Tag Archive for Biology

Local Students Sample the Sciences at Wesleyan

Isaac Lichter-Marck '11 shows an eastern tiger swallowtail caterpillar to fifth grade students from Snow Elementary School on June 16. The Snow School students sampled the Wesleyan Sciences during a tour of Wesleyan’s biology, physics and scientific imaging departments.

Grabel, Naegele Published in Regenerative Medicine Publication

Laura Grabel, the Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science and Society, professor of biology, and Jan Naegele, professor of neuroscience and behavior, professor of biology, are the co-authors of “Migration of transplanted neural stem cells in experimental models of neurodegenerative diseases,” published in Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine by Springer/Humana Press, 2010.

Singer Published in Annals of the Entomological Society

Michael Singer, associate professor of biology, associate professor of environmental studies, is the co-author of “Triptrophic effects of host plants on an herbivore-pathogen interaction,” published in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America, 2010.

Bodznick Published in Zoology, Biology Journals

David Bodznick, dean of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, professor of biology and professor of neuroscience and behavior, is the co-author of “Functional origins of the vertebrate cerebellum from a sensory processing antecedent,” published in Current Zoology 56 (3): 277-284, 2010 and “The Importance of N-methyl d-aspartate (NMDA) receptors in subtraction of electrosensory reafference in the dorsal nucleus of skates,” published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, 2010.

Naegele’s Articles in Epilepsy, Stem Cell Publications

Janice Naegele, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, is the co-author of “Gene and stem cell therapies for treating epilepsy,” published in Epilepsy: Mechanisms, Models, and Translational Perspectives, Dekker M, Inc., 2010; “Migration of transplanted neural stem cells in models of neurodegenerative diseases,” published in  Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine by Springer Science (Humana Press, 2010; “Westward Ho! Pioneering mouse models for X-linked infantile spasms syndrome,” published in Epilepsy Currents 10(1): 1-4, 2010; “Trekking through the telencephalon: hepatocyte growth factor-mediated guidance for parvalbumin-expressing interneurons,” published in Epilepsy Currents 10(4), 2010; and “Transplants for brain repair in epilepsy and neurodegenerative diseases,” published in Neuropharmacology 58: 855-864, 2010.

NSF Supports Holmes’ Gene Expression Research

At right, Scott Holmes, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, received a three-year grant to support his research gene expression. His lab uses a budding yeast for the studies.

At right, Scott Holmes, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, received a three-year grant to support his research gene expression. His lab uses a budding yeast for the studies.

For the next three years, the National Science Foundation (NSF) will support gene expression research led by Scott Holmes, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry.

On March 2, the NSF awarded Holmes a $599,832, three-year grant for his studies on “Epigenetic Silencing of Gene Expression in Saccharomyces cerevisiae.”

Scott Holmes

Scott Holmes incorporates his research into the spring semester course Advanced Laboratory in Genetics and Molecular Biology.

Gene expression refers to the observable characteristics generated on a molecular level by a particular sequence of DNA or gene; epigenetic controls are essential in maintaining the specific patterns of gene expression that distinguish hundreds of distinct cell types in skin, muscles and other types of tissue.

“I’m thrilled to get the funding,” Holmes says. “It’s very timely for us, and it’s a testament to the great work that graduate and undergraduate students have done in the lab over the last few years.”

Holmes, currently working with four graduate and four undergraduate students, uses a simple budding yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, to study gene expression. Yeast uses an epigenetic gene repression mechanism, known as “silencing” to control the genes responsible for determining cell type.

“Two organisms, or two cells within the same organism, can have identical genetic information, or the same DNA sequence, but can have very different characteristics and functions,” Holmes explains. “We want to know how the gene expression patterns that determine cell type are first established, and then propagated as cells divide.”

The DNA in cells is organized into structures known as chromosomes. A key mechanism for controlling whether genes are on or off is by altering the structure of the chromosome. Once established, these alterations can become a stable, heritable part of the chromosome.

The nature of these structures and the manner in which they are inherited is not clear, Holmes says. Studies conducted on yeast will reveal the basic mechanisms of epigenetic inheritance.

This is the ninth year the NSF has supported Holmes’s research on yeast. He incorporates this research into the spring semester course MB&B 294, Advanced Laboratory in Genetics and Molecular Biology, which is required for undergraduate majors in the MB&B Department.

“This course is designed to familiarize undergraduates with the methods and approaches of the field in the context of pursuing novel research questions,” Holmes explains.

He also has partnered with a local high school biology teacher to devise and implement lesson plans, focusing on key concepts in genetics. Advanced students from this high school also visit the research lab to shadow graduate students.

Scott Holmes Awarded NSF Grant

Scott Holmes, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) on March 2. The three year grant, worth $599,832, will support his studies on “Epigenetic Silencing of Gene Expression in Saccharomyces cerevisiae.”

Read more on Holmes’s study here.

NS&B Alumni Speak to Students, Faculty About Post-Wesleyan Life

Dan Austin '08 speaks to students and faculty on "Research opportunities before graduate/medical school: The national Institutes of Health IRTA Post-Baccalaureate Fellowship," during the second Neuroscience and Behavior Symposium Feb. 20 in Exley Science Center. Austin was one of five NS&B alumni who returned to campus to speak at the symposium. While a student, Austin received university honors, the CBIA/CURE Bioscience Fellowship; and the Hawk Prize in Chemistry.

Dan Austin '08 speaks to students and faculty on "Research opportunities before graduate/medical school: The National Institutes of Health IRTA Post-Baccalaureate Fellowship," during the second Neuroscience and Behavior Symposium Feb. 20 in Exley Science Center. Austin was one of five NS&B alumni who returned to campus to speak at the symposium. While a student, Austin received university honors, the CBIA/CURE Bioscience Fellowship; and the Hawk Prize in Chemistry. He currently is a pre-doctorial fellow at the National Institutes of Health.

Faculty, Guests Discuss “Stem Cells into the Clinic”

Lori Gruen, associate professor of philosophy, associate professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, speaks during a symposium titled "Stem Cells into the Clinic: Biological, Ethical and Regulatory Concerns," Jan. 28 in the Goldsmith Family Cinema. The event was sponsored by the Dachs Chair, the Faust Lectures in Ethics, and the Ethics in Society Project.

Lori Gruen, associate professor of philosophy, associate professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, speaks during a symposium titled "Stem Cells into the Clinic: Biological, Ethical and Regulatory Concerns," Jan. 28 in the Goldsmith Family Cinema. The event was sponsored by the Dachs Chair, the Faust Lectures in Ethics, and the Ethics in Society Project.

Keynote speaker Bonnie Steinbock, professor of bioethics at the Union Graduate College-Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and professor of philosophy at the University of Albany spoke on “The Ethics of Stem Cell Policy." Her research focuses on the ethics of reproduction and genetics.

Keynote speaker Bonnie Steinbock, professor of bioethics at the Union Graduate College-Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and professor of philosophy at the University of Albany spoke on “The Ethics of Stem Cell Policy." Her research focuses on the ethics of reproduction and genetics.

Stephen Latham, deputy director of Yale University's Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics, and Laura Grabel, the Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science and Society, professor of biology, joined Gruen and Steinbock in a panel discussion of "Stem Cell Research in the Obama Era."

Stephen Latham, deputy director of Yale University's Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics, and Laura Grabel, the Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science and Society, professor of biology, joined Gruen and Steinbock in a panel discussion of "Stem Cell Research in the Obama Era."

Dr. Irving Weissman, professor of pathology and developmental biology at the Stanford School of Medicine and director of the Stanford Institute of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, spoke on “Normal and Neoplastic Stem Cells. Weissman’s research focuses on hematopoietic stem cell biology. Other speakers at the symposium included Gordon Carmichael, professor of genetics and developmental biology at the University of Connecticut Health Center, and Valerie Horsley, assistant professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology at Yale University. Carmichael, who spoke on “Double Stranded and Noncoding RNAs in Human Embryonic Stem Cells” studies molecular signals which control the expression and function of mRNA molecules. Horsley, who spoke on “Intrinsic and Extrinsic Control of Skin Stem Cells," studies the cellular and molecular mechanisms that control stem cell activity and function within epithelia, the tissues that line internal organs and outer surfaces. (Photos by Olivia Bartlett Drake)

Dr. Irving Weissman, professor of pathology and developmental biology at the Stanford School of Medicine and director of the Stanford Institute of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, spoke on “Normal and Neoplastic Stem Cells. Weissman’s research focuses on hematopoietic stem cell biology. Other speakers at the symposium included Gordon Carmichael, professor of genetics and developmental biology at the University of Connecticut Health Center, and Valerie Horsley, assistant professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology at Yale University. Carmichael, who spoke on “Double Stranded and Noncoding RNAs in Human Embryonic Stem Cells” studies molecular signals which control the expression and function of mRNA molecules. Horsley, who spoke on “Intrinsic and Extrinsic Control of Skin Stem Cells," studies the cellular and molecular mechanisms that control stem cell activity and function within epithelia, the tissues that line internal organs and outer surfaces. (Photos by Olivia Bartlett Drake)

5 Questions With … Michael Singer

Mike Singer, assistant professor of biology, pursues his interests in biodiversity and environmental conservation through teaching, research, outreach and personal activities.

Mike Singer, assistant professor of biology, pursues his interests in biodiversity and environmental conservation through teaching, research, outreach and personal activities.

This issue we ask 5 Questions of … Michael Singer, assistant professor of biology.

Q: Professor Singer, you are known around campus for being “the bug man,” or more specifically, “the caterpillar man.” What is your interest in entomology?

A: I’m generally interested in insects because of their diversity in form, function, and habits. Contrary to many people, I find most kinds of insects quite beautiful. They also have endless stories to tell. I’m particularly interested in a species of woolly bear caterpillar called Grammia incorrupta because of its polyphagous feeding behavior. (Polyphagous means that it eats many different kinds of plants.) Unlike most caterpillars, which have quite specialized diets, this one makes many choices about what it eats, and why it makes those choices is a subject of my research.

Q: Please give an example of plant-insect interaction and its role within ecology?

A:  I study the plant-insect interaction of herbivory (herbivores eating plants). Herbivory is very common and widespread in ecosystems, and most of it involves insects like caterpillars eating plants. Farmers and gardeners know this because they constantly try to keep insects from eating too much of their crop! In natural ecosystems, plants have to rely on other means of pest control. All plants make defensive chemicals to deter or poison herbivores, and most plants also rely on the natural enemies of herbivores, such as birds, spiders, and wasps, for protection from herbivores. This so-called tri-trophic interaction

Cohan Participates in Darwin Conference at University of Chicago

Fred Cohan, professor of biology, delivered a presentation titled “Darwin vs. Mayr on the Origin of Bacterial Species,” during a Darwin conference, celebrating the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth. The event was held Oct. 29-31 at the University of Chicago. Cohan joined other evolutionary biologists, historians and philosophers who connected their work directly with Darwin. 2009 also marks the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s The Origin of Species.