Spring 2015 Newsletter | Biology | Marquette University




Josh Garlich wrote a feature article for Marquette’s Discover research magazine. Josh’s article discussed different biological rhythms being studied at Marquette separately by Dr. Allison Abbott and Dr. Jennifer Evans in Neuroscience.


Zac Lunak, and KD Noel. (2015). A quinol oxidase, encoded by cyoABCD, is utilized to adapt to lower O2 concentrations in Rhizobium etli CFN42. Microbiology 161, 203-212.)


Prince Mathai, Zitomer DH, Maki JS. (2015) Quantitative detection of syntrophic fatty acid degrading bacterial communities in methanogenic environments. Microbiology (in press)


Nagar M, Britt Wyatt, St. Maurice M, Bearne S. (2015) Inactivation of mandelate racemase by 3-hydroxypyruvate reveals a mechanistic link between enzyme superfamilies. Biochemistry (in press)



Schmitt Fellowship

Arthur J. Schmitt was an industrial executive who expressed his commitment to education, and the development of responsible leadership through Christian principles and ideals. He founded the Arthur J. Schmitt Foundation in 1941, dedicating its resources toward fashioning a better and more humane world. The Arthur J. Schmitt Leadership Fellowships are awarded to eight-ten MU students in doctoral programs each year. Josh Garlich was awarded this prestigious fellowship for the 2015-16 academic year.

Oliver Smith Achievement Award

Alexis OnderakThis annual award is sponsored by the Oliver H. Smith Memorial Fund to recognize exceptional achievement by a graduate student in the Ph.D. program of the Department of Biological Sciences. This award is based on grade point average (GPA), research activity and scholarly achievements.

After graduating with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in 2012, this year’s recipient, Alexis Onderak continued her studies at Marquette, where she currently holds a 4.0 cumulative GPA in the biological sciences graduate program. Initiating a novel research project on the role of RNA surveillance on mammalian cell health, Alexis’s research seeks to understand how impaired RNA processing and degradation affects cell proliferation and differentiation. To explore this, she has focused her studies on the RNA helicase Skiv2l2, an essential component of nuclear non-coding RNA processing and degradation, that is dysregulated in cancer and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). She has found that loss of Skiv2l2, either through transcriptional pathways or RNAi, results in increased cell differentiation and cell cycle arrest, suggesting that proper RNA processing and degradation is necessary to maintain cells in a proliferative state. Alexis received a travel fellowship to present this research at the Rustbelt RNA Meeting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and has also given a poster presentation at the RNA Society Meeting in Madison, Wisconsin. In addition to her academic pursuits, Alexis has enjoyed acting as a teaching assistant for introductory biology courses and volunteering within the Marquette community. She hopes to start a career as a forensic scientist upon graduation.

Scholl Award

Zac LunakSponsored by the Dr. Scholl Foundation, this award goes to a graduate student who has performed outstanding research as demonstrated by the submission/publication of a first author manuscript in a peer-reviewed journal.

Zac Lunak won this year’s Scholl Award for his paper, “A quinol oxidase, encoded by cyoABCD, is utilized to adapt to lower O2 concentrations in Rhizobium etliRhizobium etli, like many bacteria, aerobically respires through a variety of terminal oxidases. The quinol oxidase, encoded by cyoABCD, is of particular interest because its role in the cell is not understood in organisms that already contain cytochrome c oxidases. In his paper, Zac and his mentor, Dr. Dale Noel, demonstrated that this quinol oxidase (Cyo) was important for efficient adaptation to lower oxygen concentrations by analyzing the ability of a cyo mutant to grow in various oxygen concentrations. Furthermore, the transcription of cyo is increased when cells are subjected to lower oxygen concentrations. This work has led to a better understanding of how bacteria adapt to their surrounding environment, and specifically how they adapt to fluctuating oxygen concentrations, a key attribute to many soil bacteria.

Dr. Catherine Grotelueschen Scholarship

An annual scholarship from the Dr. Catherine Grotelueschen Scholarship Fund for Biology is awarded to provide financial assistance toward the summer research of a graduate student.

Yi Liu won this year’s Grotelueschen Scholarship for summer research. In vivo, the microtubule (MT) system is crucial for almost all different cellular events. Generally speaking, the MT system is composed of MTs and various microtubule-associated proteins (MAPs). Binding of distinct MAPs to the MTs will have significant impacts on either the assembly or disassembly rate of MTs. Therefore, the interplay of MTs and MAPs mostly decides the fates of MTs among growing, pausing and shrinking. Studies have demonstrated that cells can actively change the MT-MAPs interplay when necessary, however little is known about how external stimuli can affect the interplay. Chlamydomonas is one type of unicellular green algae that is sensitive to numerous environmental stimuli. Using a transgenic strain expressing an essential MAP (EB1) tagged with a fluorescence protein (FP)—-EB1-FP, Yi was able to monitor the dynamics of EB1-FP decorated MTs under different extracellular stimuli, and found out that physical compression, illumination, and pH shockall can drastically alter the MT-EB1 interplay. Interestingly, cells in different metabolic states show distinct sensitivity to the stimuli. Over the summer, supported by the Dr. Catherine Grotelueschen Scholarship, Yi will focus on quantification of the difference of EB1-FP dynamics under various metabolic states.

Jobling Travel Awards

Yi Lui: American Society of Cell Biology- Philadelphia, PA
“Induced changes in the dynamics of EB1-mNeonGreen and microtubules in Chlamydomonas” and “The dynamics of EB1 in Chlamydomonas flagella"

Xiayan Zhu: American Society of Cell Biology- Philadelphia, PA
“The Pleiotropic Phenotypes of a Chlamydomonas Mutant Defective in a Flagellar Nucleoside Diphosphate Kinase”(Also awarded the Graduate Travel Award from ASCB)

Michael Mashock: SETAC North America 35th Annual Conference- Vancouver, BC, Canada
“Determination of the primary component of toxicity of CuO Nanoparticles towards Saccharomyces cerevisiae”

Alexis Onderak: Rustbelt RNA Conference- Pittsburgh, PA
“The RNA helicase Skiv2l2 works to maintain pluripotency and proliferation in stem cells”


Adele Gordon, M.S. May 2015
Advisor: Dr. Allison Abbott
Thesis: Genetic and molecular analysis of dec-11 in C. elegans’ intestinal pacemaker activity

Yan Li, Ph.D. December 2014
Advisor: Dr. James Anderson
Dissertation: Impact of mtr4 structural domains on its enzymatic activities, in the regulation of nuclear RNA turnover

Adam Lietzan, Ph.D. December 2014
Advisor: Dr. Martin St. Maurice
Dissertation: Structural and biochemical studies of the carboxyltransferase domain from pyruvate carboxylase

Zac Lunak, Ph.D. May 2015
Advisor: Dr. Dale Noel
Dissertation: The Role and Regulation of Quinol Oxidase in Rhizobium etli

Fengchao Wang, M.S. May 2015
Advisor: Dr. James Anderson
Thesis: Targets Identification of TRAMP complex in mouse

Yulin Zhao, Ph.D. May 2015
Advisor: Dr. Robert Peoples
Dissertation: Molecular sites and mechanisms of action of alcohol on the NMDA receptor GluN2B subunit


Sean Conway: 56th Annual Drosophila Research Conference, Chicago Il
“drop-dead Mutant Flies Lack a Peritrophic Matrix”

Meghan Fealey: Midwest Chromatin and Epigenetics Meeting, Madison WI
“synMuv B Regulation of Chromatin States at High Temperature”

Melonie Liu: Midwest Enzyme Chemistry Conference, Northwestern University, Evanston Il
“The swinging arm of pyruvate carboxylase contributes to allosteric regulation by acetyl-coenzyme”

Prince Mathai: 115th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, New Orleans LA
“Syntrophic microbial communities drive functional resilience in anaerobic reactors in response to organic overload perturbations”

Carmela Rios: 2014 Germ Cells Meeting, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories
“Identification of microRNA functions in the control of ovulation in C. elegans”

Vera Strogolova: Midwest Yeast Meeting, Northwestern University, Evanston Il
“Role of Rcf1 and Rcf2 in regulation of respiration”

Britt Wyatt: Midwest Enzyme Chemistry Conference, Northwestern University, Evanston Il
“Novel Fixed Time Assay for Pyruvate Carboxylase”








Biological Sciences Department

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