Department of Biological Sciences
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Department News for 2014

October 24
Sara Shields-Menard Receives EPA Fellowship Grant
Sara Shields-Menard, Biological Sciences Ph.D. student, is among 105 students nationwide to receive a fellowship grant from the Environmental Protection Agency as a recipient of the Science to Achieve Results program.

EPA's $8.6 million contribution will be distributed to all 105 students to conduct research on topics including climate change, water quality, public health, chemical safety and sustainability.

EPA officials say this years fellowships will assist with research to mitigate the impact on climate charge on plant communities.

The work could transform the way wetlands are restored and improve understanding of where and why harmful algal blooms occur.

Shields-Menard will receive a maximum of $42,000 a year for the next two years for her research.

CONGRATULATIONS, SARA!


October 20
Butterfly House Roadshow “Trial Run” Great Success with Local 4th & 5th Graders
The Starkville School District Science Club made up of forty-five 4th & 5th graders attended the first presentation of the Butterfly Roadshow held at Noxubee Refuge on October 14. The students learned about Blackbelt prairies, green roofs and butterfly pollinators from Drs. Brian Counterman (Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences) and Tim Schauwecker (Associate Professor, Landscape Architecture). Follow the link below for more information. Another Butterfly Roadshow is planned for the Spring of 2015.

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October 14
Biological Sciences Major Named First Alternate in Miss MSU Pageant
Junior Biological Sciences major, Meredith R. Thomas, was named First Alternate at the annual Miss MSU pageant held Friday, October 10, on campus. Congratulations, Meredith!

Interestingly, 4 of the 9 Miss MSU hopefuls were Biological Sciences majors.

September 24
Dr. Heather Jordan Receives NIJ Grant in Excess of $800,000
Dr. Heather Jordan, Assistant Professor in Biological Sciences since August of this year, has received a National Institute of Justice award in the amount of $843,376. Her 3-year project, Utilization of Microbial Structure and Function in Investigations of Criminal Justice, begins January 2015.

Studies funded by the grant will describe how bacteria residing in a living host react and translocate after death of the host. Identifying specific microbial taxa or metabolic signatures during host decomposition stages have potential application for use in quantifiable, precise measurements of post-mortem interval in death investigations.

Dr. Jordan has made a great start at MSU and we are so glad that she is a member of the Biological Sciences Department!

September 3
Biological Sciences Ph.D. Student Selected for Prestigious D.C. Program
Carter Holland, Ph.D. student conducting research under the direction of Dr. James Stewart, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, has been selected for the 2014 Student/Postdoc Hill Day in Washington, D.C.

Please follow the link below for the full story.

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August 29
Three Generations at MSU
Margarita Baquero, Biological Sciences Ph.D. student, is the third member of her family to come to Mississippi State from Ecuador to study and teach. Ms. Baquero conducts her Ph.D. research under Dr. Brian Counterman, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences.

See related article on page 22 in benefacta. Link below.
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August 28
2013 Outstanding Graduate Student Mentor Award
Dr. Gary Ervin, Professor of Biological Sciences, recently received the 2013 Outstanding Graduate Student Mentor Award. The award, sponsored by the MSU Alumni Association and Office of the Graduate School, is made to a member of the MSU faculty based on well-documented examples of the highest dedication to graduate students while serving as an outstanding mentor.

A mentor can be a major advisor or a member of a graduate committee, but being an outstanding mentor is much more than simply advising. A mentor provides wisdom, technical knowledge, assistance, support, encouragement, empathy and respect throughout, and most probably beyond, your graduate career. A graduate student reaps exceptional benefits from the mentor’s support, skills, wisdom and coaching. Mentoring also brings to a graduate student an understanding how his/her distinctive skills and ambitions fit into the opportunities offered by a graduate education. The mentor emphasizes the importance of scholarship, and university life and offers guidance in career choices.

In depth story on page 16 of benefacta (MSU Graduate School magazine). Link follows.

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August 28
Student Researcher, Pieter Both, Places 2nd in Undergraduate Research Symposium
Andries Pieter Both placed Second in the Biological Sciences and Engineering division at this summer’s Undergraduate Research Symposium hosted by the Shackouls Honors College and the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates. Pieter, whose poster was entitled “Characterizing mitochondrial morphology of S. cerevisiae mutants using mtGFP” carried out his research in the lab of Dr. Donna M. Gordon, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences.

June 16
Biological Sciences Student Presents Best Image at Microscopy Conference
Gabriel (Gabe) Posadas, Biological Sciences M.S. student in Microbiology, recently attended the 50th Annual Southeastern Microscopy Society Meeting in Columbia, South Carolina. The image he entered into a student competition at the meeting was awarded "Best Image Generated by an Electron Microscope." His image, an enteric bacterium, Fusobacterium necrophorum, interacting with a yeast probiotic, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, was taken using a scanning electron microscope here at the MSU Institute for Imaging & Analytical Technologies.

Gabe conducts research under the direction of Dr. Janet Donaldson, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences.

June 13
Evolutionary Protistology Laboratory Discovers Previouly Unknown Organism
Dr. Matthew Brown, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, teaches students in his research lab techniques for isolating and describing morphological and molecular characteristics of microscopic organisms. Follow the link below for the story describing the lab's discovery of a new life form found in a Harned Hall courtyard mud puddle.

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May 5
Coley and White Receive Armando De La Cruz Travel Awards
Biological Sciences students Aressa Coley (graduate student) and Sally White (undergraduate student), have been selected for the De La Cruz $250 travel expense award to present at scientific conferences this summer.

May 1
Jessica Martin Receives Arts & Sciences 2013 Undergraduate Research Award
Jessica Martin, M.S. student in Biological Sciences under the direction of Dr. Mark Welch, received the 2013 Undergraduate Student in Arts & Sciences Research Award at the MSU Annual Research Awards Banquet on Wednesday, April 30.

While performing undergraduate research, Jessica received nine awards totaling over $9000 for research and travel and was awarded 2nd place at the Shackouls Undergraduate Research Symposium in both April and July of 2012. She has been involved with many on-campus organizations including the Society of Scholars, Phi Kappa Phi, the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Beta Beta Beta and the Oktibbeha County Humane Society Student Chapters, among others.

Jessica plans to earn a Ph.D. and teach at a university or return to San Diego (where she received a fellowship to study the California condor at the San Diego Zoo last summer)to continue conservation genetics research. She hopes to one day instill a passion for conservation in undergraduate and graduate students and guide them toward a career in making a difference in science.

April 30
Tineka Burkhead and Madison Buras Selected for Graduate School Summer Research Program
Tineka Burkhead, senior Biological Sciences major, and Madison Buras, junior Biological Sciences major, are two of 10 students chosen to participate in the 2014 Office of the Graduate School Summer Research Program for Undergraduate Students. The selection process was highly competitive with the quality of their research proposals being a major factor in their selection for this honor.

As a participant in this program, each student is expected to fulfill the following requirements: work with their faculty mentor to design and conduct a research project; maintain high standards of work/research ethics and meet their mentor's expectations; complete online training in Responsible Conduct of Research; adhere to a 20-hour work week; complete the 7-week research project; present their research at a research symposium and awards luncheon on June 30, 2014; and attend one Graduate School-sponsored workshop during the 2014-15 academic year.

Tineka's faculty mentor is Dr. Vincent Klink, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences; Madison's faculty mentor is Dr. Mark Welch, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences.

CONGRATULATIONS, Tineka and Madison!

April 25
Dr. Matthew Brown Receives Henry Family Research Funds
Dr. Matthew Brown, Biological Sciences Assistant Professor, recently received a Henry Family Research Fund award of $5000 for “Examining the Evolutionary Trajectories of Amoebozoa, a major lineage of Eukaryotes.”

Dr. Brown states, "Amoebae are fascinatingly diverse, but under-studied, microbes that play significant roles in the environment as major predators of other microbes. This project will use genomic sequencing to construct a robust phylogeny of amoebae onto which we will map morphological trait, life cycle complexities, and genomic feature evolution."

April 9
Biological Sciences Students Inducted to Society of Scholars
CONGRATULATIONS to Rachel Cox (BIO), Bree Harris (BIO), Kaleb Kennedy (BIO), William Kettleman (BIO), Amy Kraft (BIO), Ashley Kraft (BIO), Kathryn Lucas (MIC), Stephanie Sorrell (MDT), and Landen Tharp (MIC). These students were inducted to the Spring 2014 Society of Scholars on April 8.

The Society of Scholars, MSU's most prestigious academic honorary society, recognizes top students each semester from all majors who have demonstrated the highest standard of academic excellence. In addition to specific fields of study, each has completed additional coursework in the arts, sciences and humanities.

April 9
2014 BURP Symposium
The Biological Undergraduate Research Program held its 7th annual Research Symposium on March 28, 2014, in Harned Hall. Twenty poster entries and presentations were judged by a panel of MSU Faculty and graduate students and the top three were selected for Downer Undergraduate Research Awards.

The students receiving awards were First Place: Austin Burkenstock (Dr. Donna Gordon's lab); Co Second Place: Perceus Mody (Dr. Justin Thornton's lab) and Sally White (Dr. Janet Donaldson's lab); Third Place: Carter Holland,(Dr. James Stewart's lab). In addition, Dr. Donna Gordon, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences, received the First Place Mentor Award.

The students each received an engraved plaque, a cash award, and Austin and Dr. Gordon each received an engraved cowbell--GO RESEARCH DAWGS!

April 3
Doctoral Student Receives Grant
Doctoral student Cory Shoemaker recently received a $48,000 grant from the Mississippi Water Resources Research Institute and the US Geological Survey for his research into wetland restoration practices in the Mississippi Delta.

Cory's planned dissertation research aims to determine how ecological function in restored Delta wetlands responds to agricultural and other human activities on the surrounding landscape.

The project is being advised by Cory's Major Professor, Dr. Gary Ervin (Professor of Biological Sciences), and their collaborator, Dr. Robbie Kroger (Assistant Professor of Wildlife, Fisheries & Aquaculture).

March 19
Dr. Donaldson Receives A&S Award
Congratulations to Dr. Janet Donaldson, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences. Dr. Donaldson is the recipient of the 2014 College of Arts & Sciences Research in the Natural & Physical Sciences and Mathematics & Statistics Award.

March 19
Mr. Holder Receives Arts & Sciences Teaching Award
Congratulations to Tom Holder, Instructor of Biological Sciences. Mr. Holder is the recipient of the
2014 College of Arts & Sciences Teaching in the Natural & Physical Sciences and Mathematics & Statistics Award.

February 3
Dr. Diana Outlaw Named A&S Researcher of the Month
Dr. Diana Outlaw, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, has been named as the College of Arts & Sciences Researcher of the Month for February 2014, jointly with Ms. Amy Moe-Hoffman, Instructor of Geosciences. Please access the following link for more information:

http://www.cas.msstate.edu/research/ - external link