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CBS News—December 2010

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Direct From the Dean

College News

Two CBS undergraduates receive 2010 SEED awards

Damé Idossa and Jennifer Nicklay were among 15 students from across the University of Minnesota to receive 2010 Scholarly Excellence in Equity and Diversity (SEED) Awards. The awards, given by the Office of Equity and Diversity, honor high-achieving diverse undergraduate, graduate and professional students who are doing outstanding work in and out of the classroom.

Idossa, a senior majoring in biology and physiology, received the President’s SEED Award for Outstanding Scholar-Activism. Nicklay, a senior majoring in biology with minors in social justice and global studies, received the ?Sue W. Hancock Undergraduate SEEDs of Change Award.

Idossa and CBS alum Thuy Nguyen-Tran started Circle of Giving, a student group focused on working with underserved communities and addressing health disparities. Nicklay designed a container garden program for the Southeast Como Improvement Association and spent the summer working with the Native American Medicine Garden on the University’s St. Paul campus.

Do you know an outstanding teaching assistant?

Nominate a teaching assistant for the CBS Outstanding Performance Award. All teaching assistants in CBS courses (undergraduate and graduate) who have demonstrated excellence in teaching or other instructional activities that enhance the educational experience at the U of M are eligible for the annual award. CBS students, graduate students, faculty and staff associated with a CBS course can nominate an outstanding TA. The deadline for submission of nominations — covering courses taught from spring through fall 2010 — is January 28, 2011. Please submit nominations to Bruce Fall ( MCB).

Twin Cities campuses to close December 24-January 2

In an effort to reduce costs, the University of Minnesota Twins Cities campus will shut down between December 24 and January 2. University services and business offices will be closed. Only essential services will be open. During the closure, packages sent to CBS will be held by delivery companies and delivered on January 3.

Civil Service and Bargaining Unit employees will not be expected to work and will not be paid for December 28-30 (with the exception of notified staff). These three unpaid, mandatory furlough days will impact paychecks on January 12. Academic staff are encouraged to use their personal holiday, which can be combined with vacation time and/or voluntary furlough days, to take time off during the closure.

Research News

Study identifies enzyme that "turns off" hormone that controls molting, metamorphosis

Developmental Cell | 12.14.10

Michael O'Connor and colleagues identified an enzyme (cyp18a) that turns off pulses of a steroid hormone (20 E) which controls molting and metamorphosis in arthropods. Knowing how a pulse, that is a rise and fall in the steroid level, is generated and what the consequences are for development if the decline phase in steroid level does not take place, has been a longstanding question in biology. The work shows that there is a natural feedback system in place operating through cyp18 that generates and controls the duration of steroid hormone pulses. Since  cyp18 is conserved through evolution and steroids regulate many developmental and physiological processes,  this work is likely to lead to a new understanding of steroid metabolism in many organisms.

Research grant opportunities

Institute on the Environment offering “mini grants”

The Institute on the Environment is launching a new “mini grants” program intended to provide support and funding for interdisciplinary teams focused on developing new activities relating to environmental research, education or engagement. Grants will range from $1,000 to $5,000 and include administrative support and space for teams to meet. Proposals are due February 1.


Katie Hoffman has been promoted to executive office and administrative specialist. Katie has worked in the CBS Dean’s Office since July 2007.

Marc von Keitz (BTI) and Larry Wackett (BMBB/BTI) gave a presentation on their joint research project, “Shewanella as an ideal platform for producing hydrocarbon fuels” at an ARPA-E biofuels meeting at the DOE’s Joint BioEnergy Institute in Emeryville, California.

David Tilman (EEB) contributed an essay to the most recent issue of Momentum, the magazine of the U of M’s Institute on the Environment, on balancing the need to address hunger with maintaining biological diversity.

Larry Wackett (BMBB/BTI) gave a presentation about his research on hydrocarbon biofuels produced by carbon dioxide and sunlight at the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment’s E3 conference in late November.

Jeff Gralnick (Microbiology/BTI), Marc von Keitz (BTI) and Larry Wackett (BMBB/BTI) hosted visiting scientists from the DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratories to discuss the use of phototroph-heterotroph co-cultures for hydrocarbon fuel production.

CBS undergraduates Joseph Lahti, Xiaoxiao Lou and Paul Strain were among 15 U of M students accepted into the Tom Burnett Leadership Program, an advanced leadership development program focused on identifying and nurturing future leaders.

Jeff Gralnick (Microbiology/BTI), Marc von Keitz (BTI), Aditya Bhan, Lanny Schmidt (both Chemical Engineering and Materials Science) and Larry Wackett (BMBB/BTI) hosted ARPA-E officials December 3 for a discussion of biofuels research at the BioTechnology Institute.


Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs

Save the date to join CBS and the BSAS Board for a private reception and tour of Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs. Discover more than 100 authentic artifacts illuminating the lives of great rulers buried in the Valley of the Kings and other notable ancient sites, including the most famous of them all—King Tut. Details to come.


New course on the biochemistry of fuels launches

Larry Wackett (BMBB/BTI) has developed a new course to be offered this spring for the first time. Life and Energy: The Biochemistry of Fuels (BioC 4960/5960) explores how biochemistry can help address the need for renewable sources of energy and related threats to the environment.

Interdisciplinary doctoral fellowships available from the Graduate School

The U of M Graduate School will award a limited number of 2011-12 interdisciplinary doctoral fellowships to outstanding students with interdisciplinary dissertation topics who would benefit from interaction with faculty at one of the University’s interdisciplinary research centers or institutes (including the Institute on the Environment). Fellowship recipients will receive a stipend of $22,500 and full tuition for the academic year. The deadline to apply is February 15.

Volunteer for the 2011 Science Bowl

Share your passion for science with middle and high school students at the Minnesota Academy of Science’s 18th Annual Science Bowl. Join other science professionals to provide an opportunity for more than 250 students to apply their science and math knowledge in a competitive format similar to the game show Jeopardy. Volunteers are needed January 21 at Macalester College and February 19 at the University of St. Thomas to act as moderators, scorekeepers, timekeepers, scientific judges and many other roles.