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News Archives: 2012-2013

Faculty News

Associate Professor George Ellmore led two research students on a one-month research trip to Vietnam, from Dec. 10, 2012 to Jan. 10, 2013. Prof. Ellmore teamed with Mr. Charles vanRees (Biology Ph.D. student) and Ms. Mae Humiston (Senior Anthropology major) to improve the efficiency of family farms growing Dragon Fruit, a valuable export commodity for Vietnam. Our objective was to reduce costs associated with night-time lighting used to promote fruit growth in winter. In addition, we collected data on food autonomy and biodiversity associated with different crop management strategies, for both Dragon Fruit (in Binh Thuan Province), and ancient tree Shan Tuyet tea (in Yen Bay Province).

Our Tufts research team (Ellmore, vanRees, and Humiston) also presented a seminar on Biodiversity hotspots to students and faculty at Vietnam National University (VNU) Faculty of Science, Hanoi. We met with VNU President Prof. Mai Trong Nhuan to explore collaborative funding sources to support both projects over the near future, and in time to incubate collaborative projects on other systems, such as studies of medicinal plants and how to cultivate them.

The work was funded by the newly-instituted International Scholar Development Fund at Tufts, and Deans' Research Support at Vietnam National University Faculty of Science, Hanoi, where Prof. Ellmore has done collaborative work since 2011.

The Pechenik Lab (Prof. Jan Pechenik, Casey Diederich, 4th year graduate student, and Sam Bashevkin, A'14) was awarded a grant through the Sandler International Research Program which allowed them to travel to Chile for 25 days to conduct collaborative research at the marine lab of the Universidad Austral de Chile.

Professor Joanne Berger-Sweeney has been elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers. Professor Berger-Sweeney is recognized for her research on the development of the brain, particularly the cerebral cortex which is responsible for higher cognitive functions such as learning and memory and language.

Assistant Professor Eric Tytell was the recipient of The Carl Gans Award presented at this year's SICB Annual Meeting in San Francisco. This annual prize is given to an outstanding young investigator for distinguished contributions to the field of comparative biomechanics. The Carl Gans Award is in recognition of Carl Gans' scientific career and editorial contributions to animal morphology, biomechanics, and functional biology.

Sergei Mirkin, Professor, White Family Chair in Biology, was a keynote speaker at the International School for Young Scientist in Molecular Genetics, which was held in December 2012 in Moscow Region, Russia. The title of his talk was "Mechanisms of Expansions of Simple DNA Repeats".

Sergei Mirkin will deliver a seminar at Duke University, Program in Genetics and Genomics in April 2013 entitled "Stable DNA repeats are all alike; every unstable repeat is unstable in its own way".

Sergei Mirkin will be an invited speaker at the International Conference " Genome Instability, Evolution and Human Diseases" St. Petersburg, Russia, June 2013.

Sergei Mirkin will chair a session "Genome Weak Links" at 18th Conversations in Biomolecular Dynamics in Albany, June 2013.

The Organizing Committee of the 2012 International Functional Electrical Stimulation Society (IFESS) has unanimously selected Michael Levin as the recipient of the Scientist of Vision Award. This award is presented to researchers who are pushing the boundaries of electrical stimulation and envisioning the future of science for the benefit of humanity. This award was presented at the 17th annual meeting of the Society in Banff, Alberta, Canada, in September.

Student and Post Doc Highlights

Kartik Shah, graduate student in the Sergei Mirkin Lab, defended his Ph.D. thesis "Genetic control of DNA repeat expansions and mutagenesis." Congratulations Kartik!

Jennifer Mortensen, 3rd year doctoral candidate in the Michael Reed lab, is one of 85 doctoral students nationwide selected to receive a $15,000 Scholar Award from the P.E.O. Sisterhood. She was sponsored by Chapter A\MA of Boston, MA. The P.E.O. Scholar Awards (PSA) was established in 1991 to provide substantial merit-based awards for women of the United States and Canada who are pursuing a doctoral level degree at an accredited college or university. The P.E.O. Sisterhood, founded January 21, 1869, at Iowa Wesleyan College, Mount Pleasant, Iowa, is a philanthropic educational organization interested in bringing increased opportunities for higher education to women. There are approximately 6,000 local chapters in the United States and Canada with nearly a quarter of a million active members.

Amy Yu, G'11, former member of the McVey Lab, has been awarded a three-year American Cancer Society postdoctoral fellowship to carry out research investigating links between inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal cancer in the lab of Dr. Leona Samson at MIT. Specifically, Amy is examining the mechanism by which the DNA repair protein Mbd4 protects against colon tumorigenesis in the context of chronic inflammation.

Two Tufts students win the Goldwater Scholarship this year: Sam Bashevkin, A14, a Biology major and Noah Kurinsky, E14, an Engineering Physics major! The Goldwater Scholars were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,107 mathematics, science, and engineering students who were nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide. Goldwater Scholars have very impressive academic qualifications that have garnered the attention of prestigious post-graduate fellowship programs. The Scholarship Program honoring Senator Barry Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering. The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields. Congratulations!

Jen Mortensen, 3rd year Graduate Student in the Michael Reed lab, has been recommended for an NSF doctoral dissertation improvement grant (DDIG) for her project, Understanding effects of social behavior on extinction risk in avian cooperative breeders. NSF DDIGs award up to $15,000 to PhD candidates to conduct research related to their dissertations. Jen will be using some of this award to do molecular ecology work, as well as expand her field studies in the Caribbean. Jen also received the following grants for her White-breasted Thrasher work: Nuttall Ornithological Society Blake-Nuttall fund, Tufts Graduate Student Research Grants-in-Aid, Fall 2012 and Ornithological Council small grants for research in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Carolyn Bauer, 4th year doctoral student in the Romero lab, received a Tufts Institute for the Environment Fellowship for 2013-2014 and a Sigma Xi grant-in-aid of research. Carolyn also had papers recently accepted to General and Comparative Endocrinology (Bauer, C.M., Skaff, N.K., Bernard, A.B., Trevino, J.M., Ho, J.M., Romero, L.M., Ebensperger, L.A., and Hayes, L.D. Habitat type influences endocrine stress response in the degu (Octodon degus)) and Ecological Modelling (Bauer, C.M., Nachman, G., Lewis, S.M., and Reed, J.M. Modeling effects of harvest on firefly population persistence).

Casey Diederich, 4th year doctoral student in the Pechenik Lab, was awarded a Sigma Xi grant entitled "The tradeoff between desiccation and aerial respiration as a factor controlling the distribution of an important invasive species" and was also awarded the Tufts Grants-in-aid grant entitled "Assessing the ability of an invasive gastropod to compensate for food shortage in the intertidal zone."

Robert Burns, a graduate student in the Pechenik lab, has been selected to be a fellow of the Tufts Institute for the Environment for 2013-2014. Robert will be using next-generation RNA sequencing technology to study the transcriptome of the marine pollution indicator polychaete Capitella teleta.

Jenny Lenkowski, G10, will be starting a position in 2013 as an Assistant Professor of Biology at Goucher College in Towson, MD. She completed her doctoral work on developmental toxicology in the lab of Kelly McLaughlin in the Department of Biology. Dr. Lenkowski is currently a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Michigan working on retina regeneration in the lab of Pamela Raymond.

Adam Thomas, doctoral student in the McVey lab, (with co-authors Carrie Hui and Adam South) published a paper in the January 2013 issue of G3: Genes, Genomes, and Genetics, titled, "Common variants of Drosophila Cyp6d2 cause camptothecin sensitivity and synergize with loss of Brca2."

Kartik Shah, graduate student in the Mirkin Laboratory, has published a seminal paper entitled "Role of DNA polymerases in repeat-mediated genome instability" (Shah KA, Shishkin AA, Voineagu I, Pavlov YI, Shcherbakova PV & Mirkin SM. (2012) Cell Reports 2:1088-109).

Shoni Caine, doctoral student in the McLaughlin Lab, has a paper accepted by the Developmental Dynamics journal entitled "Regeneration of functional pronephric proximal tubules after partial nephrectomy in Xenopus laevis." The paper is available online at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/dvdy.23916/abstract and will be available in print shortly.

Simran Kaushal, 2nd year doctoral candidate from the Freudenreich Lab, recently published two papers: "Evidence for Grow-Through Penetration of 0.2-Micrometer-Pore-Size Filters by Serratia marcescens and Brevundimonas diminuta. in JIMB and "A survey of quality attributes of virus spike preparations used in clearance studies." in PDA J Pharm Sci Technol.

Christine Lattin, 5th year doctoral student in the Romero Lab, had the following paper accepted: Lattin, C. R., K. Waldron-Francis and L. M. Romero. In press. "Intracellular glucocorticoid receptors in spleen, but not skin, vary seasonally in wild house sparrows (Passer domesticus)." Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences. Christine also received a Charlotte Magnum Student Support award for travel to the 2013 Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology meeting in San Francisco CA, where she gave a talk.

Christine Lattin, graduate student in the Romero lab, was awarded a fellowship from the Tufts Institute for the Environment for 2012-13. Christine also presented a talk entitled "Seasonal changes in brain and peripheral intracellular glucocorticoid receptors in wild house sparrows" at the 10th International Symposium on Avian Endocrinology in Gifu Japan in June. She received travel grants to attend this conference from the Graduate School, the Tufts Institute for the Environment, and Graduate Women in Science. She also received a research grant from the American Ornithologists' Union.

Congratulations to Jason Heustis, from the Juliet Fuhrman lab, upon successfully defending his Ph.D. thesis entitled "Characterization of Chitin Synthases and Chitin Deacetylases that Function During the Development of the Nematode Caenorhabditis elegans."

Congratulations to Alexander "Sasha" Keyel, from the Michael Reed lab, upon successfully defending his Ph.D. thesis entitled "Examining the effects of behavior, landscape fragmentation, and climate change on avian distributions."

Maria Lobikin, 3rd year doctoral candidate in the Levin Lab, is the first author on a paper in the Journal PNAS titled: "Early, nonciliary role for microtubule proteins in left–right patterning is conserved across kingdoms." Joan Lemire and Michael Levin are also co-authors.

Carolyn Bauer, 3rd year doctoral candidate in the Romero Lab, has received a National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant, a grant-in-aid from the American Society of Mammalogists, and a student research grant from the Animal Behavior Society. Carolyn is also a co-PI with Dr. Michael Romero on a Tufts International Research Program Grant.

Faith Blake, LA'13, is the 2012-13 recipient of The Paula Frazier Poskitt Scholarship. The Poskitt scholarship was established in 1995 to provide tuition support for a senior biology major who intends to pursue graduate studies in the biological sciences. This award was established by Dr. Thomas R. Poskitt, A'66, M'70, in memory of his wife Paula Frazier Poskitt, A'66, G'72. Congratulations Faith!

Sam Bashevkin, Biology, (LA '14), has been named Astronaut Scholar for 2012-13. The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation awards scholarships to college students engaged in serious scientific research at specific partner institutions. Tufts is one of the 26 universities with whom the Astronaut Foundation maintains a relationship. The other universities are also leaders in undergraduate scientific research. Since 1994, almost each year, one Tufts student is selected to be an Astronaut Scholar. It's a great honor and it comes with a generous financial award.

Emily Pitcairn, 1st year doctoral student in the Trimmer lab, has been awarded a 2012 National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship. The NDSEG Fellowship is sponsored and funded by the Department of Defense (DoD). Their applications were selected by the DoD from over 3,000 applications that were received this year. The NDSEG Fellowship covers tuition and fees and offers a $31,000 stipend for three years. Congrats Emily!

Nicole Soltis, Thesis Masters student in the Colin Orians Lab, has been awarded the TIE graduate student fellowship for 2012-2013, for the project "Sapped of energy: the role of invasive herbivores as a resource drain on hemlock trees".