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Blodgett awarded CAREER grant to study biosynthetic silence

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Joshua Blodgett, assistant professor of biology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, received a five-year, $900,500 CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support his research related to actinomycete bacteria. This bacteria produces a majority of current antibiotics and may harbor other useful small molecules that could be revealed by activating silent genes.

Germ-Killing Chemical Shields Bacteria From Antibiotics

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A common chemical used to kill bacteria is making them more capable of surviving antibiotics. According to new research from Washington University, triclosan has a protective effect on strains of E. coli and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. The chemical — which is added to hundreds of consumer products — also interferes with the antibiotic treatment of urinary-tract infections in mice. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned triclosan and 18 other antibacterial chemicals from consumer soaps in 2016, on the grounds that they are “not generally recognized as safe and effective.”

WashU Expert: The eternal sunshine of perennial ‘wintertime’: Abandoning daylight saving time makes public health sense

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“The scientific evidence presently available indicates that installing perennial standard time — or ‘wintertime’ — is the best and safest option for public health,” said Erik Herzog, professor of biology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St Louis and president of the Society for Research on Biological Rhythms.

Bose receives US Army grant

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Arpita Bose, assistant professor of biology, received a $7,500 award from the U.S. Army to support research on understanding how microbes interact with charged surfaces.

Blodgett receives CAREER grant from NSF

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Joshua Blodgett, assistant professor of biology, was awarded a $900,500 CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation to investigate leveraging polycyclic tetramate macrolactam biosunthesis as a model for understanding actinobacterial metabolic silencing.

Chemical added to consumer products impairs response to antibiotic treatment: Triclosan added to toothpaste, mouthwash to kill bacteria inadvertently makes such cells stronger

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Grocery store aisles are stocked with products that promise to kill bacteria. People snap up those items to protect themselves from the germs that make them sick. However, new research from Washington University in St. Louis finds that a chemical that is supposed to kill bacteria is actually making them stronger and more capable of surviving antibiotic treatment. The study, available online Feb. 19 in the journal Antimicrobial Agents & Chemotherapy, suggests that triclosan exposure may inadvertently drive bacteria into a state in which they are able to tolerate normally lethal concentrations of antibiotics — including those antibiotics that are commonly used to treat urinary tract infections (UTIs).

Earning a bee’s wings: In hives, graduating to forager a requirement for social membership

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Until this point, most bee researchers thought bees recognize and respond to a scent that is the homogenized scent of all of the members of their own colony. That’s how it works for some ants and other insects, at least. But new work from the laboratory of Yehuda Ben-Shahar, associate professor of biology in Arts & Sciences, shows that nestmate recognition instead depends on an innate developmental process that is associated with age-dependent division of labor. The work was completed in collaboration with researchers from the lab of Joel Levine at the University of Toronto.

Arctic Wolf Spider’s Changing Diet May Help Keep Arctic Cool & Lessen Some Impacts of Global Warming

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Spiders have a reputation for making some people’s skin crawl. Ecologist Amanda Koltz said she didn’t like spiders when she was a child, but she has a whole new outlook as a postdoctoral research associate at Washington University in St. Louis. Koltz now works closely with wolf spiders in the Arctic.

Tamed Conflict: How evolutionary biologists attempt to make sense of the existence of organisms from first principles

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“There’s no reasonable definition as to what an organism is – at the same time it is the most important unit of life. Of course much has been written on the subject, for instance that all parts of an organism must be related, that they are surrounded by a skin, that organisms emerge from a cell. But none of these definitions seem to work universally because most researchers have only examined a small snippet of the world of living beings.” -Joan Strassmann

WashU Expert: Mosquitoes and ticks do better in extreme cold than we do

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With paper-weight wings and spindly legs, the mosquito hardly seems built to handle the cold. The secret to its survival is eggs built to withstand freezing temperatures. Even if some eggs die off during extreme cold, mosquito populations rebound quickly. The same holds true for ticks that can wait out a cold snap far below a forest’s layer of leaves.

Bio 500 Research Spotlight: Samuel Kim on the Kummer Lab

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Though I originally arrived at WashU set on attending medical school, my experience in the Kummer lab through Bio 500 and the interactions with my professors and valued mentors have led me to reconsider. I am grateful to have realized that research is a stimulating process of continual growth that I want to pursue as a career, and I am hopeful for the findings that our generation of neuroscientists will discover about the complex organ that makes us human.

Purple reigns

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Eye-catching and nutritious, purple rice has been a part of religious and cultural ceremonies across Asia for generations. New research from Washington University in St. Louis uncovers the ways that traditional farming practices have preserved the genetic diversity of Thai purple rice.

Biology Professor Highlights Active Learning in Science Education

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“As an instructor, I try to teach how the topic has relevance from different approaches in biology,” said Erik Herzog, Professor of Biology at Washington University in St. Louis. Herzog teaches undergraduate biology courses at the university. His lab uses a variety of techniques to study the cellular and molecular basis of circadian rhythms, biological clocks that drive near 24-hour rhythms in living beings including animals and plants.

Plant’s recycling system important in sickness and in health

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In a new publication in the journal Nature Plants, researchers [led by Richard Vierstra] in Arts & Sciences describe the effects of autophagy on metabolism in maize, commonly known as corn, an important crop that is sensitive to nitrogen deprivation.

Should Evolution Treat Our Microbes as Part of Us?

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How does evolution select the fittest “individuals” when they are ecosystems made up of hosts and their microbiomes? Joan Strassmann and other biologists debate the need to revise theories.

International collaboration taking place in Pakrasi lab

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Currently, in the depths of the McDonnell Hall basement at Washington University, a PhD student from IITB, Annesha Sengupta, is performing research that could have major global significance in the future. Since April 2018, Sengupta has been learning the CRISPR genome editing technique from scientists in the Pakrasi Lab. Once Sengupta masters this skill, she will then edit the genome of an Indian cyanobacterial isolate for the purpose of creating a platform for biofuel production.

Bio 500 Research Spotlight: Kevin Yin on the Rentschler Lab

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In the Rentschler lab, we aim to address heart disease by looking at how developmental pathways and gene regulation networks are associated with various heart diseases. We are specifically interested in how alterations of genes during development or in the adult can lead to arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia.

Getting to know the humans of Tyson

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As Tyson Humanities Fellows, Kit Lord and Hayley Huntley spent three months at the university's environmental field station, embedding with the Tyson community to explore the human side of science. After conducting hundreds of hours of interviews, the fellows, led by environmental humanities lecturer Suzanne Loui, profiled the people who make Tyson a thriving research ecosystem. Here, Lord details their collaborative interview project, Humans of Tyson.

New maps hint at how electric fish got their big brains

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Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis have mapped the regions of the brain in mormyrid fish in extremely high detail. In a new study published in the Nov. 15 issue of Current Biology, they report that the part of the brain called the cerebellum is bigger in members of this fish family compared to related fish — and this may be associated with their use of weak electric discharges to locate prey and to communicate with one another.

Replaying the tape of life: Is it possible?

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How predictable is evolution? The answer long has been debated by biologists grappling with the extent to which history affects the repeatability of evolution. A review published in the Nov. 9 issue of Science explores the complexity of evolution’s predictability in extraordinary detail. In it, researchers from Kenyon College, Michigan State University and Washington University in St. Louis closely examine evidence from a number of empirical studies of evolutionary repeatability and contingency in an effort to fully interrogate ideas about contingency’s role in evolution.

Bio 500 Research Spotlight: Benjamin French on the Elgin Lab

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I have been working in Dr. Elgin’s lab for the past two and a half years to analyze the characteristics of an unusual chromosome in Drosophila (fruit flies). The fourth chromosome of Drosophila melanogaster is unusual because this tiny chromosome is almost entirely heterochromatic yet contains about 80 protein-coding genes. In the Elgin lab, we use a combination of DNA manipulation experiments done in the wet lab and bioinformatic analyses done on the computer to identify factors that enable the expression of fourth chromosome genes within a mostly heterochromatic domain.

Erik Herzog on Daylight Savings Time

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Most of the country switched their clocks back an hour over the weekend, ending daylight saving time. And even though one hour might not sound like a lot, it has a noticeable impact. "In the long term, this one hour cumulatively can really have effects on our health," says Erik Herzog, professor of biology and neuroscience at Washington University in St. Louis.

Bio 500 Research Spotlight: Hannah White on the Perlmutter Lab

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Joel Perlmutter’s lab has many different projects, most of which are focused on the development of new PET radiotracers for Parkinson disease. My project in the lab is to study a non-human primate model of Parkinson disease, and the effects of a new drug, Carboxyfullerene (C3), on neurotransmitter levels and dopaminergic cells in different regions of the brain.

Richard D. Vierstra receives NIH grant

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Richard D. Vierstra, the George and Charmaine Mallinckrodt Professor in the Department of Biology in Arts & Sciences, received a $304,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for a project titled “Phytochromes: Structural perspectives on photoactivation and signaling.” Vierstra was also granted $49,000 from the NIH to study autophagic clearance of inactive proteasomes and ribosomes as models for protein quality control.

Dr. Himadri Pakrasi receives U.S. Department of Energy grant

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Himadri Pakrasi, the Myron and Sonya Glassberg/Albert and Blanche Greensfelder Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Biology, received a $1.5 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop Anabaena 33047 — a photosynthetic, fast-growing, nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria — as a versatile production platform that can be used by the bioenergy research community.

Monkey DNA may solve mysteries, help conservation

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Living Earth Collaborative grant supports efforts to understand if Peter's Angola colobus monkeys represent one or two subspecies

Faculty Spotlight: Joseph Jez, Biology Chair

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Joseph Jez began his work with the Biology Department ten years ago as an assistant professor. He is now Professor of Biology, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor and as of July 1, 2018 the Biology Department Chair. We sat down to talk about the changes he’s witnessed over the last decade as well as what he would like to see in the future.

Sunsetting of PARC

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The Photosynthetic Antenna Research Center (PARC) has officially ceased operations.

Interview with undergrad Daniel Berkovich about the American Society of Plant Biologists SURF

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"I am motivated to conduct my research not only because I find it personally interesting, but because it grants me the privilege to contribute to the greater scientific community."

In sync: How cells make connections could impact circadian rhythm

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Li also collaborated with Erik Herzog, professor of biology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University who studies the cellular and molecular basis of circadian rhythms in mammals

A path to diversity in neuroscience

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ENDURE fosters community in undergraduate research

Bacteria in a changing environment

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A&S professor awarded $2 million for research that could help defeat antibiotic-resistant infections

Leggy lizards don’t survive the storm

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An immediate before-after comparison — the first of its kind — shows that survivors of a hurricane have different traits than the general population.

Jez Lab receives NSF grant to collaborate with Maeda Lab at UW-Madison

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A $762k collaborative NSF grant will fund a partnership between Joseph Jez (Wash U Biology chair) with Hiroshi Maeda (U Wisconsin-Madison; Botany) on the mechanisms and impacts of de-regulating aromatic amino acid biosynthesis in plants.

Warming alters predator-prey interactions in the Arctic

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Spiders could buffer some effects of warming on decomposition

Researchers engineer bacteria that create fertilizer out of thin air

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Next step could be ‘nitrogen-fixing’ plants that can do the same, reducing need for fertilizer.

Jet Lag: trips across time zones may get a bit easier

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Summer trips across time zones may get a bit easier thanks to a new finding from scientists in St. Louis.

VIP neurons hold master key to jet lag response

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A tiny population of neurons can unlock the body’s clock

A New Species in Forest Park

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New species are not hidden only in exotic locales. Recently, graduate student Ben Wolf found a new species of alga in Forest Park.

Bugged out by climate change

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Warmer active seasons and fewer freeze-thaw events lead to big changes for the tiniest Arctic ambassadors — its arthropods.

Sustaining life on Earth

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In the midst of what scientists consider to be a sixth mass extinction event, Washington University is joining forces with the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Saint Louis Zoo to collaborate on ­ life-saving research and conservation efforts.

WashU Spaces: Keith Hengen

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Keith Hengen is wowed by the organizational prowess of our brains. How, he wonders, do hundreds of millions of neurons interact reliably time after time, especially given that the proteins that power neurons have half-lives on the order of seconds to hours?

Yehuda Ben-Shahar awarded $770,000 by the National Science Foundation

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Yehuda Ben-Shahar, associate professor of biology in Arts & Sciences, has been awarded $770,000 by the National Science Foundation to investigate how insects produce and perceive mating pheromones as species diversify.

Making Drugs From Bugs

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Is Daylight Saving Time necessary? And, why ‘springing ahead’ is harder than ‘falling back’

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Keeping plant-cell motors on track

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(Daylight Saving) Time is not on your side

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Arms races and cooperation among amoebae in the wild

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The Secret Lives of Plants

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Large-scale removal of beachgrass leads to new life for endangered coastal lupine

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Could tiny green creatures provide clues for how to create a more sustainable future?

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Becoming a biotech explorer

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Three years after launching the Biotech Explorers Pathway, a unique opportunity for first-year and sophomore students, biology professor Joe Jez shares how the program started and some of what its students have accomplished so far.

2 St. Louis plant scientists dig deep into the struggles of research

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Arpita Bose receives a $40,000 collaboration initiation grant

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Plotting the path of plant pathogens

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