Dr. John Majoris Wins 2018 Oboh-Weilke Postdoctoral Travel Award

BU Biology Department Postdoctoral Associate John Majoris has been awarded the inaugural Oboh-Weilke Postdoctoral Travel Award. Dr. Majoris, a postdoc in the Buston Lab, has been instrumental in the success of the Buston Lab’s research in Belize. The Oboh-Weilke Postdoctoral Travel Award is granted to one Biology Department member in order to support travel and research opportunities for high-achieving Postdoctoral Associates. Majoris will be presenting Differential persistence favors habitat preferences that determine the distribution of a reef fish at the 42nd Annual Larval Fish Conference in Victoria, British Columbia in June 2018. Congratulations to Dr. Majoris on this accomplishment!

BMB Students Recognized in Barry Goldwater and Beckman Scholarship Programs

Congratulations to Biochemistry & Molecular Biology (BMB) major Katie Tiemeyer who was recently selected as a Barry Goldwater Scholar and a Beckman Foundation Scholar! Katie is the only BU student this year to receive a Goldwater scholarship, a national honor awarded to students based on a strong commitment to, and potential for, a research career in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering. The award will provide scholarship funds for Katie during her junior and senior year. The Beckman Scholars program, competitively awarded to BU, provides two years of research support to two BU students working in biomedical research. Katie is a sophomore double majoring in BMB and Voice and is conducting research with Kim McCall (Professor of Biology) on neurodegeneration using the fruit fly model system. Katie, who began working with Prof McCall as a freshman, has been supported by UROP and will continue working in the McCall lab through her senior year. Katie has presented her research at national meetings including the Genetics Society of America’s 59th Annual Drosophila Research Conference this April.

Congratulations also go to BMB junior Chris Petty who received Honorable Mention in the Barry Goldwater Scholar competition! Chris is a current Beckman Scholar who is doing research in Biology professor Frank Naya’s lab working on the regulation of cardiac muscle cell differentiation.

Davies Lab Attends Society for Women in Marine Science Spring Symposium

On March 24th, the Davies Lab attended its first research symposium! A total of 9 lab members made their way to the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography in Narragansett for the Society for Women in Marine Science Spring Symposium. Seven BU Undergraduates participated in this event, and the lab presented 6 research posters as well. More details and photos can be found on the Davies Lab website.

Dr. Rotjan Awarded MIT Media Lab Award

By Jennifer ScottApril 3rd, 2018in Faculty News, News

There is a new trend towards “open” everything – open source, open access, and now – “Open Ocean”, a new initiative at the MIT Media Lab. BU Biology Lecturer Dr. Randi Rotjan was part of their recent event, “Here Be Dragons”, where 1 day of talks was followed by 1 day of brainstorming and idea-pitching. Projects were invited to submit proposals afterwards, and Rotjan’s team won one of the four coveted Rapid Field Deployment Awards from the MIT Media Lab Open Ocean Initiative and the National Geographic Society. The teams project is entitled “My deep sea, my backyard”, and aims to further deep sea exploration in a way that helps to democratize the ocean: train least developed country citizens on using sophisticated deep-sea technology, and provide higher level support for their discoveries by offering tuition scholarships towards degrees in higher education. The goal: enable deep sea exploration, and deeper in-country capacity. Rotjan is the Chief Scientist of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area Conservation Trust in the Republic of Kiribati, which will be one of two countries to pilot this program. Rotjan will facilitate the Kiribati connection, help to train on deep-sea technology, and help to train a student in deep-sea organismal biology, analysis and implications. For more information, you can read the proposal – it’s available to the public on the Journal of Open Exploration page here.

Professor McCall Receives Two NIH Grants

By Jennifer ScottApril 3rd, 2018in Faculty News, News

Department Chair Prof. Kim McCall recently received two NIH grants (totaling over $2.7 million) to support her laboratory’s research on cell death and cell clearance. One of the grants is entitled “The coordination of cell death and corpse clearance” and is a 5-year “Maximizing Investigator Research Award” from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, which provides flexibility for investigators to pursue new research opportunities. The second grant from the National Institute on Aging is an exploratory research grant entitled “Role of phagocytosis in neurodegeneration.”

Ashley Comer Receives the Brenton R. Lutz Award


GPN PhD candidate, Ashley Comer, of the Cruz-Martin Lab was the recent recipient of the Brenton R. Lutz Award for 2018. Ashley studies genes that regulate the development and plasticity of neural circuits and how circuit development is perturbed in diseased states. Specifically, she studies the development of the prefrontal cortex in mice by assaying neuronal connectivity, network activity, and behavior after manipulating genes associated with neurodevelopmental disorders.

This award provides support for PhD candidates conducting research in neurobiology or neuroscience and have made significant contributions to their field. Brenton R. Lutz was the person to receive an M.D./Ph.D. at Boston University, receiving his Ph.D. in 1916. He later became a Professor and Chairman of BU’s Department of Biology. Dr. Lutz also gave the first University Lecture at BU on December 11, 1950 “The Living Blood Vessels.”

Ashley Penvose Receives the Marion R. Kramer Award



PhD candidate, Ashley Penvose, of the Siggers Lab was the recent recipient of the Marion R. Kramer Award for 2018. Ashley’s research focuses on understanding how the type II nuclear receptors regulate gene expression, with a focus on DNA sequence specifity and allosteric mechanisms of regulation.

The Marion R. Kramer 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.

Professor Emili Wins Hariri Institute Research Incubation Award

By Jennifer ScottMarch 30th, 2018in Faculty News, News

BU Biology Professor Andrew Emili has been awarded a Hariri Institute Research Incubation Award for his proposal entitled “Traveling Back to the Future: Using Network Science to Unravel Evolutionary Conserved RNA Binding Proteins and Complexes associated with Disease”. The goal of the Hariri Institute Research Incubation Awards Program is to support a portfolio of embryonic-stage research projects with significant potential to cultivate new collaborations, and to enable follow-on extramural funding in the near future. These goals are highly aligned with the Institute’s mission as an incubator which is set up to initiate, catalyze, and propel transformative computational and data-driven research across the landscape of academic disciplines at BU. Dr. Emili’s proposal garnered significant interest from the Hariri Institute Steering Committee for its potential to meaningfully and materially connect the new CNSB lab on the medical campus to our computational biology faculty in bioinformatics and computer science on the Charles River Campus.

Rebecca Branconi Receives the Thomas H. Kunz Award


PhD candidate, Rebecca Branconi, of the Buston Lab was the recent recipient of the Thomas H. Kunz Award for 2018. Rebecca’s research focuses on reassessing a classic question in evolutionary biology – why has sociality evolved? Her research combines descriptive and experimental work to test how different factors, ecological and social constraints specifically, influence intra-group structures using two different tractable study systems, the humbug damselfish Dascyllus aruanus and the clown anemonefish Amphiprion percula.

This award provides support for Ecology, Behavior & Evolution (EBE) Ph.D. 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.

Professor Primack Work on Borneo Forests Published in Nature Communications

For the past 38 years, Professor Primack, his students and colleagues have been studying long-term research plots in species rich rain forests on the tropical island of Borneo. In a recent article in Nature Communications, Primack and numerous colleagues show that these forests are increasing over time in tree biomass, and are therefor absorbing some of the atmospheric carbon dioxide that contributes to climate change. However, when forests are damaged by human activity, then the forests decline in biomass. These forests will continue to increase in scientific value in coming decades as the intensity of human impact on the environment increases. This article has also been featured in a Nature Communications online collection titled Forests in the Anthropocene.