Department News

Department News.

Latest News

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 the story in 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.

Recent News

“Amylase is a case where diet may have the potential to change our genes. This is fascinating,” says Omer Gokcumen, assistant professor of biological sciences. “The duplications we see in the amylase gene give a very flexible and rapid way in which gene functions can evolve, and this mechanism of evolution is underappreciated.”
Shermali Gunawardena's research focuses on how genetic mutations in the fruit fly can lead to “traffic jams” in the brain's transport system. Some scientists think such blockages may precede formation of plaques in certain neurological disorders. Gunawardena's work aims to inform new avenues for treating or preventing diseases such as Alzheimer’s. The Gunawardena Lab is now featured in a slideshow by UB Seen.
Congratulations to Vickie Searight, Undergraduate Secretary, on receiving an award from the National Society of Leadership and Success, Sigma Alpha Pi. The award will be presented at the NSLS Buffalo Chapter induction and awards ceremony, to be held on Sunday, April 28, 2019, at 12:00 noon in Room 145 Student Union on UB North Campus. All are welcome to attend. Searlight was nominated for the award by UB students as a professional staff member whose work exemplifies leadership, mentorship, and has demonstrated a commitment to bettering the lives of students.
Congratulations to Jessie Pelosi on being named a recipient of the 2019 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence. Pelosi, a dual Biological Sciences Honors Scholar and University Honors College Scholar, received a UB Excellence in Research, Scholarship and Creativity Award. He helped develop a community outreach program introducing students to environmental awareness. He also leads research projects that are focused on evolutionary ecology and coral bleaching at Buffalo Undersea Reef Research Lab. Pelosi graduates with a bachelor of arts in biological sciences and a bachelor of science in environmental geosciences.
Their study, published in Genome Biology and Evolution, contributes to a better understanding of the mutational and adaptive landscape of the genome.
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.
Fall 2019 Seminar Series.
Fall 2019 Seminar Series

205 Natural Sciences, 4:00 p.m.

September 12, Graduate Student Research Showcase:
Shaunna Phipps
, “Salt-induced gene expression in Chara longifolia and Chara australis: Implications for salt tolerance mechanisms”
Baradwaj Ravi, “Mining the transcriptome of foxglove (Digitalis lanata) for elucidating the biosynthetic pathway of digoxin, a cure for heart failure”

September 19, Dr. Stephen Free
Professor, University at Buffalo
“Fungal Cell Wall Biogenesis”

October 3, Dr. Joan A. Steitz
Distinguished Speaker
Sterling Professor, Yale
“Lupus and Snurps: from bedside to bench and back again”

October 10, Dr. Jasper Rine
Professor, UC, Berkeley
“Epigenetic Inheritance of Transcriptional States: What do Nucleosomes Actually Remember?"

October 17, Dr. Ruben Gonzalez
Professor of Chemistry, Columbia

November 7, Dr. Mamadi Yilla
Distinguished Alumni

Deputy Coordinator
US Department of State
“Health and Diplomacy: A surprising approach to U.S. international interests”

November 14, Dr. Sofia Origanti
Assistant Professor, St. Louis University
“Translating Under Stress: Context-Dependent Regulation of the Eukaryotic Initiation Factor 6”

December 5, Dr. Fernando Estrada, Assistant Professor, UB
“Structural and functional regulation of the mycobacterial enzyme CYP121; a drug target in the fight on Tuberculosis”

Noteworthy Links

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