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December 2011

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Ask Gov. Dayton to support the U of M's request to rebuild Itasca

Governor Dayton will release his budget in January, which makes the next few weeks a critical window of opportunity to build support for the effort to rebuild Itasca. The U of M is asking the state for $4.1 million to build a new campus center that replaces three obsolete buildings at Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories. The new building will provide 12,000 square feet of technology-enabled laboratories, classrooms and offices. The college needs your help to persuade the governor and legislature to allocate funds to replace deteriorated facilites with the new center. Here's what you can do:

  • Go to the Rebuild Itasca website where you will find key messages you can use to compose a letter as well as the governor's address.
  • Sign up now to attend the 2012 Legislative Briefing February 1 to show your support in person.

Teaching assistant award nominations due January 27

Know an outstanding teaching assistant? Send in a nomination for a CBS Outstanding Performance Award for Teaching Assistants. All TAs in CBS courses who have demonstrated excellence in teaching or other instructional activities are eligible. Send nominations for CBS courses taught spring through fall 2011 to Bruce Fall ( or by campus mail to 3-104 MCB). Please include the name of the TA, the course, and a brief reason for your nomination.

CBS students reflect on their learning abroad experiences

Dozens of students, CBS Dean Robert Elde and Karen Kaler attended the Reflections From Abroad poster session in mid-November. The event featured student posters highlighting learning abroad experiences in Norway, Japan, Costa Rica, Peru, and other countries. CBS advisors Phoebe Smith, Jennifer Decker and Suzi Pyawasay (CBS Student Services) coordinated the event.

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Evolutionary time travel

Science | 11.18.11

Research by Michael Travisano and Will Ratcliff (EEB) showing how multicellularity in yeast evolved is highlighted in a two-page feature article in Science. Multicellularity, in which single-celled organisms coalesce into millions of cells that coordinate to act like a single organism, is considered one of the most important steps in evolution. Travisano and Ratcliff, his graduate student, successfully forced the evolution of yeast, a one-celled organism, into a multicellular organism and reported their achievement at the Evolution 2011 conference held in June. The article goes on to explore other notable attempts over the past 20 years to recreate the evolutionary leap from single to multicellular organisms. The researchers now believe that multicellularity probably arose more often than previously believed, but in some cases subsequently faded away.

Locomotion in animals and humans shares primitive neural network

Science | 11.17.11

The evolution of rudimentary movements into sophisticated ones during development has not been well understood. It’s often assumed that primitive patterns of neural control are suppressed during development, replaced by entirely new patterns. The authors of this article, including Richard Poppele (Neuroscience), identify the basic patterns of lumbosacral motoneuron activity from multi-muscle recordings in stepping neonates, toddlers, preschoolers, and adults. They found that the two basic patterns of stepping neonates are retained through development, augmented by two new patterns first revealed in toddlers. Similar patterns were observed in several animals, consistent with the hypothesis that, despite substantial phylogenetic distances and morphological differences, locomotion in several animal species is built starting from common primitives, perhaps related to a common ancestral neural network.

Breast cancer biomarkers in human saliva

Science News | 11.17.11

With nearly 1,200 proteins, human saliva is rising through the ranks of bodily fluids as a valuable repository of disease-related biomarkers that can be collected on a cotton swab. Research by Tim Griffin (BMBB) exploring the presence of cancer biomarkers in saliva, was highlighted in a recent issue of Science News. For the past three years, Griffin’s research group has been working to tease out protein biomarkers for oral cancer. Their goal is to identify subtle shifts in the molecular makeup of saliva that signal the transformation from premalignancy to full-blown cancer. Last year, his group reported in PLoS ONE that changes in the abundance of two proteins – myosin and actin – occur during this transformation. In another study published in March in the Journal of Proteome Research, Griffin and colleagues used a new technology (dynamic range compression) to identify proteins indicating metastatic breast cancer in women known to have the disease. Such tests might someday be paired with other types of screening, such as mammograms, to monitor women at high risk for breast cancer.



Six CBS students were chosen to participate in the University of Minnesota's Tom Burnett Advanced Leadership Program. Missy Reilly, Quentin Knutson, Suzie Heitfeld, Mae Kindler, Justin Paz and Ranju Ganesh were among 15 U of M students selected for the advanced leadership development program, which focuses on identifying and nurturing future leaders.

Lisa Novack, Meaghan Stein and Stefanie Wiesneski (CBS Student Services) presented a session titled “Reawakening Your Professional Passion by Using Strengths in the Workplace” at the NASPA IV-E regional conference for student affairs administrators. Phoebe Smith and Sasanehsaeh Pyawasay presented a session titled “Choose Your Mindset: Cultivating Student Success.”

Steve Polasky (EEB/Applied Economics) received an Institute on the Environment mini-grant for his project: “A Spatial Framework for Understanding Direct Values From Ecosystem Services.”

Holly Stessman, a graduate student in the lab of Brian Van Ness (GCD), won the blue ribbon for her poster — “Good and Poor Response Gene Expression Signatures to Proteasome Inhibitors Using a Mouse Model of Multiple Myeloma” — at the LifeScience Alley Conference & Expo in Minneapolis earlier this month. She also presented the poster at the American Society of Hematology December 10.



SAVE THE DATE! February 23

Real Pirates: The untold story of the Whydah from slave ship to pirate ship

CBS students, alumni, staff and friends will have the opportunity to purchase tickets to a special lecture, reception and tour of the Science Museum of Minnesota’s Real Pirates exhibition. Stay tuned for more information.

Science Museum of Minnesota | St. Paul