Department News

Geological Game Changer: New study shakes up understanding of when continents connected

Prosanta Chakrabarty and team in the news.  See full story:  LSU News

LSU Alumni Association International Student Scholarship

Congratulations to Sandra P. Galeano, PhD student in the Harms lab, who has been awarded the 2015 LSU Alumni Association International Student Scholarship!

Congratulations to Zach Rodriguez,  Andre Moncrieff, Jonathan Nations!  

View full press release.

Chris Gregg is this year’s recipient of the Dr. Marion “Soc” Socolofsky Award for Teaching Excellence.  This award is in recognition of his achievements in teaching and mentoring, as both a Science Residential College (SRC) rector and instructor of biological sciences .  Congratulations, Dr. Gregg!

View full story.

Congratulations to College of Science Hall of Distiction honorees Meredith Blackwell and John O'Neill!


View full story.

Dr. James Moroney has been awarded a  2014 Rainmaker award, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Senior Scholar award.

View full story.

Adam Hrincevich  and Khoa Nguyen received the University College Tiger Athletic Foundation Teaching Award 2015. This award is presented to faculty members nominated by their students enrolled in University College.  They will be honored at the "Celebration of Excellence" awards reception on March 12th.  

Kyle Harms' research highlighted in the Daily Reveille.

See full story:  University researcher sheds light on mechanisms of biodiversity

Caleb McMahan has won the 2014 Museum of Natural Science Grad Student Award. A PhD student in the Chakrabarty lab, McMahan has 17 scientific publications, an NSF DDIG Grant and won the highest honor for a fish student at the American Society for Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (Stoye Award). He has also landed a job as Collections Manager for Fishes at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. 


As part of LSU Space Day activities, artist Zachary Donze (son of David Donze and Holly Halle-Donze) custom designed a winning  Orion  mission patch with the help of his Parkview Bapist team.  This patch launched with Orion earlier this month!  


View full story.

Cameron Thrash received an Honorable Mention for the 2015 Mindlin Foundation Science Communication  Prize.for his blog.  

Visit the Thrash Lab blog.

OSI Research Mentor Dr. Ryoichi Teruyama is highlighted in the latest publication from the Office of Strategic Initiatives.

View:  OSI Fall 2014 Newsletter (page 6)

Meredith Blackwell, Department of Biological Sciences, attended the Tenth International Mycological Congress in Bangkok, Thailand in August. She received two awards from the International Mycological Association (IMA).


She was one of two De Bary Medal awardees to individuals who have made outstanding, career contributions to mycological research. She and Robert Samson, Centraalbureau voor Schimmelcultures, Fungal Biodiversity Center of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, Utrecht, were the forth and fifth winners of the de Bary Medal in the forty year history of the IMA. In addition she was named  one of nine founding Fellows of the IMA.

Batzer, Konkel and Walker contribute to Nature cover article.


View full story.

View article.

Maria Vozzo, graduate student in the Department of Biological Sciences, is researching the impact of oil on Louisiana oysters as a Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative Scholar (GoMRI) with the Coastal Waters Consortium. Vozzo has completed her thesis detailing her long-term study of Barataria Bay oyster recruitment and predator  exclusion study. She is now preparing to publish her results in scientific journals and is applying to PhD programs in Australia where she will soon be living.


See full story.

Amanda Achberger and Brent Christner in Nature.  

View press release.

View full story.

Earl Weidner on Marine Biological Laboratory - View

A cathedral of understanding: Jacqueline Stephens at TEDxLSU - View

LSU Scientist Assists in Discovery of Carnivorous Water Rat in Indonesia

See Full Story

LSU Researchers Discover New Eyeless Cavefish

See full story.

Catfish Whiskers, pH Detectors, Help Track Prey

Japanese sea catfish are able to detect minute changes in seawater acidity, helping them find their favored food.

See full story.

Dominique Homberger is highlighted on the LSU homepage for her work mentoring students.  See LSU News.

SEC Announces 2014 Faculty Achievement Award Winners

Mark Batzer Recognized from LSU


Bret Elderd highlighted on the LSU Homepage for his work with the complex connections among a baculovirus pathogen, its host and the ecological community that contains them. Full Story

Karen Maruska, assistant professor of biological sciences, is a recipient of the national Ralph E. Power Junior Faculty Enhancement Award from Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU). The award provides seed money to support research by junior faculty at ORAU member institutions. This is the second year in a row that a member of the biological sciences faculty has received this competitive award. Michal Brylinski, assistant professor of biological sciences, won the award in 2012

Van Remsen, John S. McIlhenny Professor of Biological Sciences and curator of birds for the LSU Museum of Natural Science, is the 2013 recipient of the William Brewster Memorial Award, one of the highest honors given annually by the American Ornithologist's Union (AOU). The award recognizes the author or co-authors of an exceptional body of work on birds of the Western Hemisphere.  Read full story HERE.

John Caprio met with the president of Kagoshima University, where he has had a long standing collaborative relationship.

See:  Kagoshima University

Congratulations to the following Graduate Students who received their degrees at the spring 2013 commencement:


Lisa Boughner – Doerrler – PhD

Tyler Broussard – Waldrop – PhD

George Cook – Batzer – PhD

Ben Dubansky – Galvez – PhD

Muhammad Ekram – Kim – PhD

Sarah Hird – Brumfield – PhD

Verity Mathis – Hafner – PhD

Khoa Nguyen – Grove – PhD

Michelle Osborn – Homberger – PhD

Kathir Selvam – Battista – PhD

Yalma Vargas-Rodrigues – Platt – PhD


...and to our 276 undergraduates who earned their Bachelor’s degrees!  There were 34 Biochemistry majors, 231 Biological Sciences majors and 11 Microbiology

Congratulations to our faculty who received Tiger Athletic Foundation Undergraduate Teaching Awards!

Sue Bartlett

Dominique Homberger

Steve Pomarico

Bill Wischusen

The smallest living vertebrate, discovered by PhD student Eric Rittmeyer and Dr. Chris Austin, has made this year's Top 10 New Species list! 


See also:  Live Science, The Guardian

Benjamin Dubansky, Fern Galvez and a team of collaborators study the long-term impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on killifish.  See:  LSU Research News


Dr. Aronhime and his class are working to eradicate an aggressive invasive species of plant called elephant ear at Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center.  See full story:  LSU News

Prosanta Chakrabarty was named a 2012 Rainmaker STEM Emerging Scholar!


See also:  LSU News

Michael Hellberg and graduate student, Carlos Prada, investigate how corals form in the ocean.  


See also:  LSU Research News, PNAS, Hellberg site

A new yeast genus has been named after Meredith Blackwell, Meredithblackwellia eburnea.  It will be featured on the cover of Mycologia March/April this year. 


See also:  Cover

Brent Christner’s group has made news from Antarctica.  They recovered water and sediments from a subglacial lake for the first time!


See also:  Science News, WISSARD

The little frog is still making big news!  Chris Austin’s new species made Discover magazines top 100 science stories!


See also:  Discover Magazine, Business Report Daily

A team of graduate students from the LSU Museum of Natural Science have won the Peru Birding competition!  Michael Harvey, Glenn Seeholzer, Paul Van Els and Ryan Terrill beat teams from Cornell University, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Spain and Brazil to win the Birding Rally Challenge.  Congratulations! 

See also:  The Advocate


Ryo Teruyama was selected by a LSU committee to receive support as a LSU Distinguished Undergraduate Research Mentor from the LSU-HHMI grant.


Prosanta Chakrabarty has won the LSU Emerging Scholar Rainmaker Award

LSU News highlighted Meredith Blackwell in a piece about the LSU Boyd Professorships.  


See also:  LSU News, LSU Boyd Professors, Blackwell lab

Jeremy Brown and his Phyleaux Lab are highlighted on the LSU Research News for their work using phylogenetic approaches to track HIV transmission for forensic purposes.  


See LSU Research News,  Phyleaux Lab 

Bill Wischusen, associate professor of biological sciences, has been awarded the 2012 Torchbearer Award for Leadership in IT Advancement.  Wischusen was recognized during an award ceremony on November 30.  See also:  ITS News

Recent biological sciences graduate Stewart Humble, a native of Egan, La., has been named a finalist for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship.  The Rhodes Scholarships are the oldest and most celebrated international fellowship awards in the world. Rhodes Scholarships provide all expenses for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford in England, and may allow funding in some instances for four years.

Humble graduated with a perfect grade-point-average in May 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences and a minor in chemistry. A member of the LSU Honors College, he graduated with Upper Division Honors Distinction.

See also:  LSU News

Mark Batzer, LSU System Boyd Professor and Mary Lou Applewhite Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences and his team of faculty, staff and student researchers are collaborating with an international consortium of experts who are working together to tackle the 1,000 Genomes Project. A recent report on phase one of the project published in Nature demonstrates human genetic variations through the analysis of genomes of 1,092 individuals from 14 populations.


See also:  LSU Research News , Nature

Marcia Newcomer, George C. Kent Professor of Biological Sciences, was voted in for her distinguished contributions to the field of structural biology, particularly for her recent elucidation of the structure of human 5-lipoxygenase.

New Fellows will be presented with an official certificate and a rosette pin on February16 at the AAAS Fellows Forum during the 2013 AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston, Mass.

See also:  AAAS Fellows

LSU Research, published annually by the Office of Research & Economic Development, features several of our faculty, staff and students.  Some mentions are Jackie Stephens, Nathaniel Gilbert, Marcia Newcomer, the MARSLIFE project, Chris Austin and Al Meier.


See also: LSU Research magazine , Office of Research and Economic Development

The award winners of this year's symposium are as follows:

Best Poster Awards

BMB - Hiromi Brown

CDIB - Vijai Krishnan

SEE - Michael Harvey


Best Oral Presentation Awards

CDIB/BMB - Shawn Doyle

SEE - Michelle Osborn

Recent press coverage for Karen Maruska:

Science Daily , Natural History

Allison James, graduate student in Patrick DiMario's lab, was awarded the Masayasu Nomura prize for the best poster presented by a graduate student at the 9th International Conference on Ribosome Synthesis held in Banff, Canada from August 22-26. Congratulations, Allison!

Hector Urbina, PhD student in Biological Sciences, won a first prize for his poster presentation, Phylogenetic Study of the Xylose Reductase XYL1 in Insect Gut Yeasts, at the 13th International Conference on Yeasts at Madison, Wisconsin, 26-30 August 2012.  About sixty students presented posters. Urbina's research poster is part of his larger dissertation research for which he has collected in Guatemala, Thailand, and tropical Australia.  He also gave a second oral presentation chosen from among the abstracts that was presented in a symposium, Yeast Biogeography. Urbina's presentation was entitled "A biogeographical study of the xylose-fermenting yeasts from the gut of passalid beetles."


Abstract: The fermentation of D-xylose by yeasts requires the expression of xylose reductase (XYL1), xylitol dehydrogenase (XYL2), and xylulose kinase (XYL3) to convert D-xylose to D-xylulose-5-phosphate, that is then incorporated into the pentose phosphate pathway to be catalyzed to ethanol. In order to study the evolution of this biochemical ability in yeasts, we used two strategies, 1) the characterization of ascomycete yeasts that ferment or assimilate xylose from the gut of wood-feeding passalid beetles collected from distant regions (Thailand, USA, Guatemala, and Panama), and 2) the design of degenerate primers for XYL1, the enzyme that plays a fundamental role in the pathway. The diversity of gut-inhabiting yeasts was dominated by undescribed ascomycete species classified in the non xylose-fermenting (X-F) Sugiyamaella and Lodderomyces clades, as well as from the Scheffersomyces and Spathaspora clades where the highest diversity of X-F yeasts has been reported. We were able to amplify a 600 bp of the N-terminal region of XYL1 from most of the species studied regardless of whether they ferment or assimilate D-xylose or not. The conserved domains G(X3)DXA(X2)Y, L(X8)D(X4)H and G(X3)GXG, and the conserved amino acids that form the xylose binding pocket, however, were present only in yeasts that are able to ferment and/or assimilate D-xylose. We found numerous amino acid substitutions surrounding the conserved domains, primarily in the Scheffersomyces yeast members. These mutations may enhance the rate of xylose fermentation, as has been shown by some Scheffersomyces clade members. Phylogenetic analyses based on XYL1 also indicated a clear separation among members of the Spathaspora clade in relation to the geographical distribution of their beetle hosts. Results of this study support the close association between xylose-fermenting yeasts and wood-feeding beetles in widely separated geographic regions.

The new t-shirt is ready and now on sale through BioGrads!   The regular price of these shirts is $15;  however until Friday (8/10),  they will only be $12!  For more information or to purchase, contact Ling (Yanling Meng) at her office: LSB 213, ymeng2@lsu.edu or 578-1759


Hurry in and get your new t-shirt now!

Congratulations to the following Graduate Students who will receive their degrees at the summer 2012 commencement:


Yunbing Ma – Moroney – PhD

Kimberly LeBlanc – Donze – MS

Gustavo Bravo – Remsen – PhD

Shujun Zhang – Galvez – PhD

Yu Ge – Hart – MS

Darin Ellair – Platt – PhD

Laura Brown – Brown – MS


....and to those receiving undergraduates degrees this summer, which includes 28 biochemistry, 226 biology and 9 microbiology majors!

July 16-20 the department hosted the 2012 National Academies Gulf Coast Summer Institute (GCSI) on Undergraduate Education in Biology. This HHMI-supported program is one of seven such programs nationally aimed at fostering innovative approaches to teaching undergraduate biology. The program involved 34 faculty from twelve universities and colleges and was directed by Chris Gregg and Bill Wischusen. Kevin Carman, Anne Grove and Joe Siebenaller were presenters and facilitators. As a result of their successful completion of the GCSI the following Biological Sciences faculty earned the title of National Academies Education Fellow in the Life Sciences: Barry Aronhime, Brooke Dubansky, Bret Elderd, Sheri Glowinski, John Lynn and Ryoichi Teruyama. Since 2004 sixteen Biological Sciences faculty have earned this distinction.

Jackie Stephens received the LSU Rainmaker Senior Scholar Award in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.  See also LSU News.

Oak Ridge Associated Universities, a consortium of doctoral-granting academic institutions, announced that Assistant Professor Michal Brylinski of LSU’s Department of Biological Sciences and the Center for Computation and Technology, or CCT, is among the recipients of its annual Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award.  View full story: LSU news

Nathan Gilbert, alumni of the Newcomer lab, received the LSU Alumni Association Distinguished Dissertation Award in Science, Engineering & Technology.  See also LSU News.

At the Departmental Crawfish Boil a number of our graduate students received research, teaching, and travel awards:

Jonathan Bonin and Ben Dubansky - William H. Gates Award for Excellence in Freshman Instruction - Given annually to a teaching assistant for outstanding instruction in freshman biology laboratories for majors.

Satya Avva - Freshman Biology Award - Given annually to a teaching assistant in the biological sciences for outstanding instruction in freshman biology laboratories for non-majors.

Yuna Seo - Scott and Louise Pierce Allen Scholarship for Biochemistry – Given annually to a biochemistry graduate student for significant achievement in research.

Yunbing Ma - C. W. Edgerton Honor Award - Given annually to a finishing plant biology graduate student for significant achievements in research.

Andrés Cuervo - C. R. Komma Memorial Outstanding Graduate Student Award - Given annually to an outstanding international PhD graduate student in the Department of Biological Sciences.

Michael Harvey - T. Vinton Holmes Award - Given annually to support student research in the field of ornithology.

Ben Dubansky and Yangling Meng - McDaniel Travel Award - Established in memory of Michael McDaniel who was a graduate student in the Department of Zoology and Physiology.

At the Choppin Honors Convocation a number of our faculty and students won awards. The faculty who received awards were:

David Donze: TAF Graduate Teaching Award

Kathy Thompson: TAF Undergraduate Teaching Award

Bill Platt:  TAF Undergraduate Teaching Award through the Honors College

Christopher Gregg:  Faculty Rector of the Year for the second year in a row!


The undergraduates who received awards at the Honors Convocation:

Zachary Fitzpatrick (BCH): College of Science, Outstanding Sophomore

Lauren Oliver (BIOL - Austin): Biological Sciences Research Award. Lauren was also awarded a NSF fellowship.

Pamela Doerner (BCH - Bartlett) Biochemistry Research award

Chelsea Kleibert (BCH – Achberger)

Elizabeth Mengis (BCH – Grove) and Tiffany Lemon (BCH - Grove) won Charles S. McCleskey Awards

Chase Mayers (MBIO – Longstreth) won The Robert L. Amborski Award

Sahiti Kilaru (MBIO – Christner) won the Marion D. Socolofsky Award

Tyne Courville (BIOL - Achberger) was named the Outstanding Geaux Teach Student


The following undergraduates earned College Honors:

Mytrang Do, Stewart Humble (Kevin Smith in Chemistry), Glynis Mattheisen (Gleason), Scott McFerren (Homberger), James
(Batzer), and Lauren Oliver (Austin). Catherine Fontenot (BIOL – Batzer) and James Oldenburg (BIOL - Batzer) won Dean’s


See also College of Science News.


Amanda Achberger, Valerie Derouen, and Lauren Oliver were awarded the prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship.  See also College of Science News.

LSU Research Finds Orangutans Host Ancient Jumping Genes


Mark Batzer, along with research associate Jerilyn Walker and assistant professor Miriam Konkel, have published research determining that modern-day orangutans are host to ancient jumping genes called Alu, which are more than 16 million years old. The study was done in collaboration with the Zoological Society of San Diego and the Institute of Systems Biology in Seattle and is featured in the new open access journal Mobile DNA. See also  Abstract, LSU news, Science Codex

Meredith Blackwell  was elected to be a member of American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The academy was founded in 1780 and early members included Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Alexander Graham Bell and Ralph Waldo Emerson. The Academy has members in the sciences as well as other academic pursuits. See also LSU news,  The Advocate

Marcia Newcomer was named the winner of a Distinguished Faculty Award.


Nathan Gilbert, who received his Ph.D. working with Marcia Newcomer this past semester, won a LSU Alumni Association Distinguished Dissertation Award in Science, Engineering and Technology


Michal Brylinski won the Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award.


Amanda Achberger (Brent Christner’s lab) won a NSF fellowship. 


Valerie Derouen (Prosanta Chakrabarty’s lab) won a NSF fellowship. 


Hector Urbina (Meredith Blackwell’s lab) received a Mentor Student Travel Award (MSTA) to attend the Mycological Society of America annual meeting at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, from July 15-18, 2012.

Brent Christner’s group was featured in a cover article in Discover Magazine (April 2012). The article is entitled "Life at the Edge of Space: Do high-flying microbes control Earth's weather?" and features the MARSLIFE project.  See also LSU news, The Advocate

Simon Chang, professor emeritus, recently traveled to Boston to speak at a symposium in memory of H. Gobind Khorana, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Biology and Chemistry, emeritus at MIT and Nobel Laureate. Professor Chang was a postdoctoral researcher with Professor Khorana.

Jackie Stephens was named an LSU Rainmaker.


David Longstreth won a TAF Freshman Teaching Award given by the University College.


Congratulations to our award winning faculty!

LSU Biology Chair and Glenda Wooters Streva Alumni Professor James Moroney was one of 13 scientists invited to a workshop sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to share their views on how photosynthesis research may positively impact agricultural productivity. These discussions will help to educate the Gates Foundation’s Agricultural Development program about future projects to support increased sustainable productivity of small holder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. View Full Story

Professor Marcia Newcomer has accepted an invitation to serve on the Macromolecular Structure and Function E-Study Section, or MSFE, of the Center for Scientific Review, or CSR, from July 1, 2012 until June 30, 2016. View full story.

LSU’s Chris Austin recently discovered two new species of frogs in New Guinea, one of which is now the world’s tiniest known vertebrate, averaging only 7.7 millimeters in size – less than one-third of an inch. It ousts Paedocypris progenetica, an Indonesian fish averaging more than 8 millimeters, from the record. Austin, leading a team of scientists from the United States including LSU graduate student Eric Rittmeyer, made the discovery during a three-month long expedition to the island of New Guinea, the world’s largest and tallest tropical island.  View FULL STORY 

Steven's Lab Graduate Student Studies Bat Behavior

Aside from witches and black cats, bats are one of the creatures most synonymous with Halloween – and, perhaps, one of the most villainized mammals in existence.  View FULL STORY

A former student highlights Dr. Gleason for Ada Lovelace Day.  View BLOG