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Department of Biological Science

at Florida State University

Newsletter of the Department of Biological Science, Florida State University

Number 2, Winter 2003
Department Receives $1.6 Million Hughes Grant

A new $1.6 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute will help the Department of Biological Science become one of the first programs in the nation to offer undergraduate courses in a new area of biological research: computational and mathematical biology.

"Computational biology is quickly becoming an essential element in many areas of biological and biomedical research, but few departments around the country have made it a major component of their curricula," says department chairman Thomas Roberts. "This award places us at the forefront of this exciting new aspect of undergraduate education in the life sciences."

FSU is among 44 research universities across the nation that together received $80 million from HHMI for their biology programs. The importance of computational mathematics to biology is enormous: it's at the heart of such scientific breakthroughs as mapping the human brain, DNA sequencing analysis, evaluating the signature patterns of genes, and developing new physiological and drug treatments for humans.

According to Biological Science professor John Elam, author of the successful proposal, the money will allow the department to hire seven teaching assistants and two new professors in computational biology. In each of the next four years, the grant will also help a dozen of the brightest undergraduates--"Hughes Fellows"--spend their senior years concentrating on computational research in preparation for their graduate studies.

"This grant should help us attract some of the best and brightest undergraduates from Florida and the nation to study biology at FSU," Dr. Elam says.

FSU is well suited to host the new computational biology program, as the home of the world's most powerful supercomputer owned by a single academic institution. FSU's School of Computational Science and Information Technology will play a major role in the success of the new program, Dr. Elam says.

Twenty-eight FSU faculty members in the Departments of Biological Science, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Chemical Engineering, Computer Science, Mathematics, Physics, and Statistics, all with strong mathematical and computational components in their biological research, will serve as mentors to Hughes Fellows. They will expose students to a variety of modern computational methodologies, and many Hughes Fellows will interact with more than one mentor over the one-year fellowship period. The students will conduct research throughout the fellowship year but will concentrate the bulk of it in the summer, when the Hughes stipend will replace summer-job income and allow them to spend most of their time in the laboratory. During the following two semesters, they will continue their research for Directed Individual Study credit while completing senior-year coursework. Each fellowship will also include funds for travel to a national scientific meeting.

The first Hughes Fellows in Mathematical and Computational Biology, named in January 2003, are Nicole Betty (Miami, Fla), Pamela DeTrolio (Inverness, Fla.), Mariam Gudarzi (Tallahassee, Fla.), Tung Thanh Ho (Orlando, Fla.), Mohammad Okasha (Tallahassee, Fla.), Shawn Patterson (Valparaiso, Fla.), Kathleen Phipps (St. Petersburg, Fla.), Eric Powell (Miami, Fla.), Katherine Puckett (Pensacola Fla.), Stephanie Schwinn (Tallahassee, Fla.), Aimee Signarovitz (Largo, Fla.), and Deena Westbrook (Tampa, Fla.). These young scholars will begin their Hughes fellowships with research conducted in the summer semester of 2003. (Thanks to the FSU Office of Media Relations for their contribution to this article.)

The Newsletter's New Name

Because we received so many wonderful entries for the contest to name the newsletter, the editorial board has decided to award bonus prizes to the top three runners up! Accordingly, Susan Minnerly (B.S. 1987 and former staff member), Elizabeth R. Gold (B.S. 1965), and Natalie R. Quance Garceau (B.S. 1973) will each receive a T-shirt bearing the fiddler-crab logo of the department's middle-school outreach program Saturday-at-the-Sea (as will the contest winner, who wishes to remain anonymous).

Student Awards

This year, our list of endowed scholarships expanded to 11 with the inauguration of an award named for the late Robert K. Godfrey. Dr. Godfrey retired from the Biological Science faculty in 1974 but remained active in research for many years afterward. He died in January of 2000. This new scholarship for a graduate student in botany was endowed by Dr. Godfrey's family in conjunction with the renaming in March 2002 of the department's herbarium in his honor.

Undergraduate Awards

John Mark Caffrey Memorial Scholarship: Heather White (senior, Tuscaloosa, Ala.), Shelbourn Kent (Gainesville, Fla.), Jason Castroman (Houston, Tex.). Faculty Undergraduate Endowed Scholarship: Josephine S. Faass (Tallahassee, Fla.). Francenia E. Fisher Scholarship: Shawn Havery (Sarasota, Fla.). Charles M. McAllister Endowed Scholarship: Joshua O'Driscoll (Tampa, Fla.). Vaughn-Jordan Endowed Scholarship: Eric Jones (Tallahassee, Fla.). Biological Science Alumni Endowed Scholarship: Michelle Satterwhite (Mayo, Fla.).

Below: Biological Science cabinet maker Ray Faass with his daughter Josephine, winner of this year's Faculty Undergraduate Endowed Scholarship.

Graduate Awards

Margaret Menzel Endowed Award: Rebecca Fuller (Auburn, Neb.). Faculty Endowed Scholarship Award: Rebecca Fuller, Jason Robotham (Shirley, N.Y.). The Robert B. Short Scholarship in Zoology: Sarah A. Smiley (Cape Coral, Fla.), David L. Ferrell (Indianapolis, Ind,). The Robert K. Godfrey Scholarship: Jean Burns (McCall, Ida.).

Congratulations also to Biological Science Coordinator of Academic Support Services Joanna Carter, who completed her doctorate in the FSU College of Music this year. At least for the moment, Joanna says she has no plans to leave her present advising position.

The Sheila B. Lutz Memorial Scholarship: The 2002 Lutz Scholarship, intended to help an FSU staff member complete a college degree, was awarded to Avis Berry-Rwito. Avis is a full-time Senior Library Technical Assistant at the School of Music library, where her performance is rated as superior. She has volunteered with the America Reads program and is actively involved in her church. She is a wife and the mother of a two-year-old son and a one-year-old daughter, but she still finds time to sing with various local music groups. In 1999, while working in her current position, she completed her bachelor's degree at FSU in voice performance and is now working toward a master's degree in Elementary Education (and carrying a 4.0 GPA). In the future, after completing her master's in Fall of 2003, then teaching elementary school for a few years, emphasizing music education, Avis hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in Education or Music Therapy. In thanking the department, she expressed her wish to live up to the example set by Sheila Lutz.

In Memoriam

Professor Emeritus Pasquale P. Graziadei died 2 June 2002. Dr. Graziadei joined the department in 1967 and remained an active teacher and researcher until his retirement in 1996. He is the namesake of the Pasquale P. Graziadei Professorship of Biological Science, held by Dr. Frances C. James.

Taimi Lynne Hoag (B.S. 1996), a Biological Science staff member in Dr. Travis's laboratory from her graduation until January of 1999, died 12 December 2002 in Petoskey, Michigan.

History of the Department

The History Project of the Department of Biological Science has been launched. To visit the website, start at http://www.bio.fsu.edu, click "Current and Notable," then click "Departmental History Project." Or go directly to http://www.bio.fsu.edu/history.

Now we need your help to fill in the blanks. What can you tell us about the department during your time here? Do you remember professors who aren't listed on the roster? Do you know who was chairman or associate chairman in a year where those positions are still blank? Have we left out your favorite event or anecdote? If you don't tell us, we may never know.

News from Alumni

All the news that fits, we print--the rest has to go on the web. These entries are severely condensed. Visit http://bio.fsu.edu/newsletter/feedback.php for the full stories and original wording.

1960's
Elizabeth R. Gold, B.S. 1965: I went on for a master's at the University of Maryland, then, after a year or two working as a hospital lab tech, I went back to school in law. I currently have my own office and practice domestic and criminal law, which still requires some knowledge of behavioral science, if not of the animal kingdom.

1970's
Hal Beecher, Ph.D. 1979: I work for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife focusing on instream flow--how much water is needed in streams and rivers to provide good habitat for fish and wildlife, especially salmonids. Several years ago I was involved in a landmark lawsuit that allowed states to use the federal Clean Water Act to regulate water quantity. I'm a member of the Instream Flow Council, together with two other FSU biology grads (Dale Jones of Florida and Dr. Bob Nishimoto of Hawaii), and I helped write the council's new book Instream Flows for Riverine Resource Stewardship.

Edwin J. (Ed) Conklin, B.S. 1973, M.S. 1976: Some assignments I have had, in 26 years of service in Florida state agencies, are Statistician for the Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, Coastal Planner for the Department of Environmental Regulation, Apalachicola Critical Area Planner for the Department of Community Affairs, and for the Department of Natural Resources/Environmental Protection, Administrator for the Conservation and Recreation Lands (CARL) Program, Chief Biologist for the Florida Park Service, Deputy Director of the Florida Park Service. Deputy Director of State Lands, Director of Marine Resources, and Director of Resource Assessment (my current position).

Randy Martin, Ph.D. 1975: Tallahassee native Sharon Dillingham and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary in 2002. Our oldest son, Will, is majoring in Philosophy at FSU, and we have two other children. Sharon is in her 20th year of private practice as a cardiologist in Inverness, Florida. Since leaving FSU, I've been a community-college adjunct instructor, an assistant professor of biology, and an environmental scientist at an engineering firm. Presently, I enjoy a fusion of archaeology and biology at Gulf Archaeology Research Institute (GARI), Crystal River, Florida, where I am Assistant Director and Division Head, Biological Sciences.

Hoyt Matthai, B.S. 1977: I got my master's degree in cell biology 1992 at Hood College. In the 1990's my family and I lived in Belgium for just over two years, where I was the GM of a joint venture startup company between BioWhittaker and Boehringer Ingelheim. The facility manufactured in vitro diagnostic-labeled cells, cell-culture media, and bovine serum. I'm currently the VP of Operations at MetriGenix. We will soon launching a new, three-dimensional gene chip that provides better sensitivity and faster results than conventional gene chips.

Tom Simpson, Ph.D. 1971: In 1978, after two academic positions, I went into environmental consulting, first at Dames & Moore and for the last 12 years as VP at CH2M HILL, all in Atlanta. I haven't looked at protozoans in 25 years but remember every day the skills and professionalism the FSU faculty instilled in me.

1980's
Terry Bennett, B.S. 1984: I earned a Master of Public Administration degree at FSU in 1988. 2002 marked my 11th year of teaching. I teach biology and chemistry at York Comprehensive High School in York, South Carolina, where Isponsor many active student organizations and teams and serve as a member of the Corps of Mentor Teachers at nearby Winthrop University.

1990's
Mark Akerson, B.S. 1994: In 2002, I graduated from the Family Medicine Residency Program at Mercer University School of Medicine and became the chief resident, overseeing all the other residents. I plan to to open a practice in Marianna, FL, and to move there with my wife, Cathy, an FSU graduate, and my son, Corey.

Jenifer E. Austin, B.S. 1999: After graduation, I spent the summer as a Summer Research Fellow at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. In 2000, I started graduate school in the neurosciences program at Stanford University and am currently working my Ph.D., constructing a basic model of temporal-lobe epilepsy.

Brett W. Podoski, B.S. 1994: I live in Arlington, VA, and work for the FDA/Center For Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), where I've been involved in a wide variety of programs. I'm Secretary of the Capital Area Affiliate of Food Protection (CAFPA) here in Washington, DC, an affiliate of the International Association of Food Protection (IAFP).

The Real BioFeedback

Please let us know what you're doing now and how you've passed the time since you left Florida State. Please don't let space limit you. Add more sheets or send an e-mail. Did you respond last year? Feel free to send an update! If you can include a financial contribution as well, it would help the department to maintain it's quality in the face of the current fiscal crunch, but we would be delighted just to hear from you. Be sure to let us know whether we can post your remarks on our website and/or include excerpts in the next issue of BioFeedback. Thank you!

Send your news by letter, fax, or e-mail, to

Dr. Anne B. Thistle
Department of Biological Science
Florida State University
Tallahassee, Florida 32306-1100

Fax: (850) 644-9829
E-mail: thistle@bio.fsu.edu or biology@bio.fsu.edu

Please let us know whether we can included the information you send us in future alumni news columns or on the web as part of the departmental history project or whether you would like it kept confidential.

Read the replies from readers!


Editorial board: Anne B. Thistle (chair, thistle@bio.fsu.edu), Joanna Carter (carter@bio.fsu.edu), and Cathy Oakley (oakley@mailer.fsu.edu).