FSU - Biological Science

Department of Biological Science

at Florida State University

Newsletter of the Department of Biological Science, Florida State University

Number 10, Winter 2011

Budget Difficulties

As has been the case since 2009, as a result of cuts to the university's budget, we are unable to produce a printed version of this newsletter for mailing.

The Fowler Symposia

Funding generously provided by the Frank and Yolande Fowler Endowment in Modern Molecular Biology will permit the Department of Biological Science to fill an endowed chair, the Fowler Chair in Biological Science. As a first step toward choosing the right candidate, the department will host a series of symposia featuring eminent investigators in important areas of modern biological science with relevance to cancer research. These events are envisioned as an opportunity to introduce the university community to the excitement of the field and to assess how building this area of research would complement and enhance current strengths in life-science research at FSU. Each symposium took place on a Friday and Saturday, in the College of Medicine auditorium and/or the Biological Science auditorium, and each included talks by both local speakers and eminent scientists invited to Tallahassee for the purpose. In the lobby of the auditorium and nearby hallway were displayed scientific posters showcasing the research of a large number of FSU graduate students and postdoctoral associates.


The inaugural Fowler Symposium in Frontiers in Molecular Biology, "Host-Microbe Interactions," organized by Biological Science faculty members Fanxiu Zhu, Kathryn M. Jones, and Hengli Tang, took place, 17-18 December 2010. Its cross-cutting topic plays an integral role in the advancement of modern molecular biology. The symposium began with a gala holiday party on the evening of Thursday, 16 December, for the entire department, as well as the featured speakers from around the United States and from FSU. The complete schedule of speakers is posted at http://www.bio.fsu.edu/Fowler/.

The second Fowler Symposium, "Evolutionary Medicine: Contributions to the Study of Disease and Immunity," was sponsored jointly by the Fowler endowment and the Department of Philosophy's William H. and Lucyle T. Werkmeister Endowment. It was held 25-26 February 2011 and was organized by faculty members David Houle, of the Department of Biological Science; Joseph Gabriel, of the FSU College of Medicine; and Michael Ruse and Sarah Whylly, of the FSU Department of Philosophy. The complete schedule is posted at http://www.bio.fsu.edu/FowlerII/.


The topic of the third Fowler Symposium, which took place 18-19 March 2011, was "Neuroethology." It was organized by Biological Science faculty members Kimberly A. Hughes, Michael Meredith, Lisa C. Lyons, Emily H. Duval, James M. Fadool, and Emily C. Lemmon, and its full schedule is posted at http://bio.fsu.edu/FowlerIII/.

The fourth and final Fowler Symposium, jointly sponsored by the Rushton Lecture Series of the Neuroscience program, was "It's About Time: Biological Clocks and Neural Function. It took place 8-9 April 2011 and was organized by faculty members James Olcese and Choogon Lee of the FSU College of Medicine and Lisa C. Lyons of Biological Science.

Conradi Building

No, still no word on the final fate of Conradi Building, which remains boarded up and out of use.


This summer, faculty members from the College of Arts and Sciences have workED with middle- and high-school teachers from northern Florida to improve their science knowledge and teaching methods. The project, Biology Institute and Online Support: Collaborative Opportunities to Promote Excellence in Science (BIOSCOPES), is led by Dean of Arts and Sciences (and Biological Science faculty member) Joseph Travis and is part of a $3.64 million program funded by the Florida Department of Educations Math and Science Partnership. Danielle Sherdan of the Learning Systems Institute, one of four principal investigators on the project received her Ph.D. in 2007 from the FSU Department of Biological Science.


Only one faculty member left the department this year (retiree Dr. Marc E. Freeman), but three long-time staff members retired. Grants Specialist Linda Sims, Coordinator of Nonmajors Biology Ann Lumsden, and Hybridoma/Molecular Research Specialist Pushparani ("Rani") Dhanarajan all embarked on well-deserved retirements. All their successors were already Biological Science staff members, so disruption was held to a minimum. Linda has been replaced by Virginia Hellman, Ann by Carolyn Schultz, and Rani by Brian K. Washburn. Carolyn has been replaced as coordinator of courses for majors by Geoff Brown, a former employee of the department.

Professor Don R. Levitan was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Professor Joseph Travis, FSU Dean of Arts and Sciences for the last six years, received the highest honor bestowed by the American Society of Naturalists, its E. O. Wilson Naturalist Award, which "is given to an active investigator in mid-career who has made significant contributions to the knowledge of a particular ecosystem or group of organisms"] (see http://www.fsu.com/News-Archive/2011/June/FSU-dean-wins-prestigious-E.O.-Wilson-Naturalist-Award for more information about the award and about Dr. Travis, who will step down from the dean's office in the fall of 2011 to resume full-time research and teaching in the department.

Professor Lawrence G. Abele, a Biological Science faculty member who also received his B.S. (1968) and M.S. (1970) degrees from the department, received the Bernard F. Sliger Award, the highest honor bestowed by the FSU Alumni Association, for his distinguished service since November 1994 as The Florida State University's provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs. Dr. Abele left the post of provost in December 2010 to devote his full attention to the Institute for Academic Leadership, a statewide program for new academic administrators.

Associate Professor Wu-Min Deng received an FSU Developing Scholar Award, which includes a $10,000 contribution to his research program.

Professor P. Bryant Chase was named the 2009-10 Honorary Professor of the Year by the FSU chapter of the Beta Beta Beta Honorary Society.

Assistant Professor Jonathan H. Dennis was named the 2010-11 Honorary Professor of the Year by the FSU chapter of the Beta Beta Beta Honorary Society. The society named Dr. James M. Fadool 2010-11 Graduate Professor of the year.

Major Grants

Of course, Biological Science faculty are always bringing in grant money; doing so part of their jobs as researchers, but this year, they landed a few particularly significant awards.

Assistant Professor Karen M. McGinnis received a five-year National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award of over $1 million to fund her research into the control of gene expression, particularly by epigenetic factors, which she studies in maize. For more information about Dr. McGinnis's work and the award, visit http://www.fsu.com/News-Archive/2010/March/FSU-biologist-wins-1M-Early-Career-Award-from-NSF.

Assistant Professor Fanxiu Zhu has received a new $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study viral proteins associated with Kaposi's sarcoma, which has become the defining symptom of AIDS. The virus that causes Kaposi's sarcoma is human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8), also called Kaposi's-sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV). Dr. Zhu has been focusing on a viral protein called open reading frame 45 (ORF45) and has discovered that the protein is packaged with each new virus, so it is already present when a virus infects a new cell. Dr. Zhu's work on KSHV ORF45 has the potential to give us a drug target that is specific to the virus. For more information, visit http://www.fsu.com/News-Archive/2011/June/FSU-scientist-leads-research-on-AIDS-related-cancer.

A team of three department members, Assistant Professors Karen M. McGinnis and Jonathan H. Dennis and Associate Professor Hank W. Bass (center), together with a researcher from Florida A&M University, have received a $1.45 million grant from the National Science Foundation to study the regulation of gene expression, in particular, how variation arises among organisms with identical genetic make-ups. They will work principally with maize, an especially useful model organism for such studies. For more information, visit http://www.fsu.com/News-Archive/2010/September/How-cells-manage-their-genes-focus-of-1.4-million-NSF-grant-to-Florida-State.

Student Awards

Undergraduate Awards

John Mark Caffrey Memorial Scholarship: Vincent Labarbera (Apollo Beach, FL), Shannon Mills (Crawfordville, FL), Samantha O'Hara (Orlando, FL), Kany Aziz (Tallahassee, Fla.). Faculty Undergraduate Endowed Scholarship: Vincent Labarbera, Shannon Mills. Charles M. McAllister Endowed Scholarship: Emily Lee (Davie, FL), Shannon Mills. Biological Science Alumni Endowed Scholarship: Brian Bishop (Spring Hill, FL), Kaitlin Boyle (Oviedo, FL). Francenia E. Fisher Scholarship: Alexander Chapman (Lake Worth, FL), Emily Wright (Quincy, FL). The Varina Vaughn-Winona Jordan Scholarship: Alexander Chapman, Rachel Atchison (North Palm Beach, FL).

Graduate Awards

Graduate student Casey ter Horst (Dr. Levitan's lab) received an FSU Graduate Research and Creativity Award.

Graduate student Tania Kim (Montreal, Canada; Dr. Underwood's lab) received an Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award (then, in a drawing for which the award made her eligible, won one of five Sony awards).

Graduate student Erin Simmons (Argyle, Texas) was named a 2010 Florida Gubernatorial Fellow (one of eight from Florida State and 13 statewide).

National Science Foundation Predoctoral Fellowships: Four of the department's students garnered NSF fellowships this year: Lisa Barrow (Mims, Florida; Dr. Lemmon's lab) will use hers to study some of the common frog species that occur on the Florida Gulf Coast barrier islands and mainland, especially differences between poplations in their patterns of gene flow and salinity tolerance. The results should lead to better understanding of population divergence and the ability of organisms to survive in variable environments. Carla Vanderbilt (Jacksonville, Florida; joining Dr. DuVal's lab in fall of 2011) will investigate how social strcture is established in a tropical bird, the lance-tailed manakin (Chiroxiphia lanceolata). Megan Jones (Redmond, Oregon; Dr. DuVal's lab) wil investigate the evolution of cooperation within manakins. She will concentrate in particular on the current adaptive benefitst of coordinated males behaviors in white-ruffed manakins (Corapipo altera), a species that shows incipient cooperation. Alexa Warwick (Ames, Iowa; Dr. Lemmon's lab) will focus on teh conservation biology of the Pine Barrens treefrog (Hyla andersonii), using population genetic, morphometric, and behavioral data.

The Horace Loftin Endowment Award: Caroline Stahala (Cornelius, N.Y.) and Anna Strimaitis (Medfield, Mass.). Margaret Menzel Endowed Award: Karen Alvarez-Delfin (Havana, Cuba) and Tyrone Ryba (Naples, Fla.). Brenda Weems Bennison Memorial Scholarship: Kenneth Wray (Kissimmee, Fla.). The Robert B. Short Scholarship in Zoology: Lisa Barrow (Mims, Fla.). The Robert K. Godfrey Scholarship: Brian Spiesman (Ridgefield, Wash.). The Graduate Student Publication Award: Elise Gornish (Queens, N.Y.). The Jack Winn Gramling Research Award in Marine Biology: Nicole Fogarty (Dayton, Oh.).

Staff Awards

Technology Specialist Alexander Stuy of the department's computing office won an FSU Exemplary Service Award.

Scientific Research Specialist Kim Riddle won an FSU FSU Exemplary Service Award.

Administrative Support Assistant Bobbie Weston was honored for 10 years of service to FSU, and Grants Compliance Analysis Linda Sims was honored for 30 years' service>.

In Memoriam

Dr. L. Raymond Fox, member of the Biological Science faculty from 1969 through 1979, died 26 September 2010, in Wichita, Kansas, of melanoma (first diagnosed in 1983).

News from Alumni

Dr. James H. Oliver, Jr., MS 1954, the director of the James H. Oliver Jr. Institute of Arthropodology and Parasitology and the Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Biology Emeritus, both at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Ga., an international expert in the biology of ticks and mites, especially those that cause or transmit diseases, received the 2010 Circle of Omicron Delta Kappa "Grads Made Good" award. Dr. Oliver's 1954 M.S. from FSU's Department of Zoology was supervised by the late Dr. Robert B. Short, who retired from the Department of Biological Science in 1990.

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), Guy Duffner (jtfalcon@bio.fsu.edu), and Judy Bowers (bowers@bio.fsu.edu).