2012 News

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  • December 19, 2012

    BMB Program 10th Annual Retreat Announced!

    Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (BMB) Program holds its 10th Annual Retreat on Monday, January 14, 2013.

    The event is scheduled to be in Rochester Museum and Science Center in Eisenhart Auditorium from 8:30 a.m. till 5:00 p.m.

    Faculty Organizers: Beth Grayhack & Josh Munger
    Student Organizers: Angela Balliano & Jiashi Wang
    Staff Organizer: Melissa Vera

    Monday, January 14; 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
    Rochester Museum and Science Center Eisenhart Auditorium
    657 East Ave, Rochester, NY 14607 (show on Google Maps)

  • December 3, 2012

    URMC Biochemistry Professor Named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

    Eric Phizicky, Ph.D.

    Eric M. Phizicky, Ph.D., dean's professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of Rochester Medical Center, was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). AAAS is the world's largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science.

    This year 702 members were awarded this honor by AAAS because of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. Phizicky, a member of the University's Center for RNA Biology, was elected a Fellow for major contributions to the basic knowledge of tRNA (transfer RNA) processing and turnover and for the development and widespread distribution of powerful genome-wide technologies.

    We were extremely happy to hear that Eric was receiving this much-deserved honor. His passion for science is infectious and matched only by his inquisitive nature and skill as a scientist, said Jeffrey J. Hayes, Ph.D., professor and acting chairman of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the Medical Center. Aside from his remarkable accomplishments in research, Eric is an outstanding teacher and colleague.

    Phizicky, who came to the Medical Center in 1987, has spent his career working to understand how tRNA is made and how it does its job in the cell, which is to help with the translation of genes into proteins. His lab also focuses on the design, construction and implementation of genomic methods to analyze protein structure and function, work that's conducted in collaboration with Elizabeth Grayhack, Ph.D., associate professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics.

  • November 28, 2012

    Longtime Biochemistry & Biophysics Member, Sayeeda Zain, Ph.D., Dies

    Sayeeda Zain, Ph.D.

    Longtime Biochemistry & Biophysics member, Sayeeda Zain, Ph.D. passed away last week after a long and courageous battle with cancer. Services were held last Sunday for Sayeeda.

    Sayeeda did her Ph.D. work with Sherman Weissman in the Dept of Human Genetics, Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale University where she carried out some of the very earliest nucleic acid sequencing experiments, determining the sequence of parts of the SV40 virus. She then went to Richard Roberts' group at The Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories, where she applied her knowledge of sequencing to both adenovirus transcripts and and genomic DNA – and co-discovered, with Louise Chow, the phenomenon of mRNA splicing. Roberts later received the Nobel Prize for this work, with Philip Sharp (Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1993, see here for Robert's description of Sayeeda's work.

    In 1978 Sayeeda took a faculty position in the Microbiology Department at the University of Rochester and later was hired into to the Biochemistry Department by Fred Sherman. Sayeeda's research program focused on eukaryotic gene expression with specific emphasis on proteins involved in Alzheimer's disease and molecular mechanisms of metastasis. She remained an active member of the department, teaching in Molecules-to-Cells, until last year.

  • September 13, 2012

    URMC Geneticists Verify Cholesterol-Cancer Link

    University of Rochester Medical Center scientists discovered new genetic evidence linking cholesterol and cancer, raising the possibility that cholesterol medications could be useful in the future for cancer prevention or to augment existing cancer treatment.

    The data, published in the online journal Cell Reports, support several recent population-based studies that suggest individuals who take cholesterol-lowering drugs may have a reduced risk of cancer, and, conversely that individuals with the highest levels of cholesterol seem to have an elevated risk of cancer.

    The cancer-cholesterol question has been debated since the early 20th century, and along with it doctors and scientists have observed various trends and associations. However, until now genetic evidence directly linking cholesterol and malignancy has been lacking, said senior author Hartmut (Hucky) Land, Ph.D., Robert and Dorothy Markin Professor and chair of the Department of Biomedical Genetics and Professor in the department of Biochemistry & Biophysics, and director of research and co-director of the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center at URMC.

  • September 7, 2012

    Dr. Robert Bambara Receives Lifetime Mentoring Award

    Dr. Robert Bambara, professor of Microbiology & Immunology and Biochemistry & Biophysics received the Lifetime Mentoring Award from the University of Rochester Medical Center at this year's Convocation. A most prestegious award, Dr. Bambara, the former chair of the department of Biochemistry & Biophysics, is no stranger to these types of awards having been honored several times throughout his distinguished career, including the 2007 William H. Riker University Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching. Since 1977, Dr. Bambara has mentored about 100 students and postdoctoral fellows who have said that he promotes a family feeling, fiercely promoting team cohesion all while nurturing learning opportunities in individualistic styles and that their accomplishments would not have been possible without his mentorship.

    The most important quality of a mentor is to equip their student with all of the abilities they need to succeed. In our business this is coming up with imaginative research questions, performing technically clean and informative experiments, reading widely, quality writing of papers and grant applications, speaking professionally, working well with colleagues and learning to be a good mentor too., says Bambara.

    Some highlights of his many accomplishments over his 30+ years at the URMC through exceptional mentoring include:

    • Sustained record of outstanding mentorship of early career investigators
    • Of 30 postdocs, many have senior leadership positions: Asst Dean, VP in industry, 3 Directors in industry, 4 senior scientists in industry, 6 full Professors, many others in academia, industry, NIH
    • 38 doctoral trainees (including MD/PhDs): senior positions including 1 Dean, Division Chief, full professors, Directors in industry
    • A large number of his current mentees gathered large number of letters, reflecting the lasting impact Dr. Bambara has had on them
    • Not resting on mentoring laurels: 1 current postdoc: 11 papers with Bob (4 as 1st author), recently received prestigious Pathway to Independence (K99/R00) from NIH.
    • Overall 21 former trainees now academic faculty members
  • September 5, 2012

    Lata Balakrishnan, Ph.D. Receives Outstanding Postdoc Mentor Award

    Lata Balakrishnan, Ph.D., who was recently appointed to Research Assistant Professor in the department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, was selected to be this year's recipient of the Outstanding Postdoc Mentor Award. The selection was based on the faculty opinion that Lata demonstrated all of the qualities of a great postdoc mentor, as well as her outstanding credentials.

    This award, established this year, is to recognize a School of Medicine and Dentistry postdoc for outstanding mentoring of undergraduate or graduate students and/or other postdocs. The Award was presented to a deserving postdoc of exceptional merit at the School of Medicine and Dentistry Convocation Ceremony on Thursday, August 30th at 4:00pm in the Class of 1962 Auditorium. Currently Lata works in the Bambara Lab focusing on regulation of replication and repair associated proteins via acetylation.

  • September 4, 2012

    Alan E. Senior, Emeritus Professor, Publishes Reflections Article

    Alan E. Senior, Emeritus Professor in the department of Biochemistry & Biophysics, recently published a Reflections article in The Journal of Biological Chemistry. The article details his life and work defining the F1F0-ATPase (also known as ATP synthase), which is a fundamental component of oxidative phosphorylation, and P-glycoprotein, an important enzyme that confers multidrug resistance to anti-cancer drugs and other therapeutics.

  • August 31, 2012

    Biochemistry Students Receive Awards at School of Medicine and Dentistry Convocation Ceremony

    Biochemistry graduate student, Michael Mierzejewski received the School of Medicine and Dentistry, Irving Spar Award. The Irving L. Spar Award honors the memory of Dr. Spar, a former Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Studies in the School of Medicine and Dentistry. The Award was presented to a deserving student of exceptional merit at the School of Medicine and Dentistry Convocation Ceremony on Thursday, August 30th at 4:00 pm in the Class of 1962 Auditorium.

    Biochemistry students, Clarence Ling, Bronwyn Lucas, Morgan Monaghan, and Charles Owen Smith received the Elmer H. Stotz, Award. The award honors Dr. Stotz, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus and former Chair of the Department of Biochemistry. It provides scholarship funds for graduate students, helping to fulfill the life-long ideals and interest which Dr. Stotz had for graduate education.

  • August 23, 2012

    Harold C. Smith, Ph.D. Serves as an Organizer for the 2nd World Congress on Virology

    Harold C. Smith, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, served as an organizer for the 2nd World Congress on Virology, Aug. 20-22, in Las Vegas. The meeting brings together scientists, physicians and social workers from around the world with the goal of sharing technology and new understanding concerning the impact of disease caused by viral infections of humans, animals and plants on global and regional health care and socioeconomics. Smith was charged with creating the sweeping meeting program, including recruiting the keynote speaker and organizing sessions with other chairpersons and speakers. He also organized a workshop on drug-discovery efforts around the globe. Important new insights are anticipated concerning the spread of infectious disease, vaccine development and novel preventive and therapeutic approaches.

  • August 17, 2012

    Biophysics, Structural & Computational Biology Program to Hold Annual Retreat

    The BSCB program will hold it's annual retreat at the Memorial Art Gallery on Monday, October 8. Our Ph.D. candidates will be presenting short talks throughout the day and posters during an afternoon session. A major highlight of the retreat is a Career Discussion Panel comprising five diverse scientists:

    • Prof. Hong Li (Florida State U.)
    • Prof. Doros Petasis (Alleghany College)
    • Prof. Barry Goldstein (U. Rochester/professional photographer)
    • Dr. Matthew Benning (Bruker-AXS, Inc.)
    • Dr. Chris Strohsahl (CellTraffix, Inc.)

    Lunch and refreshments will be served, courtesy of the BSCB Program's Neuman Educational Endowment, as well as corporate sponsorship from Genscript, Inc., Bruker-AXS, Inc., and GE Healthcare, Inc.

    Drs. Clara Kielkopf and Joseph Wedekind are the faculty organizers and student organizers are Anant Agrawal and Karl Smith. Program and additional information will be available in September.

  • July 20, 2012

    Lata Balakrishnan Awarded NIH Pathway to Independence K99/R00 Award

    Congratulations to Lata Balakrishnan, Postdoctoral Fellow in Dr. Robert Bambara's lab. Lata was awarded a NIH Pathway to Independence K99/R00 Award. The project title is Regulating Pathways and Fidelity of DNA Replication and Repair by Acetylation. The award is for a period of five years consisting of two phases, with two years being funded for mentored research and three years of funding as an independent scientist (contingent on securing a tenure track faculty position).

  • June 5, 2012

    Professor Mahin Maines Recognized for Lifetime Contribution to Heme Oxygenase Community

    Congratulations to Professor Mahin Maines, Ph.D., who received recognition for her lifetime contribution to the Heme Oxygenase Community. Dr. Maines was presented with a certificate acknowledging her contribution, by her peers at the 7th International Congress on Heme Oxygenases and Related Enzymes, 28th May - 1st June, held at the University of Edinburgh

  • May 14, 2012

    Longtime Faculty Member, Expert in Effects of Radiation on DNA, Dies

    William A. Bernhard, Ph.D., a faculty member of the University of Rochester Medical Center for more than 40 years and an internationally known expert on the effects of ionizing radiation on the chemical structure of DNA, died May 9 at his home in Mendon, N.Y., after a brief illness.

    Bill was a biophysicist of the highest order, working at the forefront of understanding how radiation damages our genetic material. His unique command of both the biological and physical aspects of radiation damage earned him the respect and recognition of colleagues worldwide, said Jeffrey J. Hayes, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics. The longevity of his research program, funded by the National Cancer Institute for 37 consecutive years, and the successful careers of his many trainees are testaments to the consistent high quality of his work, the high regard his peers, and his commitment to training future scientists. Bill also was a wonderful person and colleague.

  • May 8, 2012

    Chenguang Gong Receives 2012 Scaringe and China Scholarship Council Awards

    Chenguang Gong, M.S., a graduate student in the laboratory of Lynne E. Maquat, Ph.D., the J. Lowell Orbison Chair and Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics and Director of the Center for RNA Biology, was awarded one of two 2012 Graduate Student Scaringe Awards from the RNA Society. Each year, the award is given to recognize graduate students who publish the best papers of the previous year in the areas of interest to the society. Gong was honored for his first-author publication in Nature (2011), which describes a new role for long non-coding RNAs in humans. Gong also has a first-author publication in Genes & Development (2009) and several review articles from his graduate work in the Maquat lab. Gong will receive the award in early June at the Annual Meeting of the RNA Society. As part of the award, Gong is invited to write a review for the society's journal RNA.

    Gong also received a Chinese Government Award for Outstanding Students Abroad. Established in 2003 by the China Scholarship Council (CSC), this award encourages research excellence and recognizes overseas Chinese students with outstanding academic accomplishments. The award includes a $5,000 cash prize and a CSC-issued certificate. Gong will join 30 other Chinese graduate students in the CSC's ten-state jurisdiction, which includes not only New York but also Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maine, Ohio, Connecticut, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Vermont, at the Awards Ceremony held on May 25 in New York City.

  • April 4, 2012

    10th Annual Fred Sherman Lecture Highlights Genetics Day 2012

    Today, the department of Biomedical Genetics 24th Annual Genetics Day was highlighted by the 10th Annual Fred Sherman Lecture. Dr. Fred Sherman, Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry & Biophysics has been honored for his contributions to Genetics and Yeast Genetics for the past nine years with a lecture named after him. The NIH has funded Fred for a remarkable 45 years, during which time he has published over 280 papers, with more on the way.

    In 1970, Fred initiated the famous yeast course at Cold Spring Harbor, which has trained scores of today's leading investigators. He served as an instructor in this course for 17 years. Fred's many landmark contributions to several fields of molecular biology were recognized by his election to the National Academy of Sciences in 1985.

    Genetics Day is an annual event, including a poster session and plenary lectures, that brings together the University genetics community defined in its broadest sense. This year, Dr. Gary Ruvkun, Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School, gave the Sherman Lecture entilted, The tiny RNA pathways of C. elegans.

  • March 23, 2012

    Lynne Maquat Named 2012 Batsheva de Rothschild Fellow

    Professor of Biochemistry & Biophysics and Director for the Center for RNA Biology, Lynne Maquat, Ph.D., has been named a 2012 Batsheva de Rothschild Fellow of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Batsheva de Rothschild (1914-1999) was a biologist, trained at the Sorbonne, Paris and at Columbia University, New York. She worked for a while at the Pasteur Institute in Paris.

    The Batsheva Fund was established as a private endowment fund, first in New York City and afterwards, in 1965, in Israel. In 1993 she generously transferred the fund to the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. In 1958 she became the only one ever, from her legendary family, to settle in Israel and became active in public life. Science and the arts were the two loves of this exceptional woman. In 1989 she was awarded the prestigious Israel Prize for her many contributions to Israeli society, among them the founding of Israel's Batsheva and Bat Dor Dance Companies. The Batsheva Fund's purpose is to further Science in Israel for the people of Israel.

  • March 14, 2012

    Taking another Shot at RAGE to Tame Alzheimer's

    photo of Ben and Itender

    Benjamin Miller, Ph.D., and Itender Singh, Ph.D.

    Researchers have taken another crack at a promising approach to stopping Alzheimer's disease that encountered a major hurdle last year. In research published this week in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, scientists have developed a compound that targets a molecular actor known as RAGE, which plays a central role in mucking up the brain tissue of people with the disease.

    Scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center and the University of Southern California synthesized a compound that stops RAGE in mice - reversing amyloid deposits, restoring healthy blood flow in the brain, squelching inflammation, and making old, sick mice smarter. But the scientists caution that the work has a long way to go before it's considered as a possible treatment in people.

    In the latest work, Zlokovic and colleagues screened thousands of compounds for anti-RAGE activity and identified three that seemed promising. Then the team turned to chemists Benjamin Miller, Ph.D., and graduate student Nathan Ross. The pair analyzed the compounds' molecular structures, then used that knowledge to create dozens of candidates likely to have activity against RAGE.

  • March 13, 2012

    Former Biophysics Chair and Senior Dean of Graduate Studies Dies

    Paul L. LaCelle, M.D., a University of Rochester Medical Center faculty member for more than 40 years, a former department chair and former senior dean, died March 9. He was 82.

    Dr. LaCelle, a 1959 graduate of the University's School of Medicine and Dentistry, joined the faculty in 1964 as an instructor of what was then the Department of Radiation Biology and Biophysics. He was named a professor in 1974 and chaired what is now the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics from 1977 to 1996.

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