Meg A. Younger, PhD was selected as a 2023 recipient for the Smith Family Foundation Excellence in Biomedical Research Award!
Meg Younger has been awarded the Smith Family Award for Excellence in Biomedical Research. The Richard and Susan Smith Family Awards Program for Excellence in Biomedical Research supports promising pre-tenure researchers as they establish their first independent lab. Its mission is to launch the careers of newly independent biomedical researchers with the ultimate goal of achieving medical breakthroughs. Congratulations Meg!
Chip Celenza Become DIAT Member
Dr. Chip Celenza is one of the newest members of DIAT, a representative group across CAS and GRS that facilitates and implements diversity, equity, and inclusion at BU. The team consists of 12-15 members of faculty, staff, and students who are committed to addressing: (1)Assessing Accessibility in CAS (2) First Year Success, and (3) Engaging undergraduate student DEI needs.
Dr. Celenza describes himself as growing up in a homogeneous “majority” town without economic hardship. However, he has found common ground with those from different socioeconomic backgrounds and recognizes his own pre-conceived judgments about people from diverse backgrounds. He states,
“Advising and teaching students at BU has played an important role in making me aware of my biases and helping me change them.”
BU students come from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds where school systems and communities may have not provided adequate support or opportunities. This results in some students being at a disadvantage academically and socially. Moreover, students may experience economic hardship, resulting in them working long hours during the semester. As a faculty member, Dr. Celenza has taken responsibility for becoming more aware that some students may require remedial help to get caught up with more advantaged classmates. He also recognizes that students have limited time when completing assignments outside of class. Dr. Celenza remarks that BU faculty members should consider the grading policies that allow grade remediation and flexibility in assignment deadlines.
“My commitment to diversity means suppressing pre-conceived judgments based on stereotypes and be sure to listen (and ask) for student concerns. I try to demonstrate my commitment to diversity by involving myself in department and college level groups aimed at recognizing and supporting diversity across BU. I would say that I am a novice and I participate to learn.”
Congratulations, Dr. Celenza!
Fall 2022 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 two groups of Biology LAs for the fall 2022 semester. These students presented posters that were 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.
John Okechi Published in Conservation Science and Practice
Dr. John Okechi's paper, The ecological health of Lake Victoria (Kenya) in the face of growing cage aquaculture, was recently published in Conservation Science and Practice. The paper was based on his dissertation work completed while obtaining his PhD in Biology in the Kaufman Lab.
Okechi is an experienced and enthusiastic marine biologist; highly passionate about the study of marine environmental issues, aquaculture and biodiversity conservation. He is committed to excellence in research, and is a skilled leader in the field and at the bench, working with people from diverse backgrounds. For the last five years, he has been a significant member of the Kaufman Lab at BU. He is currently a visiting researcher in the Kaufman Lab. A synopsis of the paper is below.
The rapid growth of cage aquaculture in Lake Victoria has raised concerns regarding its contribution to eutrophication and implications for biodiversity conservation. The results show no difference in environmental conditions between cage and control stations, and a significantly higher total fish biomass at cages stations. If practiced properly and kept within environmental limits, cage aquaculture in Lake Victoria holds the promise of enhancing food security, helping to safeguard freshwater biodiversity, and empowering women in the workforce.
Read the paper here: http://doi.org/10.1111/csp2.12826.
Pam Templer Featured in the Brink
Congratulations to Dr. Pamela Templer for her feature in the Brink article titled, “Building a Diverse, Strong Climate Workforce.” On June 9, 2022, Climate advocates from around the world teamed up with BU to brief Congressional staff on their plan to train the next generation for careers in solving the current climate crisis.
Climate change is a global issue demanding we adapt to the changing world and transition to the use of sustainable resources. As climate change accelerates, the US will face challenges ranging from extreme weather events to water and air pollution. To discuss these issues, a virtual panel is known as Building the Next Generation Climate Workforce: Innovative Solutions from Around the Country came together with the goal of using sound-science policymaking to expand diversity in STEM and prepare to meet energy demands from renewable sources.
Dr. Templer described to the Brink:
“To me, a climate workforce means successfully preparing our graduates to tackle climate challenges. We know that temperatures are rising, weather events are becoming more extreme, and these are all impacting human health and well-being. Having graduates understand how we can both reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that lead to climate change and create solutions to help humans adapt to the ways that climate is already changing is essential.”
In addition, all panelists at this briefing expressed their hope for greater federal funding for training students interested in climate-focused careers, as it would increase the diversity and opportunities for communities that are directly impacted by the consequences of climate change.
Click here to read the full article.
Meg Younger Featured in the Brink
Biology Assistant Professor, Dr. Meg Younger, is featured in a Brink article titled, “Mosquitoes have a Bizarre Sense of Smell, Study Finds.” The article discusses how mosquitoes have an unconventional method of detecting odors which could explain their ability to detect humans to pray on. Mosquitoes are the most deadly insects in the world due to their ability to transmit vector-borne diseases such as malaria, West Nile virus, Zika virus, dengue, and more.
Dr. Younger and her team are investigating how mosquitoes utilize odor to track humans, and an effective way to repel mosquitoes. They found that Aedes aegypti mosquitoes thrive in tropical climates. These mosquitoes have typically been found in equatorial states such as Florida and Texas, however, in recent years, they have been detected as far north as Connecticut due to global warming. Climate change has increased the pressure of understanding the odor mechanisms of mosquitos.
The study finds that Aedes aegypti mosquitoes’ olfactory system is organized by gene coexpression with multiple sensory receptors in each neuron. A uniquely specialized olfactory system offers an explanation regarding mosquitoes’ sensitivity to humans.
In her lab, Dr. Younger and her team have developed mosquitoes that express fluorescent proteins, allowing researchers to see chemical responses to odorants under a microscope. CRISPR technology was used to label various sensory neurons while preserving cell protein function.
The results of the study ultimately show that the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes have a unique olfactory system that coexpresses sensory receptors within individual sensory neurons, and this might heighten their ability to detect human odor.
Dr. Younger is now interested in investigating the role of coexpression in Aedes aegypti mosquito behavior:
“A compelling idea is that it’s making them good at finding people. As we learn about how odor is encoded in their olfactory system, we can create compounds that are more effective based on their biology.”
To read the full article click here.
Richard Primack Interviewed for Article in CTInsider
Dr. Richard Primack was interviewed by CTInsider regarding the effect of drought on Connecticut fall foliage this past year. Primack describes how during years with extremely dry conditions, New England trees tend to experience senescence before displaying vibrant colors.
“If plants are experiencing drought, then the leaves will not undergo this normal slow process of color change — the leaves will just simply die.”
However, climate change tends to counteract the effects of droughts on tree foliage color change due to normal or excess precipitation. Temperature is another factor to consider. Over the past decade, the foliage in New England has been reaching its peak growth later in the season due to rising temperatures, delaying the autumn season. Increased temperatures due to climate change also allow invasive species to reproduce. And during years of drought, trees experience increased water stress, making them more susceptible to insects and diseases. Lastly, Primack describes how unpredictable weather is something to consider:
“Trees really thrive on predictable, constant weather conditions. And when we have these very unusual conditions, it makes the tree susceptible to drought, and it makes them very vulnerable to disease. And therefore, they wind up getting sick and sometimes dying.”
To read more about the effects of climate change on New England trees, please click here for the full article.
Michael Sorenson featured in PNAS
Congratulations to Dr. Michael Sorenson for being featured in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal article.
Sorenson collaborated with a team consisting of Katherine Stryjewski of Harvard University, Jeffrey DaCosta of Boston College, Evan Kuras of BU Urban Program, and collaborators at Cambridge University and farms in Zambia's Southern Province. Their work was featured in an article titled, “Genetic architecture facilitates then constrains adaption in a host-parasite coevolutionary arms race.” The paper discusses the inheritance of egg mimicry genes, referring to the shared behavior of egg mimicry of the parasitic European cuckoo finch. The European cuckoo targets various species by laying eggs similar to that of another species. By another species accepting these eggs, the cuckoo finch does not need to expend the additional energy required to hatch and look after its young.
Dr. Sorenson describes this phenomenon as an “escalating arms race” due to coevolution. As the cuckoo finch adapted the ability to produce eggs that are similar to other species, these species have become more vigilant at identifying and discarding foreign eggs.
To read more about the study, please click here.
Congratulations to Dr. Michael Sorenson and his collaborators!
Tom Gilmore Renews BU SURF Award
Dr. Tom Gilmore received funding for BU’s SURF Program. The Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program is dedicated to promoting access to graduate education for talented undergraduate students, specifically, those from minority groups that are underrepresented in the sciences. The program is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF-REU) and Boston University. It is open to rising junior and senior students outside of Boston University with interests in conducting research in the sciences or technology-related fields. Students have the opportunity to work full-time for 10 weeks in a BU lab and be mentored by a BU faculty member. More information on the program can be found here.
Sarah Davies Wins the ARROWS Mary Eskrine Award
Congratulations to Sarah Davies for Winning the ARROWS Mary Eskrine Award. The Mary Eskrine funding award is given to BU STEM faculty members to fund professional development activities that support the BU community of women and other underrepresented genders in STEM. This July, Dr. Davies attended the 15th International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) in Bremen, Germany with five BU graduate students working in her lab and an NSF REPs fellow.
Together they presented six oral presentations and one poster. Dr. Davies organized a workshop called, “How can we develop tools and best practices to accurately delimit Symbiodiniaceae diversity in reef research?” She was also the chair of a coral restoration genetics session as well as a plasticity and adaption session. In addition, Dr. Davies was awarded a pin for becoming an ICRS Fellow. Dr. Davies used the funds from the Mary Eskrine award to cover travel and registration costs.
Dr. Davies describes the most rewarding part of her job as mentoring her students:
“Watching my Ph.D. students and my technician up in front of an international room of the top reef scientists, delivering amazing talks and answering questions seamlessly was very fulfilling. I was really proud of the awesome science we delivered and it was also just really great to be together networking with many folks from all over the world.”
Congratulations to Dr. Sarah Davies and her team!