Brandon Güell Wins BU’s Inaugural Research Photo Contest

By Jen CorreiaOctober 7th, 2022in Grad Student News, News

PhD candidate Brandon Güell of the Warkentin Lab is the winner of BU's inaugural research photo contest in the field research category (entry pictured above).  The competition had more than 120 entries in three categories—field research, research happening at BU, and research imaging—with three winners and six runners-up chosen by a panel of faculty and staff judges.

Winners were announced during the Kilachand Day celebration on September 27th and featured in The Brink. Read the full article and see the other winners and runners-up here.

Congratulations, Brandon!

Maria Jose Salazar Nicholls Receives 2022 Thomas H. Kunz Award

By Jen CorreiaJuly 6th, 2022in Grad Student News, News

Maria Jose Salazar Nicholls of the Warkentin Lab is this year’s recipient of the Thomas H. Kunz Award. Her thesis work focuses on the mechanisms enabling adaptive embryo behavior in red-eyed treefrogs, Agalychnis callidryas. Maria completed her BS at Pontifical Catholic University in Ecuador, where she worked in the Developmental Biology lab studying the early development of Ecuadorian frogs’ embryos. She is interested in phenotypic plasticity, embryo behavior, development, and mechanisms underlying plasticity.

This award provides support for Ecology, Behavior & Evolution (EBE) PhD candidates who have completed the qualifying exam, with a preference for those conducting field research in the award year. The award was established in 2015 in recognition and appreciation of Professor Thomas H. Kunz’s mentorship. His current and former graduate students established this award to serve as a lasting legacy of Tom’s contributions at BU and beyond. Learn more about Dr. Kunz and how you can support this award.

Congratulations, Maria!

Daniel Wuitchik Receives Dana Wright Fellowship

By Jen CorreiaJuly 1st, 2022in Grad Student News, News

Daniel Wuitchik of the Davies Lab is the 2022 recipient of the Dana Wright Fellowship.

Daniel's research explores the effects of temperature on stress, symbiosis, and patterns of diversity in marine invertebrates. He leverages modern genomic tools, coupled with phenotypic assays of thermal performance to better understand how these invertebrates respond to increasing temperatures. His focus is on species that are local to New England, and attempts to contextualize how they may be impacted under anthropogenic climate change.

This fellowship was established in memory of Dana Wright (CAS ’00), an alum of the BU Marine Program. After completing her studies, Wright went on to work in research in right whale acoustics at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod.

Congratulations, Daniel!

Sarah Speroff Receives 2022 Denton Award

Sarah Speroff of the Rotjan Lab was selected as the winner of the 2022 Denton Award for their master’s research thesis in biology titled “Stressed out in a Changed World: Investigating the Strength of the Temperate Coral Response to Acute and Chronic Anthropogenic Stress.” This award is given for excellence in scholarship and research accomplishment during a master’s thesis in the Department of Biology.

Sarah received their BA from Kenyon College where they studied Biology and Environmental Science. Prior to BU, they interned with the New England Aquarium's Marine Mammal Education and Research team and sailed aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer as a student with the Sea Education Association. Sarah's master's research focused on the synergistic impacts of climate change stress on the partnership between urban corals and their algal symbionts.

Congratulations, Sarah!

2022 Biology Graduate Teaching Awards

By Jen CorreiaJune 9th, 2022in Grad Student News

The Biology Graduate Committee is delighted to announce the winners of the Department’s graduate teaching awards:

E Schlatter as the winner of the 2021-2022 Outstanding Teaching Fellow in Biology award for teaching excellence over the past year. E served the Department as a teaching fellow in for Genetics (BI 206), for which E has been praised their ability to guide students in dissecting and analyzing problems in course content. E's evaluations from students noted their strengths in explaining concepts, their responsiveness to students’ needs, and their willingness to spend extra time with students, to ensure that they understood concepts from class. In this way, E has gone above and beyond typical expectations for a TF in Biology.

Isabella Muratore as the winner of the Biology Distinguished Teaching Fellow Award for teaching excellence throughout her graduate career. Isabella has served the Department for the multiple years as a teaching fellow, including for an unusually broad range of courses encompassing nonmajors (Sociobiology, BI 119), premedical Biology concentrators (Introductory Biology, BI 107, BI 108), and courses for the Specialization in Behavioral Biology (BI 225). Isabella has been noted by both students and faculty over the years for her ability to connect and engage a diversity of students with STEM and non-STEM backgrounds, her ability to provide clear explanations, her ability to encourage dynamic, interactive classes in both discussion sections and in laboratory courses. In addition to TFing, Isabella mentored many undergraduate students in her research, including students with disabilities, who have gone on to graduate programs in Biology

Each year in Biology, there are many worthy nominees for these teaching awards. The Graduate Committee is continually impressed the the quality of teaching and mentorship among our graduate students. The Committee would like to thank all of those who have contributed to Biology’s teaching mission over the past year and throughout their graduate career here at BU.

Congratulations, E and Isabella!

Karina Scavo Lord and Leah Williams Receive 2022 Belamarich Award

This year, the Department of Biology is excited to announce that we have selected two winners for the 2022 Belamarich Award. This award is given annually to a recent PhD candidate for their outstanding doctoral dissertation completed in the Department of Biology.

Dr. Karina Scavo Lord of the Finnerty Lab was selected for her doctoral dissertation in Biology titled “The Importance of Mangroves as Coral Habitat in a Deteriorating Ocean – An Ecological, Demographic, and Genomic Research Program on Model Mangrove Corals in the Genus Porites.” The committee was impressed by Karina's extensive research productivity, the originality of her work, her research independence throughout her PhD, and the impact of her research on population ecology, marine biology, and conservation science. The committee also admired Karina's mentoring record and the outreach activities she engaged in during her graduate career here at BU. More information about her research is below.

Mangroves are widely regarded as unsuitable habitats for corals, and for this reason, very few studies have characterized coral populations in mangroves. However, as coral reefs decline rapidly, an emerging thread of research suggests that mangroves may be critical to the survival and evolution of corals, as well as the resilience of coral reefs. Karina’s dissertation research has endeavored to fill this critical gap in our knowledge and build a research program to investigate the role of mangrove habitats as important habitat for coral survival and evolution. Using model mangrove corals in the genus Porites, she combined longitudinal field work, population modeling, and genomics to study their survival, growth, and reproduction, as well as how key coral traits vary between reef and mangrove habitats. This research builds on the growing recognition that mangroves, as well as other reef-associated habitats, may prove critical to the survival of reef corals and the resilience of coral reefs.

Karina will be continuing this research on mangrove corals in her NSF postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Texas at Austin, where she is studying the mechanisms by which a predominately clonal (genetically poor) mangrove coral population can display phenotypic variation and respond to changing environmental conditions.

Dr. Leah Williams of the Gilmore Lab was selected for her doctoral dissertation in Biology titled “Structure, Activity, and Biology of Transcription factor NF-κB in Evolutionary Basal Organisms: Insights into the Origins of Immune Regulation.” The committee was impressed by Leah's immense research productivity (as evidenced through her publication record), the technical complexity of her work, and the impact of her work across the fields of molecular, evolutionary, and environmental biology. The committee also admired Leah's leadership, teaching, and mentoring record, as well as her outstanding level of service to the department. More information about her research is below.

Despite the approximately 100,000 publications on the immune-related transcription factor NF-κB, very little data exists on this important transcription factor in organisms other than mammals and flies. In her dissertation, Leah examined the structure, activity, and biology of the transcription factor NF-κB in three basal phyla to explore the extent of conservation with more derived organisms as well as phylum-specific properties. These data suggest that the mechanism as well as level of activation of NF-κB in basal organisms is different from what is observed in higher organisms. Overall, these data represent the first functional characterization of NF-κB signaling proteins in an endangered coral, in any organisms basal to cnidarians (i.e., an evolutionary important sponge), and any organism outside the Kingdom Animalia (protists). These findings suggest that these seemingly simple organisms contain conserved innate immune-like pathways that may be regulated by NF-κB and provide information about the evolution, ecology, and diversification of this biologically important transcription factor.

Leah is currently a Scientist at CRISPR Therapeutics in Cambridge, MA working in Clinical Development on their Immuno-oncology programs.

As in previous years, there will be a Belamarich Award Night to celebrate our award winners. The night includes a seminar given by the awardees, a brief ceremony, and a reception. The Seminar will be held on Monday, October 24th at 4:00pm in BRB 113. The Award Ceremony will take place immediately after, with the Reception following down the hall in BRB 117, from ~5:00pm-6:00pm. We are honored to have the Belamarich family joining us again to celebrate this year’s award winners.

We look forward to seeing everyone at Belamarich Award Night!


More about the Belamarich Award:

Frank A. Belamarich joined the BU Biology Department in 1963 as an assistant professor where he quickly gained international recognition for his research in the field of comparative hemostasis, the process of blood clotting. Throughout his tenure at BU he was a popular teacher of a core course in cell biology which he developed. Belamarich maintained research laboratories in Boston as well as at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole in Falmouth, MA as part of the BU Marine Program.

Congratulations, Karina and Leah!


Cameron Dixon Receives 2022 I. Alden Macchi Award

By Jen CorreiaMay 24th, 2022in Grad Student News

Cameron Dixon, MCBB PhD candidate of the McCall Lab, was selected as the winner of the 2022 I. Alden Macchi Award for excellence in the field of regulatory biology. Read more about Cameron's research below!

Hormones orchestrate vital physiological pathways, such as metabolism, development, and reproduction. Beyond their influence on organismal homeostasis, hormones maintain integrity of stem cell niches and tissue integrity through molecular mechanisms. The presence of hormones is not restrictive to mammals and is evolutionarily conserved across species down to microorganisms. This conservation through evolution shows the importance in understanding how hormones interact with physiology and the negative implications of what happens to homeostasis post-hormonal disruption.  To this end, the McCall Lab will be using Drosophila melanogaster to better understand how dysregulation of hormonal homeostasis impacts physiology. Drosophila possess hormonal regulation that shares many similarities with mammalian hormonal homeostasis. For example, the mammalian peptide hormone, insulin, is present in Drosophila. In Drosophila, it is known as Drosophila Insulin-like Peptide (DILP). Other major hormones that are intimately connected to DILP are ecdysone and juvenile hormone (JH); which function similarly to that of mammalian sex steroids and growth hormones, respectively. All three of these major hormones are not only involved in their own canonical pathways but also influence each other. To fully understand how these hormones effect physiology once homeostasis is dysregulated, the lab will be examining the effects of hormonal perturbations on physiology. Perturbations will be completed using two different methods: genetic and physiological perturbations. Genetic perturbations will use the Gal4-UAS system while physiological perturbations will be caused via traumatic injury (TI). TI has been shown to effect organismal homeostasis and often can lead to the progression of several pathologies, including neurodegeneration, diabetes, and reproductive consequences. These pathologies are often associated with dysregulation of respective hormones making TI attractive to understand how global damage can lead to an upset in hormonal homeostasis. Preliminary results have shown consequences to physiology through malformation of wings and increased wing venation, decreased survival, temperature sensitivity, and apoptotic phenotypes in reproductive tissues. Further investigation into these consequences are currently being completed to understand the effects of perturbing major hormones (DILP, ecdysone, JH) and their effects on physiological homeostasis and hormonal crosstalk.

This award was established by the late I. Alden Macchi, Professor and former Interim Chairman in the Department of Biology. Dr. Macchi received his PhD in Endocrinology from BU in 1954. Professor Macchi’s research contributed, among other things, many important observations regarding the mechanisms of steroid hormone biosynthesis in the adrenal glands.

Congratulations, Cameron!

2022 Dr. Marion R. Kramer Scholarship Winners

By Jen CorreiaMay 23rd, 2022in Grad Student News

The Department of Biology is excited to announce the two recipients of this year’s Dr. Marion R. Kramer Scholarships: Hannah Aichelman of the Davies Lab and Nahomie Rodriguez-Sastre of the Bradham Lab.

Hannah Aichelman uses physiological and molecular tools to understand how both temperate and tropical coral species persist in the face of global change. Her dissertation research is focused on disentangling the distinct responses of the coral host and its endosymbiotic algae to temperature stress.
Nahomie Rodriguez-Sastre aims to understand how EtOH treatment affects the skeletal patterning process in the sea urchin larva. The sea urchin larval skeleton offers a simple patterning system since it involves only two cell types: the mesenchymal cells that secrete the calcium carbonate skeleton, and the ectodermal cells that provide migratory and differentiation cues for the mesenchymal cells. The Bradham Lab has found that treatment with ethanol induces broad patterning defects, including rotational defects. PMC ingression, migration, and gene expression are also perturbed by EtOH treatment. By performing a series of transplants, the lab has shown that EtOH-provoked defects are ectodermal, consistent with perturbation of patterning cues. Overall, the findings indicate that EtOH provokes a complex suite of effects that collectively impact patterning. The results are consistent with a complex, multi-pathway mechanism for ethanol-mediated skeletal perturbation.

This award provides support for high-achieving female students majoring in Biology. The award was established in 2001 in honor of Dr. Marion Kramer who earned her Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Boston University in 1963 and went on to a long and satisfying career in biology and medicine.

The Department of Biology gives this award to graduate students in the spring, and to undergraduate students in the fall. Read about our Fall 2021 undergraduate recipients here.

Congratulations, Hannah and Nahomie!

Heather Hook Receives Charles Terner Award

By Jen CorreiaMay 20th, 2022in Grad Student News

Heather Hook, Biology PhD candidate of the Siggers Lab, is this year’s recipient of the Charles Terner Award. In the Siggers lab, Heather has been working on the development of a novel, high-throughput technique to profile transcription factor – cofactor complex recruitment to DNA to determine a cell’s key regulators. Heather has applied this technique to several applications, including mapping cofactor recruitment to disease associated single nucleotide polymorphisms. This approach can be broadly applied to many biological systems to map transcription factor – cofactor complexes to genomic regions to uncover cell specific complexes and their DNA sequence dependence.

This award provides support for a CM or MCBB PhD candidate who has made significant contributions to their field. Charles Terner was a Professor of Biology at Boston University for over 20 years before he retired in 1985. Dr. Terner specialized in biochemistry and focused his research on the metabolic properties of male reproductive cells. The award was established in his memory after he passed away in 1998.

Congratulations, Heather!