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September 2012

college news | research news | people | events




CBS introduces new program for incoming freshmen

CBS is rolling out an ambitious plan to connect incoming freshmen with faculty and student services, introduce them to the many opportunities available at the University and within CBS, and provide a framework for reflection and personal growth. Every freshman this fall has been assigned to a guild, a cohort within the freshman class that will focus on leadership, teamwork, diversity and strengths. Each guild will be led by a faculty member, Student Services staff, peer grader and two peer mentors. Guilds are named after historic and contemporary CBS faculty including Josephine Tilden, Margaret Davis, Eville Gorham, Paul Boyer, Edward Lewis, Raymond Lindeman and Robert Elde (the Dean’s Scholars will form one of the seven guilds). Students will also participate in Common Time, an hour every Friday afternoon when they are encouraged to attend college and University events and workshops, as well as Guild meetings.

The approach, which will expand to second, third and fourth-year students in coming years, is based in part on the success of the Dean’s Scholars program and earlier efforts to engage students in leadership development. Jamie Nelson, who is implementing the new model in partnership with Student Services and faculty, describes the guilds as a network of support for students. “The Guilds and Common Time are part of the college’s overall effort to become one of the best undergraduate programs in the country,” says Nelson. “By engaging students and creating a support network for every student, we hope that this approach will help students build a successful four years at the University, as well as the ability to reflect on these experiences in a meaningful way.”

Itasca campus center groundbreaking September 21

President Kaler and Karen Kaler will join CBS Dean Robert Elde, Itasca Director David Biesboer, U of M Regents Clyde Allen and Tom Devine, and a group of committed supporters September 21 for a ceremonial groundbreaking at Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories. The groundbreaking marks the symbolic start to construction of a 12,000-square-foot campus center, which will replace three obsolete buildings and provide technology-enabled laboratories, classrooms and offices. The weekend will include short classes led by McKnight University Professor Larry Wackett and Assistant Professor Emilie Snell-Rood, along with a program highlighting the new building and the role the station plays in biology education and research at the University.

Construction is expected to begin in April and be complete by December 2013. The Minnesota Legislature designated $4.1 million for the center as part of the University of Minnesota’s allocation in the 2012 bonding bill. Private donors have pledged more than $1.2 million so far toward the $2 million the college is expected to contribute toward the $6 million total.

College pilots new teaching laboratory design 

Building on the active learning approach used in the Foundations of Biology courses, CBS launched a pilot this summer to test out a new laboratory design that engages students more fully in the discovery process. Modeled on a working lab rather than a traditional teaching lab, the space included a wet lab, a prep area where students could access a range of equipment and materials, and an area for conversation and collaboration. “It’s about the space and the expectations for students,” says Catherine Kirkpatrick (Biology Program), who led the 10-week, 12-student pilot. “The lab was meant to provide opportunities for the students to design and execute their own projects as well as space to do planning, thinking, reading and talking."  Jane Phillips (Biology Program) and Craig Bantz (CBS-IT) were also involved in the planning and implementation of the project, the results of which will inform the design of technology-enhanced active learning laboratories.

New on the CBS website

  • Teosinte for two An informal collaboration between colleagues with a shared interest in corn and its ancient ancestor teosinte makes science sing.
  • Time travel Integrating phylogenetics and ecology bridges deep past and present to look at biodiversity and adaptation.


Study reveals evolution of fungal genes that degrade lignan

Science | 6.28.12

David McLaughlin (PBIO) was a co-author of a study [The paleozoic origin of enzymatic lignin decomposition reconstructed from 31 fungal genomes] that compares the genomes of 31 mushrooms and their fungal relatives to understand the evolution of fungal genes that help degrade lignin, a chemical that makes wood resistant to decay. White rot fungi, which can decay lignin, show an increase in the number of genes associated with lignin decay. These genes are absent in brown rot fungi, which do not decay lignin. Molecular clock studies suggest that the origin of lignin degradation may be related to a decline in organic carbon burial (i.e. coal deposits, in the late Carboniferous Period).

Finlay and Wackett named Institute on the Environment resident fellows

Jacques Finlay (EEB) and Larry Wackett (BMBB/BTI) are among 11 U of M faculty named 2012 resident fellows by the Institute on the Environment. Wackett will lead a national awareness effort on the effects of fracking and seek environmental solutions with a specific focus on the chemicals in frack water. Finlay will initiate activities to examine lentic influences on stream and river nutrients, address key research gaps, and convene interested experts to determine and apply appropriate models.


Tami Jauert has moved into the role of HR consultant in the CBS Dean’s from her position in the main office of the Department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Development where she worked in human resources for the past seven and a half years. Before that, Tami worked in the Developmental Biology Center.

EEB graduate student Lisa O’Bryan (Michael Wilson, advisor) received an NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant to support her final field season in Tanzania where she studies the vocal communication behavior of wild chimpanzees.

Jordan Herman joined the college earlier this month as CBS’ new freshman admissions counselor. A 2011 CBS graduate, Herman majored in ecology, evolution and behavior, did extensive undergraduate research, served as a TA for the animal diversity lab and studied abroad.

Jamie Nelson, CBS’ new coordinator of undergraduate initiatives, joined the college earlier this summer. In her new role, Jamie will coordinate the Nature of Life program, co-instruct BIOL 1805 and 1806, implement the new Common Time and Guilds initiative, and work with the Nature of Science and Research program. She has spent the last five years in CLA as an advisor working closely with the college's orientation and first-year programs. Jamie graduated from UMD with a bachelor’s degree in life science education and the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a master’s degree in curriculum instruction with a focus on science education. 

Taylor Boyle joined CBS earlier this month as principal office and administrative specialist. She will support the Nature of Life program, and work on the new Common Time and Guild initiative. Taylor graduated from the University of Minnesota with degrees in Spanish and educational psychology. Before joining the college’s staff, she taught English abroad in Quito, Ecuador.



Chronic wasting disease and the future of Minnesota's white-tailed deer

What is Chronic Wasting Disease? How do deer get it and how is it transmitted? Can it be treated? Does it affect people? Are game farms the culprit? What could we do and are we doing it to stop it? Robert Zink (EEB) will answer all these questions and more.

Bell Museum's Café Scientifique | Bryant Lake Bowl | 7 p.m. | $5-$12


Excess nitrogen: A confounding problem for energy use, food production, the water we drink and the air we breathe

In the United States, we put five times more nitrogen into the environment than is deposited or released naturally. That excess nitrogen causes a variety of environmental and health problems – pollution of ground and surface waters, smog, increased emissions of greenhouse gases. Otto Doering, professor of agricultural economics and director of Purdue University's Climate Change Research Center, will discuss the dangers of excess nitrogen in this lecture co-sponsored by CBS and the Freshwater Society.

St. Paul Student Center | 7 p.m.


Developmental transitions: Timing is everything

Speakers at the 21st annual University of Minnesota Developmental Biology Symposium, which will focus on development transitions, include: Victor Ambros (University of Massachusetts), Maria Dominguez (Unidad de Neurobiologia del Desarrollo), Kirst King-Jones (University of Alberta), Fred Nijhout (Duke University), Scott Poethig (University of Pennsylvania) and Manuel Tena-Sempere (University of Cordoba).

University Hotel | East Bank