Golisano Children's Hospital Thanks the Department for it's Toy Drive Donations
Tuesday, February 11, 2020
Professor Harold Smith Organizes Preclinical Drug Discovery Conference
Thursday, November 14, 2019
Harold Smith, Ph.D., Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics, will serve as Chair and organizer for the 5th Annual International Preclinical Drug Discovery Conference to be held November 21-23, 2019 in Boston. Dr. Smith will also speak at the conference, and several other University of Rochester students, postdocs and faculty will also participate. The link to the meeting can be found her: https://unitedscientificgroup.com/conferences/drug-discovery/pdfs/DrugDiscovery-2019_Program.pdf
Lynne Maquat Honored by International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Tuesday, October 29, 2019
Lynne Maquat, Ph.D., the J. Lowell Orbison Endowed Chair and Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, was honored with the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (IUBMB) Jubilee Lectureship in September. The IUBMB unites biochemists and molecular biologists in 75 countries and is devoted to promoting research and education in biochemistry and molecular biology, giving particular attention to areas where the subject is still in its early development.
The IUBMB Jubilee Lectureship was established to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the First International Congress of Biochemistry that was held in Cambridge, England in 1949, at which the initial steps were taken that led to the formation of IUBMB. Maquat gave the keynote lecture at the IUBMB Molecular Biosystems Conference in Puerto Varas, Chile on September 30 and was presented with a medal in recognition of the event.
The founding director of the University of Rochester’s Center for RNA Biology, Maquat has spent her career deciphering the many roles that RNA plays in sickness and in health. She’s an international leader in the field and is credited with several major discoveries that are informing a new generation of therapies for a wide range of genetic disorders.
Her lecture, titled “Nonsense-mediated mRNA Decay in Human Health and Disease,” described her discovery of nonsense-mediated mRNA decay or NMD and how this important surveillance system protects against mistakes in gene expression that lead to disease. She also discussed ongoing work on how misregulation of NMD in Fragile X Syndrome, the most common single gene cause of intellectual disability and autism, results in neuronal defects that typify this disorder.
BMB Faculty Peng Yao co-organizes 2019 Rustbelt RNA Meeting
Monday, October 28, 2019
Peng Yao, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine, CVRI and a member of the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Graduate Program co-organized the 2019 Rustbelt RNA Meeting with Drs. Hua Lou and Jo Ann Wise of Case Western Reserve University. The conference, with approximately 400 attendees was held on October 25th & 26th, at Case Western University and featured 25 speakers, including a workshop on "Using CRISPR-Cas13 to target and detect RNA" by Dr. Mitch O’Connell and talk or poster presentations by laboratory members from the labs of Drs. Charles Thornton, Dragony Fu, and Peng Yao. BMB Students Omar Hedaya and Feng Jiang helped design and construct the meeting booklet and organize the meeting. The meeting was supported by the University of Rochester Center for RNA Biology and the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, among 19 other departments, 10 industrial vendors, and 5 journals/societies.
UR trainees who presented a talk or poster at the 2019 RBR Meeting
Jenna M. Lentini (graduate student from Dragony Fu lab) gave a talk and won an outstanding presentation award for graduate students.
Kejia Zhang (graduate student from Dragony Fu lab) gave a poster presentation.
Matthew Tanner (graduate student from Charles Thornton lab) gave a poster presentation.
Kadiam C Venkata Subbaiah (postdoctoral fellow from Peng Yao lab) gave a talk.
Jiangbin Wu (postdoctoral fellow from Peng Yao lab) gave a poster presentation.
Chris Goodwin Successfully Defends His Thesis
Thursday, August 1, 2019
On July 29, Chris Goodwin successfully defended his thesis, “The intersection of Human Cytomegalovirus infection and innate immune signaling”, thereby obtaining his Ph.D. Chris found that the cellular IKK kinases limit the ability of Human Cytomegalovirus to initiate infection. Further, he found that the Human Cytomegalovirus UL26 protein prevents IKKB from inducing the expression of anti-viral interferon stimulated genes. Chris’ work sheds new light on the measures and counter-measures taken by viruses and host cells to try to control the outcome of infection. Chris was mentored by Joshua Munger, and was awarded the Fred Sherman Biochemistry Award, the URBest Sharing Science Video Communication Award, and the Biochemistry Student Seminar Award. Good luck as you embark on your independent career Chris!
T32 Trainee Brandon Berry Writes on Criticism and Confidence in Graduate Studies
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
Brandon Berry, a Ph.D. Student in the Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology Ph.D. program, and an appointee to the NIH T32 Training Grant in Cellular, Biochemical, and Molecular Sciences, wrote an insightful essay on "Balancing Criticism and Confidence” in graduate school, which was posted on the Career Stories@URBest website. The essay can be found here: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/education/graduate/ur-best-blog/july-2019-1/balancing-criticism-and-confidence.aspx.
Professor Russell Hilf Receives Recognition for 50 Years of Service to the University
Tuesday, July 23, 2019
Professor Russ Hilf celebrated 50 years of service at the University of Rochester Medical Center on June 19th, 2019, by presenting an overview of his life, career and scientific accomplishments. He was also presented with a plaque commemorating his 50 years of service to the University from the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics. Dr. Hilf’s first appointment, as an Associate Professor, began July 1, 1969.
Dr. Hilf receives the commemorative plaque from Jeff Hayes, Chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics.
Lynne Maquat Interviewed at the RNA Symposium at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Monday, June 17, 2019
Harold Smith Featured on Roc NORML Radio
Wednesday, May 22, 2019
So what exactly happens inside your body when you consume Cannabis? Dr. Smith outlines the powerful role of the Endocannabinoid System in modulating human health, and discusses the future of Cannabis research and testing.
Read More: Harold Smith Featured on Roc NORML Radio
Congratulations Dalia Ghoneim for winning a Born Seekers Fellowship
Wednesday, May 8, 2019
The Born Seekers fellowship is a speech contest that is open to women in STEM. The work they do pushes boundaries and meaningfully impacts society on a local, national, and often global level. The women selected as our 2019 Born Seekers build skills in communication and leadership, serving as role models for the next generation of scientists, engineers, doctors, and STEM professionals.
Dalia Ghoneim is a PhD candidate in Genetics at the University of Rochester in Rochester, NY. She develops and contributes to software that helps us understand the structure and functions of genetic molecules, and has worked to analyze mutations in DNA from patients with severe neurological diseases like epilepsy and autism. This work was instrumental to identifying new genes that cause these diseases. Dalia takes as many opportunities as she can to share science with others by participating in outreach and advocating for inclusion in science. Outside of science, Dalia is a single mother to four wonderful children, a competitive runner, and enjoys figure drawing and learning and experiencing new things.
31st Annual Genetics Day Symposium
Monday, April 22, 2019
The Departments of Biomedical Genetics and Biology, with the support of the University Committee for Interdisciplinary Studies, host the 31st annual Genetics Day Symposium on Thursday, April 25, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Class of ’62 Auditorium and Flaum Atrium. This year’s Fred Sherman Lecturer will be Phillip Zamore, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and professor of biomedical sciences at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, giving a talk titled “piRNAs and the Struggle to Reproduce.”Read More: 31st Annual Genetics Day Symposium
Byron Rubin, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, pens article in ASBMB TODAY
Monday, February 18, 2019
Dr. Rubin describes his own battle with prostate cancer, and how as a scientist how he took control of his own treatment. He also describes the impact of personalized medicine on his medical decisions and how he deals with living with cancer. Read the article.
Former Biochemistry Student Jerry Madukwe, Ph.D. travels to West Africa to Speak With Students
Wednesday, January 30, 2019
Jerry Madukwe, Ph.D., who received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry (2018), and is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University, recently completed a 2-week science-outreach trip to West Africa. Jerry was invited by the West Africa Center for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens at the University of Ghana, and the Department of Life sciences at the University of Ilorin in central Nigeria to talk about the work he did as a PhD student and about graduate school in the United States. Jerry, who hails from Nigeria, and got his BS from Lee University in Tennessee, also used the opportunity to visit his former elementary school where he talked to fifth grade pupils about science (see photos), and to demonstrate DNA extraction from bananas. The kids were very excited by his visit, and Jerry found the experience very fulfilling.
Chavali, Couch, DeZoysa and Hao Win Sayeeda Zain Travel Award
Tuesday, December 18, 2018
The department is pleased to announce the winners of the Sayeeda Zain Fall Travel awards: Shashank Chavali, Tyler Couch, Meemanage Dudarshika DeZoysa and Fanfan Hao.
The Sayeeda Zain Travel Award honors the distinguished career and charitable life of Dr. Sayeeda Zain. The award is given in recognition of research excellence to support travel and related expenses associated with attendance at a scientific conference or corporate internship to gain practical experience. The next round of Sayeeda Zain Travel Awards will be offered in Spring 2019.
Thank you to all those who applied and congratulations to Shashank, Tyler, Dudarshika and Fanfan!
Professor Harold Smith, Ph.D. appears on Evan Dawson Radio Program
Thursday, November 29, 2018
Harold C. Smith was a guest along with Bob Duffy (CEO of the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce), Jason Klimek (attorney with Boylan Code), Zachary Sarkis (co-founder of Flower City Solutions) and Jacob Fox (founder of Closed Loop Systems) on WXXI Connections with Evan Dawson on 11/21/2018 to address the opportunities and questions surround the emerging hemp industry in Up State NY. (listen to Hemp101http://www.wxxinews.org/programs/connections?page=1&ajax=1)
Dr. Smith spoke regarding the future of labeling and dosing of THC-free and THC-containing products relative to what we understanding from scientific and clinical research. Having founded CannaMetrix, LLC, a New York based company, Dr. Smith seeks to establish through patent pending, cell-based assays, to raise the standards for product development and quality control so as to better information patient choices of products containing full spectrum plant cannabinoids or synthetic cannabinoids and advance medicinal use of cannabis.
Wedekind Co-Organizes Nucleic Acids Session at American Crystallographic Association Annual Meeting in Toronto
Friday, November 9, 2018
Highlights of Session 1.1.2 on Nucleic Acid were reported in ACA RefleXions Fall 2018 and provided many new insights into the form and function of nucleic acids and was co-organized by Dr. Joseph Wedekind and Dr. Rui Zhao. Dr. Wen Zhang of Harvard University presented mechanistic studies of non-enzymatic RNA polymerization using custom phosphoramidites with imidazole leaving groups that were caught in the act of catalysis by crystallographic snapshots. This work has implications for catalysis in a pre-biotic RNA world. Sun Cheol Park from Kangwon National University, Korea described DNA recognition by the PadR repressor. Binding of phenolic acid blocks DNA binding to relieve PadR repression, activating downstream detoxification genes. Dr. Yun-Xing Wang from NIH/NCI described use of an X-ray free electron laser to capture conformational changes of the adenine riboswitch during effector binding, providing insights into RNA-mediated translational regulation.
Prof. Clara Kielkopf from the University of Rochester described progress to decode the basis of 3´-splice site recognition of pre-mRNA by U2AF proteins, including polypyrimidine tract recognition and binding to degenerate splice-sites. The work has implications for correction of splicing defects found in human diseases. Dr. Eric Montemayor from the University of Wisconsin described later steps of pre-mRNA splicing, including a model for U6 snRNA remodeling by contacts to the Lsm2-8 ring protein and the Prp24 chaperone. Dr. Soumya Remesh from the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab used small angle scattering and soft X-ray tomography to reveal how small molecules interact with the abundant HU protein to alter DNA supercoiling. The work has implications for controlling bacterial gene expression. The session was anchored by Dr. Ailong Ke of Cornell University who presented structural snapshots that contribute a novel mechanistic framework to describe how bacterial type II-A CRISPR systems create new molecular memories of short, foreign ‘spacer’ DNAs that invade bacterial cells.
Dumont Receives 2018 Outstanding Graduate Student Teacher Award
Tuesday, November 6, 2018
Biochemistry professor Mark Dumont, Ph.D. is the recipient of the 2018 Outstanding Graduate Student Teacher Award. Established in 2013, this award is given to an outstanding graduate student teacher for record of excellence in classroom instruction. Mark was nominated by graduate students Brandon Davis, Ashwin Kumar and Matthew Raymonda.
This award was presented at the School of Medicine and Dentistry Convocation Ceremony, September 6, 2018.
The department would like to extend congratulations to Mark on this well- deserved honor.
Kielkopf Lab Wins Annual Halloween Door Contest
Thursday, November 1, 2018
The department would like to thank all that participated in the BCBP Halloween Door Contest this year!
This year the winner is…
The Kielkopf Lab!!
Tied for second place are the Ermolenko Lab and the Grossfield Lab! Congratulations to everyone – the doors looked awesome!
Maquat Inducted into National Academy of Medicine
Sunday, October 21, 2018
Lynne Maquat, PhD, was inducted into the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) on Saturday October 13th in Washington, DC. Here, she is receiving her diploma and congratulations from Victor Dzau, MD, President of NAM after being introduced by J. Michael McGinnis, MD, the Executive Officer of NAM.
Clara L. Kielkopf, Ph.D. Receives Drug Development Grant From UR Ventures For Research To Cure Myelodysplastic Syndromes
Thursday, October 18, 2018
Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS) are a group of diverse bone marrow disorders, in which the bone marrow does not produce enough healthy blood cells. MDS is often referred to as a “bone marrow failure disorder.”
Congratulations, Clara and her lab!
Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics Loans Famous Statue to University of Rochester’s Laboratory of Laser Energetics
Wednesday, October 17, 2018
The Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics has loaned a statue of J. Robert Oppenheimer and Albert Einstein to the Laboratory of Laser Energetics. The sculpture was commissioned by the Department of Radiation Biology and Biophysics (William Neuman and Aser Rothstein co-chairs) in October of 1968 and was crafted by Achille Forgione, a notable Rochester artist. The work was in place by the fall of 1970, originally at the entrance to the OO wing, then moved to the Blair Library (no longer in existence). The statue has been in the back of the Neuman Room for many years. It is now displayed prominently in the LLE lobby. An engraved plate will be placed next to the statue, reading: "Albert Einstein, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Statue commissioned by Dr. William "Bill” Newman, On loan from the University of Rochester’s Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics"
For more information on Dr. Neuman and his work please visit our department featured alumni page.
Wedekind Lab Co-Crystal Structure of HIV RNA in complex with a Lab-Evolved Protein on the Cover of Nucleic Acids Research
Tuesday, July 31, 2018
Co-crystal structure of HIV trans-activation response (TAR) RNA (rainbow ribbon) in complex with lab-evolved protein, TBP6.7 (blue Cα ribbon). A short peptide (pink) binds TAR outside the context of TBP6.7. (art by Joseph Wedekind). The underlying electron micrograph shows HIV virions (CDC image #13472 by Maureen Metcalfe and Tom Hodge).
Nucleic Acids Research Breakthrough article describes structure of HIV TAR complex with engineered binding protein and structure-based synthesis of antagonist
Investigators at multiple research institutes, led by Dr. Joseph Wedekind (University of Rochester) have described the high resolution crystal structure of a laboratory-evolved protein bound to its tightly associated HIV TAR RNA target, and subsequent synthesis and characterization of a stapled peptide mimic of the predominant RNA binding epitope in that protein. The study provided a detailed framework for peptide-mediated TAR recognition that might be generally applicable to target other disease-relevant RNAs.
HIV/AIDS is a global health threat that requires new insights into viral targets, especially those that resist mutation and promote novel aspects of the viral life cycle. In these respects, the HIV-1 trans-activation response (TAR) RNA is of ongoing interest. Previously, investigators (including some from this author group) developed methods to produce a unique lab-evolved protein (‘TBP6.7’) that recognizes TAR with extraordinarily high affinity compared to known TAR binders [Crawford et al. McNaughton (2016) ACS Chem. Biol. 8, 2206]. However, the molecular determinants of TAR recognition remained obscure, thus limiting the investigators’ ability to further exploit that discovery. The crystal structure of this complex allowed investigators to determine that only a subset of the ‘evolved’ protein sequences are actually involved in RNA binding, with the preponderance of interactions localized to a short β-hairpin. This observation led them to synthesize a short, stapled peptide that mimics the β-hairpin and attenuates TAR-dependent transcription in HeLa nuclear lysate.
The study reported here [Belashov et al. Wedekind (2018) Nucleic Acids Res. 46, 6401-6415] is highly multi-disciplinary, spanning crystallography, site-directed mutagenesis, calorimetry, cell-surface display, ELISA, transcription assays, molecular dynamics simulations, and constrained peptide synthesis. In the end, the conversion of the parental RNA binding protein from single- to double-stranded RNA recognition implies that the protein has sufficient plasticity to recognize numerous RNA folds.
Reviewers and editors familiar with the work have stated that the study is “a strong contribution to a difficult field” that “will have substantial impact in the field of RNA recognition, ranging from applied (specifically targeting therapeutically relevant RNAs) to basic (understanding how RRMs bind to specific RNAs in the cell)”
The Wedekind laboratory at the University of Rochester investigates the mechanisms of action of non-protein-coding (nc)RNAs, and is interested especially in the three-dimensional architectures of these RNAs and how they bind to specific small molecules or peptides, leading to conformations that alter biological function. The research was supported by the University of Rochester Center for AIDS Research, and the National Institutes of Health.
Biochemistry & Biophysics Students Going Places
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
By Dr. Joseph Wedekind
The Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics is pleased to announce the winners of the Sayeeda Zain Fall Travel awards: Debapratim Dutta, Sierra Fox and Hong Zhu.
The Sayeeda Zain Travel Award honors the distinguished career and charitable life of Dr. Sayeeda Zain. The award is given in recognition of research excellence to support travel and related expenses associated with attendance at a scientific conference or corporate internship to gain practical experience.
Debapratim (Dave) Dutta is presenting a poster and was invited to give a talk at the Annual RNA Society Meeting (Berkeley, CA). Sierra Fox presented a poster and was a Keystone Symposia Future of Science Fund Scholarship recipient at the Keystone Symposia in Chromatin Architecture and Chromatin Organization, and Gene Control in Development and Disease Symposia (Whistler, BC, Canada). Hong Zhu presented a poster at the III International Conference on Vaccines Research and Development (Washington, DC).
Debapratim (Dave) Dutta
Congratulations to the 2018 Biochemistry Graduates!
Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Pictured are Anne Cheng, Venice Magunga, and Anmol Almast following the Arts, Sciences & Engineering commencement ceremony Sunday. Photo reproduced from 5-21-18 issue of @Rochester
The Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics congratulates the 20 young men and women who received their B.S. in Biochemistry this weekend. We look forward to their continued success in their future training and careers! In addition to the University-wide celebration, these graduates received their diplomas at a ceremony in The Class of ’62 Auditorium, attended by their families, friends, and faculty from the many departments involved in their training. The ceremony was officiated by Beth Grayhack, Ph.D., Director of the Undergraduate Program (Biochemistry and Biophysics), and was enriched by addresses from Sina Ghaemmaghami, Ph.D. (Biology) and Mark Dumont (Biochemistry and Biophysics).
Biochemistry and Biophysics Holds Annual Department Awards Ceremony
Sunday, May 20, 2018
On Friday May, 18th the department held it's annual awards ceremony in the Neuman Room. At the event this year the following awards were awarded to our current B&B graduate students:
- Bloor Award - Christina Brule and Lu Han
- Metzger Award - Karl J. P. Smith
- Sherman Award – Bronwyn Lucas
- Neuman Award – Chapin Cavender
- Grossfield Award – Sreyoshi Sur (talk), Lauren Benoodt (poster)
- Student Seminar Award – Fall: Bronwyn Lucas (BMB), Leslie Salas-Estrada (BSCB)
Spring: Viktoriya Anokhina (BMB), Daniel Steiner (BSCB)
- Hooker Award – Dudarshika DeZoysa (BMB), Christina Lai (BMB)
- Goodman Fellowship (3rd place for the Messersmith Award) – Leslie Salas-Estrada
- Faculty Award – Mark Dumont (BMB), Alan Grossfield (BSCB)
- Zain Award – Christine Lai, Lingfeng Luo, Louis Smith
Congratulations to all the winners and our 2018 graduates!
A Hidden Promise in the Language Cells Use to Communicate
Tuesday, May 8, 2018
Scientists have begun to implicate extracellular vesicles and exosomes in everything from cancer to viral infections to basic neural functioning. To Lynne Maquat, the J. Lowell Orbison Distinguished Service Alumni Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, the process shows how parts of the genome we used to think of as junk actually have important functions. “You could say that the host domesticated a viral sequence for its own purposes,” Maquat says. “That’s the beauty of our complexity—[these elements] allow tinkering or fine-tuning of genes.”Read More: A Hidden Promise in the Language Cells Use to Communicate
Looking to RNA for Answers
Friday, March 23, 2018
Cancer is a group of diseases in which the body’s cells divide uncontrollably and invade nearby tissues. Scientists at Wilmot Cancer Institute and the University of Rochester’s Center for RNA Biology are working to understand more about how and why this happens.
One piece of the puzzle they’re studying is ribonucleic acid, or RNA, which is found in all cells. RNA is made in the nucleus of a cell from our DNA, which holds the instruction manual for life. RNA puts those instructions into action.
RNA comes in many forms. One form, called messenger RNA (mRNA), carries those instructions out of the nucleus to the ribosomes, where proteins are made. These proteins are essential for functions ranging from digestion to protecting us from disease. If the mRNA has a bad copy of instructions, then either a faulty protein or no protein is created, leading to diseases like cancer.
Understanding the quality-control system
Lynne E. Maquat, Ph.D., director of the Center for RNA Biology, studies a quality control process that blocks cells from making faulty proteins. Called nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD), this process comes into play when mRNA has a set of instructions with a mistake that will lead to short or incomplete proteins. NMD acts like a set of factory inspectors that find and destroy this mRNA before the faulty proteins can be made.
Sometimes, though, NMD doesn’t catch the mistakes and harmful proteins are made. This process plays a part in one-third of all inherited diseases, such as cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy, and one-third of all acquired diseases, including a number of cancers.
One reason is that tumors can influence how these inspectors work. Maquat and her team are looking for ways to stop tumors from interfering with NMD with the goal of finding new ways to treat cancer.
Slowing cancer’s growth
A team from Maquat’s lab has also identified a protein called Tudor-SN that is important as cells prepare to divide. This protein controls many microRNAs, molecules that are very small RNAs that control the expression of tens of thousands of genes.
The scientists found that when Tudor-SN is removed from human cells, levels of hundreds of microRNAs go up, putting the brakes on genes that encourage cell growth. This slows down the process of cell division known as the cell cycle, which goes awry in cancer.
Maquat and Reyad A. Elbarbary, Ph.D., a former post-doctoral fellow in Maquat’s lab, have filed a patent application for methods that target Tudor-SN for the treatment and prevention of cancer. They continue to study how Tudor-SN works in concert with other molecules and proteins so that scientists can identify the most appropriate drugs to target it.
Scientists at the Center for RNA Biology are also looking at RNA’s other roles in cancer to find new treatment strategies. For example, Mitchell O’Connell, Ph.D., is studying how microRNAs can interfere with the way genes are expressed and lead to cancer. He and his team are using the gene-editing technology known as CRISPR, which he has adapted to edit RNA, to learn more about the proteins involved in this process.
Yi-Tao Yu, Ph.D., and his team are studying various ways to modify mRNA so that it can override mistakes in genetic instructions. Sometimes there’s a premature stop signal that orders a cell to stop reading the genetic instructions in mRNA partway through the process, resulting in an incomplete protein. The Yu lab is working to alter mRNA in ways that turn “stop” signals into “go” signals, creating full length proteins and preventing diseases like cancer.
The study of RNA biology is allowing scientists and physicians to explore entirely new treatment strategies for cancer and a wide range of other genetic and acquired disorders.
Learn more about the work being done at the Center for RNA Biology.
By Lydia FernandezRead More: Looking to RNA for Answers
Maquat Wins 17th Annual Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
The Wiley Foundation today announced the 17th annual Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences will be awarded to Lynne E. Maquat for elucidating the mechanism of nonsense-mediated messenger RNA decay, a fundamental process whereby cells remove defective transcripts that can encode toxic proteins.
Dr. Maquat is a Professor at the Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics in the School of Medicine and Dentistry, the Founding Director of the Center for RNA Biology: From Genome to Therapeutics, the Founding Chair of the University of Rochester Graduate Women in Science, and the J. Lowell Orbison Endowed Chair at the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York.
“The 2018 Wiley Prize honors Dr. Maquat, whose work illuminated how our cells prevent production of toxic proteins by removing defective messenger RNAs," said Dr. Titia de Lange, chairperson of the awards jury for the Wiley Prize at the Rockefeller University in New York City.
“The Wiley Foundation honors research that champions novel approaches and challenges accepted thinking in the biomedical sciences. The work of the 2018 Wiley Prize recipient Lynne Maquat truly upholds this mission,” said Deborah Wiley, Chair of the Wiley Foundation. “We are pleased to highlight the impact that her research on messenger RNA decay pathways has had in advancing our knowledge of the cellular cause of many human diseases.”Read More: Maquat Wins 17th Annual Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences
Dutta, Fox, and Zhu Win Sayeeda Zain Travel Award
Tuesday, January 2, 2018
The department is pleased to announce the winners of the Sayeeda Zain Fall Travel awards: Debapratim Dutta, Sierra Fox and Hong Zhu.
The Sayeeda Zain Travel Award honors the distinguished career and charitable life of Dr. Sayeeda Zain. The award is given in recognition of research excellence to support travel and related expenses associated with attendance at a scientific conference or corporate internship to gain practical experience. The next round of Sayeeda Zain Travel Awards will be offered in Spring 2018.
Thank you to all those who applied and congratulations to Dave, Sierra and Hong!
Lynne Maquat Wins Vanderbilt Prize in Biomedical Science
Tuesday, November 28, 2017
Lynne E. Maquat, Ph.D., the J. Lowell Orbison Endowed Chair and Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry is the recipient of the 2017 Vanderbilt Prize in Biomedical Science. Established by Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in 2006, the competitive prize honors women scientists with a “stellar record” of research accomplishments who have made significant contributions to mentoring other women in science.
Maquat is internationally known for a huge body of research that describes what goes wrong in our cells during disease. The founding director of the University of Rochester’s Center for RNA Biology, she has spent her career deciphering the many roles that RNA plays in sickness and in health.
She’s dedicated a great deal of time to helping women advance in scientific careers and in 2003 established the University of Rochester Graduate Women in Science program. Through monthly round-table discussions with high-profile speakers who are using advanced degrees in traditional and non-traditional ways, the program seeks to broaden awareness of what women can do with a Ph.D. Program members can apply for travel awards to attend conferences, seminars or other external events that will help them advance their careers.
Maquat, also a professor in the Wilmot Cancer Institute, is the recipient of other prestigious honors, including the Canada Gairdner International Award; the International RNA Society’s Lifetime Achievement Awards in Service and in Science; the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Excellence in Science Award; the Rochester ATHENA Award®; and election to the National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Maquat is the 12th recipient of the Vanderbilt Prize in Biomedical Science and will receive the prize on November 29, 2018, when she is scheduled to give a Flexner Discovery Lecture. She will also meet with Vanderbilt faculty and mentor Vanderbilt Prize Scholars, women who are pursuing graduate studies in the biomedical sciences in the School of Medicine.
“We are thrilled that Dr. Maquat is being recognized for her pioneering work in RNA biology, which has catalyzed innovative areas of research and provided insight to the role of RNA regulation in human disease,” said Jennifer Pietenpol, Ph.D., Vanderbilt University Medical Center Executive Vice President for Research and director of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. “She is a world-renowned scientist and an exceptional mentor, a role model for us all.”Read More: Lynne Maquat Wins Vanderbilt Prize in Biomedical Science
Lynne Maquat Delivers Harvey Society Lecture at Rockefeller University
Tuesday, November 7, 2017
Lynne E. Maquat, Ph.D., the J. Lowell Orbison Endowed Chair and Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics and Director of the Center for RNA Biology gave a Harvey Society Lecture on October 19 at The Rockefeller University in New York City. The lecture series is one of the most prestigious in the country and the lecturers, who are selected by the Harvey Society's leadership council, are leading biomedical researchers from around the world.
Maquat discussed her career path and the discovery of nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD), which she first described for humans in 1981. NMD is a cellular quality control mechanism that derails the production of unwanted proteins in the body that can disrupt normal processes and initiate disease. Maquat is known around the world for her work on NMD, which is critically important in both normal and disease states. UR President Joel Seligman and URMC CEO and SMD Dean Mark Taubman attended the lecture.
Founded in 1905, the Harvey Society sponsors seven lectures annually that are open to the public and are attended by hundreds of scientists from New York City and the surrounding areas. The Harvey Lectures are one of the great traditions in New York science and they are a place where scientists from different institutions meet regularly.
URMC Scientist Lynne Maquat Elected to National Academy of Medicine
Monday, October 16, 2017
Lynne E. Maquat, Ph.D., an internationally recognized researcher who studies what happens in our cells during disease, has been elected to the National Academy of Medicine. The honor is akin to an actor receiving an Emmy for an outstanding performance; current members of the Academy elected Maquat for her exceptional research in the field of RNA biology. The accolade places her amongst an elite group of scientists and physicians who have made significant contributions to health and medicine.
In studying RNA, a close cousin to DNA, Maquat has discovered intricate cellular processes that influence normal genes, as well as genes involved in a wide range of diseases. Her findings are leading to the development of new treatment approaches for everything from cancer and heart disease, to intellectual and developmental disabilities and other neurologic disorders.
“Lynne is at the forefront of a movement to transform our increasing understanding of RNA biology into promising therapies for virtually all disease processes,” said Mark B. Taubman, M.D., CEO of the University of Rochester Medical Center and Dean of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. “She is an incredible asset to the University and will undoubtedly bring a wealth of valuable experience and knowledge to the National Academy of Medicine.”
Formerly called the Institute of Medicine, the National Academy of Medicine is an independent organization of professionals from diverse fields that advises the nation and the international community on issues in health, medicine and related policy. For example, in 2016 the Academy released a report calling for more and better research into ovarian cancer, one of the deadliest cancers, and recently issued a report detailing how physicians can help combat America’s opioid crisis.
The J. Lowell Orbison Endowed Chair and Professor of Biochemistry & Biophysics and of Oncology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Maquat is also an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Sciences. She was the first individual from upstate New York to receive the prestigious Canada International Gairdner Award, the country’s top award for excellence in biomedical research, which she won in 2015.
The National Institutes of Health has continuously funded Maquat’s research for the past 34 years and she’s published more than 150 papers and reviews. She is the founding director of the University of Rochester Center for RNA Biology and founding chair of the Graduate Women in Science program. She’s committed countless hours to mentoring the next generation of researchers and advocating for young women in the sciences.
When she is formally inducted into the National Academy of Medicine in October 2018, Maquat will join four other active Rochester faculty members: Seymour I. Schwartz in the Department of Surgery: Elizabeth R. McAnarney in Pediatrics; Paul S. Frame in Family Medicine; and Robert C. Griggs in Neurology.Read More: URMC Scientist Lynne Maquat Elected to National Academy of Medicine
Biochemistry & Biophysics students Mukta Palshikar, Erica VanderWal, and Brandon Davis receive awards at UR School of Medicine Opening Convocation
Friday, September 22, 2017
Congratulations to first year students who received awards at the SMD Opening Convocation on September 12, 2017.
Mutka Palshikar, a first year student in the Biophysics, Structural and Computational Biology program won the Graduate Alumni Fellowship, which recognizes an incoming student with promise for exceptional accomplishment in graduate study.
Arica VanderWal, a first year student in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology program was awarded the Elmer Stotz Fellowship in Biochemistry, which recognizes the meritorious academic and research accomplishments of an incoming graduate student in the BMB program.
Brandon Davis, an incoming student in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology program, was a recipient of a Robert L. and Mary L. Sproull University Fellowship, which recognizes the exceptional academic record and research talent of selected students in the first year class University-wide.
Congratulations again to Mutka, Arica, and Brandon!
The CARE Network
Friday, September 8, 2017
The CARE Network, a program that helps support students in distress, is now available for SMD graduate students. Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to submit a referral to the CARE Network if they believe that a student is in or headed towards distress, are aware of an act of discrimination on campus, or have a general concern for a student. The CARE Network provides recommendations to campus and community resources, outlets for safe spaces, and coaches on communication skills to work through difficult discussions and situations. You can submit a referral and/or learn more about the CARE Network at www.rochester.edu/CARE.Read More: The CARE Network
Dumont Selected as the 2017 Recipient of the Graduate Student Society Advocacy Award
Monday, August 28, 2017
Biochemistry professor Mark Dumont, Ph.D. has been selected as the 2017 recipient of the Graduate Student Society Advocacy Award. This award, established in 1994 by the Graduate Student Society (GSS), is bestowed annually to recognize a faculty member in the School of Medicine and Dentistry who has made significant contributions in promoting excellence in graduate education through participation, facilitation, and promotion of GSS goals and events. The faculty member may be nominated by any SMD student, and is chosen by a GSS Executive Board vote.
The award will be presented at the School of Medicine and Dentistry Convocation Ceremony on Tuesday, September 12th at 4:00pm in the Class of 1962 Auditorium.
The department would like to extend congratulations to Mark on this recognition, as it is a well-deserved honor.
Maquat Honored with FASEB Award, Featured on People Behind the Science Podcast
Friday, August 25, 2017
Dr. Lynne Maquat, J. Lowell Orbison Endowed Chair and Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics in the School of Medicine and Dentistry, Director of the Center for RNA Biology, and Chair of Graduate Women in Science at the University of Rochester was recently featured on the podcast, People Behind the Science.
Lynne discusses her mentors and career milestones, and offers advice to junior scientists. Maquat recently received the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology's Excellence in Science Award, which recognizes women who have made outstanding contributions to science through research discoveries and by training the next generation of scientists.
The entire interview can be listened to for free on iTunes.Read More: Maquat Honored with FASEB Award, Featured on People Behind the Science Podcast
Russ Hilf listed among life-long ASBMB Members
Thursday, August 17, 2017
Dr. Russell Hilf
Russel Hilf, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus in Biochemistry and Biophysics, was listed among American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology members with at least 50 years of membership.
The ASBMB is a nonprofit scientific and educational organization with over 12,000 members, founded in 1906. The Society's mission is to advance the science of biochemistry and molecular biology and to promote the understanding of the molecular nature of life processes. Congratulations Russ!
Biochemistry Graduate Students Sierra Fox and Chris Goodwin Explain CRISPR Gene Editing on YouTube
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
From left: Sierra Fox and Christopher Goodwin
UR Science ROCs: What's CRISPR?
It’s no secret: URMC is home to extraordinary scientific innovations and research.
Our UR Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training (URBEST) program and our Public Relations and Communications office teamed up to offer our students and trainees the chance to highlight our research through original visuals and videos. Four videos earned prizes for their unique science storytelling and will be featured on our intranet site and the UR Medicine Facebook page throughout the month in an ongoing series called "UR Science ROCs."
What is CRISPR?
Fourth-year graduate students Chris Goodwin and Sierra Fox, and third-year graduate student Nick Nobiletti, talk about CRISPR and how it’s helping scientists edit DNA.
Goodwin is a student in the lab of Joshua Munger, Ph.D.(Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics); Fox is a student in the lab of Michael Bulger, Ph.D.(Departments of Biochemistry and Biophysics and Pediatrics); and Nobiletti is a student in the lab of Angela Glading, Ph.D. (Department of Pharmacology and Physiology).
Payea and Mishra are Inaugural Recipients of the Sayeeda Zain Travel Award
Friday, July 14, 2017
The department of Biochemistry and Biophysics recently presented to the inaugural Sayeeda Zain Travel Award to Mathew Payea and Laxmi Narayan Mishra.
Matthew Payea is a 6th year graduate student in the Biochemistry Ph.D. program studying tRNA biology in laboratory of Eric Phizicky. Matthew received his Bachelors in Science from Eastern Illinois University, majoring in Biochemistry. Matthew used the funding provided by the Sayeeda Zain Travel Award to attend the 22nd annual meeting of the RNA Society in Prague, Czech Republic this past June. There, he gave a talk on his research defining an RNA decay pathway in yeast that destroys mutant tRNAs.
Laxmi Narayan Mishra is a postdoctoral associate working in Dr. Jeffrey J Hayes’ Lab in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of Rochester Medical Center. He has a Masters degree from University of North Bengal, Darjeeling, India and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bangalore, India. His research is focused on how epigenetic modifications alter chromosome structure to facilitate gene expression. His Dr. Mishra will use the Sayeeda Zain Travel Award to attend and present his research findings at the international EMBO conference on “The Nucleosomes: From Atoms to Genomes” at Heidelberg, Germany, in August 2017.
The Sayeeda Zain Travel Award is given semi-annually to one or more graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. The award honors the life and achievements of Professor Sayeed Zain, Ph.D., a longtime faculty member in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics. Learn more about the award and Dr. Zain.
Matthew Payea (left) with Dr. Jeffrey Hayes
Laxmi Narayan Mishra (left) with Dr. Jeffrey Hayes
Budding UR Scientists and Science Communicators
Thursday, July 13, 2017
Emily Boynton and Molly Miles from URMC’s Department of Public Relations and Communications met with a small group of URBEST trainees to discuss how the Medical Center and other academic institutions are sharing science in the social world we live in. They provided some examples of different types of visuals and videos that get great engagement on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. The goal? URBEST and The Public Relations and Communications team wanted to find and offer prizes for three original visuals or videos from students and trainees that highlight UR innovation and research. Money, video packs and fame!
First prize was awarded to a team of scientists: Chris Goodwin and Sierra Fox from Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and their camera man Nicholas Nobiletti from Pharmacology and Physiology for What Is CRISPR? They split $750 of prize money.Read More: Budding UR Scientists and Science Communicators
Jeffrey Hayes Helps Increase Our Understanding of DNA's Path Into Cells
Thursday, June 29, 2017
Scientists are a step closer to understanding how DNA, the molecules that carry all of our genetic information, is squeezed into every cell in the body. How DNA is “packaged” in cells influences the activity of our genes and our risk for disease. Elucidating this process will help researchers in all areas of health care, from cancer and heart disease, to muscular dystrophy and osteoarthritis.
DNA is a long, floppy molecule, and there’s more than three feet of it in every cell. Our DNA is housed in structures called chromosomes, which condense the DNA to fit into the cell’s tight quarters.
Scientists from the department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry worked with colleagues in France and Japan to describe the first step of DNA packing in a cell. They provided the first-ever detailed picture of the most basic building block of chromosomes, known as the nucleosome, and found that a protein known as H1 (for linker histone H1) helps DNA become more compact and rigid within the nucleosome. In contrast, when H1 isn’t present, the DNA is loose and flexible.
The tight structure that H1 creates helps shield our DNA from various factors that can activate or “turn on” certain genes. Without H1, DNA is more accessible to factors that could trigger disease-causing genes.
Published in the journal Molecular Cell, this finding will inform research on all processes that involve chromosomes, such as gene expression and DNA repair, which are critical to the understanding of diseases such as cancer, according to Jeffrey J. Hayes, Ph.D., senior study author and the Shohei Koide Professor and chair of the department of Biochemistry and Biophysics.
The teams in France and Japan used specialized microscopes and X-rays to capture pictures of DNA molecules interacting with H1 and other key proteins. Because of the size of the DNA and protein molecules, the pictures generated by these techniques were fuzzy and difficult to analyze.
Lead study author Amber Cutter, a graduate student in Hayes’ lab, put all of the components – DNA, H1, and other proteins – together in tiny test tubes and conducted various biochemical experiments. Her tests, coupled with the X-ray images, confirmed H1’s role.
Cutter (pictured at right), who is entering her fifth year in Hayes’ lab, admits that the science is complex and that a lot more research needs to be done before this work can inform clinical treatment. But, the importance of understanding the most basic biological processes should not be underestimated. “In order to determine what happens when things go wrong in diseases like cancer, we need to know what happens when things go right.”
Hayes and Cutters' work was supported by the National Institutes of Health.
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The University of Rochester Medical Center is home to approximately 3,000 individuals who conduct research on everything from cancer and heart disease to Parkinson’s, pandemic influenza and autism. Spread across many centers, institutes and labs, our scientists have developed therapies that have improved human health locally, in the region and across the globe. To learn more, visit www.urmc.rochester.edu/research.
Read More: Jeffrey Hayes Helps Increase Our Understanding of DNA's Path Into Cells
Study: A New Way to Slow Cancer Cell Growth
Friday, May 26, 2017
Cells grow and divide during the cell cycle
Cancer is an extremely complex disease, but its definition is quite simple: the abnormal and uncontrollable growth of cells. Researchers from the University of Rochester’s Center for RNA Biology have identified a new way to potentially slow the fast-growing cells that characterize all types of cancer. The findings, reported today in the journal Science and funded by the National Institutes of Health, were made in kidney and cervical cancer cells in the laboratory and are a long way from being applied in people. But, they could be the basis of a treatment option in the future, the authors said.
Cancer: The Cell Cycle Gone Wrong
All cells go through the “cell cycle,” a series of events that culminate in orderly cell growth and division. In cancer, the cell cycle is out of whack; cells divide without stopping and invade surrounding tissues.
Lynne Maquat, Ph.D.
Researchers identified a protein called Tudor-SN that is important in the “preparatory” phase of the cell cycle – the period when the cell gets ready to divide. When scientists eliminated this protein from cells, using the gene editing technology CRISPR-Cas9, cells took longer to gear up for division. The loss of Tudor-SN slowed the cell cycle.
“We know that Tudor-SN is more abundant in cancer cells than healthy cells, and our study suggests that targeting this protein could inhibit fast-growing cancer cells,” said Reyad A. Elbarbary, Ph.D., lead study author and research assistant professor in the Center for RNA Biology and the department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.
Elbarbary, who works in the laboratory of senior study author Lynne E. Maquat, Ph.D., a world-renowned expert in RNA biology, adds that there are existing compounds that block Tudor-SN that could be good candidates for a possible therapy.
Putting the Brakes on Cell Growth
Maquat’s team discovered that Tudor-SN influences the cell cycle by controlling microRNAs, molecules that fine tune the expression of thousands of human genes.
When Tudor-SN is removed from human cells, the levels of dozens of microRNAs go up. Boosting the presence of microRNAs puts the brakes on genes that encourage cell growth. With these genes in the “off” position, the cell moves more slowly from the preparatory phase to the cell division phase.
“Because cancer cells have a faulty cell cycle, pursuing factors involved in the cell cycle is a promising avenue for cancer treatment,” noted Maquat, director of the Center for RNA Biology and the J. Lowell Orbison Endowed Chair and professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics.
Maquat, who also holds an appointment in the Wilmot Cancer Institute, and Elbarbary have filed a patent application for methods targeting Tudor-SN for the treatment and prevention of cancer. Research next steps include understanding how Tudor-SN works in concert with other molecules and proteins so that scientists can identify the most appropriate drugs to target it.
Keita Miyoshi, Ph.D., staff scientist in Maquat’s lab, served as lead study author with Elbarbary. Jason R. Myers and John M. Ashton, Ph.D. from the UR Genomics Research Center played an instrumental role in the study analysis.Read More: Study: A New Way to Slow Cancer Cell Growth
Using rooster testes to learn how the body fights viruses
Thursday, April 27, 2017
Researchers from the University of Rochester Center for RNA Biology: From Genome to Therapeutics examined the role of piRNA in safeguarding the integrity of the genetic information in germ cells. It's known that piRNA -- a type of ribonucleic acid (RNA) that's found most readily in the testes and ovaries -- shields germ cells by silencing the genetic sequences of viral intruders. It's also known that defects or mutations in piRNA lead to infertility in humans and other animals. What's not known is how piRNAs are generated in the first place.
A team led by Xin Li, Ph.D., assistant professor in the departments of Biochemistry and Biophysics and Urology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, analyzed rooster testes to find out.Read More: Using rooster testes to learn how the body fights viruses
BMB, BSCB Students Win 2017 Edward Peck Curtis Award for Excellence in Teaching by a Graduate Student
Saturday, April 1, 2017
BMB and BSCB graduate students, Lauren Benoodt, Tyler Couch, and Lisa Houston have been selected as joint winners of the 2017 Edward Peck Curtis Award for Excellence in Teaching by a Graduate Student. The students will be presented with a certificate, as well as checks of $700 for each. The three of them were TA’s for IND 408 (Advanced Biochemistry) in the Fall of 2016.
The Edward Peck Curtis Award for Excellence in Teaching by a Graduate Student was established to recognize graduate students who advance the teaching mission of the University by providing highly skilled and innovative undergraduate instruction.
The strongest nominations show innovation in teaching and a positive impact on the learning of undergraduates.
Congratulations Lauren, Tyler, and Lisa!
Maquat Receives Lifetime Achievement Award in Science from International RNA Society
Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Lynne E. Maquat, Ph.D. has spent her career unraveling what happens in our cells during disease, making seminal contributions to our understanding of RNA’s role in sickness and in health. She’s also committed countless hours to mentoring the next generation of researchers and advocating for young women in the sciences. For these exceptional efforts, she’s receiving the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award in Science from the international RNA Society.
The J. Lowell Orbison Endowed Chair and Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Maquat began her professional career studying inherited anemias. She discovered a quality control process that blocks the creation of toxic proteins that cause disease. Known as nonsense-mediated mRNA decay or NMD, this process plays a part in one third of all inherited diseases, such as cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy, and one third of all acquired diseases, including a number of cancers.
“This award recognizes Lynne’s pioneering contributions to understanding the mechanisms of RNA, as well as her outstanding leadership, support and commitment to our field, including her role as a model for new generations of scientists,” said Juan Valcarcel Juarez, current president of the RNA Society, who works at the Centre for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona, Spain.
James McSwiggen, CEO of the RNA Society, added, “I can’t imagine a more appropriate choice of awardee.”Read More: Maquat Receives Lifetime Achievement Award in Science from International RNA Society
New Biophysical Research Service Available
Friday, December 2, 2016
The University has purchased a J-1100 circular dichroism (CD) spectrometer from JASCO Inc. The shared-use instrument will be housed and maintained as part of the Structural Biology and Biophysics facility. Manager Jermaine Jenkins will maintain the instrument, as well as manage user time, train users, and assist with data collection and analysis as needed. Email Jermaine Jenkins, Ph.D. to plan your experiments. Read More: New Biophysical Research Service Available
Karl Smith Featured as Part of MAG Hidden Passions Series
Tuesday, November 8, 2016
Biophysics PhD candidate, Karl Smith, is giving a talk at the Memorial Art Gallery, this Thursday at 7pm as part of their Hidden Passions speaking series.
At URMC, Smith studies glass filters 10,000 times thinner than a human hair as part of the Nanomembranes Research Group. It’s because of his rigorous academic schedule that he began the 10-cent project.
The Pittsburgh native has written more than 900 stories, each roughly 500 words, on half sheets of paper. Strangers give him a prompt, and he pecks away. He’s crafted stories about lost loves, lost dogs, sea lions, flying princesses, and frogs who jump over the moon. Stories about babies, treehouses, aardvarks, and dancing polar bears. Stories about murder.
Read more about Karl and his passion.
American Health Council Names Dr. Harold Smith, Ph.D. to Education Board
Monday, September 19, 2016
Dr. Harold Smith, Professor at The University of Rochester, has been selected to join the Education Board at the American Health Council. Dr. Smith will be sharing his knowledge and expertise in the field of molecular biology, molecular virology, RNA biology, and drug discovery.
Dr. Harold Smith became involved in research after beginning his career as a professor in the Department of Biochemistry at The University of Rochester. As a biophysics professor, he utilized his knowledge and expertise in the areas of research and innovation of RNA, protein molecular biology, cell regulation, and drug discovery. Furthermore, Dr. Smith develops curriculum, teaches and mentors students from high school to postgraduate.
Dr. Harold Smith is also the Founder, President, and CEO of OyaGen, Inc. The objective of OyaGen, Inc. is to induce transient and beneficial changes in the protein expression and function in human tissues by involving the editing enzymes in targeting biomedically relevant pathways.
Dr. Harold Smith is a member of The American Heart Association, The Council on Atherosclerosis, The RNA Society, The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and a fellow in the The Royal Society of Biology. In addition, Dr. Smith serves on the Scientific Advisor Board of Cannabis Sciences, Inc., IgxBio, Inc. and Trovita Health Sciences as well as the Editorial Board of the International Journal of Virology and AIDS, Frontiers in Microbiology, The Journal of Biological Chemistry, and The Journal of BioDiscovery.Read More: American Health Council Names Dr. Harold Smith, Ph.D. to Education Board
Miller Receives Patent for Technology that Can Help Detect Flu
Thursday, September 15, 2016
Benjamin L. Miller, Ph.D., professor of Dermatology, recently received yet another patent for a new technology that can detect miniscule amounts of specific molecules in blood or other liquids. The patent focuses on using this technology to make detecting immune responses to the flu quicker and easier.
The AIR™ Platform, marketed by Adarza Biosystems, can detect immune responses to flu vaccines as well as the virus itself. With a small blood sample from a patient, doctors can confirm a flu infection, see if the patient mounts an appropriate immune response to a vaccine, or see if immune responses cross react with several different strains of flu. AIR™ can also be used for viral surveillance.
While Miller’s AIR™ system is not the first to make these things possible, it is a great improvement on previous technologies. Its silicon chip, which is only about the size of the end of a pencil eraser, allows scientists to detect hundreds of different target molecules in a single drop of fluid, and its “label-free” design requires fewer steps and reagents, thus reducing cost and opportunities for error.
“Label-free” systems suppress background noise to detect tiny signals, whereas conventional “labeled” systems use a more cumbersome design to amplify a tiny signal, often creating a lot of background noise in the process.
“It’s like walking through a city during the day and looking up at the buildings,” Miller said. “You have no idea what's going on in the offices because there's so much ambient light, but if you come back at night, it's easy to see.”
Miller suppresses background noise using a near-perfect anti-reflective coating on his silicon chips. For every 100 million photons of light that hit the surface of the chip, only one photon is reflected back. That coating also contains capture molecules meant to bind or “capture” specific target molecules, like antibodies produced in response to the flu virus. The more antibodies that bind to the chip, the more the anti-reflective coating is perturbed, and the more light is reflected and captured by a camera.
This simple and unconventional design and the ability to use capture molecules both big and small makes AIR™ extremely versatile. From cancer and infectious diseases, to agriculture and food safety, AIR™ is poised to expedite research and clinical testing across a wide range of applications.
Biochemistry & Biophysics Faculty Member and Photojournalist Barry Goldstein Covers Republican National Convention for The American Scholar
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Barry Goldstein is a photographer specializing in portraiture and documentary themes. Originally trained as a physician and biophysicist, he is Associate Professor of Medical Humanities at the University of Rochester Medical Center, Visiting Professor of Humanities at Williams College, and Adjunct Professor of Humanism in Medicine at the NYU Medical School. He was the first Artist-in-Residence at the New York University Medical School on September 11, 2001, an experience that led to his collection Being There: Medical Student Morgue Volunteers Following 9/11. His most recent book, Gray Land: Soldiers on War, is a collection of portraits of, and interviews with soldiers in Iraq and at home. He lectures and exhibits widely, and is a recipient of a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artists Grant in Photography.
Most recently, Barry provided coverage of the Republication National Convention for the American Scholar. His RNC work can be seen at The American Scholar and on his website.
Blanton Tolbert Wins Morton L. Mandel Award For Outstanding Chemistry Faculty
Tuesday, August 9, 2016
Former Biophysics student, Blanton Tolbert (PhD 2006), mentored by Doug Turner & Ravi Basavappa, has been awarded the Morton L. Mandel endows award for outstanding chemistry faculty members at Case Western Reserve University.
Associate Professor Blanton S. Tolbert, whose work focuses closely on elucidating molecular details of the human immunodeficiency virus, more commonly known as HIV. A member of the Case Western Reserve faculty since 2012, Tolbert paired the honor with extraordinary achievements during the past academic year:
- A featured cover story in the Journal of Molecular Biology that described new three-dimensional structures of molecules in the life cycle of HIV
- A second article about HIV’s molecular structures, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry that became the journal’s most-viewed RNA (Ribonucleic acid) paper in December 2015
- Multiple online mentions of the work, including the Nov. 16 Science Highlights of the Advanced Photon Source at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Library
- Service as director of the chemistry department’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) grant from the National Science Foundation. In that role, Tolbert led efforts that identified and recruited a diverse group of students to work on federally sponsored projects. As part of the 10-week experience learning cutting-edge science, the students also participated in teambuilding and professional development activities. The work proved so successful that one undergraduate was cited as co-author on a publication from his summer project.
Congratulations Blanton!Read More: Blanton Tolbert Wins Morton L. Mandel Award For Outstanding Chemistry Faculty
Meet Karl Smith, the Typewriting Tale Teller
Friday, July 8, 2016
The "Friends of Joe's Big Idea" is a vibrant community of talented people we think you should meet. With our feature, FOJBI Friday, we're introducing some of these cool communicators of science in their own words. This week: Karl Smith.
I'm a fifth-year biophysics doctoral candidate at the University of Rochester, where I study porous ultrathin silicon membranes. At the moment I'm taking a brief break from my research to be an American Academy for the Advancement of Science Mass Media Fellow at the Manhattan office of Scientific American.
Importance of science communication
I love science communication because it's both hard and important. People need to be told what scientists have discovered and what it means for their lives, but to do that well requires balancing the storytelling needs of journalism against objectivity and sober contextualization. Also, I personally find scientists to be generally fascinating people to write about and hear from.
Along with my co-producer Madeline Sofia, I created The Bench Warmer's Podcast, which tells stories of misadventures and victories in science using interviews with current and former graduate students. I think the stories that don't often get told about science — the scoops, the failures, the dead ends, rewrites and rejections — are just as important to tell as the wild success stories. Not only that, but I think we short-sell our successes by not highlighting how rare they are. So, in the podcast, Maddie and I ask questions like "What's the most expensive thing you ever broke in lab?" and "Have you ever embarrassed yourself by dislocating your knee while singing karaoke onstage in front of hundreds of your scientific peers and possible future employers?"
I also write "10-cent stories" for children at the Rochester Museum and Science Center and at a few other places around Rochester. The children give me a prompt and in five minutes I use my typewriter to type them a tale. I've been doing this for about three years now, and I've written well over 800 stories. Sometimes the stories have a STEM bend to them, but sometimes they're just stories. I love this project for a lot of reasons, but most of all because it lets me make the world a stranger, more whimsical place.
I've only been at my fellowship for a few weeks, so I'm still deciding if I want to be a science journalist or if my plans lie elsewhere. This is a time of great flux for me, so I don't know yet where I'm heading. But I'm enjoying figuring it out.Read More: Meet Karl Smith, the Typewriting Tale Teller
Clara Kielkopf Receives EvansMDS Discovery Research Grant
Saturday, June 11, 2016
Biochemistry & Biophysics Associate Professor, Clara Kielkopf's project, entitled, Structural mechanisms and targeting of MOS-relevant pre-mRNA splicing factors has been selected by EvansMDS for funding for 2016. This year EvansMDS requested 12 full DRG proposals and were able to fund 6 of them. Their hope is that these findings will translate into improvements in therapy that can be delivered to MDS patients.
The Kielkopf lab investigates splicing defects in hematologic malignancies; roles of human pre-mRNA splicing factors in HIV-1 infectivity; development of engineered splicing factors for correction of splicing defects and splice sites and their associated proteins as therapeutic targets.
Mallory Scott Selected for Summer Internship at Bayer Pharmaceuticals
Friday, June 10, 2016
Mallory Scott, Biophysics, Structural and Computational Biology PhD student, in the laboratory of Dr. Paul Kammermeier, has been selected for a summer internship at Bayer Pharmaceuticals in Whippany, NJ in Global Regulatory Affairs. Mallory will gain valuable work experience in the healthcare industry while working with regulatory professionals on various projects to learn about the role of regulatory affairs in drug development and product registration as well as the regulatory landscape. Mallory will be working in the Chemistry, Manufacturing and Controls (CMC) division. Her project is focused on quality by design in continuous manufacturing.
Harold Smith Publishes Commentary on RNA and DNA Editing
Sunday, June 5, 2016
Epigenetics is a popular, yet still mysterious concept in health and medicine. It’s the study of a variety of biological processes that alter the expression of our genes. Sometimes this involves modifying the structure of our chromosomes to mask or unmask genes, and other times the actual genetic code is changed in certain cells. Harold C. Smith, Ph.D., a longtime professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry has studied epigenetics in a research focus known as RNA and DNA editing since it was introduced two decades ago. He was invited to write a commentary on the progress and future of this research, published today in Trends in Biochemical Sciences, and answers a few questions about the subject.Read More: Harold Smith Publishes Commentary on RNA and DNA Editing
Congratulations Karl Smith, AAAS Mass Media Fellowship Recipient
Monday, May 23, 2016
Karl Smith, 5th year graduate student in the Biophysics Structural and Computational Biology PhD program, laboratory of Dr. Jim McGrath, has received an AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) Mass Media Fellowship. Karl, sponsored by the American Physical Society, will be spending 10 weeks this summer working at Scientific American in their Manhattan offices as part of his fellowship.
Since its inception, the AAAS Fellowship Program has supported more than 625 student scientists, engineers and medical professionals who, in some cases, produced the only original science-news reporting at their assigned media outlets over the summer. The current 15 fellows, selected from a pool of 130 outstanding applicants, are likely to generate between 200 and 300 original science stories for print articles, blogs, podcasts, radio segments, and multimedia features.
Past participants in the Mass Media Fellows program include Mark Dumont, Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, who received the AAAS Mass Media Fellowship in 1975, the second year that it was in existence. Over that summer, he wrote 26 news articles for the San Diego Union.
Other recipients include Erica Goode and Kenneth Chang of the New York Times; Richard Harris, David Kestenbaum, and Joe Palca of NPR; renowned biologist Eric Lander, co-chair of U.S. President Barack Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology; physician and "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" Executive Producer Neal Baer; Victoria Bruce, author of No Apparent Danger: The True Story of Volcanic Disaster at Galeras and Nevado Del Ruiz; and many others. - from AAAS's website.
Karl Smith places third in University’s Falling Walls Competition
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Karl Smith, a PhD student in Biophysics and a member of the lab of James McGrath, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, won third place in the University of Rochester’s Falling Walls Competition for describing his use of physics to make water behind a filter form a mixer vortex, reducing the difficulty of normal stirring when fluids stick to surfaces. A total of 19 presenters competed.
The competition is associated with the Falling Walls foundation, a non-profit organization that fosters discussions on research and innovation and promotes the latest scientific findings to society. The Rochester winner’s idea will compete with others from around the world at the Falling Walls Lab Finale in November in Berlin. This event selects the participants for the annual Falling Walls Conference the following day: an international forum for science and innovation to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall. Speakers at the conference have included Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany; Nobel Prize winner Sir Paul Nurse; and young inventors from around the world. BBC London said it was where the “brightest minds on the planet” meet.
Last year’s Falling Walls Lab Rochester winner, Ryan Trombetta, a BME PhD student in Dr. Awad’s lab, finished 12th (out off a 100 finalists worldwide) in the Berlin competition for his description of using 3D printed bone grafts to treat osteomyelitis. See his presentation here.
From left to right, Solomon Abiola, Sara Nowacki and Karl Smith, the top three finishers at the Falling Walls Competition.
The Future of Photonics
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
As hundreds of millions of dollar pour into Rochester to establish the nation's first Photonics Hub, Mark Gruba has a closer look at the technology in a News 8 special report, "The Future of Photonics."
Photonics is the science and technology of generating, controlling and detecting photons, which are particles of light. A display at the Rochester Museum & Science Center houses examples of its many applications. In one, a transmitter converts an audio signal from electrical pulses into light pulses. The laser beam sends that information to the receiver, which converts the light pulses back to electrical pulses and sends them to the speaker for your listening enjoyment.
"We work on optical bio sensors," said Dr. Ben Miller, a researcher at the University of Rochester Medical Center. He's creating a sensor that can detect the presence of hundreds of viruses from a single blood sample, in real time. "We're working to make devices so that you can immediately get that information in the doctor's office," said Dr. Miller.Read More: The Future of Photonics
Strong Star Certificate of Appreciation Awarded to Dr. Jermaine “JJ" Jenkins
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
On January 22, 2016, Dr. Jermaine Jenkins, who runs the Structural Biology and Biophysics Facility, was nominated for going 'above and beyond' in his work for a client of the facility. The client commented in their nomination:
The clinical trials group had a very tight timeline to meet for one of our clients. Testing had to be completed by the 25th of January so the client could present the data to the FDA. JJ was aware of the required quick turnaround time and he met the challenge. He worked the weekend so that our client's needs would be met. It is so impressive to work with such a dedicated scientist who takes his job so seriously. With JJ's help, URMC Labs Clinical Trials group made a very good impression on a client.
As Facility Manager of the Structural Biology and Biophysics Facility, Dr. Jenkins offers support services to determine macromolecular x-ray crystal structures, and to investigate protein-protein, protein-nucleic acid or protein-small molecule interactions. Professor Clara Kielkopf – a long time user and co-founder of the Facility commented,
JJ quickly, calmly and reliably responds to user needs. Co-director of the Facility Professor Joseph Wedekind added,
Dr. Jenkins is an outstanding and dedicated scientist. We are fortunate to have such a great colleague. Please join us in expressing your gratitude to JJ for his service and dedication.
The Scientist as Storyteller
Friday, January 15, 2016
Graduate students Clarence Ling (left), Jon Baker,
and Karl Smith rehearse a script for The Bootleggers
at the WRUR studios in Todd Union. (Photo: Adam Fenster)
For Karl Smith, the storytelling bug began with a Montgomery Ward No. 22 typewriter purchased for $5 at a moving sale.
Typewriter perched on his lap, the doctoral student in biophysics has become a fixture at the Rochester Public Market, Corn Hill Arts Festival, and other Rochester-area arts-oriented venues. For 10 cents, he crafts a half-sheet-long tale about grandchildren, lost loves, pets, or the absurd. The clacking of keys on paper draws a curious crowd.
I derive a lot of meaning and joy from making things that other people draw joy from, says Smith.
As a graduate student at Rochester, Smith has been finding lots of ways to share his love of storytelling. In addition to his peripatetic typewriting, he’s the leader of Rocket Radio Theater, a troupe of radio performers whose core membership includes fellow like-minded medical science graduate students Clarence Ling, Jon Baker, Carolyn Klocke, Bronwyn Lucas, and Matt Payea.
The project began in 2013 with a recording at Smith’s kitchen table. The group, which now records in the studios of campus radio station WRUR, hosts several serial drama podcasts and stand-alone stories created by Smith. Its feature series, The Bootleggers, takes place during prohibition-era Rochester, playing up aspects of local history and landscapes.
In his research as a biophysicist, Smith explores nanoporous silicon membranes in the lab of James McGrath, professor of biomedical engineering. Smith describes the membranes as
coffee filters made of glass that are 10,000 times thinner than a human hair.
But he hopes to continue to combine storytelling and science after graduation, perhaps as a science journalist or a podcaster.
Read More: The Scientist as Storyteller
I want to live in a world, he says,
where people are standing on street corners writing stories.