Department News

Department News
Major moves and renovations are underway within the Cooke-Hochstetter complex on the North Campus as part of UB’s physical plan. After more than a year of construction, the Department of Biological Sciences began the spring semester on a newly redesigned floor. 
Starr uses computational modeling to investigate how microbes that live on the skin influence how a person’s genes are expressed, and how that in turn affects immunity. As Starr explains, human skin and the microbes that inhabit it evolved together, and the makeup of the microbiome on skin — and changes to this microbiome — can influence a person’s immune response. The focus of Starr’s current work is psoriasis, a chronic autoimmune condition that can cause symptoms such as cracked skin, which can lead to increased exposure to microbes. Down the line, this work could open opportunities for customized treatments for people with psoriasis or other diseases.
Our CRISPR lab focuses on disabling genes in baker’s yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Students know if they’ve employed CRISPR successfully because they can literally see the results: Classmates who used CRISPR to break a gene called ADE2 see yeast colonies turn a bubblegum pink within days, while those who used CRISPR to deactivate a gene called STE12 see colonies take on an uncharacteristic shape a few weeks later.
“We’re using a multidisciplinary approach to understand the evolution, structure and function of a viral gene co-opted by a mammal,” says UB evolutionary biologist Derek J. Taylor. “From an evolutionary standpoint, it’s rare that you can actually see a viral gene sequence like this that has remained intact in a mammalian host. Most of these things are eroded over time — they get chopped up and shuffled around."
“Our research identifies CD36 as a candidate for further study. Senescence is a fundamental aspect of being a cell, but there is still a lot that we don’t know about it,” says Omer Gokcumen, assistant professor of biological sciences, College of Arts and Sciences. “Senescence seems to have implications for old age and cancer, so understanding it is very important.”
"A lot of the treatments being developed for Alzheimer’s are targeting beta-amyloid, but maybe we should be targeting processes that happen earlier on, before plaques are formed.” Shermali Gunawardena
Medler's lab studies the physiology of signal transduction pathways and the regulation of these pathways in neuronal systems. We focus on peripheral sensory systems, primarily the taste system. The long term goal of the lab is to understand how signaling mechanisms are regulated within taste cells and how this regulation impacts the generation of the stimulus signal to the brain. We use molecular and physiological techniques, including patch clamp analysis and calcium imaging to investigate how signaling mechanisms function in taste cells.
Paul Gollnick is one of two recipients of the 2017-18 Excellence in Graduate Student Mentoring Award, presented by the Graduate School to recognize UB faculty for their support and development of graduate students through their mentoring activities.
The Department of Biological Sciences is pleased to announce that Jessica Poulin is a recipient of the 2017 UB Teaching Innovation Award. The award recognizes faculty members who have contributed significantly to engaging students with new methods and approaches to teaching that have enhanced student-learning outcomes.
WHAT MAKES US HUMAN? A new study is exploring the legacy of interspecies trysts, with a focus on Western Asia, where the first relations may have occurred was recently published in Genome Biology and Evolution. The research analyzes the genetic material of people living in the region today, identifying DNA sequences inherited from Neanderthals.
Lindqvist's paper, published in Proceedings B, the Royal Society’s flagship biological research journal, accepting original articles and reviews of outstanding scientific importance and broad general interest. The main criteria for acceptance are that a study is novel, and has general significance to biologists.
A paper, published by Dr. Omer Gokcumen, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, and Dr. Eaaswarkhanth Muthukrishnan, Postdoctoral Associate in Gokcumen's Lab, has been awarded the annual Gabriel W. Lasker Award for the best original scientific article published in the journal, Human Biology. The award was created to recognize Professor Lasker's more than 40 years of service as Editor in Chief and consulting editor of Human Biology. The Lasker Award will be formally presented by the AAAG during the 2017 AAPA meetings in Atlanta.