This week the Huffington Post featured an article about the WISER girls' education project in Kenya founded by Sherryl Broverman. Written by Duke student Sofia Stafford, the article describes WISER's success in moving girls in Muhuru Bay through primary and secondary education. In the past 30 years only one girl from the community has gone to university; this year all 28 WISER graduates will attend! Well-deserved recognition for Biology's own Prof. Broverman. [more]
The title says it all. The National Institutes of Health have awarded an NRSA postdoctoral fellowship to Dan Skelly, a postdoc in the Magwene Lab. The title of Dan's project is "Functional variation in a conserved pathway influencing cellular differentiation." Congratulations!
Laura Kelley and Elliott Hagedorn have published a paper in the March 31 issue of the Journal of Cell Biology. Their study reveals how the actin regulatory protein cofilin coordinates dynamic F-actin turnover and membrane delivery to make functional invadopodia--specialized subcellular "drill bits" used by invasive cells to penetrate other tissues. As an added feature, this research is featured in a JCB "biobytes" podcast (March 31 edition)! Congrats to all involved. [more]
Biology graduate students Aspen Reese (Wright lab), Peter Tonner (Schmid lab), and Ariana Eily (Haase lab) have been awarded NSF pre-doctoral fellowships. The fellowship provides 3 years of full support, including a stipend, institutional allowance and [drumroll, please] access to XSEDE supercomputing resources. Congratulations Aspen, Peter and Ariana! [more]
Grad Student David Rasmussen and Prof. Katia Koelle published a short review in the March 6 issue of Nature. It addresses a paper in the same issue which describes a model for predicting the mutation of the flu virus (Nature 507:57-61). [more]
Graduate student Stacy Scholle received one of three Honorable Mentions awarded by The American Naturalist for the 2013 Student Paper of the Year. The honorable mention was for her 2013 paper entitled "Viral substitution rate variation can arise from the interplay between within-host and epidemiological dynamics." Her coauthors were Rolf Ypma, Alun Lloyd, Katia Koelle. [more]
Laurie Stevison, a 2007 graduate of the Noor Lab, has won the John Maynard Smith Prize from the European Society for Evolutionary Biology. The prize, which includes a monetary award and a 3-month fellowship at the Institute of Advanced Study in Berlin, is given annually to an outstanding young evolutionary biologist. Congratulations to Laurie! [more]
Deep in the darkest recesses of a cell something determines its fate: How will it react to food or famine? Should it grow and divide? Into two identical daughter cells, or four daughters with mixed-up chromosomes?
Paul Magwene wants not only to know how a yeast cell decides to behave, but to watch it do so in real time. He studies a signalling pathway, a series of chemical reactions which transmits signals from the exterior of the cell to the nucleus. There it turns particular genes on or off, determining the cell's behavior. Paul tries to match genetic variation in this pathway to different cell fates.
Right now his lab is adapting a cool technique that will make yeast cells fluoresce when the pathway is stimulated. If it works, they can expose cells with different versions of the pathway to different stimuli, and watch how it lights up!
Meanwhile Paul is teaching himself to play the piano. He’s especially interested in creating music with algorithms or formal rules, just as DNA governs an organism by varying the sequence of four bases. Is there a G-C-A-T Symphony in his future?[more]
Before going to college John Mercer joined the Navy. See the world! Experience life! After much training John became an Electronics Technician-Reactor, 1st Class, on a nuclear submarine. He saw a lot of grey paint. Then he went to college and graduate school to study biophysics, and embarked on a different kind of fantastic voyage.
On this voyage John has descended to the level of DNA molecules and proteins, the technicians 1st class of the cell, to see how they evolve. Many powerful techniques exist for studying proteins: determining their three-dimensional structure, analyzing their chemistry, constructing mathematical models. You can manipulate their structure by changing some components, put the result into a yeast or bacterial cell, and sit back and watch as the generations roll by. By putting the same line of cells in different environments, you can see if your modified protein makes any difference to the cells' ability to adapt and ultimately evolve. John hopes one day to understand the selective pressures that cause proteins to change.
In the meantime, BEAT ARMY![more]
John Willis loves figuring things out--specifically, how the wildflower Mimulus adapts to different environments. Colonies adapt to different elevations, or degrees of drought, or soil types. Some have even evolved to live on highly contaminated soil near a copper mine. Which of their genes change, and do they change in many little ways or one big way? Why do some separated groups lose the ability to reproduce with their neighbors? Are the genes that help them adapt the same ones that prevent living hybrid offspring?
The Willis group tests this with "tricky crosses" between different varieties. If the copper mine variety mates with nearby types, the offspring all die. But when one parent is crossed to a third and their viable offspring to the other parent, it produces some living offspring and some that die. By analyzing which parts of the parents' chromosomes each type inherited, the lab can zero in on the killer gene. Scientists assumed that the copper-tolerant gene was the killer, but Willis recently showed that a near neighbor, which "hitchhiked" with copper tolerance into the population, was guilty.
The lab also uses tricky crosses to study a genetic arms race fought inside the seed, between the parents. But that’s a different story. [more]