesota Developmental Biology Symposium will be held September 27-28 in the Great Hall of Coffman Memorial Union. This year’s theme is “From Egg to Organ: Development and Disease.” Speakers include Maximilian Muenke, National Human Genome Research Institute; Chi-Bin Chien, University of Utah Medical Center, Eric Green National Human Genome Research Institute; Sally Camper, University of Michigan Medical School; Jeff Esko, University of California, San Diego; Michael Stern, Yale Univeristy School of Medicine; Klaus Willecke, Institut Genetik; Christopher Walsh, Harvard Medical School; Ethan Bier, University of California, San Diego

Mark your calendars for “Fall Fest: Connecting U”

Mark your calendars for “Fall Fest 2004: Connecting U” on Sunday, October 17. This event is free and open to the public. New faculty member Daniel Bond, Microbiology/Biotechnology Institute, will give a presentation on using bacteria to generate electricity and clean up fuel spills. Claudia Schmidt-Dannert, BMBB/microbial biochemistry, will talk about using bacteria to produce biological compounds. Other activities include:

  •     Tours of the Dairy Barn, Raptor Center, Large and Small Animal Hospitals
  •     The Harvest Bowl Brunch at the Student Center
  •     Education sessions on family time, healthy foods/healthy lives
  •     Tours of campus on the Goldy Wagon

Bring your family and friends to this fun-filled day of events on the St. Paul Campus.


Welcome, new CBS faculty

Mark Borrello, (assistant professor, EEB and History of Science - IT) is a historian of biology with a particular interest in evolutionary theory, genetics, behavior and the environment. His work explores the varied interpretations and applications of evolutionary theory from the late19th century to the present.   

Helene Muller-Landau (assistant professor, EEB) has research interests that include plant community ecology, especially of tropical forests; ecological and evolutionary theory; and anthropogenic influences on plant community structure and dynamics.

Daniel Bond, (assistant professor, Microbiology and Biotechnology Institute) focuses his research on renewable energy. He helped create a battery that uses common bacteria to turn organic matter from the ocean floor into electricity. Bond recently received a $24,925 grant from the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE) for “Membrane electrode assemblies for microbial fuel cells able to oxidize ethanol.”

Flannery Harris Cotner was born July 6, 2004 to Jim and Sehoya Cotner. Jim is Moos Professor of Limnology in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior; Sehoya is an instructor in the General Biology Program. Flannery weighed a healthy 9lbs, 2oz. Mom, Dad, and brother Lachlan are all doing great.

Shelly Christman has joined CBS administration as assistant education Specialist, working with Jane Phillips, instructional labs coordinator. Christman’s responsibilities include administering coursework, laboratories, and laboratory staff, course development and teaching (Biol 3211), and preparing proposals for external funding. A Minnesota native, Christman recently completed her Ph.D. in animal sciences and molecular biology at the University of Minnesota. She has a B.S. in biomedical engineering from Northwestern University.

Steve Gantt (Plant Biology) and colleagues Kate VandenBosch (Plant Biology), Carroll Vance (Agronomy and Plant Genetics), Ernie Retzel (Microbiology), Debby Samac (Plant Pathology) at the University of Minnesota and Maria Harrison at the Boyce Thompson Institute in New York have received $2.1 million from the NSF Plant Genome program for a four year study entitled Use of Interfering RNAs to Identify Gene Function in Medicago truncatula . They will silence the expression of about 1,500 individual genes in transgenic roots and examine the roots for altered development and symbiotic associations.

Scott Gilbert joined the CBS Student Services staff in June as Nature of Life coordinator. Scott, who has degrees from the University of Arizona, Tucson and Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, has been with the University for six years as assistant director of the Residential College program. He was responsible for many of the initiatives designed to assist first-year students in their transition to college. Gilbert has taught through the Leadership minor and the Freshman Seminar program.

Reuben Harris , BMBB. discovered a human protein that mutates the AIDS virus (HIV) and holds potential for keeping the disease at bay. The new protein, called APOBEC3F, and one described previously called APOBEC3G can directly mutate HIV. Such proteins, called retroviral restrictors, may contribute to HIV resistance in some people. Harris, an assistant professor of biochemistry, molecular biology and biophysics, and colleagues reported the discovery in the June 24 issue of the journal Current Biology.

HIV mounts its own defense against proteins in the APOBEC family. But APOBEC3F seems especially adept at getting around this defense. “APOBECs are a 'search and destroy' defense," Harris explains. "It's different from the defense found in some HIV-resistant people, in which the outer surfaces of their cells no longer offer footholds for the virus to attach and begin the process of infection."

Fumi Katagiri, Plant Biology, received funding from the USDA-NRI for a project entitled "Efficient Discovery of Plant Regulatory Genes by Exploitation of Natural Variation." The project, which was funded for three years for a total award of $400,000, has long term implications for crop improvement. Katagiri says, "Naturally occurring genetic variation is a great genetic resource for crop improvement.  This project is to develop a new, time- and cost-efficient strategy for isolation of useful genes that are defined by such natural variation."

Edward B. Lewis (B.S.’39), the Caltech Nobel laureate who was the first to explain how genes control the development of organs during the early growth of an embryo, died on July l in Pasadena, California, after a long battle with cancer. He was 86. Lewis won a flute scholarship to Bucknell University, but after a year there, he gave up his scholarship and transferred to the University of Minnesota to pursue genetics. He received a B.S. in biostatistics from Minnesota.

Pete Magee (GCD) and colleagues have recently published three papers in research journals:

    Legrand, M. P. Lephart, A. Forche, F.M. Mueller, T. Walsh, P.T. Magee and B.B. Magee. 2004. Homozygosity at the MTLL locus in Candida albicans: karyotpyic rearrangements and tetraploid formation. Molecular Microbiol. 52: 1451-1462

    Forche, A., P.T. Magee, B.B. Magee, and G. May 2004. Development of a genome-wide SNP map for Candida albicans. Eukaryot. Cell 3: 705-714

    Ted Jones, Nancy A. Federspiel , Hiroji Chibana, Jan Dungan, Sue Kalman, B. B. Magee, George Newport, Yvonne R. Thorstenson, Nina Agabian, P. T. Magee, Ronald W. Davis, and Stewart Scherer. 2004. The diploid genome sequence of Candida albicans. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA 101: 7329-34

Thomas S. Reid (Ph.D.’43) died in May at age 92. During his 50-year career at 3M, he developed patented products that include Scotchgard™ stain repellent and the low-adhesion coating that makes it possible to unwind and dispense Scotch tape. Reid gave a substantial gift to CBS to establish the Thomas Reid Graduate Fellowship in Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics. He received the University’s Outstanding Achievement Award in 1988.

Ames Sheldon joined the College of Biological Sciences in July as director of development. In this role, she is working closely with the U of M Foundation and CBS executive staff to strategically position the college for acquiring major gifts and building prospects for future donor relationships with individuals and corporations. Most recently, she served in a similar role for the Minnesota Historical Society.

Jeff Simon (GCD) received $1.2 million from NIH, which is a four-year continuation of an ongoing project entitled "Transcriptional Repression by Polycomb Group Products.” The project is to study chromatin mechanisms that control gene expression and development in Drosophila. One rationale for the research is to better understand basic molecular mechanisms that contribute to of both prostate and breast cancers.

Peter Tiffin (Plant Biology) and collaborators Peter Reich (CNR) and Ruth Shaw (EEB) have received an NSF award for a project entitled, "Natural Selection and Evolutionary Constraints in an Elevated CO2 Environment." The $237,450  grant commenced July 15, 2004, continuing work begun under an IREE seed grant on the potential for plants' evolutionary responses to ongoing global climate change.

"The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing rapidly.  Previous research has shown that this increase may alter plant growth and ecosystem function, but little work has investigated how increased concentrations of atmospheric CO2 may affect plant evolution.  We will grow populations of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana in two CO2 environments: the present-day concentration and the predicted concentration for the year 2050 in an existing Free-Air CO2 enrichment facility at Cedar Creek Natural History Area.  The data we collect will allow us to investigate the effect CO2 concentrations have on i) the patterns of selection acting on plant growth and development and ii) the genetic basis (quantitative trait loci, or QTL) of phenotypic variation."

David Tilman, Regents Professor and McKnight Presidential Chair in Ecology, presented a new theory of species diversity and abundance within ecosystems in the July 27 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The theory was inspired, in part, by data he gathered over the past two decades at the Cedar Creek Natural History Area (Bethel, MN), where he currently serves as director. Through his new stochastic niche theory, Tilman offers an explanation for the patterns seen during the assembly of species into ecosystems, including what controls the number of species and their abundances, and why some ecosystems are more readily invaded by exotic species than others. The article suggests that stochastic niche theory offers a resolution to the controversy between whether it is "neutral" or "niche" processes that determine the diversity and composition of ecosystems. A biography of Tilman was published in the same issue. The two articles recognize his inauguration into the National Academy of Sciences.

Kate VandenBosch (Plant Biology) received a three-year $360,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The project is entitled "Nodulation Genes of Medicago truncatula Governing Early Responses to Rhizobia." This project complements genomic analysis projects in Medicago by focusing on particular genetic loci.

Fred Williams is the new admissions counselor in the Office of Student Services.  Williams is a December 2003 CBS graduate with a major in biology.  He has served CBS as a peer mentor for the Nature of Life program, was very active in his fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, Spring Jam, and New Student Weekend. Williams is a native of Hibbing, MN.