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Volume 2, Number 7, May 2002
Louise Allen, widow of  former Department of Biochemistry chairperson Scott Allen, died Wednesday, May 15, 2002. She was born in Salem, Utah, on April 17, 1918, to Isaac Riley Pierce Jr. and Flora Jeannette Lerwill Pierce. She was reared in Salem, where she completed her high school education, went on to beauty school and later opened her own beauty shop in Spanish Fork, Utah. She married Allen in 1940 in Spanish Fork. The Allens and their three sons lived in Utah, Iowa and Louisiana. Burial was in Provo Cemetery, Provo, Utah. [Based on an obituary published in The Advocate on 19 May 2002.]  Allen and her sons were known to many department members, who remember visits to departmental awards ceremonies to present the Robert Scott and Louise Pierce Allen Scholarship for Biochemistry.

John Caprio
John Caprio (Department of Biological Sciences) and Joseph Ricapito (Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures) were honored as the Distinguished Research Masters for 2002 at a ceremony held at 2:30 p.m., Wednesday, 29 May at the Lod Cook Conference Center.  Family and friends of both honorees as well as many high-ranking administrators (Kevin Smith, Daniel Fogel, and Harold Silverman) attended.  The Office of Research provided a lavish spread after the program.  Caprio recounted several major events in his research career, including the discovery of "Gotta Bite," an amino acid modified food for ictalurid catfish and fish with similar feeding behavior.  Caprio has described his taste bud-covered research organism as a "swimming tongue," an appellation picked up by Steven Hand in his introduction of Caprio. [Abstract from the LSU intellectual Properties web site: The snapping and biting response of Ictalurid catfish, and fish with similar feeding habits, are released by the use of the free amino acids: L-proline, L-alanine, and L-arginine, and mixtures thereof, at concentrations above those normally found around the fish's normal, or natural food.]

The swimming tongue

Welcome to Kurt Svoboda, who has an e-mail address <ksvobo1@lsu.edu>, indicating his imminent arrival.
From the Newsletter editor:This will be the last newsletter I do as I begin to shed all extra duties and prepare for a busy summer and fall followed by sabbatical leave in Spring 2003.  The upcoming meeting season began in Xalapa, Veracruz, where I ran an NSF-funded workshop for students from six countries in Latin America.  Meetings will continue to punctuate the summer with travel to Corvallis, Paris, and Oslo.  A research trip to Panama with Sung-Oui Suh and entomologists from the University of Georgia and Brigham Young University will fill the rest of the summer.  Our lab will change with John Williams gone off to Europe before beginning medical school (LSU-Shreveport) in the fall, and Ebony Spikes getting ready to go to Oxford on a British Marshall Scholarship.  Recent PhD (see graduate awards, below) Ning Zhang is in the postdoctoral groove at Penn State and has already given her first seminar and aligned several hundred new sequences.  Undergraduates Nhu Nguyen, Christine Ackerman, Amy Whittington help to fill the void, and they learn fast and work hard. Suh and I will be in and out!  --Meredith Blackwell

Mohamed Noor has won the Phi Kappa Phi 2002 Non-tenured Faculty Award for the Natural and Physical Sciences
In its mission to recognize and promote academic excellence in all fields of higher education, the LSU chapter of the national service fraternity, Phi Kappa Phi, presents awards to three untenured LSU faculty members annually. This year Mohamed Noor  was chosen Outstanding Non-Tenured Faculty member in the Physical and Natural Sciences.  Phi Kappa Phi presented plaques and sizable checks to Noor, as well as non-tenured faculty in two other categories, social sciences and humanities and creative and performing arts.
News from the News
See the LSU news site for publicity on research that reveals "junk" DNA may function in DNA repair.
Has a forthcoming novel been named for the Life Sciences Building?  The early buzz on a novel acquired recently by Little, Brown, and Company has a title that makes one wonder about the connection . 
From Publishers' Marketplace (1 May, 2002)  Fiction:   Journalist Elise Blackwell's first novel LIFE SCIENCE, a "haunting and spare" tale of hunger, love, and survival showing how extreme conditions bring out the greatest human strengths and weaknesses, inspired by actual events at Leningrad's Institute for Plant Science during World War II, when scientists made a pact to protect their precious collection of rare seeds despite starvation that was killing thousands daily, to Michael Pietsch at Little, Brown, who will edit along with Asya Muchnick, for publication in 2003, by John Ware. 

Another record year with 132 contributors to the 16th Annual  LSU Ornithology Birdathon.  See the site for all the details
Alumni News

Links to alumni

Congratulations.  Graduate Awards for 2002 (read more about the winners on their linked web sites)   The graduate student awards ceremony was held in the Life Sciences Annex Auditorium on Friday, 3 May, at 1:30 PM.  A nice spread of refreshments were served in the annex lobby to make the ceremony truly festive.  For the first time the complete ceremony is on line <http://www.biology.lsu.edu/grads/Graduate_Awards_2002_files/frame.htm> (view with Internet Explorer)
A hearty congratulations to the winners of the spring round of Sigma Xi grants-in-aid of research from the national organization.  LSU BioSci earned 4 of the 293 grants in all disciplines.   Competition was tough this round: 1117 proposals were submitted, and people applied from all 50 states as well as 24 foreign countries.  Below are the LSU-Biological Sciences winners, in alphabetical order:
Congratulations to Roland Roberts, who was awarded the Charles E. Harrington graduate student award for outstanding contributions and performance at Louisiana State University in late April.
Congratulations to two LSU graduate students have been selected for courses sponsored by the Organization for Tropical Research.  Acceptance into the courses is highly competitive, and the students are funded in part by OTS.
From the OTS website: The Organization for Tropical Studies is a non-profit consortium of more than 50 universities and research institutions in the United States and Latin America dedicated to providing leadership in education, research, and the wise use of natural resources in the tropics. Graduate and undergraduate students may join scientists from 25 countries to attend OTS courses (more than 200 offered since 1963) at one of three field sites in Costa Rica:
Three Top Student Honors in the College of Basic Sciences went to Biologists
Outstanding Senior —G. Bryan Fillette (Zoology).
Outstanding Junior —Christina Jia Sheng Chen (Biochemistry).
Outstanding Sophomore —Arsham Sheybani (Biological Sciences).

Honors College
Outstanding junior —Christina Jia Sheng Chen

R. Greg Hussey College Achievement Award for  leadership, service, and scholarly activities
Brian Harrell (Zoology) won one of the two awards named in honor of Dean Emeritus Greg Hussey who retired in 2000 after serving as a faculty member for 38 years and as Assistant Dean for 29 years.

Biological Sciences Departmental Awards
Each of these student's accomplishments include a long record of excellent academic performance, participation in laboratory or classroom teaching and research, and community and University service and leadership.
Biological Sciences Undergraduate Research AwardLisa Ann Bertucci
Robert Amborski Award for the Outstanding Senior in Microbiology—Erin Marie Weeden
M.D. Socolofsky Scholarship for Excellence in Microbiology—Chris Nicole Davis
Charles S. McCleskey Memorial Endowed Scholarship for Excellence in Microbiology (3 winners)—Jennifer Eileen McCain, Jessica Reneé Gautreaux, and Joseph Chris Bruno, Jr.
Outstanding Senior in Biochemistry Jennifer Eileen McCain (see blue box below of honors students)
Outstanding Senior in Zoology Sara Kathryn Bordelon

Uchenna Nweze, a senior microbiology major in our department, has been selected to participate in The University of Wisconsin-Madison Molecular and Environmental Toxicology Summer Research Program for undergraduates. The program provides a monthly stipend and summer housing costs.

Pamela Weisenhorn, a senior biology major, has accepted an NSF-funded summer REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) position at the Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York.  Weisenhorn will conduct research on Hudson River wetland ecosystems under the supervision of Stuart Findlay.  The REU at the Institute for Ecosystem Studies is a particularly competitive program with applicants from all over the country.  The award covers lodging and has a $3000 summer stipend. This is Weisenhorn's second summer REU appointment. Last summer she participated in an REU project at the Savannah River Ecology Lab.  During the year Weisenhorn did research with Loretta Battaglia and currently she is completing a manuscript from that work that should be submitted before she leaves for Millbrook.
Four students in the College of Basic Sciences students  will earn upper division honors at May 2002 commencement are all from the Department of Biological Sciences:
David Story (Biochemistry) Thesis advisor: Jackie Stephens.  David J. Story  worked with Jackie Stephens on  signaling proteins in type II diabetes.  He will start in the MD/ PhD degree program at LSU New  Orleans in Fall 2002.
Jennifer McCain (Biochemistry) Thesis advisor: Pat Dimario.  McCain's honor's thesis described the transformation of the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, to express the nucleolar protein, Nopp140, as a green fluorescent protein tagged fusion.    McCain will graduate from LSU with majors in Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Microbiology. She recently was accepted to LSU's Paul M. Hebert Law Center.
Amy Noles (Microbiology) Thesis advisor: Sue Bartlett.  Noles modified a promoter for expression of a chloramphenicol cassette in Deinococcus radiodurans.  She also prepared vectors for homologous recombination into the beta and gamma carbonic anhydrase genes in D. radiodurans.  In addition, she made expression vectors for both of the CA genes. 
Ebony Spikes (Biochemistry) Thesis advisor: Meredith Blackwell. Spikes cultured a large number of yeasts isolated from the gut of mushroom-feeding beetles.  The results of the study eventually will help to determine the relationship between the presumed endosymbiotic yeasts and their beetle hosts. 

Sites of interest to undergraduates
Meetings and Travel
Pamela Weisenhorn* work presented a paper at the recent meeting of the Association of Southeastern Biologists held in Boone, North Carolina April 10-13: Weisenhorn, P. B., L.L. Battaglia, and B.S. Collins.  Resource dynamics and Quercus michauxii recruitment in aging canopy gaps.
*Undergraduate student
Microbiologists snow down on Salt Lake City
Microbiologists from the LSU Department of Biological Sciences attended the 102nd General Meeting of the American Society of Microbiology in Salt Lake City, Utah (May 19th-23rd). Fred Rainey attended the Council of ASM on which he presents Division R (Systematics and Evolutionary Microbiology).  The American Society of Microbiologists is the largest biological society with a membership of over 43,000.  The microbiologists from Biological Sciences LSU presented six posters in various poster sessions at the meeting:
  • Diaz, M.A. , D.P. Bourgeois, and R.J. Siebling. Prevalence of integrons and gene cassettes in environmental isolates from Louisiana.
  • Rash, B.A., and F.A. Rainey. Detection of potentially ubiquitous taxa using culture-independent techniques.  Special congratulations to Brian Rash from the Rainey Lab, who was awarded an ASM Student Travel Award for this poster presentation.
  • Srinivasan,V.R. ,  J. Sansalone, and Y.H. Young.  A fast-rate anaerobic reactor ? Studies on a continuous process for the biodegradation of municipal waste sludge.
  • Henk, M.C. , R.E. Bridges, J. Enticknap, M.C. Clements, F.A. Rainey. Collection of air-water biofilms for correlative microscopy and molecular biology characterization.
  • Grau, B.L. , and R.J. Siebling. Evidence for a super-integron in Vibrio vulnificus.
  • Diaz, M.A. , D.P. Bourgeois, and R.J. Siebling. Integrons and gene cassettes in environmental isolates of Stenotrophomonas maltophilia.
  • Rainey, F.A. , N. Ward, M.S. daCosta. Using the Genome Sequence of Deinococcus radiodurans to mine gene sequences from related taxa for phylogenetic analyses at various taxonomic levels. 
...and a final note on the ASM meeting: Ron Siebeling, along with arch rebel V.R. Srinivasan and the customary vanful of students, has safely returned from the 33rd CONSECUTIVE Siebeling-mobile drive to the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology. Siebeling provided transportation for approximately 200 students and others, who presented at least 100 papers and posters over the 33 years! 
An afternoon field trip was made to the Red Butte Garden, the Botanical Garden and Arboretum of the University of Utah. During the visit snow fell, which for some Louisiana natives was a new and exciting experience. Photographs, Frederick Rainey.

Write On Biologist
Congratulations on new research grants
NSF Predoctoral Fellowships:
Last month we reported that  LSU undergraduates (Johnna Roose, former LSU undergraduate who did research with Terry Bricker and current PhD student at  Washington University )and Jessica Koederitz (current undergraduate student working with Van Remsen) were awarded an NSF Predoctoral Fellowship. We discovered that a third student was awarded an NSF Predoctoral Fellowship. Ashley Blouin, former undergraduate researcher with Tom Moore and, later, Evanna Gleason, also received the prestigeous award that comes just before or at the beginning of a graduate career.  Blouin attends UCLA.

On Saturday 27 April after Friday's successful herbarium grand opening symposium , a group of biologists went out into the field to the northeast of Baton Rouge.  Shown in the photograph (left to right) are Kurt Neubig, Peter Stevens (University of Missouri, St. Louis, and Missouri Botanical Garden), Tom Wendt (University of Texas), Meredith Blackwell, Vickie Funk (Smithsonian Institution), Kyle Harms, Diane Ferguson, Vesna Karaman, Wes Colgan (Louisiana Tech), Milan Vavrek  (Louisiana Tech), Heddy Cibula (Picayune, Mississippi),  Niholas Simpson (graduate student. Louisiana Tech), Bill Cibula (Picayune, Mississippi), and Lowell Urbatsch, who organized everything so beautifully. Not shown is the photographer, LSU undergraduate, Christine Tran.
Sarracenia psittacina (Parrot Pitcher Plant) photographed at Talisheek Longleaf/Slash Pine Restoration Preserve, by Lowell Urbatsch
When we were getting ready for the herbarium opening, we looked for a photograph of Charles Schexnayder, first chair of the Department of Botany, which came in a bit late pictures all four chairs of that defunct department. It is included here as a nostalgic reminder of the 25th anniversary of the department. Pictured (left to right) David Longstreth, Russ Chapman, Thomas Moore, and Schexnayder.
Are you interested in news of other biologists at LSU?  Try the Museum of Natural Sciences, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, School of Veterinary Medicine, School of the Coast and Environment, College of Agriculture, and LUMCON.
29 May 2002

Thanks to Vermar Hargrove and David Foltz for the excellent proof-reading job.
Tom Moore and David Longstreth checked out the format.
Do not send any more news items to Meredith Blackwell
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