Department News

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PLEASE NOTE: Our office operations are being conducted online to the greatest extent possible. For general inquiries please email:


Spring 2020

During the 2020 State of Emergency declared by New York, our faculty responded to Erie County's urgent call for much-needed laboratory supplies to support local testing for COVID-19. Read the news article by Charlotte Hsu.
The Neolithic ushered in dramatic changes: civilisations with large populations, advancements in technology, arts and trade. But with the advent of agriculture, humans also began to experience malnutrition, starvation and epidemic diseases. The BBC explores the question "Was this humanity's biggest mistake?" in a short video program that includes an interview with Omer Gokcumen. See BBC REEL.
WGRZ-TV produced a news story on the science of climate change features Trevor Krabbenhoft and other UB faculty who are researching "specifically" what climate change means in our region. He discusses the delicate balance of Lake Erie's fresh water and how aquatic life respond to environmental change. Krabbenhoft states, "We don't realize how rare this kind of environment is globally." Using functional genomics and bioinformatics to test hypotheses related to mechanisms underlying how fish respond to their environment, we can better predict outcomes for future scenarios of environmental change. Krabbenhoft's research has important management and conservation implications both locally for the Great Lakes and more broadly for aquatic ecosystems worldwide. (Krabbenhoft's interview begins at 3:43/5:35)
"Beyond suggesting that the last mammoths were probably an unhealthy population, it’s a cautionary tale for living species threatened with extinction: If their populations stay small, they too may accumulate deleterious mutations that can contribute to their extinction.” —Vincent Lynch, PhD, assistant professor, UB Department of Biological Sciences
Shermali Gunawardena is leading a new study that explores alpha-synuclein’s basic properties, with a focus on a section of the protein known as the non-amyloidal component (NAC). The research was done on fruit fly larvae that were genetically engineered to produce both normal and mutated forms of human alpha-synuclein. The small acidic protein is associated with Parkinson’s disease. The study is published in the journal, Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience.

2019 Department News


Grand Opening.

Gerald Koudelka (left), professor and former chair of the Department of Biological Sciences, cuts the ribbon at a ceremony, December 3, 2019, celebrating renovations that were completed in the department, located in the Cooke-Hochstetter complex on the North Campus. Looking on are College of Arts and Sciences Dean Robin Schulze and Joe Helfer, senior assistant to the chair. The rehab, part of UB’s physical plan, was designed to foster research and facilitate collaboration among faculty, staff and students.  Photo: Jackie Hausler. See the related item: New Space for New Ideas.

Think of nutrition as “what” and ingestive behavior as “why.” Given that diet-induced obesity inhibits taste responses, Kathryn Medler and Marie Torregrossa, UB Department of Psychology, are working to identify how excess weight and diet each individually affect the properties of taste cells. The work has won a pilot grant, one of the first to be funded by UB’s Center for Ingestive Behavior Research (CIBR). 
James Berry and Omer Gokcumen were selected to receive awards at UB's Fall 2019 Celebration of Faculty and Staff Academic Excellence. The university-wide event was held on October 31, 2019, in Slee Hall. A large crowd was in attendance.
Kathleen Ohman wins ASA Award for Undergraduate Student Research in Acoustics

The Acoustical Society of America (ASA) has named Kathleen Ohman the winner of the Robert W. Young Award for Undergraduate Research in Acoustics. The ASA is the premiere international scientific society in acoustics, dedicated to increasing and diffusing the knowledge of acoustics and promoting its practical application. Ohman, a Biological Sciences Undergraduate Honors student, studies the effects of blast-induced traumatic brain injury on mouse vocalizations.


"Investigating TRAP-mediated attenuation of the trp operon with cotranscriptional SHAPE-Seq"
Authors: Kiel Kreuzer, Molly Evans, Julius Lucks, Paul Gollnick.

Dr. Keil Kreuzer has won "Most Outstanding Talk" at 2019 RustBelt RNA meeting, with an estimated 400 scientists in attendance. Kreuzer is a post-doctoral fellow in the Gollnick Lab. “This work is a collaboration between my lab at UB and that of Dr. Julius Lucks at Northwestern University to use a novel method to examine RNA structure during transcription,” states Dr. Gollnick, “Our work is changing the "textbook" view of how transcription is regulated in Bacillus subtilis.”

The mission of the RRM is to provide unique opportunities for junior scientists. The regional meeting encourages the sharing of ideas and the development of new collaborations. Support is provided by the National Science Foundation along with corporate and academic sponsors. 

Omer Gokcumen is co-author of Human and Non-Human Primate Lineage-Specific Footprints in the Salivary Proteome in the Oxford Journal, Molecular Biology and Evolution. The study’s findings provide a necessary basis for future studies to assess whether the differences in human salivary proteins were caused by natural selection. The challenge will be to decipher the genetic underpinnings of these changes, and understand the evolutionary mechanisms that caused them. 
Rupkatha Banerjee wins best talk at Neuroscience Research Day sponsored by the Buffalo Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience

Rupkatha Banerjee, a graduate student in Dr. Shermali Gunawardena's lab, was awarded Best Talk at the 13th Annual Neuroscience Research Day, October 11, 2019. Her research talk was focused on how Glycogen synthase kinase 3β mediated phosphorylation regulates kinesin-1 activity during axonal transport. Rupkatha's research unravels the complex control mechanisms that likely exist for motor function during axonal transport and how transport defects can affect neurodegeneration.


Imagine a UB hall of honor for students who show an undeniable track record of determination and success, perseverance and leadership. Imagine an online presentation — a UB Won’t-Give-Up Wikipedia page, if you will — for students who embody those qualities. Without a doubt, senior biological sciences major Aliaya Williams’ image and resume would be front and center. And now, thanks to the SUNY Educational Opportunity Program, that distinction is official. Read more.

Excerpt from national news report:  "Can science save the avocado? Like many commonly cultivated fruits and vegetables, avocados are under threat from climate change. One recent report predicts that by 2050, high temperatures and reduced precipitation in California will dramatically slash yields of the popular fruit, which thrives in moderate temperatures and humidity." Read more.

Our Genetics course (BIO-319) inspires the study of 240,000 bees buzzing in six hives on the North Campus, thanks to the persistence of a bee-loving undergradute student and faculty members. Read UB Now.


We hosted the first-ever Great Lakes Evolutionary Genomics Symposium. More than 100 scientists from the U.S. and Canada came to learn about our research in how genetic changes shape the evolution of animals, plants and other organisms over time. Read the story in UBNow.

Fall 2019: Welcome New Faculty

Jae W. Lee, PhD

Fall 2019: The Department of Biological Sciences is pleased to welcome a new member of our faculty. Jae W. Lee studies gene regulation that directs cell fate specification during development of neurons in the hypothalamus arcuate nucleus, which controls growth, metabolism and reproduction. Lee also studies a neurodevelopmental disorder named FoxG1 syndrome, which is characterized by severe congenital brain anomalies, in close collaboration with Soo-Kyung Lee’s group. Experimentally, Lee mainly utilizes mouse genetics and genome-wide approaches such as single cell RNA-seq and ChIP-seq. Lee’s lab is recruiting at all levels and anyone interested in his lab should contact Professor Lee directly. See faculty profile.

Soo-Kyung Lee, PhD

Fall 2019: The Department of Biological Sciences is pleased to welcome a new member of our faculty. Soo-Kyung Lee is engaged in studying gene regulation that directs cell fate determination during development of the central nervous system. Lee's major research models are developing spinal cord and cortex. In collaboration with Jae Lee’s group, she recently initiated a new venture with a neurodevelopmental disorder named FoxG1 syndrome, which is characterized by severe congenital brain anomalies. Lee's major experimental approach involves mouse genetics and genome-wide studies such as single cell RNA-seq and ChIP-seq. The Lee lab is recruiting at all levels and anyone interested in her lab should contact Professor Lee directly. See faculty profile.

Related Links

  • 10/22/18 Dittmar joins researchers at the National Science Foundation