Anna Berenson Receives First Place in the PhD on Tap 3MT Competition

By wendyw7November 19th, 2023in Student News

Anna Berenson | Molecular Biology, Cell Biology & Biochemistry Program






Anna Berenson, a PhD candidate of the Fuxman Bass Lab, received joint first place in the 2023 PhD on Tap 3MT Competition. The competition took place as part of PhD on Tap, which is a full day research showcase sponsored by the Office of the Associate Provost for Graduate Affairs and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

In a project led by Anna, the Fuxman Bass Lab developed paired yeast one-hybrid assays to study DNA binding patterns of transcription factor pairs. Their work shows that extensive cooperativity and antagonism between transcription factors greatly affect their binding to gene promoters, and that viral proteins can modify the binding profiles of human transcription factors. You can check out their publication here.

Congratulations, Anna!

Explore the reasons behind the potential revival of Florida’s Coral Reef with Les Kaufman

By Veronica Lopez-DohertyNovember 3rd, 2023in Faculty News, News

Les Kaufman, a faculty member at BU's Biology Department, will deliver a presentation at the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science in Miami, titled "Breathing New Life into Florida’s Coral Reef" on Wednesday, November 8, 2023.

Dr. Kaufman aims to present an optimistic perspective on the future of Florida’s Coral Reef. Despite this year's ocean warming causing significant coral bleaching and mortality, compounded by the Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease, there remains ongoing concern about the reef's future. However, amid these challenges, there is a glimmer of hope: Florida’s Coral Reef displays resilience, and robust conservation strategies are in motion.

Dr. Les Kaufman is a marine scientist, naturalist, and conservation biologist teaching at Boston University. His research focuses on ecosystem-based management in the ocean and great inland waters, particularly coral reef ecology and restoration, as well as climate change, marine food webs, fisheries, and aquaculture. During his presentation, Dr. Kaufman will narrate the journey, focusing on Mission: Iconic Reefs, a collaborative initiative led by NOAA that endeavors to rejuvenate and protect the reef.

Join us for the upcoming LIVE@Frost Science episode.

Spring 2023 Undergraduate Research Award Winners

By sprudhviOctober 18th, 2023in News, Student News


Congratulations to Izzy Frenette, Ines Picard, and Judy Wong for receiving the Spring 2023 Undergraduate Research Award. This annual award is given to outstanding seniors of many majors performing research in Biology Department labs by the Biology Research and Honors Committee.

Isabelle Fernette (EBE/MAR Award) researched the urbanization impacts on aboveground tree dynamics with belowground characteristics in the Bhatnagar Lab.

Inès Picard (NEURO Award) investigated the role of complement component 4 overexpression on the intracellular trafficking of synaptic proteins in the Cruz-Martín Lab.

Judy Wong (CM Award) researched how the mutations in the IVD of the scaffold protein NEMO affect its higher-order structure formation in the Gilmore Lab.

Congratulations to Izzy, Inès, and Judy!

2023 Master’s Merit Scholarship Recipients

By Jen CorreiaSeptember 12th, 2023in Grad Student News

Molly Frank of the Lobel Lab, Noah Singer of the Rotjan and Novak Labs, and Michelle Feivelson are this year's recipients of the Master's Merit Scholarship for continuing MS students.

Molly completed her undergraduate degree in conservation biology and zoology in the Midwest, where she worked on a fresh water limnology research project for the Iowa DNR after graduating. She came to Boston University to get her graduate degree in biology, where she’s been focusing on marine biology. Her research interests include marine conservation and shark research/conservation. Molly also received an honorable mention for the 2022-2023 Outstanding TF in Biology award.
Noah (he/him/his) is a second-year master's student in the Rotjan Marine Ecology Lab and Dr. Alyssa Novaks' Lab. He majored in Marine Science and Biology at The University of Miami RSMAS. He is working on restoring two half-acre sites by transplanting vegetative Eelgrass and planting over 300,000 Eelgrass seeds. Additionally, he will research bay scallop recruitment into newly restored Eelgrass environments and predation on bay scallops. He loves to go SCUBA diving, hiking, and other outdoor activities when he is not cheering on the New Jersey Devils or Boston Red Sox.
Michelle is a second-year master's student in the Cell and Molecular Biology program. While she's not currently affiliated with a specific lab, she gained valuable experience during a rotation with Dr. Ana Fiszbein last Fall. During that time, she focused on computational biology, exploring alternative first and last exons in cardiac cells. This past summer, she interned at the Ayin Tech research lab in NY under the guidance of Yossi Buganim. Her research centered on Retinitis Pigmentosa, a retinal disease, and she employed cell-based methods and innovative approaches to tackle complex issues that conventional sequencing data couldn't resolve. Michelle's passion lies in leveraging cellular and molecular approaches to address challenging problems in the context of diseases.

Congratulations, Molly, Noah, and Michelle!

Work on Neuronal Communication Published in Molecular Cell by the Garcia-Marcos Lab

The Garcia-Marcos Lab has recently published a study in Molecular Cell titled, “Fine-tuning GPCR-mediated neuromodulation by biasing signaling through different G protein subunits.” 

The paper describes how various signaling responses triggered by the same neurotransmitter receptor must be carefully scaled to ensure proper brain function. They found that the protein named GINIP shifts the balance of two different G protein sub-species activated simultaneously by G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), a large family of surface receptors that respond to many neurotransmitters and neuropeptides (GABA, dopamine, serotonin, or opioids). 

This mechanism operates in synapses that dampen neurotransmission and, when disabled, results in increased seizure susceptibility in mouse models. These findings have important implications for the fundamental understanding of neuronal communication and for the development of new therapeutic agents that act on GPCRs.


This work was co-led by Jong-Chan Park (Postdoc) and Alex Luebbers (Graduate Student) with collaborations from the Martemyanov Lab at UF Scripps Biomedical Research Institute and the Yano Lab at Northeastern University, and has been highlighted by Molecular Cell and Science Signaling.

Click here to read the full article.

Garcia-Marcos Lab
GINIP localizes to inhibitory but not excitatory synapses. GINIP protein localizes to dendritic puncta in cortical neurons. DIV21 cortical neurons from GINIP +/+ or 1a/1a mice were co-stained for GINIP and synaptophysin (SYP) before fluorescence imaging. Yellow boxes indicate areas enlarged on the right side of the main images. Enlarged views of representative neurites (yellow box) are shown on the right side of the main images (Figure 6. Park et al., 2023).

Pamela Garcia Lopez Recipient of Kilachand Doctoral Fellowship

By Jen CorreiaAugust 14th, 2023in Grad Student News, News

Pamela Garcia Lopez of the Siggers Lab recently received the Kilachand Doctoral Fellowship. This fellowship is awarded by the Multicellular Design Program (MDP), which combines research in Synthetic Biology, Microbial Engineering, Tissue Engineering, Data Science, and Biophysics to understand the design principles of multicellular systems. The mission of MDP, which is funded through the Rajen Kilachand Fund, is to understand the underlying design principles governing multicellular systems, and to leverage these principles for the development of new technologies.

Pamela is a second year PhD student in the Cell & Molecular Biology program. Her research aims to decipher the rules of cofactor recruitment by transcription factors in mammalian cells. She's particularly interested in the design of synthetic cofactors with the goal of building integrators of endogenous signaling pathways to understand how multicellular systems respond to signaling environments.

Congratulations, Pamela!

So Young Bae Wins Poster Prize from the American Crystallographic Association

By Jen CorreiaJuly 21st, 2023in Grad Student News

So Young Bae, MCBB PhD student in the Tolan Lab, won the Journal of Chemical Crystallography poster prize at the recent international meeting of the American Crystallographic Association in Baltimore Maryland this past July 2023. The American Crystallographic Association is the preeminent society supporting structural science at all levels and disciplines. The Journal of Chemical Crystallography Poster Prize recognizes the best student, graduate or undergraduate, poster presentation in the area of chemical crystallography.

So Young’s poster was entitled, “Mode of Substrate Binding for Ketohexokinase across Isozymes and Species Implies an Induced-fit Mechanism.”  Her award was acknowledged at the closing banquet. Her presentation showed that one of the most important isozymes, ketohexokinase-A (KHK-A), which is involved in moonlighting as a protein kinase and has roles in regulating expression of genes important in cancer cells, can undergo a conformational change. She showed this structural change by solving the first ever structure of mouse KHK-A by X-ray crystallography and revealing differences in structure from what was previously known. She also solved the structure of human KHK-A in complex with one of it’s natural substrates, fructose. This structure revealed yet another distinct structural difference from the either the unbound enzyme or the enzyme bound with both substrates. Her work will eventually determine if these structural changes are part of the switch from a sugar kinase to a protein kinase.

Congratulations, So Young!

2023 Dr. Marion R. Kramer Scholarship Winners

By Jen CorreiaJuly 19th, 2023in Grad Student News

The Department of Biology is excited to announce the three recipients of this year’s Dr. Marion R. Kramer Scholarships: Hannah Axten of the Ho Lab, Alanna Carey of the Chen Lab, and Yuan Tian of the Man Lab.

Hannah studies a member of the forkhead box (FOX) family of transcription factors, FOXR1, and its role in neurodevelopment. A human patient identified by the NIH Undiagnosed Disease Network with a heterozygous mutation in FOXR1 displays developmental delay, progressive brain atrophy, and microcephaly. Mice null for foxr1 phenocopy aspects of the patient phenotype. She is currently investigating how loss of foxr1 leads to abnormal brain development in transgenic mice.
Alanna's research project aims to gain an understanding of the neurobiology of individual differences and examine genetic contributions to behavior in a controlled environment. The overarching hypothesis for this project is that individual differences in goal-directed learning arise through genetic variation at the gene expression, neural circuit, and behavioral levels. The recently developed, genetically heterogeneous mouse strain Diversity Outbred (DO) mimics the human population’s genetic variation while allowing for investigations of complex phenotypic traits in a controlled environment. Mice are subjected to an automated, cognitively demanding spatial learning paradigm to determine the genetic contributions driving the rate of learning performance through Quantitative Trait Loci analysis (QTL) while tracking their task-related and offline behaviors. By comparing DO mice to the 8 inbred founder mouse lines, learning performance was highly variable for DO mice and group differences were observed between inbred lines that spanned the variation observed in DO mice. Behavioral analysis from lick sensors and videography suggest that individuals employ a range of motor strategies to perform the task. This work will provide evidence for intrinsic factors that govern aspects of learning that can be further investigated using genetic strategies.
Yuan's research focuses on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) associated with the overexpression of Ube3A, one of the most common genetic factors in ASD etiology. She studies the molecular mechanisms underlying defective excitatory synaptic activity, as well as the presence of, and mechanisms behind, sexually dimorphic changes in cellular features, gene expression, neuronal activity, and autistic behaviors in Ube3A-dependent ASD.

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.

Congratulations, Hannah, Alanna, and Yuan!

E Schlatter Receives 2023 Dana Wright Fellowship

By Jen CorreiaJuly 18th, 2023in Grad Student News

E Schlatter of the Buston Lab is the 2023 recipient of the Dana Wright Fellowship.

E uses a variety of theoretical and empirical approaches to address questions about the evolution of marine larval dispersal. Their current projects include: using quantitative genetics to ask about the evolutionary potential of dispersal-related traits in the clownfish Amphiprion percula; using a theoretical model to illustrate the roles of opposing components of selection in shaping dispersal patterns; and using genetic simulations and seascape information to create a quantitative link between empirical measures of dispersal and the resulting spatial genetic structure in the neon goby Elacatinus lori. As a whole, this work contributes to our understanding of how and why organisms have evolved to disperse through the ocean as they do.

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, E!

So Young Bae Receives 2023 Denton Award

By Jen CorreiaJuly 17th, 2023in Grad Student News

So Young Bae of the Tolan Lab was selected as the winner of the 2023 Denton Award for her master’s research thesis in Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, and Biochemistry (MCBB) titled “Mode of Substrate Binding and Specificity for Ketohexokinase across Isozymes Implies an Induced-Fit Mechanism.” This award is given for excellence in scholarship and research accomplishment during a master’s thesis under the mentorship of a faculty member of the Department of Biology.

So Young received her BA from Boston University where she studied Biology. Before her admission to the MCBB master’s program in 2022, she worked as a staff research assistant in the Tolan lab and was critical in melding the CLIA-approved HFI laboratory into the Clinical Testing Laboratory that tested over two million samples during the coronavirus pandemic. During this time, she became interested in structural biology and learned X-ray crystallography through working with the Allen laboratory in the Chemistry department. So Young’s master’s research focused on the conformational changes important to catalysis in the first enzyme in the metabolism of fructose, ketohexokinase. She's currently a PhD student in the MCBB program.

Congratulations, So Young!