2019 MCB Commencement Reception and Awards

May 14, 2019

The 2019 UConn College of Liberal Arts and Sciences undergraduate graduation took place at Gampel Pavilion on Sunday, May 12.

Following commencement, the Molecular and Cell Biology Department hosted the annual reception for graduating seniors in biology.

Awards were given out to students in the 4 areas of concentration. Dr. Michael Lynes, head of MCB handed out awards to Brian Aguilera and Jennifer Messina for Outstanding Senior in MCB. Kevin Lee and Tony Patelunas each received an award for Outstanding TA award.

See the photo album here


Eight MCB Undergrad Named 2022 University Scholars

December 22, 2021

The following MCB undergraduates were named 2022 University Scholars (of 17). University Scholars is a prestigious UConn undergraduate program in which students design and pursue in-depth research or a creative project and craft a learning plan that supports their interests and academic goals during their final 3 semesters.

Awardee projects demonstrate exceptional breadth and/or depth and bring together multiple fields of study, methodologies, and/or points of view. Graduation as a University Scholar recognizes a student's extraordinary engagement with self-reflective learning and research or creative endeavors.

Michelle Antony

Major: Molecular and Cell Biology and Individualized: Community Health
Project Title: Determining Growth Factor Properties Required to Promote Articular Cartilage Healing
Committee: Caroline Dealy, Craniofacial Sciences, UCHC; Rachel O’Neill, Molecular and Cell Biology; and Debarchana Ghosh, Geography.

Poorna Balakumar

Major: Molecular and Cell Biology
Project Title: Gender and Transnationalism in Kuchipudi Dance
Committee: Matthew Cohen, Dramatic Arts; Bandana Purkayastha, Sociology; Elizabeth Kline, Molecular and Cell Biology; and Lindsay Cummings, Dramatic Arts.

Ashiti Damania

Major: Molecular and Cell Biology
Project Title: Validation of RGC Subtype Markers Across Development to Understand Axon Regeneration
Committee: Feliks Trakhtenberg, Neuroscience, UCHC; Leighton Core, Molecular and Cell Biology; and Akiko Nishiyama, Physiology and Neurobiology.

Rayna Esch

Major: Molecular and Cell Biology
Project Title: Role of Perimuscular Connective Tissue Injury and Repair in FOP
Committee: David Goldhamer, Molecular and Cell Biology; John Redden, Physiology and Neurobiology; and David Knecht, Molecular and Cell Biology.

 Alexandra Goldhamer

Major: Molecular and Cell Biology and Human Rights
Project Title: Exploring the Neural Circuits of Diet-Induced Obesity
Committee: Natalie Sciolino, Physiology and Neurobiology; Amy Howell, Chemistry; Kathryn Libal, Human Rights; and David Daggett, Molecular and Cell Biology.

Paul Isaac

Major: Molecular and Cell Biology and Diagnostic Genetic Sciences
Project Title: To “B” or not to “B”: An Investigation of B and Sex Chromosomes in L. polyphemus and Their Role in the Immune Response
Committee: Rachel O’Neill, Molecular and Cell Biology; Denise Anamani, Allied Health Sciences; Jonathan Klassen, Molecular and Cell Biology; and Stacey Hanlon, Molecular and Cell Biology.

Sarah San Vicente

Major: Molecular and Cell Biology
Project Title: Defining the Role of TIGIT as an Immune Checkpoint Inhibitor in Ovarian Cancer
Committee: Andrew Wiemer, Pharmaceutical Sciences; Patricia Rossi, Molecular and Cell Biology; and Xiuling Lu, Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Joshua Yu

Major: Molecular and Cell Biology
Project Title: Nanoparticle-Mediated Inhibition of Acute Myeloid Leukemia
Committee: Xiuling Lu, Pharmaceutical Sciences; David Knecht, Molecular and Cell Biology; and Theodore Rasmussen, Pharmaceutical Sciences.

In Memoriam: Wolf-Dieter Reiter, MCB Professor Emeritus

December 21, 2021

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Professor Wolf-Dieter Reiter. Dr. Reiter was Professor Emeritus in the Department of Molecular & Cell Biology at the University of Connecticut after his retirement in 2016. Wolf-Dieter was an integral part of the Department, contributing to the teaching and research mission of the University. He obtained his PhD from the University of Munich where he worked with Wolfram Zillig on the molecular genetics of thermophilic archaea and pioneered the study of archaeal viruses.  He went on to post-doc in Professor Chris Sommerville's lab at Michigan State University. While at Michigan State, Wolf-Dieter developed an innovative biochemical screen for Arabidopsis cell wall mutants and identified thirty-eight of mutant strains. Identifying the genes and biochemical pathways impacting cell wall construction constituted the bulk of Dr. Reiter's academic work and resulted in dozens of publications and thousands of citations. He was a well-respected member of the plant genetics community, and his expertise in combining genetic screens with carbohydrate biochemistry made him a welcome participant in international collaborations exploring the biosynthesis, structure and function of the plant cell-wall.  He was a dedicated and uncompromising biochemist in the lab and the classroom. His undergraduate students reported he ran one of the most challenging courses of their undergraduate career, but that they learned more in his course in biochemistry than in any other they took at the University. He was always generous with his time and expertise for students and faculty. He attracted postdoctoral researchers from around the world to work and learn in his laboratory at UConn.  He was an enthusiastic hiker, walking the many woodland trails in Mansfield near the University.

Hanlon, May and Teschke Receive NFIP Awards

December 20, 2021

The Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships (ONSF) has recognized professors Stacey Hanlon, Eric May and Carol Teschke for their work mentoring students through the process of developing proposals and submitting applications for eligible awards. The National Fellowships Incentive Program (NFIP) works to build a stronger student and faculty culture around applying for prestigious, nationally competitive scholarships and fellowships. They will each receive $1000 in professional development funds.

David Knecht Awarded 2021 Edward C. Marth Mentorship Award

The Marth Award was established by the UConn AAUP to recognize the leadership and dedication of Edward Marth, former Executive Director of the UConn AAUP Chapter, and to encourage and reward outstanding mentoring of graduate students by UConn Graduate Faculty members. It is awarded annually to a faculty member with an extraordinary record of excellence and effectiveness in graduate student mentoring. Dr. Knecht has demonstrated such a record, and the MCB department is happy that he has been recognized for his exceptional contributions to graduate student mentoring through this award. The Marth Award winner is invited to give a short address at the PhD graduation ceremony in May.

MCB 2021 Khairallah Symposium

November 17, 2021

MCB presented the 2021 Khairallah Symposium on Tuesday, November 16.

This year’s guest speaker was Dr. Ana Maria Cuervo, Professor of Developmental and Molecular Biology and of Medicine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and co-director of the Einstein Institute for Aging Studies.

Faculty and students filled the lecture hall for the in-person event and were excited to hear Cuervo’s talk entitled, “Targeting Selective Autophagy in Aging and Age-related Diseases” Cuervo described her talk saying, “We are interested in understanding the mechanisms and consequences of the age-dependent malfunctioning of autophagy, one of the components of the proteostasis network”. She described her recent findings on the molecular regulators of a selective form of autophagy, the novel physiological regulatory functions identified for this process, the consequences of the functional decline of this type of autophagy with age and some of her lab’s current efforts to enhance its activity in vivo in the context of different age-related diseases.

Dr. Ana Maria Cuervo obtained her M.D. and Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology from the University of Valencia (Spain) and received postdoctoral training at Tufts University in Boston. In 2002, she started her laboratory at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where she is now co-director of the Einstein Institute for Aging Research.

She is a recognized leader in the field of protein degradation and the biology of aging for her work on the impact of autophagy on aging and age-related disorders, with an emphasis in neurodegeneration.

Dr. Cuervo has been the recipient of prestigious awards, including the P. Benson Award in Cell Biology, the Keith Porter, the Nathan Shock, the Vincent Cristofalo, the Bennett J. Cohen in Aging Biology, the Marshall Horwitz Prize, and the Saul Korey Prize in Translational Medicine. Dr. Cuervo has delivered prominent lectures such as the Robert R. Konh, the NIH Director’s, the Roy Walford, the Feodor Lynen, the Margaret Pittman, the SEBBM L’Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science, and the Harvey Lecture.Audience

Dr. Cuervo is an elected member of the Valencian Royal Academy of Medicine, the Spanish Royal Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences.

To learn more about Dr. Cuervo and her research, visit

Experimental: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33891876/
Review: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34563704/


The bi-annual symposium was Sponsored by the Dr. Edward A. Khairallah and Dr. Lamia H. Khairallah Fund for Scholarship. The mission of the Fund is to support scientific endeavors in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology and in the School of Pharmacy by underwriting scientific symposia and by providing fellowship support to undergraduate and graduate research fellows.

Fund for the Scholarship was established in 1997 in honor of Dr. Khairallah’s contribution to teaching and research at the University. In 2014, the Fund was renamed to honor the equally enduring scientific contributions of Dr. Lamia H. Khairallah.

For nearly two decades this Fund has, on alternate years, supported student research and scholarly colloquia at the University of Connecticut. The Khairallah Fellowships have provided summer support for undergraduate and graduate students in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology and in the School of Pharmacy, whose research projects are in the general fields of biochemistry, cell biology, and toxicology. The Khairallah Symposia continue to bring internationally recognized scholars, clinicians, and researchers to the UConn Storrs Campus to share their cutting-edge work.

Dr. Edward Khairallah earned his master’s degree at Harvard University and did his doctoral training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He then performed his postdoctoral research with a fellowship in the lab of Dr. Henry Pitot at the McArdle Cancer Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin. In 1967, he joined the faculty at the University of Connecticut. He was an internationally recognized researcher in the areas of protein biosynthesis and degradation, and in mechanisms of hepatotoxicity. He was equally admired by students and colleagues as an exemplary teacher and mentor. He authored over 80 original publications, more than 20 books and monographs and earned an impressive list of distinctions: he was an Andelot Fellow at Harvard, a Fellow of the Japanese Biochemical Society, winner of the Frank O. Blood Award from the Society of Toxicology, and a member of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Dr. Lamia Khairallah received her master’s degree at the American University of Beirut and did her doctoral training at Boston University. She held postdoctoral positions with Dr. Henry Pitot at the McArdle Cancer Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin and with Dr. Mark Tourtellotte in the Department of Pathobiology at the University of Connecticut. She held various academic research positions at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and the University of Connecticut in Storrs. The highlight of her career was her 27 years in the Electron Microscopy Lab in the Department of Physiology and Neurobiology at the University of Connecticut. Her expertise in histology, cytology, and electron microscopy was the driving force behind an impressive list of original research publications across a diversity of biological systems.

We gratefully acknowledge the ongoing generosity of the Khairallah family in their support of this Fund. We also acknowledge the many donors who have ensured the continuation of this endowment.

Donations to the Khairallah Fund may be made to:

The Dr. Edward A. and Dr. Lamia H. Khairallah Fund for Scholarship
University of Connecticut Foundation
2390 Alumni Drive, U-3206
Storrs, CT 06269

Donations to the fund may be made online

Competition for the Paul L. Drotch Award Now Open

October 28, 2021

Scholarships of $5000 or more are offered in memory of Paul L. Drotch, class of 1957.  This competition is open to UConn undergraduates in Biology including Biological Sciences, EEB, MCB, PNB and Structural Biology and Biophysics who have demonstrated both financial need and outstanding scholarship and who have completed a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 7 semesters of study. The deadline for applications is Monday, November 15, 4 pm. Application can be found here.

Giardina Elected Senior Fellow by the CSSI Executive Council

October 27, 2021

Professor Charles Giardina, University of Connecticut, has been elected a 2021 Senior Fellow by the CSSI Executive Council. Giardina is a founding member of the Cell Stress and Chaperones Board of Reviewing Editors.
He has done a record eighty reviews and is coauthor on six articles in our Journal as well.

Passing of MCB Emeritus Professor Emory H. Braswell

October 22, 2021

MCB Emeritus Professor Emory H. Braswell died September 27, 2021, leaving his wife Frima Braswell, three grown children and five grandchildren. Dr. Braswell started his career at UConn in 1962 in the Department of Chemistry. In 1967 he transferred to the Biochemistry and Biophysics Section of the Biological Sciences Group, the common ancestor of the Molecular and Cell Biology (MCB), Physiology and Neuro Biology (PNB) and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) departments.

He became director of MCBraswellB’s undergraduate biophysics degree program in 1993 and developed courses in molecular biophysics, biophysical methods, laboratory computing and instrumentation. His research focused on methodology for determining the mass, size, and shape of macromolecules, as well as establishing the mode and thermodynamics of their self-association and assembly.

From 1986 until he retired in 2002, Professor Braswell served as Head of the National Analytical Ultracentrifugation Facility at UConn, which was funded by the National Science Foundation for collaborative research with both academia and industry.

Professor Braswell was active in university affairs, and in the 1980s he was vocal in urging faculty adoption of the AAUP as a bargaining agent in sometimes difficult dealings with the UConn administration and state legislature on faculty governance and salary issues. He was an elected member of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences.

View Dr. Braswell's Obituary

Nyholm Lab Review Article Featured on Cover of Nature Reviews Microbiology

September 13, 2021

Nature Reviews Microbiology Special Symbiosis Edition Features Nyholm Lab’s Squid-vibrio symbiosis research

Nyholm lab published Nature Reviews Microbiology, " A lasting symbiosis: how the Hawaiian bobtail squid finds and keeps its bioluminescent bacterial partner" https://www.nature.com/articles/s41579-021-00567-y
and Nature Reviews Microbiology Special Symbiosis Edition featured the squid from that review for the cover!
Nat rev. Cover