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CBS News - September 2010

Direct from the Dean | College news | Research | People | Events |

Direct From the Dean

We've heard lots of good news lately about the success of the college's undergraduate programs. What's happening with graduate programs?


College news

College launches courses that put transfer students on fast track

The College of Biological Sciences Biology Program launched two new courses designed to help transfer students make a successful transition and achieve their research and career goals. Nature of Research (Biology 3700) and Career Planning for Biologists (Biology 2001) provide a structured learning environment and quick start for exploring research and career opportunities. 

Nature of Research gives transfer students a chance to explore research opportunities, structure, and support systems at the University, including meeting with faculty and alumni. In addition, students work on their resumés and on finding research experiences to prepare them to meet their educational and professional goals. Career Planning for Biologists is a companion course in which students explore careers in biology as well as their own interests, skills and strengths. 

“CBS is committed to helping students get off to a strong start,” says Jane Phillips, co-director of the Biology Program and the instructor for Nature of Research. “Together, we hope that these courses will provide the basis for a successful undergraduate experience and a career beyond.”

CBS Student Services receives national recognition

CBS Student Services garnered accolades in the latest edition of Comprehensive Advisor Training and Development: Practices That Deliver, a publication of the National Academic Advising Association. Student Services’ Advisor Development Program, designed to support ongoing professional growth and development of academic advisors, was cited as an “exemplary practice,” one of eight in the nation. The program was recognized for its use of a competency-based framework to encourage and document advisor performance and growth.

“One of the strengths of the program is using our advising team’s talent to create and lead many of the professional development opportunities,” says Nicole Letawsky Shultz, director of CBS Student Services. “Through helping students to identify meaningful goals that reflect their interests and strengths, and creating academic and co-curricular plans, CBS advisors teach students to recognize and connect learning opportunities, both inside and outside the classroom, to their broader goals. That’s why individual competence of an advisor is paramount to building successful relationships with students and achieving these outcomes.”

Recent CBS grad gets MN Cup nod

Benjamin Schurhamer (B.S. Biochemistry, ’10) received top honors in the student division of the MN Cup competition for Blue Water Ponds, his Twin Cities-based pond restoration company. Blue Water Ponds offers an “eco-friendly” approach to controlling aquatic plants and restoring aquatic environments. Schurhamer launched the company in 2007.

The Minnesota Cup is an annual, statewide competition that seeks out aspiring entrepreneurs and their breakthrough ideas. The winner of the student division, which is designed to support Minnesota college students who aspire to be entrepreneurs, receives $5,000. The competition also has categories for biosciences, clean technology and renewable energy, high-tech and social entrepreneurship.

Call for alumni award nominations

Know an outstanding alumna or alumnus of the College of Biological Sciences? Here's your chance to recognize their contributions. Nominate a CBS alum for a Distinguished Service Award or an Emerging Leader Award, two new awards established by the college to recognize outstanding graduates. Deadline for nominations: September 22.

Research News

A closer look at plant signaling networks

PLoS Pathogens | 7.10

A study led by Fumiaki Katagiri and Jane Glazebrook (both PBIO) examines the negative regulatory relationships between signaling sectors in Arabidopsis immune signaling. Katagiri and his research team found that parts of the plant immune signaling network are highly interconnected and that negative regulations between signaling sectors are very common. The findings suggest that only some of the signaling sectors in the network get highly activated at a given time while the other sectors stand by to back up the primary sectors in case primary sectors are attacked by pathogens. This balances the robustness of the signaling network against pathogen attack and minimizes the negative impact of the immune response on plant fitness. Former postdoctoral student Masanao Sato and current postdoctoral student Kenichi Tsuda contributed to the study along with former CBS graduate student Lin Wang.

In addition, the Larry Wackett (BMBB/BTI) lab published several studies this summer: “Structure, function and insights into the biosynthesis of a head-to-head hydrocarbon in Shewanella oneidensis strain MR-1” (Applied Environmental Microbiology); “Widespread head-to-head hydrocarbon biosynthesis in bacteria and role of OleA” (Applied Environmental Microbiology); and “Crystallization and preliminary X-ray analysis of L-azetidine-2-carboxylate hydrolase from Pseudomonas sp. strain 2AC” (Acta Crystallographica Section F). Jeffrey Gralnick (Microbiology/BTI) also contributed to the first two papers.

‘Hunting for Conservation’ backfires

Science Now | 8.27.10

Africa’s lion population has decreased from 450,000 70 years ago to less than 45,000 today. A new study by Craig Packer, professor of (EBB) suggests that trophy hunters are to blame. Allowing trophy hunters to kill a limited number of lions per year was originally designed to help conserve the animals. Authorities believed trophy hunters would provide landowners with economic incentive to maintain lion habitats and keep the species alive. As the species declined, officials blamed agriculture, disease and the encroachment of civilization on lion habitats. But new research led by Packer shows that in Tanzania, at least, numbers of lions are dwindling because hunters are overexploiting them.

Research grants

Larry Wackett (BMBB/BTI) and Michael Sadowsky (Soil, Water and Climate/BTI) received a six-year $1,154,243 grant from the National Center for Food Protection and Defense at the Department of Homeland Security to develop enzyme-based methods to detect toxins in foods. The research will lead to new enzyme discoveries and the development of commercial testing methods to protect the public. Wackett, Sadowsky and Mani Subramanian at the University of Iowa are co-PIs.


Meet teaching specialist Rebeka Ndosi in the latest edition of CBS People, an ongoing feature highlighting the personalities behind the positions at the College of Biological Sciences.

Ben Colglazier has joined CBS as data analyst in the dean's office. He brings many years of experience as an information technology and data acquisition consultant to the position. Colglazier will help find and analyze data to support and guide strategic decisions. In a previous role at the University of Minnesota, he helped create the current version of the Electronic Grants Management System.

The college's new Web coordinator, Darcie Norby comes to CBS with years of Web design and development experience. Most recently, she ran her own Web design business and worked at Sun Country Airlines. Norby will focus on implementing a new Web site design in conjunction with the college's transition to the new U of M Web template.

Richard Brown recently joined the college as an assessment specialist. His work is funded by a $1.5 million HHMI grant to support expansion of undergraduate research opportunities and boost retention and graduation rates. Brown will help plan and implement assessment strategies for achieving those goals. Before coming to CBS, Brown worked at the College of Pharmacy for six years. He received his Ph.D. in educational psychology at the University of Madison, Wisconsin.


September 22

Biochemical Bloodhounds: Using Enzymes to Detect Toxins

Toxic chemicals have always been with us, but today's toxins are more problematic than ever: They are often made by people instead of by plants, bacteria, or other living things, and are found in places and even as part of objects we generally assume are safe. How can we detect the presence of toxins and avoid harm? Distinguished McKnight Professor Larry Wackett (BMBB/BTI) will talk about how fundamental enzyme research led to a melamine test kit as well as valuable insights into the mechanism of melamine toxicity.

DETAILS: IonE Seminar R380 | VoTech Bldg. | St. Paul campus | noon

September 24-26

Itasca Weekend in the Woods

Join Dean Bob Elde for a fall weekend at the Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories. By day, see the fall colors, tour the Iron Springs Bog and Forestedge Winery, and learn about the Metagenomics of the Mississippi River. Enjoy dinner and a bonfire by night. Activities and meals are included with registration. Lodging is not included.

DETAILS: Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories | September 24-26 | $99 adults, $55 children

October 1

CBS Homecoming Parade

Join students, staff, faculty and alumni in representing the college and the University in this year’s homecoming parade. Interested in participating? RSVP to the CBS Student Board at with the subject "CBS-Homecoming Parade.”

DETAILS: TCF Bank Stadium | East Bank | 7-8 p.m.