The Department of Molecular Biosciences mourns the passing of Dr. Marjorie Newmark.  Marge came to KU as a Research Associate in 1954, working with Dr. Byron Wenger.  She became a Lecturer in 1962, was promoted to Assistant Professor in 1964, and Associate Professor in 1974. During the early part of her career, Marge carried out research on arterial metabolism and atherogenesis. Marge taught a variety of biochemistry courses, but is probably best remembered for the challenging introductory biochemistry lab course that she developed. She obtained National Science Foundation funding for equipment to set up this lab in 1971, teaching it almost every fall until her retirement in 1991. Marge was nominated for the prestigious H.O.P.E. Award, which means she was one of five faculty members to receive the most “outstanding professor” nominations from a KU senior class. She can also take credit for building the biochemistry graduate program from a mere handful of students to a thriving program of over 40 students during her tenure as Director of Graduate Studies for the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, a predecessor of the Molecular Biosciences Department.  The Newmark Award was established in 1964 after the untimely death of Marge’s husband, Phillip, who was also a biochemistry professor at KU, and more recently honored Marge’s accomplishments as well.  The award is presented annually to a graduate student in biochemistry at a named lecture presented by a world-renowned biochemist.  We send our sincere condolences to Marge’s three children, and all those who remember a remarkable teacher, colleague and friend.

We are saddened by the passing of Dr. Rolf Borchert on November 23, 2017. Rolf was a professor of plant physiological ecology in the Biology Division from 1968-2002, and for several years chaired the department of Physiology and Cell Biology, a predecessor of the Molecular Biosciences Department.  Before arriving at KU, Rolf was faculty at Universidad de los Andes in Bogota, Colombia from 1962-1968. There he became interested in understanding how plants in tropical dry forests respond to seasons of intense drought with respect to leaf bud break, flowering, and growth. At KU, he continued researching and publishing in this area, and carried out extensive field work in Costa Rica. He led undergraduate KU Study Abroad programs in Bonn, Germany, and San Jose, Costa Rica, and spent sabbaticals in Massachusetts and Darmstadt (Germany).  He also spent a sabbatical at the Harvard Forest, where he received a Bullard Fellowship.  Rolf collaborated with many colleagues from Latin America, Asia, and Germany while analyzing large data sets to better understand phenological patterns in response to environmental cues. In one of his most significant contributions, Rolf collaborated with colleagues to show that tropical trees can use small changes in sunset or sunrise timing to produce synchronous flowering across large areas, and this work was published in the journal Nature in 2005.  Rolf was married to Laura Borchert of Lawrence, KS and raised three daughters and enjoyed the company of his six grandchildren. Our deepest sympathies go out to Dr. Borchert’s family and all those whose lives he touched.  He will be greatly missed.


December 2017 News   

Berl Oakley (Irving S. Johnson distinguished professor) and collaborator Richard Todd at K-State have been notified that they were awarded a KCALSI (Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute) Nexus of Human and Animal Health Research Grant. The goal of this project is to determine the role of nitrogen sources and primary metabolism regulators in the regulation of important bioactive compounds called secondary metabolites, using the fungus Aspergillus nidulans as a model system. 


Stuart Macdonald (associate professor) has been invited to serve as an Associate Editor for the journal Genes, Genomes, Genetics, a journal specializing in publishing foundational research in all areas of genetics.



Virangika Wimalasena (undergraduate, Slusky Lab) received a Biophysical Society Travel Award to go to the 2018 National Biophysical Society Meeting in San Francisco, California on February 17-21.



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December 2017 Presentations

Brian Ackley (associate professor) gave an invited talk entitled, “Keep CALM and mind the gap: calcium-dependent mechanisms regulate synapse development” for the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Missouri-Kansas City on November 16.

Audrey Lamb (professor) gave an invited seminar entitled, “Biosynthesis of Opine Metallophores from Bacterial Pathogens” for the Foster Colloquium Series at the University of Buffalo Department of Chemistry on November 17.

Liang Xu (professor) gave an invited talk entitled “Drug the undruggable: from nature to precision cancer medicine” at the Department of Chemistry, Missouri University of Science and Technology, Rolla, Missouri on October 16.

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December 2017 Publications

Hill T and Unckless RL. The dynamic evolution of the Drosophila innubila Nudivirus” in Infection, Genetics and Evolution. ScienceDirect 2017 S1567134817303933

Bardai FH, Wang L, Mutreja Y, Yenjerla M, Gamblin TC, Feany MB. A conserved cytoskeletal signaling cascade mediates neurotoxicity of FTDP-17 tau mutations in vivo. Journal of Neuroscience, 14 November 2017, 1550-17.

Mutreja Y and Gamblin TC. Optimization of in vitro conditions to study the arachidonic acid induction of 4R isoforms of the microtubule-associated protein tau. Methods in Cell Biology 141:65-88.

McFarlane JS, Lamb ALBiosynthesis of an Opine Metallophore by Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Biochemistry 56(45): 5967-5971.

Yu J, Lan L, Lewin SJ, Rogers SA, Roy A, Wu X, Gao P, Karanicolas J, Aube J, Sun B, and Xu L. Identification of novel small molecule Beclin 1 mimetics activating autophagy. Oncotarget 2017; 8(31):51355. PMC5584254.

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Molecular Biosciences

We are an interdisciplinary group of faculty who perform cutting edge research in a wide range of areas including biochemistry, biophysics, structural biology, bioinformatics, cancer biology, genetics, genomics, immunology, microbiology, virology, neurobiology, molecular, cellular and developmental biology.  We work closely with postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and undergraduates to investigate fundamental biological problems on all levels from molecules to cells to organisms.  The Department of Molecular Biosciences, located on the Lawrence campus of the University of Kansas system, is an excellent environment for research and education.

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