News and Events
University honors biology faculty
In recognition of his outstanding performance as a junior faculty member and to support his continuing research success, the University has awarded Philip Bergmann the Edward Hodgkins Junior Faculty Fellowship for 2014-15.
And, for his excellence in teaching as well as his recognized productivity as a scholar, Todd Livdahl has been appointed to a three-year term as the Warren Litsky ’45 Endowed Chair as Professor of Biology. Established in 2007 through a bequest gift from the estate of Warren Litsky, the Litsky chair supports the work of a professor in the field of biology.
Clark mosquitos prepare for space mission!
The fourth annual Student Spaceflight Experiment Program (SSEP) National Conference held at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in July hosted student teams from all over the country to share their designs and results for experiments to be conducted on the International Space Station. A group of 8th graders from New Jersey, nascent women in science, are using mosquitoes from Todd Livdahl's lab to test the effects of zero gravity on mosquito survival and development. Check out their impressive presentation.
The biology department is very pleased to welcome two new faculty in 2014:
John Gibbons is an evolutionary genomicist. His research aims to shed light on the evolutionary forces and genomic processes underlying phenotypic variation. In particular, John’s research is focused on understanding how humans have altered the genomes of domesticated microbes and how large-scale genomic alterations influence the virulence of fungal pathogens. He earned a B.S. in biology from Keene State College and a Ph.D. in biological sciences from Vanderbilt University. Since receiving his doctorate, John has worked as a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard School of Public Health.
Rob Drewell is a developmental biologist. His research utilizes experimental molecular genomic, mathematical and computational approaches to investigate the regulation of gene expression during embryonic development. Much of his work is focused on using insect model species, including the fruit fly and honey bee. Prior to arriving at Clark, Rob was an associate professor at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, Cal. He has received research grants from the National Institutes of Health, a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation and been recognized as a Distinguished Mentor by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge and a bachelor’s degree (with honors) in molecular genetics from King’s College, University of London.
On August 27 the biology department saw in the 2014 academic year with the annual Bumpus Symposium, honoring graduate student research in biology. This year twenty five PhD and MS students representing the breadth of work conducted in eleven of our research labs presented their thesis projects via oral or poster presentation. It was a pleasure to celebrate the contributions of each.
To the right is Alicia Knudson (Hibbett lab) in the field with a Ramaria (coral fungus) fruiting body.
The Bergmann Report:
Philip Bergmann and Gen Morinaga spent the early part of the summer on a field trip to Samar Island in the Philippines, where they studied skink lizard locomotion and burrowing. This little beauty is one of the subjects of their research.
And here are Gen and Philip in action, using a racetrack to film skinks running.
Philip also reports that he was awarded an NSF grant entitled, "Collaborative research: developmental and functional mechanisms of complex trait re-evolution — limb loss and gain in skink lizards."
Good news to share from a couple of old Clarkie biologistos: Christopher Vitek, PhD, 2004, has recently received tenure and promotion to Associate Professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. And former biology major, David Hawkins '83, has recently been appointed chair of the Department of Geosciences at Wellesley College.
Academic Spree Day 2014
Biology undergrads presented 16 research projects touching on a wide range of biological disciplines. For names and project titles please visit the Undergraduate Research page.
John Baker Makes a Sustainable Point at Science Café Woo
Dr. John Baker elaborated upon the notion of sustainability (“Sustainability: It Means More than “Tit for Tat”) in November’s session of Science Café Woo, a monthly forum for active researchers in the sciences to present their work to the community. John sparked a quite lively discussion, as recounted in the blog of embedded research librarian Sally Gore of UMass Medical School’s Lamar Soutter Library.
Science Café Woo, by the way was cofounded with her fellow researcher by one of our own Clark Biology graduates, Kelly Hallstrom, now a doctoral candidate working on Salmonella pathogenesis at U Mass Med. Also by the way, December’s invited speaker at Science Café Woo will be Kelly’s mentor from her days at Clark, Dr. David Hibbett .
Fall 2013 Update
Fall semester kicked off on September 4 with the Bumpus Symposium, our annual event celebrating our PhD students’ investigations into the “sweet mysteries” of life. We enjoyed hearing from each about their research projects via their seminar and poster presentations.
2013 Student Awards:
Doctoral student Mandy Gaudreau received the Sophie Danforth Conservation Biology Fund Grant from Roger Williams Park Zoological Society on September 1st for a grant proposal titled "Frog-biting mosquitoes, Culex territans and Uranotaenia sapphirina as vectors of multiple amphibian pathogens". Mandy is working with Todd Livdahl.
2013 Fall Fest and Salute to Student Scholars
On October 25 the University honored the academic achievements of our undergraduates in the Salute to Student Scholars and Fall Fest celebrations.
In the Salute to Student Scholars, recognizing recipients of departmental and university awards, Biology was represented by two students: Lauren Kopple received the Potter Award for Excellence in Biology for her work in the Meyer lab investigating the occurrence of neural stem cells in Capitella telata. And Jennifer Six was recognized for her outstanding service to the University with the Ellsworth Foundation and Clark University Thomas M. Dolan ’62 Outstanding Service Award. While earning this honor, Jenny was also busy conducting research in the Larochelle lab exploring the molecular interactions of specific proteins in Dictyostelium discoideum and how the manipulation of these proteins impacts cell division.
Fall Fest afforded us a look at the research and creative projects of summer fellowship and LEEP Pioneer students through poster and Powerpoint slide presentations. Twenty two Biology and BCMB students mentored by Biology faculty presented posters at this event: Michele Corbet, Oyindamola Adefisayo, Amanda Barbosa, Spencer Brightman, Joshua Bugge, Rebecca Friedman, Tom Carroll, Rebecca Friedman, Fay Hartwell, Gabriella Jijon, Lauren Kopple, Kyle Lewis, Marco Notrangelo, Jenna Kosmo, Jason Moriera, Emma O’Melia, Kyle Pettinelli, Allen Roth, Jenny Six, Jeff Stanmeyer, Erin Thayer, Laura Uricioli and Alex Vicker’s. Please visit Fall Fest & Salute to Student Scholars to see the titles of their projects and the names of their faculty sponsors; and visit the websites of their faculty-mentors to learn more.
High Honors in Biology to Magali Lemahieu
High Honors in Biology has been awarded to Magali Lemahieu for her thesis, “Investigating the Post-Transcriptional and Post-Translational Regulation of Nitrate Reductase in Thalassiosira pseudonana.”
For her thesis project, "Genetic Analysis of Growth Factor Signaling Inhibitors in Drosophila." Rachel Gore was awarded High Honors in Biology.
Highest Honors in Biology for Karissa Lear
Karissa Lear has been awarded Highest Honors in Biology for her thesis, “Demographic and Genetic Characterization of the Eelgrass Zostera marina and Z. japonica in a mixed species ecosystem from Padilla Bay, WA, USA.”
High Honors for Christina Ferretti
Todd Livdahl reports that Christina Ferretti, a double major in biology and physics, has been awarded High Honors in Physics for her project, "Methods for Quantifying Wingbeat Frequencies of Mosquitoes."
Academic Spree Day -- Undergraduate Research in Biology
2012-13 has been a productive year for undergrads engaged in research sponsored by laboratories throughout the Biology Department. Visitors to Spree Day on April 24 were treated to poster presentations by student-investigators of twenty six research projects involving a broad range of topics in biology. We are thrilled to congratulate them for their successes, engendered by their competence, hard work, and enthusiasm.
A Very Good Year for Clark PhD, John Dennehy!
Todd Livdahl reports that his former grad student, John Dennehy (Ph.D. 2003) has been awared a CAREER research grant from the NSF for $764,000 and that he has received tenure and promotion to Associate Professor at Queens College, City University of New York. John's lab focuses on the evolutionary ecology of bacteriophages.
John Soghigian Awarded NSF Grant
Ph.D. student John Soghigian has received an NSF Dissertation Improvement Grant, for a project entitled "Evolution of Parasite-Host Fitness Tradeoffs in a Mosquito-Gregarine System." The $19,707 award will enable John to further develop his interests in coevolution between mosquitoes and their parasites, and will support laboratory research as well as travel for field collection in Taiwan and Hungary.
Clark PhD Robert Scott Appointed New Director of Bonne Bay Marine Station
A former member of the Foster/Baker lab, Bob received his Ph.D. from Clark University in 2000, working on the function of the black nuptial signal found in males of some populations of threespine stickleback. Bob's connection with Clark Biology continues through his participation in the LEEP Sticklegroup. In 2013 Bob and his associates will mentor three LEEP pioneers from the Foster/Baker lab, who will travel to Bonne Bay in Newfoundland to work on projects helping to characterize the stickleback adaptive radiation in stickleback populations found in the shallow, coastal marine waters and lake and riverine freshwater habitats in the vicinity of the research station.
Spree Day - April 25, 2012
As usual this event attracted many students, faculty members and administrators who all came to take part in this festival of creativity and research. Biology undergraduate students discussed their research findings with crowds of visitors. From upper left: Professor Larochelle with his student Lauren Beaudin '12 (Investigation of Ddkiƒl by RNAi and Gene Knockout Approaches). Upper right: Susan Damon'12, Erin Ross'12 , and Audrey Seiz'13 (Examination of mRNA Stability in Nitrogen Starved Thalassiosira pseudonana) - done in collaboration with Jessica Alexander and Minoli Perera, graduate students, and sponsored by Professor Robertson. Lower left: Nick Pagan'15 in front of his poster produced in collaboration with Ryan Barney'15, Jenna Kosmo'15, and sponsored by Professor Baker (Size at Age in Alaskan Threespine Stickleback: Evolution and Variation through Space and Time). Lower right: Matthew Warndorf '12 sponsored by Professor Livdahl (Development of a Novel Technique for the Quantitative Analysis of Mosquito Eggs)
Student Research Award
Our Biology BA/MA graduate student, and Environmental Science undergraduate Lianne Samalot has received a 2012 Geller Student Research Award. The Albert, Norma and Howard ’77 Geller Endowed Research Awards are intended to support student initiated research projects that advance both our understanding of opportunities for greater sustainability in the human use of resources and the environment, and practical improvements that can be implemented. Congratulations Lianne!
Mini Spree Day '11
Biology celebrated its Mini Spree Day on April 28th. The students in Animal Behavior (BIOL 242) presented the work they did over the last semester. The food was excellent as well as science experience.
Our recent graduate Anna Mazzarella
Anna Mazzarella (’09), MA 2010, has just accepted a Ph.D. Fellowship at the Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES) at the University of Olso, Norway. The goal of the research in which she will participate is Tracking signatures of adaptive diversification during postglacial colonization in threespine stickleback. The project is funded by the Research Council of Norway. The overall aims of the project are to detect genomic regions and phenotypic traits under selection when sticklebacks invade fresh waters. Anna will work with supervisors at the CEES (L.A. Vøllestad, T.F. Hansen, K.S. Jakobsen, K. Østbye) and international collaborators (F. Volckaert, A. Nolte). This is a wonderful opportunity and we are really excited for Anna.
Our biology majors are real heroes!
Three of our students - Mark Benoit, Jason Smith and Alexander Andersen were involved in a rescue operation that actually saved a person's life. We want to congratulate them. To read the whole story click here.
Our MA graduate, Rachel Chock finds opportunity in Chile
Rachel Chock (’07), MA ’08, has accepted a competitive NSF-funded research position in Chile that will begin in June 2010. She will be conducting research with Dr. Loren Hayes from University of Louisiana, Monroe and Dr. Luis Ebensperger from Universidad de Catolica in Santiago, Chile. The researches focuses on social behavior in degus (Octodon degus), and her personal research focus will be on allonursing by this mammal in the lab and the field. This is an exceptionally exciting opportunity.
Our Ph.D. graduate, Lingyan Wang finds her new path in New York.
Lingyan Wang graduated in May 2009, and began working as a post-doctoral fellow in October, in the laboratory of Dr. Sandra Masur, Professor of Ophthalmology, at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine of New York University. She is responsible for the development of three-dimensional culture systems for use as corneal transplants. Good Luck Lingyan!
Welcome back Sohini
Congratulations to Sohini Ghoshroy who finished her dissertation work this past January (2011). We are pleased to announce that Sohini has re-joined
the Robertson lab as a post-doctoral researcher.
This summer, several Biology faculty and graduate students participated in an on-campus workshop to learn effective ways to communicate their research interests and findings to members of the media and the general public (Read more).
A new paper published in BMC Evolutionary Biology
Sohini Ghoshroy, Manfred Binder, Aurelien Tartar and Deb Robertson have a new paper published in BMC Evolutionary Biology titled “Molecular evolution of glutamine synthetase II: Phylogenetic evidence of a non-endosymbiotic gene transfer event early in plant evolution" . In this paper, they examined the evolutionary relationship of glutamine synthetase from eubacterial and eukaryotic lineages and present robust phylogenetic evidence that the glutamine synthetase gene was transferred from gamma-Proteobacteria (Eubacteria) to the green algae early in plant evolution. Although horizontal gene transfer events (the exchange of genes between non-related organisms) are common in prokaryotes (e.g., bacteria) they were thought be a rare in eukaryotes. Genome sequencing and phylogenetic analyses, such as the current paper, have begun to reshape our understanding of the frequency of horizontal gene transfers in eukaryotes, which appear more common than previously thought.
Manfred Binder et al.- new article on mushroom evolution published in Mycologia.
We welcome new Professors
We are very excited to announce the arrival of a new faculty member to the Biology Department at Clark. Our new Assistant Professor is Néva Meyer , Ph.D. Her appointment started at the beginning of 2011/12 academic year. Néva Meyer studies Annelids' development in order to understand how nervous system evolves. Please read more about her work on her lab website.
• New grant for Professor Todd Livdahl
Todd Livdahl has received a $380,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health, for a three year project entitled "Community Diversity and Parasite Dynamics," in which he and his students will conduct experiments to test for the "host dilution" effect, a hypothesized inverse relationship between the number of host species in a community and the success of a parasite infecting multiple hosts. The experimental system will consist of communities of mosquito larvae as hosts of protist parasites.
• Deb Robertson received a new NSF grant.
Deb Robertson received a three year award this April (2011) from the Division of Integrated Organismal Systems at the National Science Foundation. The work will examine the role of post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression in marine diatoms.
• David Hibbett's lab received two new NSF grants
Project title: MSB/PEET: polyPEET- enhancing taxonomic expertise in the Polyporales. National Science Fundation Systematics and Population Biology (DSH, PI).Funding period Jan.1,2010-Dec.31,2014.DEB- 0933081. $750,000
Project title: Collaborative Research: Fungal Life History Strategies and Evolution: Insights from Isotopic Measurements and Phylogenetic Analysis. National Science Foundation Integrative Organismal Systems (DSH, PI). Funding period Apr. 15, 2009-Sept. 30, 2011. IOS-0843278. $59,999
Professor Wiatrowski's paper was just noted as an “Editor’s choice” in Science magazine
Reduction of Hg(II) to Hg(0) by Magnetite Heather A. Wiatrowski, Soumya Das, Ravi Kukkadapu, Eugene S. Ilton, Tamar Barkay and Nathan Yee Environmental Science and Technology 2009, 43 (14), pp 5307–5313 This article was featured in Science Magazine’s July 3rd “Editor’s Choice” section under Geochemistry.
David Hibbett elected Vice President of Mycological Society of America
Prof. David Hibbett has been elected Vice President of the Mycological Society of America, a scientific society dedicated to advancing the science of mycology — the study of fungi of all kinds including mushrooms, molds, truffles, yeasts, lichens, plant pathogens and medically important fungi. Read more about MSA
First Year Seminar – BIOL108, Annotation of a Microbial Genome.
Professor Heather Wiatrowski was selected by the Education Department of the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute (JGI) to take part on behalf of Clark in the Undergraduate Research Program in Microbial Genome Annotation. The program enables undergraduate life sciences students at Clark to analyze bacteria genomes as a new way of teaching bioscience curriculum standards.