Department News

The biology department’s research is regularly featured in journals, publications, and news outlets. In addition, our faculty consistently garner awards and recognitions for their work. See our news archive for past stories.

Visit the University of Rochester Newscenter for more biology department news.

Welte and Portman elected as 2023 fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

April 19, 2024

Formed in 1848, AAAS is the world’s largest multidisciplinary scientific society and the publisher of leading research through its Science family of journals. Designation as an AAAS fellow is a distinguished lifetime honor within the scientific community. The latest class comprises 502 scientists, engineers, and innovators across 24 AAAS disciplinary sections.

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Kejia Zhang awarded a University of Rochester Agnes M. Messersmith and George Messersmith Dissertation Fellowship for 2024-2025

April 15, 2024

Kejia Zhang (PhD student, Fu Lab) has been awarded a University of Rochester Agnes M. Messersmith and George Messersmith Dissertation Fellowship for 2024-2025! This fellowship was first endowed by the Messersmith family in 1958 to support graduate students across disciplines in the sciences.It is one of the University’s most competitive dissertation fellowships and is given to students who display exceptional ability and promise. The award will offer stipend support for Kejia’s dissertation work on “Elucidating the role of tRNA Methyltransferase 1 in tRNA Integrity, Translation and Neurodevelopment”.

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Doug Portman finds that male roundworms are picky when choosing a mate

March 15, 2024

“We have been aware of many of the mating cues this species uses, but this is the first time we have been able to look at them together to learn more about what they tell a male about a potential mate,” Doug Portman, PhD, professor of Biomedical Genetics said. “Assessing a mate’s characteristics seems to be something that only the male does. Understanding sex differences in C. elegans gives us important insight into how genes influence the function of neurons and circuits to guide innate behaviors—like choosing a mate.”

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Dragony Fu explains the future of mRNA

October 3, 2023

“If we are currently witnessing mRNA vaccine 1.0 for COVID-19, then 2.0 will address two further categories of disease,” says Dragony Fu, an associate professor of biology. “One is pathogens, like SARS, but you can apply this technology to other foreign invaders such as HIV. Already before COVID, companies were in development making mRNA vaccines against HIV. The other category is autoimmune diseases,” he says. “That is intriguing because it’s verging beyond the very strict definition of a vaccine.”

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Department of Biology members win awards at Genetics Day 2023

May 11, 2023

One of the most popular activities during Genetics Day is the poster session. Postdocs, graduate students, and undergraduates are invited to enter their poster, and each is evaluated by a panel of judges.  This year, judges gave out six poster prizes, four in the grad student category, one in the postdoc category, and one in the undergraduate category.

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Jenna Lentini and Ethan Walker win 2023 JBC Herbert Tabor Early Career Investigator Awards

March 2, 2023

Former graduate students Jenna Lentini and Ethan Walker have been given the 2023 JBC Herbert Tabor Early Career Investigator Awards. Named for the late editor-in-chief of the JBC, these awards recognize early-career scientists for their standout first-author papers published in the past year.  Winners will be giving oral presentations at this year’s annual ASBMB meeting, Discover BMB 2023, in Seattle from March 25 to 28, 2023.

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iGem team develops award-winning devices to ‘save syrup’

November 28, 2022

Undergraduate students on Rochester’s International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) team developed methods to detect and repurpose defective maple sap and syrup—creating new tools, including several novel biosensors and a glucometer, to help reduce waste in the maple syrup industry. “Team Saptasense” entered their research in the iGEM competition, competing against 356 other teams from six continents, where it was nominated for best hardware, best composite part, and best measurement awards and won a gold medal—making the team the second-most-awarded iGEM team in North America.

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Floria Uy shows undergrads what paper wasps can tell us about evolution, aging, and group living

September 23, 2022

Wasps are social insects that work together to benefit their hive. When a parasitic insect called Xenos peckii infects certain species of paper wasps, however, something incredible happens: the parasite manipulates the wasp’s brain so the wasp loses its social instincts and abandons its colony. The parasite also manipulates the wasp’s genes to increase the wasp’s lifespan.

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Lynn Sidor honored with Edward Peck Curtis Award

April 19, 2022

Eleven University students have been selected as recipients of the Edward Peck Curtis Award for Excellence in Teaching by a Graduate Student. This award was established by former life trustee Edward Peck Curtis in 1984 and recognizes graduate students who excel in advancing the teaching mission of the University by providing highly skilled and innovative instruction to Rochester’s undergraduates. This year’s recipients are Shoeib Ahmed Chowdhury (mechanical engineering), Zach Barber (philosophy), Michael Chavrimootoo (computer science), Dillion Dzikowicz (nursing), Andrew Hahn (electrical engineering), Marianne Kupin-Lisbin (history), Ying Lin (brain and cognitive sciences), Kevin Ling (biomedical engineering), Derek Myler (music theory), Lynn Sidor (biology), and Neal Shah (neuroscience).

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Amanda Larracuente appointed to the Genetics Society of America (GSA) Board of Directors

January 28, 2022

As a Director, Larracuente will advocate for the support and accessibility of genetic tools and resources, contribute to GSA initiatives that engage students and foster collaboration between educators across our community, and support the expansion of existing GSA efforts to broaden the participation of underrepresented groups in the society and contribute to the professional development of trainees.

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iGem students’ award-winning device instantly detects sepsis via sweat

December 2, 2021

“This year’s iGEM team tackled a problem that has a huge impact on society,” says Anne S. Meyer, an associate professor of biology, and one of the advisors for Rochester’s iGEM team. “The students realized that a patient’s sweat contains specific biomarkers that can report on whether or not the patient has sepsis. So, monitoring the levels of these biomarkers in patient sweat would be an easy and noninvasive way to diagnose sepsis in real time to get instant information.”

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Meyer Lab develops novel 3D printing technique to engineer biofilms

November 5, 2021

Anne S. Meyer, an associate professor of biology at the University of Rochester, and her collaborators at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, recently developed a 3D printing technique to engineer and study biofilms—three-dimensional communities of microorganisms, such as bacteria, that adhere to surfaces. The research provides important information for creating synthetic materials and in developing drugs to fight the negative effects of biofilms.

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Bob Minckley explains the San Bernardino Valley is home to 500 bee species - a record

September 23, 2021

In a recent paper published in the Journal of Hymenoptera Research, Bob Minckley, a professor of instruction in the Department of Biology, and Bill Radke, manager of the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge, found that 497 species of bees live within just over six square miles of the San Bernardino Valley, a modest area for such a study—10 times smaller than Washington, DC. “The density of bees there is astronomical—far and away higher than anywhere else in the world that’s been carefully studied,” says Minckley.

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