Angela Ho and Christina Gallo receive NIA/NIH Grants

Angela Ho

Christina Gallo

Dr. Angela Ho and Christina Gallo (PhD in Pharmacology student and member of the Ho/Beffert lab) recently received grants from the National Institute on Aging the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Ho received a R21 grant from NIA/NIH. The project’s goal is to determine the specificity of the cell-permeable APP mimetic peptide to disrupt the APP-Mint interaction and reduce Ab accumulation in Alzheimer’s disease mouse models. This work is based on a recent publication from a collaboration with Dr. Kristian Stromgaard’s laboratory at University of Copenhagen where co-first author, Shawna Henry (PhD in Biology, Cell & Molecular student and member of the Ho/Beffert lab) showed that targeting the APP-Mint2 interaction with a peptide-based inhibitor reduces amyloid formation in neuronal in vitro model of Alzheimer’s disease (Bartling CRO, Jensen TMT, Henry SM et al., 2021, Journal of the American Chemical Society).

Christina Gallo received a F31 NRSA award from NIA/NIH to study whether alternative splicing of apoE receptor, apoER2 is altered in the aging and Alzheimer’s disease brains and to uncover modifiers of apoER2 splicing events. Congratulations to Christina and Angela!

Spring 2021 Outstanding Biology Learning Assistant Awards

The Biology Department recognized the hard work and innovation of all of our Learning Assistants (LAs) by presenting “The Outstanding Learning Assistant Award” to a group of Biology LAs for the spring 2021 semester. These students presented a poster that was judged by the Biology Honors Committee to best outline procedures that will improve teaching in our undergraduate courses. Financial support for this award is made possible by Professor Emerita Elizabeth Godrick.

Top award:
Kaitlin Farias, Tara O'Brien, Careena Uppaluri, and Rebecca Yu received the top award for Biology LAs for their presentation on the topic of shifting the BI 108 lab on epidemiology from Simutext to a Case Study Lab. Here is the abstract from the group's presentation:

BI108 has utilized simutext in it’s curriculum for years which is a teaching platform that aims to be an interactive online learning experience for students. When the lab sections were in person, students would work individually or with a group, to complete these online simutext labs. There are currently 3 simutext labs integrated into the 2020-2021 academic school year based on cellular respiration, mitosis and meiosis, and epidemiology. These labs generally consist of a simulation section that teaches the topic with text, images, videos, and guiding questions. At the end of the simulation, there are a few graded questions that test the student’s knowledge on the topic. While Simutext is a great resource for students, it is not very interactive nor conducive to the lab environment. Simutext is designed to be an individual assignment, while one of the BI108 lab’s purposes is to teach and encourage teamwork. Simutext is more fitting as an assignment outside of the lab, or as something students can use as a study aide for the lecture portion of the course. Simutext is a virtual lab/lecture, which is fitting for the LfA format, but it is not as fitting for in person students, and for when teaching resumes back to normal. Also, it costs around $50 per student on top of the materials students need to buy for the lab and lecture. BI108 lab is designed for students to apply the things they have learned in lecture, and Simutext does not provide those opportunities that an in person or interactive lab can. To ensure students get the most out of the BI108 lab on Epidemiology, we are proposing a shift from Simutext to a Case Study Lab. The lab will consist of real life examples that aim to highlight the importance of epidemiology through graded questions based on the synthesis and application of the information given. Basic information about the topic will be given to students in the pre-lab video, which is watched before students come to class, to help provide the background information necessary to understand the case study. Additional Powerpoint slides will also be presented by the TF or LA at the beginning of lab to ensure adequate background knowledge before attempting real-life synthesis and critical-thinking questions. Changing the final BI108 lab from a remote and non-interactive format to our proposed Case Study Lab would provide students with the opportunity to synthesize the information learned in lecture and exercise their practical knowledge in the lab setting. Teamwork is a central tenet of BI108, and the Case Study Lab format will encourage group members to work together rather than work individually. This opportunity for teamwork is the greatest benefit of switching from SimuText to the Case Study Lab. Students have already worked with their specially formulated teams since the beginning of the semester, and the Case Study Lab would be another opportunity to strengthen skills in teamwork such as conflict resolution, active listening, and creativity.

A close runner-up:
Anna Cavallino, Daphne De La Piedra, Thuy Hanley, Juliette Pluviose, and Joseph Yap were the runners up for their presentation on creating a flowchart for resources in BI 315 lab. Here is the abstract from the group's presentation:

BI315 lab is a fast-paced, content-filled course that inevitably results in expressions of confusion by students over how to navigate and succeed in the course. While there is a plethora of resources available to aid students in understanding and completing assignments, students often get lost in the sheer amount of literature and wonder where to start. As learning assistants, we gain valuable insight into the specific questions and concerns faced by students regarding specific activities and assignments, in addition to having faced similar points of confusion ourselves when having previously taken the course. Therefore, our solution is to create a flowchart that will guide students towards the most helpful resources and solutions depending on their questions. By creating a directory of tips and resources based on our own experience and student feedback, learning assistants can be more efficient when helping students. Rather than spending an extended amount of time individually directing students through the different resources, a student group can be set on the right path and utilize dialogic discourse to determine the correct resources. Previous research has shown that peer learning can effectively enhance students’ confidence and learning. We feel that the peer-created resources can also foster and enhance student learning beyond that of the established curriculum.

Congratulations to the award-winners and thanks to all the hardworking LAs who participated in the presentations. More information on the Learning Assistant Program can be found here.

2021 Biology Department Undergraduate Research Award Winners

Congratulations to the recipients of the 2021 Biology Department Undergraduate Research Award. The Biology Research and Honors Committee gives this annual award to outstanding seniors of any major who are performing research in Biology Department labs. This year's winners were Elena Gomez (CAS, Biology ECB), Anthony Khoudary (CAS/GRS, Biology NB/Biology), and Katie Tiemeyer (CAS/CFA, BMB/Voice)

Elena conducted research with Dr. Karen Warkentin on the effects of adult and embryo behavior on embryo survival in two neotropical treefrog species. Anthony conducted research with Dr. Jeff Gavornik on predictive processing in the primary visual cortex. Katie conducted research with Dr. Kim McCall on investigating the role of protein glycosylation in glial phagocytosis.

Elena, Anthony, and Katie presented their research at a Department-wide seminar on April 26. Please join us in celebrating these students’ accomplishments and their hard work.

David Guarin Accepted by Harvard GSAS PREP Research Scholar Initiative

By Siyu ZhangMay 3rd, 2021in News, Student News

David Guarin, a recently graduated BMB student working as a research assistant in Emili Lab at BU School of Medicine, was recently accepted by the Harvard GSAS PREP Research Scholar Initiative (RSI). 

The GSAS Research Scholar Initiative is a non-degree granting post-baccalaureate program that offers mentored research and training for people who are interested in pursuing doctoral studies. Specifically, in conjunction with the Harvard PhD Program in Neuroscience (PiN), RSI offers a track in neuroscience (the “PiNBAC” track) within the RSI Life Sciences Program, which is the track David decided to pursue. As a Research Scholar in Life Sciences, he will serve as a research assistant in a Harvard faculty member lab and receive resources for academic and professional development. 

Congratulations, David! 

Prof. Primack and Ph.D. candidate Tara Millier publish on Annals of Botany

Boston University Professor of Biology Richard Primack and Ph.D. candidate  Tara Miller co-authored a study that is now in press in Annals of Botany. The article “Comparing fruiting phenology across two historical datasets: Thoreau’s observations and herbarium specimens” demonstrated how climate change is having a biological effect on local environments.

To study the sequence and pattern of fruiting in New England plants, the researchers analyzed the museum record of pressed plant specimens, also called herbarium specimens, from the past 150 years and combined it with Henry David Thoreau’s fruiting observations from the 1850s. The study found out that both historical datasets show similar patterns of plant fruiting times despite the fact that the two studies happened in different time and locations. This observation confirmed that these datasets can be combined to create larger and more powerful data sets for climate change and ecological research.

“Our lab group has been working with Thoreau’s observations for 18 years now, and Thoreau still has more to contribute to climate change research,” Prof. Primack, the co-author and principal investigator, said to BU Experts.

“Thoreau is well-known as an environmental thinker and philosopher, but his scientific work is less well known,” Miller added on to Prof. Primack’s point. “By using his scientific observations in modern research, we’re able to connect to new audiences and communicate climate change research to people interested in history, philosophy, literature, and more.” 

You can read the full article here

Katya Ravid named the inaugural Barbara E. Corkey, Ph.D. Professor

By Siyu ZhangApril 26th, 2021in Faculty News, News
Barbara E. Corkey and Katya Ravid

We’re proud to announce that Katya Ravid, DSc, Professor of Medicine and Biochemistry, has been named the inaugural incumbent of the Barbara E. Corkey Professor of Medicine.

Having over 150 publications, Dr. Ravid’s discoveries and contributions in the field of megakaryocyte and platelet biology were recognized by many national and international awards and societies, including American Heart Association, Established Investigator Award, fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and many more. In 2014, Dr. Ravid founded the first Transgenic/Knockout Core at Boston University and led research centers and programs since then. As an awarded educator, she also taught graduate courses and mentored nearly 50 pre- and post-docs. A full introduction of her experience and achievements can be found here

The School of Medicine establishes this award/professorship to honor the legacy of Dr. Barbara E. Corkey, the Zoltan Kohn Professor of Medicine and Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Medicine. Dr. Corkey has been a leader in diabetes and obesity research for more than 50 years with 190 related publications and 40 years of continuous government research support. 

To announce and recognize Dr. Katya Ravid’s achievements, the BUSM will hold a virtual installation of Katya Ravid, DSc, PhD as the Barbara E. Corkey, PhD Professor on Thursday, May 20, 4-5 pm. You can sign up for the event here

Cheryl Knott featured in The Atlantic

By Siyu ZhangApril 23rd, 2021in Faculty News, News

Dr. Cheryl Knott, Professor of Anthropology, Biology, and Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies, is featured in The Atlantic for her research of orangutans and her collaboration with local partners in Indonesia. 

The article, titled "The Pandemic Is Undoing Field Researchers’ Oldest Assumption," highlights the practices done by Dr. Knott that allows her research to continue without her during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Her tracking project is one of the most extensive studies of wild orangutans in the world. Fascinated by the unique characteristics of orangutans in Borneo, she started her research in 1994. She employed local researchers to allow people in local communities to get paid and participate in studying animals. Over the years, she trained local research assistants the skills needed to research and conserve animals and the environment, in contrast with “parachute science”, where foreign scientists research without building scientific capacity in their research site. 

Dr. Knott’s effort in empowering locals to conduct research breaks the long-standing assumption that western researchers must do the work themselves. “If we want to create change, if we want to save our planet, then it shouldn’t matter who’s doing the work,” said Asha de Vos, a marine biologist in Sri Lanka, also featured in the article. “What should matter is that the work is done.”

You can read the full article here

Christa Nuzzo featured in Bostonia for her work in LGBTQ+ Advocacy

By Siyu ZhangApril 22nd, 2021in News, Student News

Christa Nuzzo, a junior studying Neurobiology, is the president of Queer Activist Collective (Q), BU’s decade-strong club for LGBTQ+ students and allies. Throughout her time at BU, Christa has turned Q from a social group into a one-stop LGBTQ+ resources center. Her story was featured in a recent Bostonia article on student activists. 

Q is dedicated to providing all BU queer students with the information and resources they need, such as information about free queer-friendly therapy sessions and the location of every all-gender bathroom in BU. Q also provides workshops and giveaways to support queer students, such as sending members self-care kits and safe-sex supplies.

Last summer, Christa and Q’s Outreach Coordinator, BMB major Ryan De Kock, established the “Take Action Tuesdays”, a special hour when all Q members can engage in social advocacy by making calls to legislators and organizations. So far, they have called the state legislators on topics such as releasing incarcerated people to stop the spread of COVID-19 and increasing access to HIV testing for minors. 

“I sometimes think that people don’t realize that activism can take many different forms, and they’re all effective. You can donate and sign petitions, but you can also educate others, which is really important,” Christa explained to Bostonia. “It’s easy to post something [on your social media] to spread information or awareness, but advocacy shouldn’t stop there. It should start there.” 

Click here to read the full article.


Biology Undergraduate Researchers work with with Lucy Kim, Professor of Fine Arts, to create Melanin Images from E. Coli

By Siyu ZhangMarch 30th, 2021in News, Student News

Lucy Kim, an Assistant Professor of Fine Arts and a Faculty Affiliate at the BU Center for Antiracist Research, is working on a project with two Biology undergraduate researchers, Allison Suarez and Xingpei Zhang. 

Her recent project, Melanin images via genetically modified E. Coli, develops a unique way to create screen-prints with melanin, which is the primary pigment of human skin, hair, and eye color and can be produced by genetically modified E.coli cells. The process involves screen-printing E. coli cells onto paper and placing them in an incubator. As E. coli starts to produce melanin, an image begins to show and will stay alive until the bacteria is killed. This project started in 2019 during her Artist-in-Residency at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. She is now continuing her project at Boston University with the support of Biology Professor Dr. Chip Celenza. 

Under Professor Kim’s supervision, two Biology undergraduate researchers, Allison Suarez and Xingpei Zhang, conduct their research to find different approaches to creating screen-printed photographic images of eumelanin-producing E.Coli cells. Allison Suarez, a junior studying Biology and Chemistry, is researching screen printing recombinant E. Coli and melanin structure determination and preservation. Xingpei Zhang, a senior studying Biology, is working on optimizing E. Coli expression of the Rhizobium etli CFN42 tyrosinase gene melA by reducing protease activity chaperone overexpression.

The Broad Institute of MIT produced a video featuring her project and biology students. You can watch the video here. If you want to know more about the project, click here.