Spring 2016 | Biology | Marquette University

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Alumni Feature
Awards and Recognition
Bioethics Internship
Launch Internship Program
Undergraduate Research
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Faculty Feature: James Maki

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Congratulations to our faculty who were awarded innovation grants this year!

Marquette University’s Office of Research and Innovation awarded nearly $2 million worth of 2016 Strategic Innovation Fund grants. This is the second group of fund awardees since the program launched last year. Of the 26 unique projects led by Marquette faculty, staff, and students across a variety of disciplines 3 are projects led by Biological Sciences faculty.


Schlappi Innovation Grant  

Yang Innovation Grant

  Stuart Innovation Grant

Dr. Michael Schlappi plans to establish experimental rice paddies that will serve as a model for sustainable rice cultivation businesses in the Milwaukee area.

  Dr. Pinfen Yang will lead the development and marketing of standards for measuring molecule intensity using fluorescent microscopy.  

Dr. Rosemary Stuart is piloting MU4Gold, a scholars program that seeks to brand research excellence as a cultural expectation of a Marquette undergraduate experience.



Alexis Monical EAA Scholarship


Alexis Monical has been selected to receive the Ethnic Alumni Association (EAA) Ralph H. Metcalfe, Sr., Scholarship for the 2016-2017 academic year. The intent of this scholarship is to provide gifts of up $2,500 to outstanding Marquette students of color.




  Fitts Retirement   Hristova Tenure  

Dr. Robert Fitts has retired from teaching as of May 2016. He has been promoted to Professor Emeritus, and will continue to conduct research.

  Dr. Krassimira Hristova was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure, effective this coming August.  




The award committee selects the research award winners from nominations from faculty of students who have displayed talent for research, including initiative, independence, and the ability to design and carry out experiments on their own, and from an abstract submitted by the student. The top student from the three award winners is selected for the Catherine Welsh Smith award.
Wisniewski Catherine Welsh Smith Research Award Shields Research Award Legan Research Award

Brett Wisniewski     

Catherine Welsh Smith

Award in Biological Sciences

Mentor: Dr. Anita Manogaran

Ryan Shields          

Research Award in Physiological Sciences 

Mentor: Dr. Robert Fitts

Emily Legan    

Research Award in Biochem/Molecular Biology Mentor: Dr. Anita Manogaran


Katy Jensen Academic Award

Catherine Jensen           

Biological Sciences Academic Achievement Award    

Academic Advisor: Dr. Martin St. Maurice


The Biological Sciences Academic Achievement Award recognizes the outstanding academic achievement in the Biological Sciences Department by a senior majoring in Biological Sciences, Physiological Sciences, or Biochemistry/Molecular Biology. The award committee selects the winner based on a cumulative GPA of 3.50 and above, the student’s sciences GPA, and a letter of recommendation from a faculty member.



Kentala College Scholar AwardKaitlin Kentala, a senior BIMB major working in Chris Dockendorff’s lab in Chemistry, won the Way Klingler College of Arts and Science award for Outstanding Undergraduate Scholar




Britt Wyatt (3rd year Ph.D. candidate) was recognized for her dedication to teaching as the Graduate Student Teacher of the Year at the College of Arts and Sciences Awards Ceremony.

Wyatt Graduate Teacher of the Year



This award recognizes exceptional academic achievement by a graduate student in the Ph.D. program. This award will be based on grade point average (GPA), research activity and scholarly achievements.


Yi Liu’s research examines the dynamic aspect of flagella related microtubule system in the green algae, Chlamydomonas. He began his doctoral research investigating the role of protein phosphorylation in flagella assembly by using a ciliary structural phosphoprotein, RSP3. In 2013, Yi and other Yang lab members published their work on biochemistry protocols developed specifically to study flagella. As this project was cooking, Yi started an additional project trying to find “how does microtubule end binding protein (EB1) target to cilia tip” as EB1 was not reported to ride the intraflagellar transport train. To tackle this, Yi took an in vivo imaging approach, looking at EB1-GFP (EB1 tagged with Green Fluorescent Protein) in the flagella of live cells. Surprisingly, EB1-GFP were distributed in a pattern that was not reported before by immunostaining. To improve the image quality, Yi replaced GFP with a novel and brighter fluorescent protein, Neongreen (NG), to achieve higher signal-to-noise ratio. In a collaboration with Dr. Lechtreck at U Georgia, EB1-NG was found to travel bi-directionally in flagella driven by a novel diffusion modality. In addition to the flagella project, Yi used EB1-NG as an imaging tool to overcome the autofluoresence in the green algae cell body, and for the first time observed microtubule dynamics. This discovery allowed him to look at a microtubule system that has never been examined before! Several novel findings came out immediately. Yi found that under stresses, microtubule dynamics froze and EB1 changed its behavior. Interestingly, the changes were [Na+]ex dependent. Yi’s work is a breakthrough for in vivo imaging and could significantly expand our knowledge about microtubules. Yi and his advisor, Dr. Pinfen Yang have filed a provisional patent for using RSP3-NG flagella as fluorescence standards for quantitative fluorescence microscopy. This easy-to-use fluorescence quantification method is much needed for in vivo imaging. Yi’s talents extend beyond his breakthroughs at the lab bench. He is passionate about communicating biology research to the general public. You can see the incredible videos he has made about his work using time-lapse, animation, and microscopic recording on the department’s YouTube channel, where they have been used for promotion and summer research program activities.




Sponsored 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.


Michael Mashock won this year’s Scholl Award for his paper, “Copper oxide nanoparticles inhibit the metabolic activity of Saccharomyces cerevisiae”. In his work, Michael investigated if the inhibitory effect of engineered copper oxide nanoparticles (CuO NPs) to the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae metabolic function is related to distinct physiochemical properties such as size, crystal structure, dissolution, aggregation, and agglomeration. Copper ions were observed to be released from CuO NPs when suspended in complex yeast growth media. These soluble copper ions were shown to have toxic effects on cells at high concentrations. This study contributes to the field of nanoparticle toxicity toward eukaryotic organisms, which ultimately contributes to the question of nanoparticle safety and environmental toxicity.




Yao Shi

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.

Rice is the most important staple food in the world -relied on by more than half of the global population. Cold stress (<15 degrees C) is one of the most important abiotic stresses that negatively affect overall development of rice, and leads to considerable yield loss. In the past two decades, the molecular mechanism of low temperature resistance has been extensively studied, mainly using the model plant, Arabidopsis. Yao and the Schlappi lab have identified a promising gene that may hold a key to cold-tolerance. This summer, Yao plans to use this award towards establishing the involvement of this gene function in cold response in rice cultivars. Yao will cold-stress a series of transgenic rice and Arabidopsis plants to determine if overexpression or knock-out transformed varieties will increase or decrease the overall cold resistance.




Alexis Onderak

This fellowship is awarded periodically to provide financial assistance toward the summer research of a graduate student.

RNA surveillance functions as a quality control mechanism to prevent the detrimental accumulation of aberrany RNAs. Mammalian nuclear RNA surveillance requires the helicase SKIV2L2, which targets certain RNAs to the exosome for processing or degradation. Alexis Onderak's research focuses on the role of nuclear RNA surveillance during cell proliferation. This summer, Alexis plans to test if SKIV2L2 binds histone mRNAs for their turnover, thereby aiding mitotic progression. Through a series of experiments, Alexis hopes to understand which RNAs are direct targets of SKIV2L2-mediated RNA surveillance and to shed light on how the loss of nuclear RNA surveillance leads to mitotic arrest.





Biological Sciences Department

Marquette University, Wehr Life Sciences
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Milwaukee, WI 53201-1881
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