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Missouri researchers study golf course grass to address agricultural challenges

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One billion hectares of land, an area about the size of the U.S., are affected by salty soil, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. The majority of crops are sensitive to salt, resulting in production declines that cost at least $27 billion each year, says a study published by the United Nations. “And it’s continually getting worse,” said David Goad, a doctoral candidate at Washington University. As agricultural fields are irrigated, water evaporates but salt doesn’t, producing saltier soils each year. These issues are particularly problematic in dry, hot climates, including the western U.S.

Graduate student wins two best poster prizes at a Gordon conference

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Dinesh Gupta, a graduate student in Aprita Bose's lab, wins two poster prizes Applied and Environmental Microbiology Gordon Research Conference.

Congratulations PhD graduates!

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Congratulations to our PhD graduates Cassondra Vernier, Zhen Peng, Dilys Vela, Chris Catano, Sam Powers, Michael Guzman, and Ben Wolf!

Biology students receive NSF Fellowships

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DBBS graduate student Kiona Elliott (Bart Lab, Plant & Microbial Biosciences Program) and past undergraduate Kate Harline (formerly of the Jez Lab, now at Cornell) received NSF Fellowships that provide three years of annual support for graduate studies.

The kids are alright: Family quarrels in seeds reveal the ways parents and offspring sometimes evolve in conflicting directions

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Plant seeds contain tissues that represent three distinct genetic relatives: the mother, the embryo and a bizarre triploid tissue called the endosperm that is involved in nutrient transfer from mother to embryo. Katherine Geist, a PhD candidate in the laboratory led by David C. Queller, the Spencer T. Olin Professor of Biology in Arts & Sciences, and Joan Strassmann, the Charles Rebstock Professor of Biology, used genomic data from the model plant, Arabidopsis thaliana, to illuminate a dispute between these three parties over how much resources should be given to the embryo.

Specialist enzymes make E. coli antibiotic resistant at low pH

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“Some enzymes that appear to be redundant for bacterial growth and fitness under standard laboratory conditions are specialized for particular environmental conditions,” said Elizabeth Mueller, a PhD candidate and first author of the new study. “We probably miss a lot of interesting and clinically relevant biology by studying bacterial cells predominately during growth in nutrient-rich, neutral-pH, aerated-growth media.” Mueller found that a subset of enzymes involved in making E. coli ‘s cell wall are pH specialists that ensure robust growth and cell wall integrity in a wide pH range. The work was completed with collaborators at Newcastle University in Britain and Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

Warming pushes lobsters and other species to seek cooler homes

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Movement of species can drastically change a region’s food web, as well. Puffins live in the Gulf of Maine, along with lobsters. These birds prefer to eat herring, a fish that’s becoming less abundant. Butterfish, meanwhile, have moved in. “Unfortunately, butterfish don’t fit down the throat of a baby puffin very well,” Pinsky says. As a result, puffin chicks can starve to death. Such changes in the food web can have unforeseen effects. Amanda Koltz is an ecologist in Missouri, at Washington University in St. Louis. The animals she studies are in the Arctic, which “is warming really fast,” she notes. “It’s warming at about twice the rate of the rest of the planet.”

Outreach Projects at Claver House

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Jenny Shoots, a graduate student in the Haswell Lab, has worked with a group of volunteers in the Ville neighborhood of North St. Louis at Claver House for two years. For the past year, every Saturday morning the volunteer group hosts a Read and Feed program for young people in the neighborhood where kids can enjoy a pancake breakfast and take part in educational activities that promote literacy. The program has expanded from reading to other types of experiences promoting scientific learning. There are about 10-20 regulars that come every week excited to learn new things.

From Lab Bench to Stage: a McDonnell International Scholar's Journey to Winning the Three Minute Thesis Competition

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Graduate student and McDonnell International Scholar Po-Cheng Lin delivers the winning presentation at the Three Minute Thesis competition held at the McDonnell Academy 7th International Symposium in Beijing, China.

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.

Preparing for the competition

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The Graduate School of Arts & Sciences teams up with university groups to help students in science, technology, engineering, and math land prestigious fellowships.

Ram Dixit named new co-director of the Plant and Microbial Biosciences

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“We train our students to do any type of science. We want to give them the tools so that whether they go into industry, academia or government, they will benefit from what they learned in graduate school,” said Dixit.

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.

Four Biology Students Awarded National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships

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Arms races and cooperation among amoebae in the wild

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Wash U program aims to improve science education

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‘It’s reshaping the way I see teaching’

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