MCDB News:

CAREER scientist thrives at the intersection of research and teaching

Robin Dowell

Assistant Professor

Photo of Robin Dowell

March 25, 2014

Most university faculty divide their time between research activities, teaching and service to their institutions, sometimes putting in hundreds of hours weekly to accomplish the job’s demands. Being able to shine in all of these areas is a rare accomplishment, especially for newer faculty. For BioFrontiers faculty member Robin Dowell, juggling these responsibilities is somewhat second nature.

“With respect to components of academia, I firmly believe that these are difficult to separate,” she says. “The best way to deeply understand scientific concepts is to get your hands dirty— actually perform an experiment, write a program, or solve a math problem — or to teach the concepts to someone else. In the best-case scenarios, you do both.”

Her ability to apply this philosophy recently earned Dowell the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious award for junior faculty, the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) grant. Providing five years of support totaling more than $650,000, the grant recognizes emerging investigators who excel at combining teaching and research in ways that directly impact their institutions and the broader community. Dowell is one of only ten scientists nationwide in the field of molecular and cellular bioscience who have received the award so far this year.
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BFA Excellence Awardees Announced

BFA Logo

Michael Klymkowsky


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Jonathan Van Blerkom

Research Professor

March 10, 2014

Two of MCD Biology's faculty have been recognized for professional excellence!

The Boulder Faculty Assembly has announced the 2014 recipients of the BFA Excellence Awards. These are the highest awards given by the BFA and recognize faculty for efforts in teaching, research and creative work, and service and leadership. Please join us in congratulating this year's BFA Excellence awardees.
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CU-Boulder stem cell research may point to new methods of mitigating muscle loss

Photo of Jennifer Bernet

Jennifer D. Bernet

Graduate Student

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Brad Olwin


February 16, 2014

New findings on why skeletal muscle stem cells stop dividing and renewing muscle mass during aging points up a unique therapeutic opportunity for managing muscle-wasting conditions in humans, says a new University of Colorado Boulder study.

According to CU-Boulder Professor Bradley Olwin, the loss of skeletal muscle mass and function as we age can lead to sarcopenia, a debilitating muscle-wasting condition that generally hits the elderly hardest. The new study indicates that altering two particular cell-signaling pathways independently in aged mice enhances muscle stem cell renewal and improves muscle regeneration.

One cell-signaling pathway the team identified, known as p38 MAPK, appears to be a major player in making or breaking the skeletal muscle stem cell, or satellite cell, renewal process in adult mice, said Olwin of the molecular, cellular and developmental biology department. Hyperactivation of the p38 MAPK cell-signaling pathway inhibits the renewal of muscle stem cells in aged mice, perhaps because of cellular stress and inflammatory responses acquired during the aging process.
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Read the Nature Medicine article.

CU-Boulder professor to talk teaching evolution for Darwin Day

Michael Klymkowsky


Photo of Michael Klymkowsky

February 11, 2014

University of Colorado professor Mike Klymkowsky wants people to understand that evolution isn't inherently easy to understand, and teachers shouldn't pretend it is when talking to students.

He'll describe the difficulties of teaching evolution in a talk Wednesday as part of Darwin Day, a global celebration of science held on the birthday of evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin.

Klymkowsky is a professor in CU's molecular, cellular and developmental biology department and co-director of CU Teach, a math and science teacher preparation program.
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Beer science: Avery Brewing pairs with CU biotech lab to improve quality control

Robin Dowell

Assistant Professor

Photo of Robin Dowell

January 26, 2014

When a batch of Avery Brewing Co.'s India Pale Ale goes through the brewing process, the Boulder-based brewer's California Ale Yeast conducts a dynamic performance.

The lively yeast not only helps to develop the alcohol and carbonation for the beer, but its unique genetic makeup also affects the finished product's character by accentuating the floral, citrus and piney hops, and leaving a clean brew.

That delicate dance and its result easily could get muddled if another strain — say, Belgian Wit Yeast — is present in the tank. That yeast, used for Avery's White Rascal Belgian Wheat, could impart its phenolic and spicy attributes on the hoppy flagship beer.
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Funding Cancer Research: The Danger of Brightly Colored Ribbons

by Joaquin Espinosa

Associate Professor
HHMI Early Career Scientist

Photo of Joaquin Espinosa

January 17, 2014

Pink ribbons are for breast cancer, dark blue ribbons are for colon cancer, white ribbons are for lung cancer, gray ribbons are for brain cancer, emerald green ribbons are for liver cancer, and zebra-striped ribbons are for carcinoid cancers. January is cervical cancer awareness month, represented by the teal-and-white ribbon. February is for gallbladder and bile duct cancers, with a kelly green ribbon to represent them. And so on.

As cancer kills more people than ever before, it is natural for us to seek affiliation with those affected by a similar cancer type. Breast cancer patients, survivors and their friends and relatives coalesce their efforts to create awareness and raise funds for breast cancer research and prevention. The same goes for those affected by other cancers, and there is nothing wrong with that. At a time when the National Cancer Institute is losing purchasing power at a scary pace, and when cancer researchers struggle to fund their laboratories, every fundraising and educational effort from organized citizens makes a big difference.

However, we must be very cautious about how brightly we color our ribbons.
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CU-Boulder's Thomas Cech named to national commission on forensics.

Thomas Cech

Distinguished Professor, Adjunct

Photo of Thomas Cech

January 16, 2014

Acclaimed University of Colorado Nobel laureate Thomas Cech has added another distinction to his resume with his appointment to the first-ever National Commission on Forensic Science.

Cech, a CU Distinguished Professor who shared the 1989 Nobel Prize in chemistry for the discovery of the catalytic properties of RNA, was one of seven chemists among the 33 commission members who were selected out of a pool of more than 300 applicants.

The commission is a joint project of the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

A statement issued by NIST said members of the commission are charged with working to improve the practice of forensic science by developing guidance concerning the intersections between forensic science and the criminal justice system.
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Live Births With Simplified IVF Procedure: Breakthrough Towards Universal and Accessible Infertility Care

Jonathan Vanblerkom

Research Professor

Photo of Jonathan Van Blerkom

December 6, 2013

A recent prospective study published in Reproductive BioMedicine Online comparing conventional IVF with a novel simplified method showed that fertilization and implantation rates were similar for the simplified system when compared with those reported by conventional IVF programs. Sixteen healthy babies have already been born with this new method. According to the results of this study, IVF can be offered at reasonable prices and can be made available to a much larger part of the world population in the near future. !More than 5 million IVF babies have now been born worldwide, but because of
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Professor Michael Klymkowsky pens Guest Column in Boulder Daily Camera

December 6, 2013

There is a call to label foods as to whether they contain ingredients derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs.) Not to concern ourselves for the moment with the fact that all modern foods are GMOs, the result of centuries to millennia of human interventions, Craig Schiesley (speaking on the opinion page of the Daily Camera, apparently in his role as a vice-president of a company that stands to gain from such labeling), raises a particularly interesting question, why shouldn't all foods, that is, anything people are expected to eat, be accurately labeled?
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CU-Boulder Student Team Wows Judges at Premiere Biology Competition

October 23, 2013

Thirty CU undergraduate and graduate students from a wide range of science and engineering departments worked together to design their project: “DIY Synthetic Biology,” taking apart and reconstructing lab techniques and tools and improving them. Over the summer, six students completed the project. Then, these students boarded a plane to Montreal, Canada with their faculty mentor, practiced their presentation until 2:00 a.m., and competed with 52 North American teams, earning an iGEM special award and their place in the upcoming iGEM World Competition in Boston this November.
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Bill Wood Awarded 2013 Hamburger Prize

August 27, 2013

The 2013 Society for Developmental Biology Viktor Hamburger Outstanding Educator Prize was awarded to Bill Wood for his outstanding contributions to developmental biology education. The University of Colorado, Boulder Distinguished Professor Emeritus has long championed improving science education through active learning methods.
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A Quest for Even Safer Drinking Water

August 27, 2013

The field work, led by Norman Pace, and financed by the Sloan Foundation, is beginning to map the ecological niches favored by certain aquatic organisms, which could lead to better screening methods and better water treatment.
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Low-cost in-vitro fertilization method developed at CU may help couples in developing countries

July 10, 2013

A professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology at CU-Boulder, Van Blerkom performed Colorado’s first successful in vitro fertilization procedure in 1982 and is recognized internationally for his research on egg and sperm physiology. He has been working with ESHRE since the project began in 2008.
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Cancer Center investigator Rui Yi receives American Cancer Society Research Scholar Grant

June 28, 2013

Rui Yi, PhD, assistant professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology at the University of Colorado Boulder and University of Colorado Cancer Center investigator has been awarded a four-year, $720,000 Research Scholar Grant from the American Cancer Society (ACS).
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Soyeon Park named a 2013 Boettcher Investigator

June 13, 2013

The grants awarded by the Webb-Waring Biomedical Research Program support the work of promising Colorado ECIs – Early Career Investigators; these faculty members are four years or less from their first academic appointment at a research institution. Eligible investigators apply through a competitive process within their respective institutions.
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Protein linked with tumor growth could be potential target for cancer-fighting drugs, according to study led by CU-Boulder

June 7, 2013

A team of researchers led by the University of Colorado Boulder has discovered a protein complex that could be targeted with drugs to stunt tumor growth.
As tumors expand, their centers are deprived of oxygen, and so tumors must flip specific genetic switches to survive in these hypoxic environments.
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Rob Knight and Biofrontiers are featured in the New York Times.

June 6, 2013

"I can tell you the exact date that I began to think of myself in the first-person plural — as a superorganism, that is, rather than a plain old individual human being. It happened on March 7. That’s when I opened my e-mail to find a huge, processor-choking file of charts and raw data from a laboratory located at the BioFrontiers Institute at the University of Colorado, Boulder."
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Sheley Copley featured in National Geographic

May 21, 2013

Shelley Copley of the University of Colorado and her colleagues have tested out the individual enzymes that Sphingobium use. From this they have been abel to map out some of the origins of this species.
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Dr. Leslie Leinwand has been named the Bonfils Stanton Foundation 2013 Honoree in Science and Medicine

May 17, 2013

The Bonfils-Stanton Annual Awards Program was established in 1984 in recognition of Charles Stanton’s desire to honor individuals who are advancing excellence in the Foundation’s major areas of interest. Each year, the Foundation Trustees recognize outstanding Coloradans with the dual goals of bringing acclaim to their efforts and motivating others to greater accomplishments on behalf of Colorado and its citizens. We would like to congratulate Dr. Leslie Leinwand for this achivement.
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CU study suggests link between tumor suppressors and starvation survival

May 17, 2013

A particular tumor suppressor gene that fights cancer cells does more than clamp down on unabated cell division -- the hallmark of the disease -- it also can help make cells more fit by allowing them to fend off stress, says a University of Colorado Boulder study.
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Prof. Mike Klymkowsky Honored as Outstanding Undergraduate Science Teacher

Febuary 22, 2013

Congratulations to Professor Mike Klymkowsky of the Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology department! He has received the 2013 Outstanding Undergraduate Science Teacher Award (OUSTA) from the Society for College Science Teachers (SCST). Mike is a leader on campus in using technologies to facilitate learning. To learn more about Mike's award, visit the SCST site. To learn more about Mike's work see his Be Socratic web site or his Klymkowsky lab site.
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One Less Cancer to Worry About (If Only)

Febuary 7, 2013

In 2013, around 12,000 American women will be diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer and more than 4,000 will die from it. Globally, cervical cancer is the third most common cancer in women worldwide, killing >275,000 every year. But these numbers will go down, must go down, because cervical cancer is now a fully preventable disease. Or isn't it?
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Congratulations to Larry Gold for his contributions

Febuary, 2013

The MCD Biology Building on campus, long known to house outstanding research and teaching, has been renamed the Gold Biosciences Building in honor of University of Colorado Professor Larry Gold, an internationally known scientist whose research there over decades has spawned numerous discoveries and commercially successful biotechnology patents...
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Congratulations to Buff Energy Star winners: Jerry Greene (MCDB) and Clark Oldroyd (Koenig Alumni Center)

December 5, 2012

As part of CU-Boulder’s ongoing effort to reduce its environmental footprint and campus energy bill, the university rewards employees who implement strategies to reduce energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Two campus buildings—the Koenig Alumni Center and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB)—attained Buff Energy Star status during the 2011-2012 fiscal year, in which building employees reduce energy usage by at least 5% over the previous fiscal year.
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Brad Olwin Named Ellison Medical Foundation Senior Scholar

November 27, 2012

The Ellison Medical Foundation Senior Scholar in Aging program is designed to support established investigators working at institutions in the U.S. to conduct research in the basic biological sciences relevant to understanding lifespan development processes and age-related diseases and disabilities.
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Boettcher Foundation Webb-Waring Biomedical Research Awards

November 16, 2012

The University of Colorado and the Boettcher Foundation are pleased to announce the 2013 Boettcher Foundation Webb-Waring Biomedical Research Awards Program. The program supports early career investigators whose research has a direct impact on human health.
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CU-Boulder discovery could lead to new treatments for hepatitis B virus

October 24, 2012

A University of Colorado Boulder-led team has discovered two prime targets of the Hepatitis B virus in liver cells, findings that could lead to treatment of liver disease in some of the 400 million people worldwide currently infected with the virus.
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Cancer Is About Relationships - Get Personal

October 19, 2012

Life is an emergent property, something more than the sum of its parts, the irreducible product of complex relationships between inanimate components. After all, we are made of the same stuff as the dead matter around us. But how are we so different? An analysis of our bodies the minute before versus the minute after we die would not show many differences in our atomic, molecular and cellular composition. But the relational status at every level of organization would be drastically different. It's the relationships among our parts that keep us breathing, eating, thinking and loving.
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Jared Polis Visits MCDB

October 17, 2012

Jared Polis who represents the district that includes the University of Colorado at Boulder visited MCDB on Wednesday October 17th. He came to learn about National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health supported local research.
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Brian Couch Receiving an Award for Excellence in STEM Education

October 15, 2012

Growing demands for skilled scientists and general science literacy have prompted scientists, educators, and policy leaders to issue several national calls for improving undergraduate science education.
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New Functional Genomics Facility

October 10, 2012

The Functional Genomics Facility has undergone several exciting changes in recent months and these impressive updates will enhance your research.
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Gia Voeltz Receives Provost’s Faculty Achievement Award

October 8, 2012

The Provost's Faculty Achievement Awards are presented annually to selected faculty who have offered recent significant publication or creative contributions in their academic fields.
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Cancer’s Dead End

September 26, 2012

At first glance, the tumor-suppressor gene p53 would seem like an ideal weapon against cancer. It puts the brakes on cancer progression and is impaired in about half of human tumors.

In mouse models of cancer, HHMI investigators Tyler Jacks and Scott Lowe restored p53 activity in tumors and the tumors regressed. However, p53 activation kills some cancer cells, but not others, and no one knows why. HHMI early career scientist Joaquín Espinosa has set his sights on finding an answer, and with it, a strategy for making p53-based therapies effective. It’s a goal he’s pursued with relentless passion.
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Renowned Scientist Blumenthal to Lead Linda Crnic Institute

July 05, 2012

Down syndrome research hub based at CU School of Medicine
Nationally renowned molecular biologist Tom Blumenthal, Ph.D, has been named the new executive director of the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome, headquartered at the University of Colorado School of Medicine on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.
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Last updated: 2014-03-31