Tag Archive for McAlear

McAlear Visits Former Students Odede ’09, ’12, and Perel-Slater ’11 at Non-Profits in Africa

Professor Michael McAlear gathers with students at Shining Hope for Community, the nonprofit begun by Jessica ’09 and Kennedy ’12 Odede in Kibera, Africa. 

In 2010 Professor Michael McAlear first gathered with students at Shining Hope for Community, the nonprofit begun by Jessica ’09 and Kennedy ’12 Odede in Kibera, Kenya, offering a lecture on clean water. This year on his visit during spring break, he again gave a lecture to these students, now pre-teens and young teenagers, who filled his Q&A session with their concerns, interest, ideas, and a deep desire to learn.

In March, during Wesleyan’s spring break, Associate Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Michael McAlear took a trip to visit and catch up with three alumni whom he’d known when they were undergraduates, just beginning the nonprofits for which they are now known. McAlear doesn’t see them often: they live and work in Africa. All three had received Wesleyan’s Christopher Brodigan Award in their senior year, for research or work in Africa.

Kennedy Odede '12, Mike McAlear and Jessica ’09 Odede.

Pictured from left are Kennedy Odede ’12, Mike McAlear and Jessica Posner Odede ’09.

McAlear’s first stop was in Kibera, the largest slum in Kenya, and home of SHOFCO, Shining Hope for Community, the nonprofit begun by Jessica ’09 and Kennedy ’12 Odede. Linking education for girls with community services, the organization has grown since McAlear had last visited in 2010 to help set up the school, when it held only two classes of girls ages 6 and 7, and the group was building a clinic was built to honor Johanna Justin-Jinich ’10, the student slain in the spring of 2009. At that time, McAlear offered the young students a lecture on clean water and also became a sponsor for one little girl, a responsibility and relationship that is ongoing,

“I was overwhelmed by the need in Kibera— and the optimism and fearlessness of Kennedy and Jessica; you couldn’t help being swept up by that,” McAlear recalls. “They were so young and naïve that they didn’t know what they couldn’t do—so they just kept on doing things.”

McAlear Lab Makes Fundamental Discovery About How Cells Control Genes

Jeff Arace '12, pictured in the foreground, and Ph.D candidate James Arnone, pictured in the back, work on transcriptional regulation of paired genes involved in ribosome biogenesis with their advisor, Michael McAlear, chair and associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, in center. Adam Robbins-Pianka BA ’08, MA ’10 and Sara Kass-Gergi ’12 also work in the McAlear Lab.

Jeff Arace ’12, pictured in the foreground, and Ph.D candidate James Arnone, pictured in the back, work on ribosome biogenesis reserarch with their advisor, Michael McAlear, chair and associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, in center. Adam Robbins-Pianka BA ’08, MA ’10 and Sara Kass-Gergi ’12 also work in the McAlear Lab.

(Story contributed by Jim H. Smith)

A recent discovery made by Michael McAlear, chair and associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, and four of his students helps explain the function of ribosomes and sheds light on genetic processes scientists have been trying to decode for more than half a century. A paper authored by McAlear and his laboratory team, describing the discovery, was published last month in the distinguished journal BMC Genomics.

The discovery resulted from long-term research into the regulation of ribosomes, often described as molecular “machines,” the organelles of all living cells in which protein synthesis occurs. Guided by genetic “blueprints” delivered to them by messenger RNA, ribosomes gather amino acids, the building blocks of protein, and assemble them into polypeptides, the intricate chains of amino acids that, depending upon their arrangement, form the unique protein characteristics required for specific biological functions.

Scientists have known about ribosomes and their essential function for a long time. Cell biologist George Palade was awarded the 1974 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for discovering them in 1955.  But while scientists have understood what ribosomes are and what they do, they’ve spent the last half century trying to decipher the complex array of metabolic processes that play a role in the production of new proteins. It is one thing to know what ribosomes do, quite another to know how they do it.

McAlear Lab Publishes Paper on Co-Regulated Gene Pairs

Michael McAlear, chair and associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, is the co-author of “The adjacent positioning of co-regulated gene pairs is widely conserved across eukaryotes,” published in BMC Genomics, October 2012. The article is online here.

The co-authors are Ph.D candidate James Arnone and Jeffrey Arace ’12; Adam Robbins-Pianka BA ’08, MA ’10; and  Sara Kass-Gergi ’12.

The team investigated co-regulated gene sets in S. cerevisiae beyond those related to ribosome biogenesis, and found that a number of these regulons, including those involved in DNA metabolism, heat shock, and the response to cellular stressors were also significantly enriched for adjacent gene pairs. While it has long been understood that there are connections between genomic organization and transcriptional regulation, this study reveals that the strategy of organizing genes from related, co-regulated pathways into pairs of immediately adjacent genes is widespread, evolutionarily conserved, and functionally significant.

MB&B Department Attends Yeast Genetics Meeting at Princeton

Faculty and students from the Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department gather at the 2012 Yeast Genetics & Molecular Biology Meeting in August.

Faculty, graduate students and recent alumni from the Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department gather at the 2012 Yeast Genetics & Molecular Biology Meeting in August.

The Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department sent three professors and six students to the international 2012 Yeast Genetics & Molecular Biology Meeting held at Princeton University recently, giving Wesleyan the largest per capita representation in the world.

Attending from the department were Associate Professor and Chair Michael McAlear and his graduate student, James Arnone; Assistant Professor Amy MacQueen and her graduate students Pritam Mukherjee and Lina Yisehak, and recent alumni Sarah Beatie ’12 and Louis Taylor ’12; and Associate Professor Scott Holmes and his graduate student, Rebecca Ryznar. All spoke or presented on various aspects of yeast genetics, molecular biology, mitosis and gene expression.

The meeting, sponsored by the Genetics Society of America and held July 31-Aug. 5, is the premier meeting for students, postdoctoral fellows, research staff, and principal investigators studying various aspects of eukaryotic biology in yeast.

McAlear, Arnone Published in Eukaryotic Cell

Michael McAlear, chair and associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, and James Arnone, a Ph.D candidate in his lab, have published “Adjacent Gene Pairing Plays a Role in the Coordinated Expression of Ribosome Biogenesis Genes MPP10 and YJR003C in Saccharomyces Cerevisiae” a paper that shows that the physical position of genes on chromosomes — immediately adjacent gene pairs in particular — plays an important role in how they are turned on and off.

These findings were first discovered in yeast cells, but also hold true over a wide range of life forms, from worms to fruit flies to humans. A deeper understanding of how cells organize and manifest their genetic material is critical for future efforts to develop therapeutic treatments for disorders related to defects in gene regulation.

“Adjacent Gene Pairing Plays a Role in the Coordinated Expression of Ribosome Biogenesis Genes MPP10 and YJR003C in Saccharomyces Cerevisiae” appears in the January 2011 issue of Eukaryotic Cell.

The paper is the product of experiments performed at Wesleyan.

McAlear Teaches Children in Kibera, Kenya

Michael McAlear teaching at the Kibera School for Girls.

In August, Michael McAlear, chair and associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, presented an interactive lecture about Africa’s water cycle to the Kibera School for Girls.

Kennedy Odede ’12 and Jessica Posner ’09 operate the school and the non-profit organization Shining Hope for Communities in Kibera, Kenya.

McAlear’s lecture included an experiment with test tubes he brought for the school. His sons, Matthew and Thomas, donated time in the school’s library.

“We cannot thank Professor McAlear and his sons enough for their generous donation of supplies, time, and energy,” Posner says in her blog.