Biology Dept. News
SCSU Students are now in the process of forming an iGEM team to compete at MIT next fall. iGEM is the "International Genetically Engineered Machine" competition where interdisciplinary (usually Math, Physics, Biology, Computer Science, Chemistry) student teams perform a Synthetic Biology project over the summer to create or redesign genetic 'circuits' in living cells that allow the cells to perform a useful function for humans. If you are interested in joining the team, please contact Dr. Edgington by email. The team needs to begin fund-raising immediately in order to cover the entry fee.
One of our majors, Aileen Ferraro (pictured below with Dr. Roberts), has just been awarded the American Society for Microbiology's Undergraduate Research Capstone grant that will provide up to $1500 travel support to attend the ASM Capstone Research Institute, and present the results of her research project at the 2014 ASM General Meeting in Boston, MA, and will receive a two year complimentary ASM student membership. The program seeks to "focus on enhancing presentations and networking skills, and provide students with resources to transition to disciplinary scientific meetings." CONGRATULATIONS Aileen!
The Biology Club will be meeting this semester every Wednesday from 1:3--2:00 PM in JE244. All majors are welcome to join and have some fun.
Dr. Dunbar will be offering a NEW BIOLOGY COURSE (proposed for summer 2014) – BIO 399 Mammalian Biology. This course will make use of her newly curated museum collection of mammalian species and includes several field trips.
In Spring 2013, Dr. Dunbar was invited to attend a bat research retreat in the tropics of Belize. Working near archeological ruins, she collaborated with several other scientists on a variety of research projects and also participated in community outreach as she visited local schools in an effort to advocate for science.
Dr. Edgington attended the 5th Annual Howard Hughes Medical Institute SEA-PHAGES Research Symposium at the Janelia Farm Research Campus in Ashburn VA (June 7-9, 2013), along with the course graduate TA, Kelly Floyd, and SCSU Honors Freshman student presenter, Caitlin Hansen. Caitlin did a great job at our research poster representing the entire SCSU Phage Hunter's Honor's class, and actually won a 'Honorable Mention' ribbon. Caitlin is a rising Sophomore majoring in Physics. The title of the poster was "Meet Morty and Megatron: Analysis of two new B1 subcluster members". (SEA-PHAGES == Science Education Alliance's Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science). To date, SCSU Freshman Honors Students (in HON280-02 & HON260-02) have isolated 44 unique mycobacteriophages from campus soil samples, eight genomes have been completely sequenced, three genomes have been fully curated and annotated, and one (so far) has been submitted toNational Center for Biotechnology Information's GenBank sequence database!
Early in the spring term, Dr. Edgington applied, and was selected for the
SEA-PHAGES Advanced (In silico) Analysis of Bacteriophage Genomes Workshop which began
after the Symposium at Janelia Farm. The group of faculty worked on analyzing a particular
cluster of mycobacteriophage genomes, and their efforts have recently led to a publication!
He was also selected to participate in the first workshop of the "Genome Consortium for Active Teaching's" NGS group (called GCAT-SEEK) at Juniata College, Huntingdon PA. This workshop allowed him to perform his first RNA-Seq experiment in mycobacteriophage/mycobacteria, & bring NGS technologies & education to SCSU Undergraduates in his BIO436 Molecular Biology Course.
Finally, he was selected to attend the GCAT-SynBio workshop, which allowed him to return to the amazing HHMI Janelia Research Campus for four days in June. He and colleague Dr. Therese Bennett, Chair of the SCSU Mathematics department received funding from SCSU to develop a NEW Liberal Education Program (LEP) Tier 3 capstone course for STEM majors in "Synthetic Biology". They will be offering it for the first time in the Spring 2014 term ("BIO396 Synthetic Biology: Engineering Life", with an eye towards creating an SCSU iGEM team to compete in the fall of 2014. The team would be only the second team in the state.
Dr. Weinbaum spent the summer in the very hot sun near Arizona's Petrified Forest National Park 'dinosaur fossil hunting' with colleagues and SCSU students! The panoramic is from an area that borders the Petrified Forest where they prospected for fossils with his colleague Jeff Martz on the right and student John M'sadoques on the left (the rocks are the remains of a massive braided river system about 214 million years old, Late Triassic Period). Below is a photo of Dr. Weinbaum and graduate student Kelly Floyd collecting fossils.
Student John M'sadoques and Dr. Weinbaum standing next to a sandstone block containing dozens of petroglyphs left by Pueblo Indians ~1000 years ago that they stumbled upon looking for fossils. He also had an amazing four research articles published this year! Congratulations!
Dr. Roberts was recently awarded an NSF grant to aid in outfitting her lab with modern molecular biology equipment. She has also had a research manuscript with her postdoctoral PI, Steven Lindow, accepted for publication in the ISME journal. ISME journal is the premier journal in Dr. Roberts' field of microbial ecology with an impact factor of 8.951! A link will be posted when the paper is available online. The paper is titled: "Loline alkaloid production by fungal endophytes of Fescue species select for particular epiphytic bacterial microflora", Elizabeth Roberts PhD and Steven Lindow PhD. Finally, the Department congratulates Dr. Roberts for being awarded only one of two University-wide SCSU "Junior Faculty Fellowships" for the Spring of 2014, in which she will be able to spend the majority of her time advancing her productive research agenda due to a reduced teaching schedule. Dr. Roberts will be working on establishing a bioremediation system to remove Atrazine from soil using bacteria found on the leaves and roots of grasses.
Dr. Crawford has recently gained media attention for her research on Christmas fern extracts that have demonstrated anti-cancer properties in pre-clinical testing in tissue culture. Click here for the full article from SCSU News.