August 2014 News

Dr Joanna SluskyJoanna Slusky (assistant professor) joins the Department of Molecular Biosciences faculty.  Dr. Slusky received her Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania in the lab of Bill DeGrado.  She completed two postdoctoral appointments with Gunnar von Heijne (Stockholm University) where she studied membrane protein topology determination, and with Roland Dunbrack (Fox Chase Cancer Center) where she began her studies of outer membrane proteins.   She will continue exploring outer membrane proteins here at KU.​


Dr Eric DeedsEric Deeds (assistant professor) is the recipient of an award from the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences of the National Science Foundation for his proposal entitled “Studying proteasome assembly using a combination of modeling and experiment.”  This research program focus on developing a better understanding of how large macromolecular machines like the proteasome assemble both in vitro and in vivo.  The overall goal of this work is to elucidate general principles of efficient self-assembly, principles that could aid in the design of novel self-assembling nanomaterials.


Dr David DavidoDavid Davido (associate professor) received a pilot project grant from the National Institutes of Health Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) "Novel approaches for the control of microbial pathogens".   The title of his research project is "Viral and host factors regulate HSV-1 infection".   The goal of this project is to identify and determine how interactions between viral and cellular proteins control the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) life cycle.


Dr Scott HeftyScott Hefty (associate professor) served as chairperson for the National Institutes of Health Study Section “Microbiology and Infectious Disease” to review AREA (R15) grant proposals.




Dr Wonpil ImWonpil Im (associate professor) is the recipient of National Science Foundation (NSF) Catalyzing New International Collaborations (CNIC) Funds for his proposal entitled "Lipopolysaccharide Structure and Dynamics".  This project will support travel to Stockholm University, Sweden, for collaboration with Dr. Göran Widmalm to study complex lipopolysaccharide structure and dynamics using molecular modeling/simulation as well as NMR experiments.


Dr Audrey LambAudrey Lamb (associate professor) is the recipient of an award from the Chemistry of Life Processes Program in the Chemistry Division of the National Science Foundation for her proposal entitled “Enzymes of Ornithine Hydroxamate Siderophores.”  This research program will examine the enzymes that form amino acid derivatives that serve as the iron chelators in siderophores, low molecular weight molecules produced by bacteria, plants and fungi to scavenge iron from the environment.  The results of the proposed basic research will provide a basis for the future production of novel antimicrobial agents for deadly human pathogens. 


Dr Stuart MacdonaldStuart Macdonald (associate professor) is the recipient of continued funding via a renewed Kansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (K-INBRE) grant. This multi-university bioscience program provides training and infrastructure support to many Kansas institutions. Dr. Macdonald's award provides support for the K-INBRE Bioinformatics Core at KU-Lawrence, a facility providing computational assistance for genomics research in the state of Kansas.


Dr. Rob WardRob Ward (associate professor) completed training at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for the Science Education Alliance-Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science (SEA-PHAGES) program, which will be the basis for research-based undergraduate courses he will be teaching in the coming academic year.  During the first semester, students isolate bacteriophages from local soil samples, purify and characterize their phages, and select at least one phage per class for DNA sequencing. In the second semester, the students annotate and analyze the genome. At the end of the academic year, faculty and selected students attend the annual SEA-PHAGES Symposium. Held in June, the Symposium is a scientific meeting at which student representatives from each of the Alliance schools present the results of their research.

Dr Steve BenedictSteve Benedict (professor) had his research highlighted in an article entitled “Save the good T cells!” in the INFOCUS newsletter (page 9) of the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association.




Brian Ackley, Erik Lundquist, Stuart Macdonald and Robert Ward were the recipients of a Level 1 Grant from the KU Research Investment Council entitled “Dissecting the Function of Pediatric Disease Genes in Model Systems.” The project is a collaboration between the Department of Molecular Biosciences at KU and the Center for Pediatric Genomic Medicine at Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics. The research will use model organisms, such as C. elegans and Drosophila to study the potential contribution of gene variants identified in patients at CMH to the biological disorders from which they suffer.

Nadeem Asad (graduate student, Timmons lab) was the recipient of a Candlin Summer Research Fellowship for 2014.


Vaishnavi Nagarajan (graduate student, Timmons lab) is the recipient of the Ritter Travel Award.  She gave a poster presentation entitled "Transcriptional Gene Silencing on an Endogenous Locus in wild-type Caenorhabditis elegans" at the 2014 Genetics Association of America Aging, Metabolism, Stress, Pathogenesis and Small RNAs Meeting in Madison, WI on July 12.


Ichie Osaka (2014 doctoral graduate, Hefty lab) has accepted a Field Application Scientist position for international distribution with LI-COR.  She will be a liaison with the distributors and customers overseas, performing instrument training and assisting with troubleshooting.  Her territory will be all the international distribution except for Europe and the Middle East.



Lakshmi Sundararajan (2014 doctoral graduate, Lundquist lab) has accepted a postdoctoral position at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in the laboratory of David Miller.  Lakshmi will be studying how neurons make the appropriate connections with one another during development.



Keasha Restivo (2014 masters graduate, Hefty lab) has accepted a position as a Technical Service Representative with Thermo Fisher Scientific.

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August 2014 Presentations

Scott Hefty (associate professor) presented an invited review entitled “Molecular Biology of Chlamydia” at the International Symposium of Human Chlamydia Infections in Pacific Grove, CA. The meeting is attended by clinicians and academic, commercial, and governmental researchers. He also gave an invited research presentation on “Conditional Expression of Sigma 28 in C. trachomatis”.

Michael Barta (post-doctoral fellow; Hefty Lab) gave an invited research presentation at the International Symposium of Human Chlamydia Infections in Pacific Grove, CA, entitled “CT398 (CdsZ) interacts with Sigma 54 and Type III Secretion Export System.”

Nadeem Asad (graduate student, Timmons lab) presented a talk entitled "Cytoplasmic versus nuclear RNAi mechanisms in transgene-induced gene silencing in Caenorhabditis elegans" at the 2014 Genetics Association of America Aging, Metabolism, Stress, Pathogenesis and Small RNAs Meeting in Madison, WI on July 12.  

Matthew Josephson (graduate student, Lundquist lab) presented a talk entitled “SPON-1/F-spondin non-autonomously regulates Q migrations in response to MAB-5/Hox patterning“ at the 2014 C. elegans Topic Meeting: Neuronal Development, Synaptic Function and Behavior in Madison, WI on July 8.

Lakshmi Sundararajan (Lundquist lab) successfully defended her doctoral dissertation entitled “Genetic control of neuroblast migration” on July 3.

Nadeem Asad (Timmons lab) successfully defended his doctoral dissertation entitled “Cytoplasmic vs. nuclear RNAi in Caenorhabditis elegans” on July 18.

Mirna Perusina Lanfranca (Davido lab) successfully defended her doctoral dissertation entitled “HSP-1 ICP0-mediated impairment of host intrinsic and innate immune factors” on July 21.

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August 2014 Publications

Al-Ani G, Briggs K, Malik SS, Conner M, Azuma Y, Fischer CJ.  Quantitative determination of binding of ISWI to nucleosomes and DNA shows allosteric regulation of DNA binding by nucleotidesBiochemistry 53, 4334-4345.

Al-Ani G, Malik SS, Eastlund A, Briggs K, Fischer CJ.  ISWI remodels nucleosomes through a random walkBiochemistry 53, 4346-57.

Timmons L, Luna H, Martinez J, Moore Z, Nagarajan V, Kemege JM, Asad N.  Systematic comparison of bacterial feeding strains for increased yield of Caenorhabditis elegans males by RNA interference-induced non-disjunction FEBS letters [Epub ahead of print]

Qin J, Yang B, Xu B, Smith A, Xu L, Yuan J, Li L.  Concurrent CD44s and STAT3 expression in human clear cell  renal cellular carcinoma and its impact on survival. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Pathology 2014, 7(6):3236.

Zhang P, Huang Y, Hoa L, Marquez R, Lu J, Zhao W, Zhang X, Goa X, Li J, Venkataramanan R, Xu L, Li S.  A PEG-Fmoc conjugate as a nanocarrier for paclitaxel. Biomaterials 2014, 35(25):7146-7156.  

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Molecular Biosciences

We are an interdisciplinary group of faculty who perform cutting edge research in a wide range of areas including biochemistry, biophysics, structural biology, bioinformatics, cancer biology, genetics, genomics, immunology, microbiology, virology, neurobiology, molecular, cellular and developmental biology.  We work closely with postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and undergraduates to investigate fundamental biological problems on all levels from molecules to cells to organisms.  The Department of Molecular Biosciences, located on the Lawrence campus of the University of Kansas system, is an excellent environment for research and education.

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Nadeem Asad (Timmons lab) successfully defended his doctoral dissertation entitled “Cytoplasmic vs. nuclear RNAi in Caenorhabditis elegans” on July 18.