News

Postdoctoral Research Scientist Position Available in Phytochrome Structural Biology-Vierstra Lab

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A Postdoctoral Research Scientist position is available immediately to study the phytochrome family of photoreceptors at the structural and biochemical levels to understand how they transition between their spectrally and conformationally distinct inactive Pr and active Pfr states.

Structuring sweetness: What makes Stevia so sweet? The molecular madness that makes an herb 200 times sweeter than sugar

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New research from Washington University in St. Louis reveals the molecular machinery behind the high-intensity sweetness of the stevia plant. The results could be used to engineer new non-caloric products without the aftertaste that many associate with the sweetener marketed as Stevia. “If someone is diabetic or obese and needs to remove sugar from their diet, they can turn to artificial sweeteners made from chemical synthesis (aspartame, saccharin, etc), but all of these have ‘off-tastes’ not associated with sugar, and some have their own health issues,” said Joseph Jez, professor of biology in Arts & Sciences and lead author of the new study.

Undergrad Maya Samuels-Fair wins Goldwater Scholarship

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Three Washington University in St. Louis students have received the prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship, which honors students who conduct research in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering. Maya Samuels-Fair, a biology major in Arts & Sciences, with an emphasis on ecology and evolution, is a Nemerov Scholar and plans to conduct research across ecosystems, curate a field museum collection and write about conservation for popular audiences.

Petra Anne Levin: Current Biology

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Do you feel a push toward more applied science. How does that affect your own work? Yes. As a bacteriologist, I am scared that we could return to a ‘pre-antibiotic’ age. That isn’t overdramatic. The challenge of antibiotic resistance among pathogens is growing. People are dying. Pharma companies are scaling back investments in next-generation antibiotics just as the current generation becomes less effective. That’s why my group now is working on the issue. It started when I visited my dentist and noticed that the toothpaste sample I got in the ‘goody bag’ at the end of the appointment included triclosan as an antibacterial agent. That got me thinking whether such everyday antimicrobials hurt us more than help us. Our research shows that the answer is yes. We also tried to make our research story relevant. To our surprise, our findings were picked up by some media outlets. It’s a small contribution to public understanding of antibiotic resistance, but we are happy with it and plan to continue working in this area.

Community Spotlight: Matthew Albrecht

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Matthew Albrecht, Honorary Adjunct Professor of Biology and Associate Scientist in Conservation Biology at the Center for Conservation and Sustainable Development at the Missouri Botanical Gardens, sits down with graduate student Rachel Becknell to discuss his passion for conservation biology.

Two students will join the Bose Lab this summer through US Army funding

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High school student Aiyana Evers and Wash U undergrad Grace Choi will join the Bose Lab this summer for research funded by the US Army.

A tale of two skeeters Tyson Research Center biologists discover something positive about an invasive mosquito species

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“The extra energy put into fighting an infection, or lost to consumption by a parasite, can lead to changes in behavior in the host. That can change its ability to escape predation or compete for space and resources,” said Katie M. Westby, postdoctoral research associate at Tyson Research Center and first author of a new study published in the Journal of Animal Ecology. “Thus, if an invasive species reduces parasitism in a species in a community, it may indirectly affect other members of the community.”

Michael Bloomberg announces Midwestern Collegiate Climate Summit

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Michael R. Bloomberg announced May 16 the largest expected convening of Midwest universities focused on mitigating the effects of climate change and moving to a 100% clean-energy economy. The Midwestern Collegiate Climate Summit will be held in early 2020, bringing together leaders from Midwestern universities, local government and the private sector to drive measurable, local action on climate by leveraging the partnerships, innovations and talent from institutions of higher education. In parallel to the new global commitments made by federal leaders in line with the Paris Agreement, the climate summit will catalyze climate action commitments from all regional leaders and provide a support network to achieve new ambitious goals. Bloomberg Philanthropies will provide support for the operations of the climate summit.

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!

Mather wins Harrison D. Stalker Award

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Mather is majoring in biology, in the neuroscience track, in Arts & Sciences, with a minor in electrical engineering. His main research interests are systems neuroscience, brain dynamics and control, and signal processing. Mather conducted his thesis work, titled “Understanding the Breadth and Genetics of the Dictyostelium-Burkholderia Symbiosis,” under the direction of Joan Strassmann, the Charles Rebstock Professor of Biology. Outside of the laboratory, Mather was active as a contributing reporter for Washington University’s Student Life newspaper. He served as vice president of public relations and public relations team manager for the Washington University Student Union.

Hsu wins Spector Prize

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Hsu’s thesis was titled “Astrocytic Degeneration in Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.” Reviewers praised his work for the design of the experiments, the technical excellence with which they were carried out and the incisiveness of Hsu’s interpretation of results.

Chin wins Quatrano Prize

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Chin’s research identifying the genetic networks that regulate complex social decision-making behaviors in insects stood out among this year’s nominees, evaluators said, in part because it yielded unexpected results. Her thesis was titled “The contribution of Williams Syndrome-related genes to Drosophila social behaviors uncovers an evolutionarily conserved genetic toolkit underlying animal sociality.”

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