Tag Archive for Biology

Burke Speaks on Turtles at Vertebrate Morphologist Symposium

Ann Burke

Ann Burke

Ann Burke, professor of biology, spoke on “The origin and evolution of Turtles” during the 10th International Congress of Vertebrate Morphologlogy in Barcelona, Spain July 7- 12.

The International Congress of Vertebrate Morphology (ICVM) has emerged as the premier conference for scientists researching the morphology of vertebrate animals at all levels of organization. The Congresses are held typically every three years with the broad goal of providing an opportunity for interaction, integration, and interfacing.

Through a mixture of symposia, workshops, and open platform and poster sessions, everyone from senior scholars to students share ideas in an informal and genial setting.

More than 400 morphologists and vertebrate experts from 27 countries attended the meeting.

Burke’s Paper on Lamprey Development Published in PNAS

A paper co-written by Professor of Biology Ann Burke, “Body wall development in lamprey and a new perspective on the origin of vertebrate paired fins,” was published in the July issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 

Burke and her colleagues investigated the sea lamprey and the Japanese lamprey, comparing “the embryonic development of both these jawless fish to jawed animals — a shark, the catshark, and a salamander, the axolotl.” The abstract of the paper states, “Classical hypotheses regarding the evolutionary origin of paired appendages propose transformation of precursor structures (gill arches and lateral fin folds) into paired fins. . . . We focus on the evolutionary history of the somatopleure to gain insight into the tissue context in which paired fins first appeared. Lampreys diverged from other vertebrates before the acquisition of paired fins and provide a model for investigating the preappendicular condition. We present vital dye fate maps that suggest the somatopleure is eliminated in lamprey as the LPM is separated from the ectoderm and sequestered to the coelomic linings during myotome extension. We also examine the distribution of postcranial mesoderm in catshark and axolotl. In contrast to lamprey, our findings support an LPM contribution to the trunk body wall of these taxa, which is similar to published data for amniotes. Collectively, these data lead us to hypothesize that a persistent somatopleure in the lateral body wall is a gnathostome synapomorphy, and the redistribution of LPM was a key step in generating the novel developmental module that ultimately produced paired fins. These embryological criteria can refocus arguments on paired fin origins and generate hypotheses testable by comparative studies on the source, sequence, and extent of genetic redeployment.”

Learn more:

http://firstlook.pnas.org/seeking-the-origin-of-paired-fins/

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/06/27/1304210110

 

Grant Will Support Epilepsy Therapy Study at Wesleyan

Gloster Aaron, Jan Naegele and Laura Grabel.

Gloster Aaron, Jan Naegele and Laura Grabel.

Three Wesleyan professors have been awarded a four-year, $1.49 million grant by the state of Connecticut’s Stem Cell Research Advisory Committee. The grant will help fund research on using human embryonic stem cell-derived GABAergic neurons for epilepsy therapy, which is being conducted by Janice Naegele, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, Laura Grabel, Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science and Society, Professor of Biology, and Gloster Aaron, associate professor of biology, associate professor of neuroscience and behavior.

This grant was the largest single award to researchers in this year’s competition. Only 23 projects were selected to receive funds from a pool of 109 applicants.

“The potential to treat neurological disorders with human embryonic stem cell-derived neurons is enormous and relatively untested,” Naegele said. “The long-term goal of our research is to develop human stem cell-based cures for treating neurodegeneration, seizures and cognitive impairments in temporal lobe epilepsy.”

In patients who have an initial precipitating event, such as a head trauma, a severe seizure can cause a loss in inhibitory GABAergic interneurons. This, in turn, can dispose an otherwise normal brain to generate spontaneous seizures, a condition known as temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE). These spontaneous seizures can further damage the hippocampus and lead to memory loss and other cognitive and emotional disturbances. Because nearly one-third of TLE patients are unable to control their seizures with drugs, Naegele, Grabel and Aaron are seeking novel, stem cell-based treatments for the disease.

They have developed methods for producing GABAergic progenitors from mouse and human embryonic stem cells. In their proposal for their grant, they proposed three projects to thoroughly evaluate grafts of these neurons in mice with temporal lobe epilepsy. In addition to the collaboration between the three Wesleyan labs, the researchers have established collaborations with colleagues at the University of Connecticut Health Center and the Yale University School of Medicine to provide additional expertise for this project.

Local Elementary School Students Tour Wesleyan’s Science Departments

Wesleyan hosted a science tour for Snow Elementary School students on June 19. Faculty, staff and graduate students taught the fifth graders about astronomy, biology, scientific imaging, physics and chemistry through several hands-on activities. The students also visited the Joe Webb Peoples Museum in Exley Science Center. Photos of their science tour are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

snowschool (76)

Climate Scientist Nurhati ’05 Dives for Science

Intan Suci Nurhati '05 prepares equipment for coral drilling. By researching Singapore's corals, she hopes to gain insight into climatic changes in the region. (Photo by Alex Westcott/TODAY)

Intan Suci Nurhati ’05 prepares equipment for coral drilling. By researching Singapore’s corals, she hopes to gain insight into climatic changes in the region. (Photo by Alex Westcott/TODAY)

Postdoctoral Associate Intan Suci Nurhati ’05 and others from the Center for Environmental Sensing and Modeling at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) are the first team to drill for coral samples in Singapore waters. Nurhati is a climate scientist but she works alongside a marine biologist and a professor of ocean geochemistry, creating “an interesting synergy where [they] work on different topics” but use the same material – corals.

As a climate scientist, Nurhati’s main focus is changes in the climate that have been recorded by the coral. “By studying the chemistry of corals, you can tell changes in temperature, which is vital if you want to study the rate of ocean warming,” she said. As important as climate change is, Nurhati insists that “as a society, what affects us more is rainfall. If we have flooding or droughts, that will really affect us and endanger our food security.”

Coral is used to study environmental changes due to its long life of up to 100 years that yields an extended and detailed record of data.

“If you study the environment, most of the environmental issues we face today require a longer record (for research purposes). For example, the study of global warming needs temperature measures, but we have been measuring temperature continuously via satellite for the past 30 years, at most,” she said. While it has a long lifetime, coral also grows very quickly, allowing researchers to obtain monthly data with precision.

At Wesleyan, Nurhati majored in earth and environmental science, with Professor Suzanne O’Connell advising Nurhati on her thesis, Spatial and Temporal Variability of the Indonesian Throughflow Sediments Possible Indicators of Climate-Induced Hydrologic Changes. Nurharti earned her Ph.D from Georgia Institute of Technology. She also was a Freeman Scholar at Wesleyan.

View more photos in this todayonline.com gallery.

Chernoff Speaks about River Biodiversity during Canoe, Kayak Paddle

On June 22, Barry Chernoff, the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies, professor of biology, spoke to more than 60 paddlers about river biodiversity during the annual Jonah Center Canoe and Kayak Paddle. Paddlers left from Harbor Park in Middletown and explored the Connecticut River and Wilcox Island, the lower Mattabesset and Coginchaug Rivers, as well as the "Floating Meadows" where those two rivers converge. Pictured here, Chernoff is speaking about fish who live in a 90-foot hole located in the Mattabesset River.

On June 22, Barry Chernoff, the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies, professor of biology, spoke to more than 60 paddlers about river biodiversity during the annual Jonah Center Canoe and Kayak Paddle. Paddlers left from Harbor Park in Middletown and explored the Connecticut River and Wilcox Island, the lower Mattabesset and Coginchaug Rivers, as well as the “Floating Meadows” where those two rivers converge. Pictured here, Chernoff is speaking about fish who live in a 90-foot hole located in the Mattabesset River.

Naegele Speaks on “Promises and Pitfalls on Stem Cell Therapy for Brain Disorders”

Jan Naegele

Jan Naegele

Jan Naegele, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, made two presentations in 2013. On March 12, she spoke on “Promises and Pitfalls of Stem Cell Therapy for Brain Disorders” at the 17th Annual Meeting for the Israeli Society for Biological Psychiatry in Kibbutz Hagoshrim, Israel.

On March 26, she spoke to the Middlesex Elderly Service Providers on “Stem Cell Therapy for Brain Disorders” in Middletown.

On June 11, Naegele will speak on “GABAergic interneuron replacement for temporal lobe epilepsy” at the University of California-Irvine.

Cohan Published in Encyclopedia of Genetics, Genomics Publication

Fred Cohan, chair and professor of biology, professor of environmental studies, is the co-author of “Species,” published in the Encyclopedia of Genetics, Amsterdam, Elsevier, 2013; “Accuracy and efficiency of algorithms for demarcating bacterial ecotypes from DNA sequence data,” published in BMC Genomics, 2013; and “Speedy speciation in a bacterial microcosm: New species can arise as frequently as adaptations within a species,” published in the ISME Journal’s Advance Online Publication, 2013.

Naegele Named 2013-14 ELATE at Drexel® Fellow

Jan Naegele is one of 19 women faculty in the country to receive a Drexel Fellowship.

Jan Naegele is one of 19 women faculty in the country to receive a Drexel Fellowship.

Jan Naegele, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, was named a 2013-14 ELATE (Executive Leadership in Academic Technology and Engineering) at Drexel® Fellow for the 2013-14 academic year.

Naegele and 18 other women faculty in science, technology, engineering and math fields, received the fellowship. They come from a range of universities and colleges across the country, many with global experience.

The ELATE at Drexel® Fellow program focuses on increasing personal and professional leadership effectiveness, leading and managing change initiatives within their institutions, using strategic finance and resource management to enhance the missions of their organizations, and creating a network of exceptional women. Facilitated by leaders in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math research and leadership development, the curriculum includes classroom lessons and activities, online instruction and discussion, and on-the-job application at each fellow’s home institution.

In addition to learning about the financial planning and resource management in this program, each of the fellows has a project that they develop over the year-long program.

“While continuing the current support structure at the Center for Faculty Career Development, I will also develop new resources for minorities and women faculty, including workshops to assist junior faculty with their teaching and research,” Naegele said. “One topic to be addressed in workshops will focus on survival skills for junior science faculty as they set up their research laboratories, establish funded research programs, and recruit undergraduate and graduate students. Another will be to expand resources and mentoring to recruit and retain underrepresented minorities across the disciplines.”

The work for this second incoming class begins in May with online assignments and community building activities, and the program will conclude in March 2014 with a symposium organized around their projects. Naegele will begin the first of three week-long, in-residence sessions on July 31 at the ACE Conference Center in Lafayette Hill, Pa.

More more information visit Drexel’s website.

Naegele Received NIH Award for Epilepsy Research

Janice Naegele, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, received a $484,788 National Institutes of Health Academic Research Enhancement Award for her work on “Stem Cell Transplation for Epilepsy” in 2013.

Graduate Student Herman Receives Grant for Lab Supplies, Plant Research

Jacob Herman, a graduate student in biology, received a grant worth $807 from the Sigma Xi Committee on Grants-in-Aid of Research in January 2013. The award will go toward lab supplies.

Herman is investigating DNA methylation as a possible mechanism for adaptive trans-generational effects of drought on plant offspring development. His advisor is Sonia Sultan, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies.

The Sigma Xi Grant-in-Aid of Research program has a highly competitive application process and only 20 percent of applicants receive any level of funding.