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Department of Biological Science

at Florida State University

Newsletter of the Department of Biological Science, Florida State University

Number 9, Winter 2010

Budget Difficulties

As was the case last year, as a result of cuts to the university's budget, we are unable to produce a printed version of this newsletter for mailing.

Biological Science Weathers the Fiscal Crisis

Like all universities, Florida State suffered major financial cuts in 2009--several departments were dissolved, and a number of tenured and untenured faculty were laid off--but Biological Science came through the crisis relatively intact. We lost no faculty or staff members and were even permitted to go ahead with faculty hiring plans. One casualty of the funding cuts was the print version of BioFeedback. We will continue to produce annual issues and to post them on line, but resumption of printing and mailing will have to await better economic times.

LEED Certification of Building
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In April of 2009, the U.S. Green Building Council granted its "Certified" status to the King Life Sciences Building. The certification is commemorated by thick, circular green glass plaque mounted on the wall in the building's second-floor hallway, near the chairman's suite, and by a framed certificate in the chairman's office.

The Bog Garden
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A short while later, in May of 2009, on the suggestion of department faculty member Thomas E. Miller, a university Buildings and Grounds crew installed a triangular "bog garden." It's located between Stadium Drive and the King building's west facade. The area is small, but its diversity is impressive. It harbors three species of carnivorous pitcher plants, several of sundews, sedges, lizard's tail, and other species typical of the wetlands of north Florida

Conradi Building

Meanwhile, the fate of Conradi Building remains in limbo. Currently, the auditorium (room 228) is in use (while Ruby Diamond is closed down for rennovation, the university needs all the auditorium space it can muster), but the remainder of the building is boarded up. The renovation necessary before it can be reoccupied (or even the cost of demolition) is beyond the university's current financial resources.

Arrivals and Departures

Six new faculty members joined the department this year, three of whom (Chadwick, Cui, and Dennis) will be members of the Integrating Genotype and Phenotype initiative.

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Dr. Brian P. Chadwick, who joined the department in the fall of 2009, earned his Ph.D. at University College London in 1997 and was most recently a research faculty member at the Duke University Medical Center. His research focuses on the process of X chromosome inactivation in mammals, which serves to balance the levels of X-linked gene expression between the sexes.


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Dr. Hongchang Cui earned his doctorate in plant physiology at Pennsylvania State University in 2003 before becoming a postdoctoral researcher at Duke University. His principal research topics are cell fate specification and reprogramming in plants, evolutionary and developmental biology, and plant-environment interaction. He took up his FSU position in January 2010.


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Dr. Jonathan H. Dennis comes to Florida State from a postdoctoral research fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Harvard Medical School and, like Dr. Chadwick, earned his Ph.D. at University College London. Using the innate immune response of macrophages as a model, he studies the mechanisms by which DNA is packaged in the nucleus and the ways in which its packing and unpacking regulate gene expression.


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Dr. Charlotte T. Lee's 2002 doctorate is from the University of California, Davis. After postdoctoral positions at Stanford University, the University of Arizona, and Florida State, she joined the department's faculty in January of 2010. She studies theoretical population, community, and ecosystem dynamics, including single-species demography, interactions between species, and nutrient cycling feedbacks. Her current products include human-environment interactions in preindustrial societies and competitive dynamics with mutualistic or ecosystem feedbacks.


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Dr. Steven Lenhert's 2004 doctorate is from the University of M√ľnster, Germany. He also joined the department in January of 2010. His research focuses on how biological molecules organize themselves and interact on supramolecular levels to carry out a particular function and on how that function can be recreated and controlled synthetically. Dr. Lenhert will be affiliated with the FSU's new Integrative NanoScience Institute.


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Dr. M. Elizabeth Stroupe earned her Ph.D. in 2002 at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, and joined the Florida State University in Fall of 2009. She seeks to understand the structure-function relationships driving two pathways: mRNA metabolism and sulfur metabolism. She uses x-ray crystallography and single-particle cryogenic electron microscopy to probe across resolutions, so that she can link atomic-resolution details, macromolecular assemblies, and cellular activity.


No faculty left the department this year, but the department's greenhouse manager, Karen Graffius-Ashcraft, retired after 35 years of service to the department and university.

Dr. Robert H. Reeves, who retired last year, has been replaced as Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies by Associate Professor Laura R. Keller.

2009 Faculty Awards

Assistant Professor Emily H. DuVal received the department's Loretta Ellias Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.

Professor David M. Gilbert was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Professor Thomas E. Miller and teaching-faculty member Dr. Trisha Spears both won FSU University Teaching Awards.

Professor Thomas E. Miller was also named the 2008-09 Honorary Professor of the Year by the FSU chapter of the Beta Beta Beta Honorary Society.

Student Awards

Undergraduate Awards

John Mark Caffrey Memorial Scholarship: Will Overholt (Fort Pierce, Fla.), Margaret Shoemaker (Fort Pierce, Fla.), Austin Jeffries (Davie, Fla.), and Elizabeth Howe (Gulf Breeze, Fla.). Faculty Undergraduate Endowed Scholarship: Kim Reuter (Fort Myers, Fla.). Charles M. McAllister Endowed Scholarship: Margaret Shoemaker, Kany Aziz (Tallahassee, Fla.), Danielle Reed (Orlando, Fla.), and Elizabeth Howe. Biological Science Alumni Endowed Scholarship: Austin Jeffries.

Four undergraduates received scholarships from the Beta Beta Beta Honorary Society to attend its National Convention: Elizabeth Howe (Bass lab), Rebecca Justiniano (Steppan lab; Spring Hill, Fla.), Amy Sloan (McGinnis lab; Greenacres, Fla.), and Daniel Vera (Bass lab; Tallahassee, Fla.). The scholarships not only fund their research but will enable them to present the results of their research orally or in poster form at the biennial TriBeta convention, May 2010, in Durango, Colorado.

Graduate Awards

The Horace Loftin Endowment Award: Megan Jones (Redmond, Ore), Caroline Stahala (Cornelius, N.Y.), and Anna Strimaitis (Medfield, Mass.). Margaret Menzel Endowed Award: Timothy Swain (Buffalo, N.Y.), Feng Yang, and Christopher Oakley (Folsom, Calif.). Brenda Weems Bennison Memorial Scholarship: Carole Saade (Beirut, Lebanon) and Carl Whittington (Jacksonville, Fla.). The Robert B. Short Scholarship in Zoology: Christina Kwapich (St. Louis, Mo.) and Carol Saade. The Robert K. Godfrey Scholarship: Eric Jones (Tallahassee, Fla.) and Tania Kim (Montreal, Ont., Canada). The Graduate Student Publication Award: Karen Alvarez-Delfin (Havana, Cuba). The Jack Winn Gramling Research Award in Marine Biology: Katie Lotterhos (Romulus, N.Y.).

Staff Awards

The department's own grants specialist Virginia Hellman won this year's Sheila B. Lutz Memorial Scholarship, intended to help a full-time Florida State staff member to pursue a college-level degree. Although the scholarship was originated here in Biological Science, in memory of staff member Sheila Lutz, Virginia is the first member of the department ever to win it.

Administrative support assistant Bobbie Weston of the department's fiscal office won an FSU Exemplary Service Award.

Undergraduate advisor Jeffrey Badger won an FSU Undergraduate Advising Award.

In addition to Karen Graffius-Ashcraft, mentioned above as retiring with 35 years' service, three other department employees were recognized for sustained service to the university: technical/research designer Ralph Anderson for 10 years, scientific research specialist Margaret Seavy for 20 years, and publications/graphic artist Ken Womble for 30 years.

In Memoriam

Long-time state senator James E. "Jim" King died 26 July 2009. The new King Life Sciences Building, occupied by the Department of Biological Science since spring of 2008, was named for Senator King.

John E. Highsmith died 8 June 2009, age 87, in Tallahassee, after a long illness. From 1957 until his retirement in 1987, he was the supervisor of the Department of Biological Science Machine Shop.

Dr. Paul R. Elliott, Professor Emeritus of Biological Science, died 24 October 2009, in Tallahassee, of heart failure. Dr. Elliott joined the department in 1971, served for many years as Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies, and retired in 2000.

Dr. Dexter M. Easton, Professor Emeritus of Biological Science, died 12 March 2010, in Tallahassee, of pneumonia. Dr. Easton joined the department in 1956, served as a University Service Professor from 1982 until 2004, and retired fully to become a professor emeritus in 2004.

News from Alumni

Unfortunately, in this issue, we have space to present all the news we received. Because no print edition was mailed last year, responses have been way down. We hope those of you with internet access will take up the slack and keep us posted!

1970s
Image Susan (Bonkemeyer) Millan, PIMS T1982; Brauna (Hartzell) Blakely, BS 1983; Nan Lyon, BS 1981; and Helen (Belefant) Miller, BS 1979, got together in April 2009 for the bar mitzvah of Helen's older son. All are still working in science and biology (medicine, wetlands survey, state environmental agency, and agricultural research, respectively). Bonds forged starting the Phi Sigma honorary society and while rescuing virgins in Conradi at midnight really can last a lifetime!

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!


Editorial board: Anne B. Thistle (chair, thistle@bio.fsu.edu), Diane Pealor (jtfalcon@bio.fsu.edu), and Judy Bowers (bowers@bio.fsu.edu).