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Department of Biological Science

at Florida State University

Newsletter of the Department of Biological Science, Florida State University

Number 5, Winter 2006
Dr. Tschinkel is Doubly Honored

Dr. Walter R. Tschinkel has received the highest award that Florida State University's faculty can bestow on one of their number. He has been named a Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor. The Lawton Award was established in 1957–58 and has been presented annually since then to faculty members who distinguish themselves in all three components of their work: service, teaching, and research. Dr. Tschinkel is the department's seventh Lawton professor, joining Drs. Lloyd M. Beidler, J. Herbert Taylor, Daniel Simberloff, E. Imre Friedmann, Kurt G. Hofer, and Joseph Travis.

The Lawton Professorship is only Dr. Tschinkel's second honor this year, though. This past fall, his recent book The Fire Ants (Harvard University Press, 2006) was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Stay tuned; the results will be announced in April 2007.

The Fate of Conradi Building

Many readers have written to ask for more information on the future fate of Conradi Building, but we have little to report. So far as we know, the plan remains to pass it on to some other unit of the university, but we still have no clear answer as to who will inherit it.

Exciting New Cluster Hiring Initiative

As part of its current Pathways of Excellence program, Florida State University plans to hire 200 new faculty members in the next few years. These positions will be clustered, that is organized into groups intended to attack particular research problems. In 2006, in the first round of competition, Biological Science was awarded one of the two inaugural clusters—eight positions, at both junior and senior levels, for molecular and evolutionary geneticists working to understand the relationship between genotype and phenotype. The initiative was kicked off during a planning workshop, 2–3 February 2007, at which eight eminent scientists were invited to present their thoughts on this interdisciplinary effort. They addressed two questions: "How do we get molecular biologists to listen to evolutionary biologists and vice versa?" and "Once we're listening, what can we do together that we can't do alone?"

The Integrating Genotype and Phenotype search committee is chaired by Dr. David Houle (pictured here). The already complex task of filling eight positions simultaneously is made even more so by their innovative decision to accept group applications from collaborators who would like to work together at the same institution and would therefore consider moving to Florida State as a body. Six of the 122 applications are from groups ranging from two to seven members. Interviews with the top candidates were held in spring of 2007.

(Photo: Ray Stanyard, courtesy of Research in Review.)

Where are you now?

The Department of Biological Science would like to compile a database of current professional information for all its former graduate students. We are often asked, for example, how many of our graduates work in particular scientific or geographical areas and whether we can document the department's long-term impact on the biological sciences and other fields. This kind of information is particularly important in convincing the powers that be that the department deserves support and funding.

Judy Bowers (aka Judy Bradford), the department's longtime graduate-student advisor, would therefore like to include, in addition to our usual appeal for news from alumni, this special request to all former graduate students:

Whether or not you're still active in science, we would really appreciate your taking a few minutes to send us your current professional information: position title, address, office phone, and e-mail. You can e-mail your response to Judy at gradinfo@bio.fsu.edu, fax it to her at (850) 644-9829, or mail it to her at the address given on the last page of this newsletter. (If you wanted to include, as well, some information we could add to "News from Alumni," that would be even better!) Thanks for your help.

Construction Continues

Construction on the new Life Sciences Teaching and Research Center is progressing. Much could change between now and then, of course, but the department is now scheduled to occupy it soon after the end of the 2008 spring semester. In this aerial photo, supplied by the builders, the north wing already has its peaked roof and most of its outer walls, and the south wing is not far behind. The building at the lower right is the College of Medicine; that at the center left is the Connector Road parking garage. The street in the background is Stadium Drive.

Arrivals and Departures

Dr. John S. Elam retired in 2006, after 35 years in the department. From 1997 until his retirement, he served as Associate Chairman for Curriculum Development. His research focused on the roles of glycoproteins in nerve-cell maintenance and response to injury. Although he always maintained that his Minnesota upbringing ensured enduring dullness, at his retirement dinner, he revealed an unsuspected talent for stand-up comedy!


Three new members joined the ranks of the faculty this year:


Dr. Hong-Guo Yu came to the department from the Carnegie Institution in Baltimore, Maryland. His long-term research goals are to elucidate the molecular mechanism responsible for the formation of the meiotic chromosome architecture and to examine the role chromosome organization plays in safeguarding genomic integrity. His current research is focused on chromosome structural organization in the model organism Saccharomyces cerevisiae, baker’s yeast, whose genome is less than half of a percent of the size of the human genome. As an entry point, his lab studies two evolutionarily conserved protein complexes called condensin and cohesin that play key roles in meiotic chromosome organization and segregation. Using mutant alleles that are compromised only for meiosis, they are uniquely positioned to address three questions: (1) How does condensin organize the meiotic chromosome structure in vivo? (2) How does condensin interact with cohesin to regulate meiotic recombination? (3) How is centromeric cohesin differentially regulated to produce homolog separation in meiosis I but sister chromatid separation in meiosis II?


Dr. Fanxiu Zhu was last employed at the University of Pennsylvania. His lab studies Kaposi's associated herpesvirus (KSHV), a newly identified human DNA tumor virus associated with several human malignancies, including Kaposi’s sarcoma, primary effusion lymphoma, and multicentric Castleman’s disease. His research mainly focuses on how KSHV evades host innate immune responses. Greater attention has been concentrated on viral gene products that exert their functions at the very early stage of viral infection. He has found a viral protein, ORF45, that is expressed as an immediate early protein and is also present in the virion as a tegument protein, interacts with interferon regulatory factor 7 (IRF-7), and antagonizes host antiviral response. Currently, he is using various biochemical, genetic, genomic, and proteomic approaches to investigate the mechanism of ORF45 in viral immune evasion as well as other strategies that KSHV uses to evade host antiviral responses.


Dr. David M. Gilbert, formerly at SUNY Upstate, joined the department this year as the J. Herbert Taylor Distinguished Professor of Molecular Biology. His research has three main foci: (1) Specification of mammalian replication origins, including testing the hypothesis that the Origin Decision Point (ODP) is a point of global origin specification in mammalian cells, during which specific pre-RCs are selected for initiation of replication. (2) Mapping replication origins in human ES cells. (3) Nuclear organization and stem cell commitment, including testing the hypothesis that heritable changes in chromosome domain structure are established through changes in sub-nuclear position and replication timing that take place at key stages of cell commitment.


In Memoriam

Dr. Paul Kanciruk, 58, a retired marine biologist, died Friday, 10 February 2006. A student of Dr. William F. Herrnkind, Paul received his doctorate in biology in 1976.

Kathleen Allison Craddock Burks (M.S. 1992), botanist and project coordinator for Florida Natural Areas Inventory, died Thursday, 8 June 2006, after a brief struggle with cancer. Kathy remained a research associate of FSU's Godfrey Herbarium until her death. Memorial contributions can be made to the Robert K. Godfrey Endowment Fund, Fund No. 0303, FSU Foundation, P.O. Box 3062739, Tallahassee, FL 32306.

Dr. David C. White, a microbiologist who was a member of the department from 1973 through 1984, died of injuries sustained in an automobile accident on 25 October 2006 in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he was a faculty member at the University of Tennessee and a distinguished scientist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Matthew W. Beard, a senior Biological Science major, died 29 December 2006, victim of a drunk driver. Memorial contributions can be made to Coral Reef Conservation & Research, c/o Nyssa Silbiger, 2333 NW 96th Way, Coral Springs, FL 33605.

Invasive Exotic Species

Do you know an invasive pest plant when you see it? If so, or if you're willing to learn, then the Robert K. Godfrey Herbarium at FSU needs your help. Staff of the herbarium are collaborating with the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council (FLEPPC) in maintaining and improving a relational database of sight records for occurrences of more than 125 invasive exotic plant species found in Florida. Information includes density of populations and habitats infested. A searchable version of the database (updated quarterly) is available on the web, at http://www.fleppc.org/database/data_intro.htm. At that website, you can also download a helpful list and identification manual of the plants of interest (or contact UF/IFAS Distribution, P.O. Box 110011, Gainesville, FL 32611, 800-226-1764).

Graduate student Sarah Braun is particularly interested in nailing down the geographic locations of pest plant sightings. She has just spent many months "georeferencing" records in the database, narrowing down, to the extent possible, the exact locations of the records (some just say, for example, "Everglades") and translating those locations into latitude and longitude so that research scientists, managers, and other interested users can generate maps of particular species, at a given time or over a period of time. Without that capability we can't even know the extent of Florida's pest-plant problem, let alone do anything about it. The georeferenced records will soon be accessible through an online mapping interface developed by the Southeast Exotic Pest Plant Council in collaboration with FLEPPC, available at http://www.se-eppc.org/.p> If you see an invasive pest plant growing in Florida, Sarah wants to hear about it, especially if you can tell her exactly where it is. A street address or Google map is fine; if you use GPS, be sure to record the "datum" setting. Take a photo, to back up your identification. Even if the plant has already been reported from your area, your sighting will contribute to the time series the database is building up.

2006 Faculty Awards

FSU Named Professorship: Dr. Kenneth A. Taylor (Donald L. D. Caspar Professor of Biological Science).

University Teaching Awards: Dr. David M. Quadagno and Dr. Nora Underwood.

The department's Loretta Ellias Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching: Dr. Gregory M. Erickson.

Student Awards

Undergraduate Awards

John Mark Caffrey Memorial Scholarship: James Enos (Safety Harbor), Belinda Gavino (Lutz), Tristan Gonzalez-Sanz (Fort Myers), Holly Monroe (Tallahassee), Priya Pal (Tallahassee), Brian Seitzman (Tallahassee), and Michelle Smith (Pensacola). Faculty Undergraduate Endowed Scholarship: Brian Seitzman. Charles M. McAllister Endowed Scholarship: Jordan Rogers (Ormond Beach). Biological Science Alumni Endowed Scholarship: Regina Anderson (Mary Esther) and Matthew Beard (Sanford). Francenia Fisher Scholarship: Nicholas Miles (Port Orange). Varina Vaughn and Winona Jordan Endowed Scholarship in Botanical Science: Jennifer Peterson (Tallahassee) and Heather Young (Auburndale). Howard Hughes Computational Biology Fellowships: Rudolph Arceo, Jren Armon, Joshua Hoffman, Benjamin Kemp, Denise Newsome, Kristen Norman, Pankaj Pal, Priya Pal, Lauren Seabrooks, Lawren VandeVrede, and Halei Wong. Biological Science Undergraduate Scholarship Travel Award to make presentations at the National Convention of the TriBeta Honor Society: Andrew Lane ("Evolution of parental care in Desmognathus apalachicolae (North American salamander)"), Greg Adam Kirchenbaum ("Discovering the third dimension, describing multi-dimensional epistasis"), Shari Campbell ("Kv1.3 ion channel upregulation by TrkB kinase"), and Wildaliz Nieves ("The effects of 2-deoxyglucose in mitochondrial proteins of the zebra finch liver"); Alternates: Evan Johnson, (Non-invasive stress level measurement in the adult zebrafinch") and Jason Patzwald ("Acute effects of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy) in the juvenile and adult male zebra finch").

Graduate Awards

Brenda Weems Bennison Memorial Scholarship: Matthew Schrader (Indialantic, Fla.). The Robert B. Short Scholarship in Zoology: Amanda Buchanan (Salem, Or.), Kathleen Lotterhos (Romulus, N.Y.), and Matthew Schrader. The Robert K. Godfrey Scholarship: Amanda Kubes (Jacksonville, Fla.). The Graduate Student Publication Award: David Ferrell (Indianapolis, Ind.). The Jack Winn Gramling Research Award in Marine Biology: David Ferrell and Nathaniel Jue (Keene, N.H.). The Horace Loftin Endowment Award: Heather Gamper (Wyckoff, N.J.).

Staff Awards

The Sheila B. Lutz Memorial Scholarship: The 2006 Lutz Scholarship, intended to help an FSU staff member complete a college-level degree, was awarded to Jeffrey A. Bray II, program assistant in the Department of Classics. Jeff is working on his M.S. in Geography at FSU and plans to continue on to earn his Ph.D. in the same department, with an eye to an academic career in the subject. He plans to use the Lutz Scholarship funds to travel to San Francisco this spring, where he will deliver a paper at the annual conference of the Association of American Geographers. Even though he can devote only part time to his studies, he will then have delivered more such professional papers than any of the Geography Department's full-time, funded M.S. students.


News from Alumni

Visit the newsletter website, http://www.bio.fsu.edu/newsletter/feedback.php, for the full stories and original wording.

1970s
Roy Abarbanel, B.S. 1977: I began my biology career with BSC 201 taught by Dr. Fox and Dr. Tschinkel. My enduring memories are with Dr. Wiese, Dr. Stuy, Dr. Roeder, and Dr. Freeman. Eventually, I found my way in the field of physical therapy, where I have practiced, taught in various schools, delivered talks, and acquired certification in manual therapy. Through it all, I've never forgotten that I have a BS in BS! I hope my work "Non-steroid feedback mechanisms in castrate and cryptorchid rats" has helped the greater good. Very much looking forward to visiting the new teaching and research center.

Jeffrey R. Keim, B.S. 1975 (M.D.): I was a graduate student in Neuroscience under Dr. Graziadei and then went on to obtain my MD degree from the University of Miami. I was an intern at the Mayo Clinic and then completed a general surgery residency and plastic surgery fellowship in the Army. I am board certified in general surgery, plastic surgery and hand surgery. I practice plastic surgery in Minot, North Dakota, and fish or hunt whenever I can.

Hoyt Matthai, B.S. 1977: Since I last wrote to BioFeedback, I have left MetriGenix and am now the VP of Manufacturing and Logistics Operations at the American Type Culture Collection (ATCC) in Manassas, Virginia. ATCC is the world's leading biological repository and has been in business for over 80 years.

1980s
John R. Fernandez, B.S. 1980 (M.D., J.D.): Emergency Medicine Physician USF 1988. Attorney FSU 2002. Pilot; musician; author; living in Stuart, Florida.

1990s
Paul M. Edwards, B.S. 1990: One of my fondest memories of attending FSU was taking Organic Chemistry from Dr. Delos Detar. I credit Dr. Detar’s commitment to instilling in me the concept of diligence and preparation in everything that you do in life and business. I have many wonderful memories of the biological sciences department at FSU and today I still think about the commitment to education and research. Since leaving FSU, I have completed two years of medical school, helped start and manage an orthopedic clinical practice, completed a graduate degree in business at the University of Minnesota, and currently work in Silicon Valley as Vice President of Marketing & Business Development for a medical device start-up (Endotex Interventional Systems) focusing on the prevention of stroke. I currently live in Mill Valley, CA (next to Sausalito), and love spending most of my free time in the vast Bay Area outdoors with my family. I have two boys who both are in Boy Scouts, and we love hiking, camping, skiing, hitting the beach, traveling and hopefully making a positive difference in others’ lives. I thank FSU, its dedicated faculty and diverse student body for helping me reach this point in my life.

David L. Fitzgerald, B.S. 1990: I am currently President & CEO of Central Florida Real Estate Ventures, Inc. We are a commercial & residential real estate development company in the Central Florida area. I credit my vision and ability to create, develop, and run this well respected Central Florida corporation to my years at FSU. Being a Biological Science major is much more relevant than many people may think. The analytical and scientific skills and thought processes learned at FSU are directly transferable to running a real estate development corporation. In addition, by being a Bio. major, I feel my corporation is much more sensitive to “Smart Growth” and respects biological and environmental issues much more than traditional developers. We are currently developing two residential subdivisions and one small office building here in the Metro-Orlando area. Thanks to FSU for great memories, sharp skills, and an entrepreneurial spirit to succeed! I always look forward to visiting campus every Fall for kickoff! [Congratulations to Mr. Fitzgerald, who was also recently appointed a Commissioner on the Planning, Zoning, and Appeals Board.]

Eric E. Dueno, B.A. 1993 (M.S., Ph.D.): Eric Dueno’s interest in botany was sparked while studying at FSU. After completion of his undergraduate degree, he then went on to earn an M.S. in natural products chemistry at the University of Central Florida, Orlando, in 1996. He then returned to Tallahassee, where he taught biology, chemistry and math for two years at the Tallahassee Community College. In 1999 Eric enrolled in the Chemistry Ph.D. program at the University of South Florida, Tampa. In the spring of 2004, he completed his doctorate in synthetic organic chemistry. In the fall of 2004 he accepted a tenure-track faculty position at Eastern Kentucky University near Lexington, KY. His teaching duties include sophomore organic chemistry and spectrophotometric identification of organic molecules. Eric has published over twenty scientific publications and two lab manuals. His current research involves the synthesis of heterocyclic compounds for medicinal purposes and the isolation and elucidation of naturally occurring compounds. He is particularly grateful to Dr. Ellen Granger and Dr. Siwo deKloet for their outstanding guidance and support during his studies at FSU.

Laura E. Ocker (formerly Laura Somervill), B.S. 1993: In 2003 I completed my Masters of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine from the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine and obtained my license to practice acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine from the Oregon Board of Medical Examiners. I currently work as the resident acupuncturist at Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center in Hillsboro, Oregon. Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center (VGMHC) is a primary care facility with a 30-year history of providing high quality culturally appropriate healthcare to families and individuals who otherwise would not have access to health care. It is rewarding to help others, to witness the positive changes my clients experience with acupuncture treatment, and to work side-by-side with the fantastic team of medical professionals at VGMHC.

Justin Burokas, B.S. 1995: After graduating from FSU, I became an orthopedic tech, then an X-ray technician. Then I became an orthopedic physician's assistant. I am currently employed with an orthopedic surgeon working in the operating room as a first assist two days per week, and we see patients the other three days of the week. Go Noles!

Kristin (Borden) Kraus, M.S. 1995: For three years after finishing at FSU, I was the Production Editor for the journals published at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press: Genes & Development, Genome Research, and Learning & Memory. After we moved to Salt Lake City, I was hired by Ovid Technologies, a company that offers online subscription access to medical books, journals, and databases. As Manager of the Journals Full-Text Development group, I served as a liaison between Ovid's Journal division and publishers around the world. About three years ago, I left Ovid to become the Medical Editor for the Department of Neurosurgery here at the University of Utah.

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 Judy Bowers (bowers@bio.fsu.edu).