Faculty Highlights

faculty gathering outside Tufts new Science and Engineering Complex

Academic Year 2023-2024

On March 14th, Biology's Dr. Lauren Crowe along with Dr. Jonathan Garlick of the School of Dental Medicine, published an article in TuftsNow about their Civic Biology program; the program aims to refocus on the importance of experiential and cultural knowledge rather than only academic knowledge in the study of biology.  Read the eye-opening article, "The Human Element: For Student Scientists, Learning to Place Biology in Social Context" for yourself here.

Affiliate Professor (Biology and Anthropology) Dr. Zarin Machanda's lab had an exciting paper published in Current Biology this March, "Ecological variation in adult social play reveals a hidden cost of motherhood for wild chimpanzees" which is available in full here until May 5th! They also got a write-up in TuftsNow, which includes a must-see video of chimps at play; you can enjoy that here for as long as you'd like.

Dr. Ben Wolfe was quoted on March 9th in the Washington Post in an article about -- what else? -- cheese! The article is titled, "Will brie and Camembert cheeses go extinct? Here’s what scientists say." You can read what Ben and others had to say here!

A recent paper out of the Mirkin lab was released to much fanfare; "Pathogenic CANVAS (AAGGG)n repeats stall DNA replication due to the formation of alternative DNA structures" was published in Nucleic Acids Research on February 21st and you can read the full article here!

The Wolfe lab received a new NSF grant this month to study "when microbial communities collide." The lab's goal is to understand what happens to microbiomes when they are mixed together in novel combinations. Dr. Wolfe explains, "We will be using our model fermented food microbiomes for this work. Our research may help identify ways to engineer microbiomes to have novel functions in food, agriculture, and industry." 

Dr. Sarah Hengel authored an important study on NIH funding pathways titled, "Analysis of NIH K99/R00 Awards and the Career Progression of Awardees" published on eLife; read it here!

Two images of Anthrobots, collaboratively created by A&S biologist Dr. Michael Levin and Ph.D. student Gizem Gumuskaya, are included in this interactive gallery of images from new neuroscience research published on the New York Times' website on December 22.

Congratulations to Dr. Mimi Kao, who was invited to give a talk at an NIH workshop, "Music as Medicine: The Science and Clinical Practice" December 14th-15th; both days of the event were recorded and are available here.  In an exciting twist, the Kao Lab's project was highlighted by the deputy director of NINDS on the second day of the workshop (Dec. 15 starting at ~39 minutes in the video if you are curious to find it)! 

On December 12th, Dr. Katie Mattaini was interviewed on The Grading Podcast about the intersection of DEI & alternative grading; in the episode, they discuss how to think about equity and inclusion when designing a course using alternative grading -- to learn more, you can listen to the full episode here!

"Scientists Build Tiny Biological Robots from Human Cells" -- the Levin Lab follows up on their earlier research into Xenobots in a November 30th Tufts Now article; read the article in Tufts Now here, and check out the current study, published in Advanced Science, by Dr. Michael Levin, along with Ph.D. student Gizem Gumuskaya.

Fruit flies are more like us than you may think: Dr. Mitch McVey's lab, in collaboration with the Romero and Levin Labs, strives to unlock the mysteries of DNA damage; read about how their research on fruit flies is helping them answer complex questions about our own DNA in the November 2nd Tufts Now article, "A Biologist’s Quest to Unlock the Mysteries of DNA Damage."

On November 1st, Dr. Michael Romero, and fellow in the Romero lab, Dr. Paul Jerem, appeared in Tufts Now in an article on how thermal imaging may be used to measure stress in animals using house sparrows as an example; read the article here to see how this non-invasive tool could be used to aid in wildlife conservation.

Dr. Mitch McVey is featured in an October issue of Tufts Now in a fascinating article on The Biology of Growing Older; Dr. McVey discusses the latest and most popular explanations for why all living species gradually decline, and shares his views on the true aims of aging research.

October's been busy in Bio! Dr. Sarah Hengel was awarded a three year R00 grant from the NIEHS entitled, "Shu complex and RAD52 function in DNA damage recognition and repair". This grant is their first grant as a PI and Assistant Professor at Tufts. Dr. Hengel is excited to continue their work focused on understanding how environmentally-caused DNA lesions get repaired by proteins in the nucleus of our cells with their lab tech Kyle Burton, two undergrads Maddy Mueller and Shoshana Daly, and two masters students Maggie Witham and Oluchi Ezekwenna.

In October 2023, Dr. Katie Mattaini was the recipient of a $2000 Affordable Course Materials Award from Tisch Library! The selection committee was excited to read about the opportunity to grow her open educational resource (OER), the Encyclopedia of Biological Methods and how it will fill a gap in needed resources for Tufts students and students at other institutions. They were also excited to learn more about Dr. Mattaini’s experience building a resource in LibreTexts! Dr. Mattaini is hopeful that her colleagues at Tufts and beyond will be interested in using the Encyclopedia in their courses to support students reading research articles and possibly in having students author entries as part of course projects.

Congratulations to Robert de Bruijn and Eric Tytell who received the Start at the Source award for their course Inquiry-based teaching for biology on September 25th -- the focus of the award was their project: Inclusive, inquiry-driven laboratory teaching for graduate students.

Tufts Biology welcomes three new full-time faculty this Fall 2023 semester: Drs Sarah Hengel, Frank David, and Katherine (Katie) Mattaini. We are so excited to have them join us, helping to expand our department’s research, outreach, and inclusion!