Dr. Tuan Leng Tay Receives 2023 Spivack Neuroscience Pilot Award

By sprudhviMay 10th, 2023in Faculty News, News

Congratulations to Dr. Tuan Leng Tay for receiving the 2023 Spivack Neuroscience Pilot Award.

Jack Spivack, a founding member of the MED Dean’s Advisory Board, established these awards in 2013 to recognize and support the research of outstanding faculty conducting either clinical or basic research in Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, and other neurological disorders.

Dr. Tay seeks to understand the processes and mechanisms underlying these changes across the lifespan by studying microglia, which are implicated in all brain pathologies. The Tay lab applies various approaches, including using different biological models, high-resolution microscopy, next-generation sequencing, multi-omic technologies, and machine learning-based analyses. Dr. Tay wants to investigate how microglia function and why they fail to function in chronic neurodegeneration.

Congratulations, Dr. Tay!

Anne-Marie Abban-Demitrus Receives AAUW Fellowship

By Jen CorreiaApril 19th, 2023in Grad Student News

Biology PhD student, Anne-Marie Abban-Demitrus, recently received a $25,000 International Fellowship from the American Association of University Women (AAUW). This fellowship provides support for women pursuing full-time graduate or postdoctoral study in the United States to women who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents, and who intend to return to their home country to pursue a professional career.

Anne-Marie is a second-year, Ghanaian PhD student. Her research interests currently center the study of the Gut-Brain-Microbiota axis (GBMAx) and the effect of Traumatic Brain Injury on these axial relations. She is dedicated to the study of the GBMAx as it implicated in a prodigious number of neurological maladies that disproportionately affect women. Her ultimate feminist ambition is to contribute influential research that improves the quality of life and educational equity for Ghanaian women. Anne-Marie hopes to use the AAUW fellowship to pursue her research goals. In her spare time, Anne-Marie enjoys sketching, dancing, reading, and personal fitness.

Congratulations, Anne-Marie!

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 Becomes DIAT Member

By sprudhviFebruary 17th, 2023in Faculty News, News

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!

Chip Celenza

Fall 2022 Outstanding Biology Learning Assistant Awards

By Erin MullinsDecember 16th, 2022in Student News

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.

Winning Groups:
Aananya A. Asnani, Jennifer Shihyun Kim, and Kenneth Tong
Gearing BI107’s Lecture Using Student Feedback
The introductory biology class, BI107, is a fast-paced class promoting the need for interaction between peers and professors for success in the course. In addition to complex content, the sheer size of the course prevents the formation of tight connections with the professor and other students, so it is vital to provide incoming students with support in the form of lecture learning assistants (LLAs).Former students of this course provide insight through their notes, lead quiz review sessions, and hold office hours. However, there are limitations to these opportunities; notes only convey so much information and review sessions and office hours schedule can interfere with a student’s schedule. The large lecture halls also make it difficult to gauge what the class is struggling with as a whole. The student evaluations for LLAs this semester indicated a common desire for more opportunities to review in addition to review sessions.In order to overcome this problem, LLA panels could be held at the beginning of every week. A Google form would be sent out a week before to help LLAs and professors determine concepts in need of clarification in the following lecture. They would collaborate to design a structured question and answer session based on the form and designate fifteen minutes at the beginning of lecture for LLAs to answer the most common topics among students.The Google form and guided question and answer session will benefit both students and mentors, promoting a stronger and prominent role for LLAs in the course.
Inaya Abdul-Haqq, Olivia Camuti, Arya Gupta, and Lilly Saunders
Isle Royale: Reanimated
The structure of the BI107 lab course includes two simulated lab experiments that generally have less involvement and overall impact when compared to the other hands-on labs. One of these labs specifically is the Isle Royale, which addresses topics relevant to the ecology of specific populations such as carrying capacity and predator-prey interactions.We would like to create new labs that encourage students' curiosity and engagement and also reflect upon subjects relevant to their ecology focused lectures. By adding a lab that includes important aspects of observational studies, we ensure that the academic goals fit in well with the curriculum concerning experimental design and also would amplify student interests and equalize the level of physical activity. This lab enforces the skill of developing null and alternative hypotheses, predictions, and χ² tests in addition to data collection and analysis.This lab can be implemented by allowing the students to create their own community with the use of a terrarium. Each lab room (303, 309, 311) will be responsible for one terrarium and each lab section will have differing amounts of each species in the terrarium in order to compare among the other lab terrariums. The terrariums will be created by the department during the weekend prior to the lab to ensure an equal distribution of work among lab sections. The terrarium (20 gallon tank) will include an array of plants (moss, small tree branches and bark, and pothos plants) and three species to create a simple food chain. The species introduced would be pinhead or small button mushrooms (due to the visibility of consumption by our herbivore) as a ‘mock’ producer, dwarf woodlice as the herbivore, and gray tree frogs as the carnivore (due to low cost).During week 1 of the lab, students will maintain the terrarium – terrarium 1 will have an equilibrium of all three species (6 mushrooms, 15 woodlice, and 3 frogs), terrarium 2 will double the amount of woodlice and keep the other conditions, and terrarium 3 will have double the amount of frogs and maintain the other conditions of terrarium 1. Then, students will create predictions for what will occur in the terrarium as more or less of certain species are introduced. They must generate null and alternative hypotheses. During week 2 students will venture between the different lab rooms to observe what happened in the terrariums as the amount of each population is shifted – this is when the final numbers of species are taken down and a class average will be generated for their postlab.
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.

John Okechi Published in Conservation Science and Practice

By Jen CorreiaNovember 3rd, 2022in Alumni News

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.

Congratulations, Okechi!

Pam Templer Featured in the Brink

By sprudhviOctober 25th, 2022in Faculty News, News

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

By sprudhviOctober 18th, 2022in Faculty News, News

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.

The Rockefeller University
January 7, 2020
Leslie Vosshall Lab
Photography by John Abbott

Richard Primack Interviewed for Article in CTInsider

By sprudhviOctober 18th, 2022in Faculty News, News

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. 

He elaborates, 

“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

By sprudhviOctober 18th, 2022in Faculty News, News

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!