Faculty Highlights 2015-2016

George Ellmore named as Progam Director of the new Biology Open Choice MS. This program is designed for students wishing to upgrade their expertise in the biology professions, explore or expand their interest in research, or broaden their base for making future career choices in the Biological Sciences. The degree requires 8 courses (10 courses for students matriculating in Fall 2017) at the 100 level or higher, and can be done either full-time or part-time. Applications for the OC MS program are accepted for fall or spring semester, and OC M S students are eligible for tuition scholarships from the university.

A collaborative proposal of Ben Wolfe and Jeff Guasto (Engineering) entitled "Symbiotic transport mechanisms in microbial communities" has been selected for funding in the 6th Round of the Tufts Collaborates Seed Grant Program. With this award, Ben joins an impressive group of faculty who have built new collaborative teams to investigate a diverse array of exciting research areas to advance scientific inquiry at Tufts.

Susan Koegel, Senior Lecturer of Biology, has been selected as the winner of 2016 Lerman-Neubauer Prize. This prize is awarded annually to one full-time faculty member in Arts, Sciences, and Engineering judged by graduating seniors as an individual who has had a profound impact on them intellectually, both in and out of the classroom. Graduating seniors were inspired to nominate Susan as most influential in shaping their minds.

Sergei Mirkin, Professor and Chair of Biology, organized and chaired Gordon Research Conference "DNA Damage, Mutation & Cancer", which was held at Ventura Beach Marriott, March 13-18, 2016. The conference presented cutting-edge research on the molecular mechanisms responsible for the recognition and processing of environmental DNA damage as well as inherently unstable DNA sequences.

Congratulations to Professor Michael Levin, who is honored with the Paul G. Allen Foundation Frontiers Center Award to lead the Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University. Allen Discovery Centers are a new type of center for leadership-driven, compass-guided research in partnership with major research organizations and universities. The Frontiers Group will typically provide $20 million over eight years with $10 million in partner leverage, for a total scope of $30 million each.

"Reading and Writing the Morphogenetic Code"
Understanding how complex organ systems are created and repaired requires investigating the algorithms and computations performed by cell networks during pattern regulation. The Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University will seek to read, interpret and manipulate the biological code that determines anatomical structure and function during embryogenesis, regeneration and tumor suppression. A unique focus area is the processing of instructive patterning information via bioelectric signaling among cells. This work holds the potential to transform the fields of biology and medicine, as well as make crucial links in evolutionary theory and cancer biology by bridging the gap between molecular details and the larger-scale control of biological systems. The team includes researchers at Tufts University, Harvard University, Princeton University and others. Read the story.

"Cooked," the popular Netflix documentary exploring the history and science of cooking features research and the laboratory (at 200 Boston Avenue) of our own Ben Wolfe in its Episode 4, "Earth." Enjoy watching full episodes. (need a Netflix account)

Congratulation to Barry Trimmer whose groundbreaking research was highlighted in the feature article on soft robotics for Nature magazine.

Mimi Kao, Assistant Professor
Mimi Kao earned her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and her M.A. in Regional Studies - East Asia from Harvard University. She graduated from Stanford University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Human Biology and East Asian Studies. She is a specialist in the field of Optogenetics and has held research positions at the Center for Integrative Neuroscience, Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience, and Harvard Medical School.

In 2013, Professor Kao received the Cozzarelli Prize - Biological Sciences, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. She was also awarded the Postdoctoral Scholar Research Award from UCSF in 2009 and 2010, the Capranica Foundation Prize in Neuroethology, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Predoctoral Fellowship.

Professor Kao has been invited to speak at a variety of professional conferences and educational institutions including the Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting, International Congress of Neuroethology, and the Computational and Systems Neuroscience meeting. Her most recent talk at Columbia University was titled, "Changing Your Tune: Neural Circuits for Motor Exploration and Plasticity."

She has worked as a teaching assistant and a mentor supervising graduate students at the University of California, San Francisco, and has co-authored articles in the Journal of Neurophysiology, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, Nature, and Journal of Neuroscience. The Department of Biology welcomes Mimi Kao as assistant professor.

Ekaterina Mirkin, Lecturer
Ekaterina Mirkin earned her Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics at the University of Illinois and her M.S. in Molecular Biology from Moscow State University, Russia. From 2006-2013, she was a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard University, where she researched interactions in chromosomes of S. cerevisiae. Her research as a graduate student focused on the attenuation of DNA replication in E. coli.

Professor Mirkin has held positions as a guest lecturer, teaching assistant, and head teaching assistant for life sciences at Harvard University. In 2012, 2013, and 2014, she was awarded the Harvard University Certificate of Distinction in Teaching (for Life Sciences), and she received the National Institutes of Health NRSA Postdoctoral Fellowship from 2008-2011.

Professor Mirkin's work has been published in select academic journals. Her most recent article titled, "To Switch or Not to Switch: At the Origin of Repeat Expansion Disease" was published in Molecular Cell. Other published articles include "Replication Fork Stalling at Natural impediments" for Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews and "Mechanisms of Transcription Replication Collisions in Bacteria" for Molecular and Cellular Biology. The Department of Biology welcomes Ekaterina Mirkin as lecturer.

L. Michael Romero published his first book with his co-author John C. Wingfield of University of California - Davis. The title is "Tempests, Poxes, Predators, and People: Stress in Wild Animals and How They Cope." It summarizes, for the first time, the broad international research area of understanding the physiological responses to stress as important for survival in wild animals, not just as a disease. The book covers decades of research in both authors' labs, including substantial research from former Tufts graduate and undergraduate students. The book took almost 10 years to write.

Prof. Romero also presented a public lecture this past fall at a local pub in Cambridge, MA. It was part of a group called "Pint of Science" that brings together local scientists with interested people from the community for an informal evening of beer and science.

Professor Sara Lewis was invited to give a 24/7 Lecture on "Firefly Sex" at the 2015 IgNobel Prize Ceremony 

Prof. Colin Orians spent a week at Masaryk University (Brno, Czech Republic) as a visiting scientist.

Associate Professor Kelly McLaughlin and her graduate students, Emily Pitcairn, Kyle Jewhurst and Kaylinnette Pinet, presented their research at the Society for Developmental Biology (SDB) annual conference hosted in Snowbird, Utah, July 2015. Emily, Kyle and Kayli were all awarded SDB travel fellowships to attend this meeting.