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


Dr. Kat Milligan-Mhyre featured in Indigenous at UConn Video

December 2, 2020

MCB Assistant Professor, Kat Milligan-Myhre was featured in a recent video, Indigenous at UConn, created by UConn Native American Cultural Programs. In the video,  Milligan-Mhyre speaks about both her culture and her science.

“Honk if you Love Squid” MCB’s Sarah McAnulty and her Squidmobile Get Noticed

November 30, 2020

Assistant Research Professor, Sarah McAnulty, was recently featured in an article, "When you text the Squidmobile, this Fishtown scientist texts back squid words of wisdom" in the Philadelphia Inquirer. When squid biologist Sarah McAnulty decided to cover her Toyota RAV4 with paintings of squid and write the words “WANT A SQUID FACT? Text 9-RUNG-SQUID” on the back, she was ready for things to get weird. And she was not disappointed. Read full article


Alder Research Group Receives Multiple Grant Awards

October 28, 2020

The Alder Lab, Nathan Alder PI, was recently awarded three substantial grants. The first, a grant from the National Institute on Aging, (R01AG065879), "First-in-class Peptide Therapeutics for Mitochondrial Disorders: Molecular Mechanism of Action and Optimization of Design." This five-year R01 for $2.5M is focused on investigating the molecular basis by which mitochondria-targeted peptide compounds interact with membranes and their downstream effects on membrane biophysical properties, protein complex structure and function, and mitochondrial physiology. This is a highly multidisciplinary project that includes collaborators within MCB and from The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and Alexandria LaunchLabs. View Abstract   
Alder's research was featured in UConn Today.

The Barth Syndrome Foundation awarded the group a $50K grant to develop peptide-based therapeutics specifically for the treatment of Barth Syndrome (BTHS), "Development of Mitochondria-Targeted Peptide Compounds as Barth Syndrome Therapeutics." BTHS is an X-linked genetic disease resulting from defects in the transacylase enzyme tafazzin, involved in biosynthetic remodeling of the mitochondrial phospholipid cardiolipin. Using a host of biophysical approaches with model membrane systems and disease models, this work will explore a library of compound variants optimized as therapeutics for treating dysfunctional cardiolipin biogenesis. Learn more about how this grant will be used.

The group also received a grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences Grant (R01GM136975), "Mitochondrial Membrane Compartmentalization". This is a multi-PI grant, with collaborator Dr. Steven Claypool (JHU School of Medicine), for $774K over two years. The objective of this work is to elucidate spatial and temporal distribution of lipids and proteins within the subcompartments of the morphologically complex mitochondrion. This will identify how the organelle establishes its ultrastructure as well as differences in spatiotemporal macromolecular distribution relevant to human disease and cellular stressors. This work utilizes novel membrane-active copolymers that extract membrane nanoparticles amenable for protein and lipid analysis. View Abstract

To learn more about the Alder Lab and their research, visit their lab website.

MCB Successfully Finds New Classroom Solutions to Keep Students Safe During the Pandemic.

October 22, 2020

Professors, graduate assistants and support staff have made significant adjustments to courses, preparing multiple lesson plans to meet the needs of in-person and distance learners.

MCB 2610
Molecular and cell biology graduate student Ashley Reed leads a virtual session of MCB 2610: Fundamentals of Microbiology in the Torrey Life Sciences Building on October 6, 2020. (Bri Diaz/UConn Photo)

Andong Li, a graduate student the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, leads an online lab section of MCB 2000 on October 7, 2020. (Bri Diaz/UConn Photo)

Professors, graduate assistants and support staff have made significant adjustments to courses, preparing multiple lesson plans to meet the needs of in-person and distance learners.
Molecular and cell biology graduate student Joshua Calabrese leads a lab section of MCB 3010: Biochemistry in the Torrey Life Sciences Building on October 6, 2020. (Bri Diaz/UConn Photo)

Story in UConn Today

David Goldhamer awarded an NIH R01 grant for $2.2M to study Regulation of Satellite Cell Development, Programming and Differentiation by Myogenic Factors

October 9, 2020

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases has awarded David Goldhamer, Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology a $2.2 million, 5-year award to study Satellite cells. Satellite cells are responsible for the marked regenerative capacity of skeletal muscle. Although these stem cells were discovered more than 50 years ago, the molecular mechanisms that program satellite cells for muscle differentiation are incompletely understood. Using unique mouse lines and strategies, the proposed studies will determine the functions of two key myogenic regulatory proteins (MyoD and Myf5) in satellite cell development, myogenic programming and differentiation.

View complete abstract

Spencer Nyholm Receives Award as Part of the Symbiosis in Aquatic Systems Initiative

Spencer Nyholm is part of a team that received a $550,000 award from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to develop new tools to study symbiotic relationships in the Hawaiian bobtail squid.

The award is part of the Symbiosis in Aquatic Systems Initiative and is investing $19 million over the next three years to support 42 teams of scientists to advance model systems in aquatic symbiosis. Marcy Balunas from UConn Pharmaceutical Sciences is also a Co-PI on the grant.

Learn more about the Symbiosis in Aquatic Systems Initiative

Two MCB Researchers Receive UConn Funding for Covid 19 Related Research

October 2, 2020

James Cole and Rachel O'Neill among five UConn researchers awarded internal funding to support researchers who are using their expertise to find new solutions to address the Covid-10 pandemic The program will award up to $50,000 to recipients.

Dr. James Cole received $43,439, Targeting the Endoribonuclease of Coronaviruses, Co-PIs: Mark Peczuh, Chemistry

Dr. Rachel O'Neill was awarded $50,000, Rapid and Ultrasensitive SARS-CoV-2 Detection in Wastewater by Smartphone
Co-PIs: Maroun Sfeir, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

See full article in UConn Today

Dr. Benson Retires after 40 Years at UConn

August 31, 2020

Dr. Benson

David R. Benson, Ph.D., Professor of Microbiology, retired on June 1 after more than 40 years at UConn. Dr. Benson’s distinguished career includes service as Head of the Molecular and Cell Biology Department from 2007-2012. During that time, he oversaw the expansion of the department personnel, doubled undergraduate course enrollment, built administrative protocols and brought national visibility to MCB, and increased graduate student recruitment. Dr. Benson’s guidance encouraged department members to participate in public and community outreach thereby highlighting awareness of the department.

Friend and colleague, Dr. Peter Gogarten describes Benson as “an encouraging mentor, advisor and co-advisor, an effective cheerleader for students, colleagues, and the department.” As colleagues mutually interested in the use of anciently duplicated genes in unraveling the early history of life, Gogarten says, “Our collaborations on the comparative genomics of Frankia strains, transposable elements, and the secretome of Frankia grown under different conditions launched several students onto successful scientific careers.”

Dr. Benson received his doctoral degree from Rutgers University in Microbiology and Biochemistry and did postdoctoral work at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in biochemistry before coming to UConn in 1980. Benson's research and teaching expertise are in the Microbial genomics, microbial biogeography and ecology, physiology and molecular biology of bacteria, symbiosis, psychrophile evolution, food microbiology, bio-security He is particularly interested in genomic and biochemical characteristics that align with the distribution of microorganisms in environments.

Dr. Benson served as a Jefferson Science Fellow to the U.S. Department of State from 2012-2017. As a Jefferson Fellow, he served as a Senior Science Advisor to the Biological Policy Staff in the Bureau of International Security and Non-proliferation. In addition, he is a Fellow of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the American Academy of Microbiology and was twice elected as the Chair and Councilor of the General Microbiology Division of the American Society for Microbiology and has served on the Editorial Board of the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology. He has been elected to the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences and served as visiting professor at the University of Waikato, New Zealand.

Dr. Michael Lynes, professor and current head of the Molecular and Cell Biology Department said, “I celebrate David’s career – for his achievements and the investments he made in other faculty and their success, his contributions to the scientific community in MCB, his teaching of content critical to our students, and for his role as a thoughtful and cheerful colleague.” Dr. Benson has been appointed by the UConn Board of Trustees as Professor Emeritus, Molecular and Cell Biology.