Upcoming Events

4th Year Seminar

Andy Sikkema
October 2, 2014
12:00 PM
6311 Med Sci I

"Initiation of Biosynthesis in Polyketide Synthases Using a GNAT-like Protein"

Host: Dr. Janet Smith

2013 Department Newsletter

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Newly Minted Ph.D.s

2013 brought a round of doctoral defenses and eight of BioChem’s graduate students now proudly sport their new initials. In March was Siyan Cao whose dissertation Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress in Intestinal Epithelial Cells and Inflammatory Bowel Disease was overseen by mentor Randal J. Kaufman . Dr. Cao is pursuing an MD degree. • Also in March Sean P. Ferris defended. His thesis UDP-glucose:glycoprotein glucosyltransferase (UGGT1) promotes substrate solubility in the endoplasmic reticulum was written while in Randal J. Kaufman’s lab. Dr. Ferris will return to University of Michigan Medical School to complete his 3rd and 4th years of medical training in the MD/PhD program (MSTP). • On the same day came Claudia Alejandra McDonald , who studied with Bruce A. Palfey. Her thesis was The Enzymology of the Monooxygenase Domain of MICAL-2. Dr. McDonald is investigating scientific opportunities in Oslo, Norway. • In April Liliya V. Mancour,’s dissertation title was Structural Dynamics of Transmembrane Signaling Complexes by Negative Stain Electron Microscopy. Her mentor was Georgios Skiniotis. She has accepted a position as a Research Fellow in the Dept of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. • June brought Michael W. Lofgren, who defended with his Auxiliary Proteins and Allosteric Control of the Mitochondrial Branch of B12 Trafficking, Assembly and Reactivity. His mentor was Ruma Banerjee. Dr. Lofgren is a Postdoctoral Researcher at Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA. • August saw Gerwin H. Westfield, who was mentored by Georgios Skiniotis., His dissertation was Molecular Electron Microscopy of Signaling Protein Complexes. Dr. Westfield has accepted a position as a Research Fellow in the Life Sciences Institute, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. • September featured Jamie L. Van Etten, who was mentored by Aaron C. Goldstrohm., Her dissertation was Regulatory Mechanisms and RNA Targets of Human Pumilio Proteins. Dr. Van Etten accepted a position as a Postdoctoral Associate in the Dept of Surgery, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, Minneapolis, Minnesota. • Rounding out the year was Joseph Micucci, who’s mentors were Donna M. Martin, and Daniel A. Bochar, His dissertation was The role of ATP-dependent chromatin remodeling enzyme CHD7 in the development and maintenance of murine neural stem cells. Dr. Micucci has accepted a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania working on the structure and enzymology of macromolecular serine protease complexes.

New master’s degree program in biochemistry launched

An intensive new program offered by the Medical School’s Department of Biological Chemistry allows students to earn a master’s degree (M.S.) in biochemistry in just one year. The program aims to prepare students for employment in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry, or for entry to a competitive Ph.D. program such as U-M’s. Applications are now being accepted for our second entering class of students, who will take a wide range of courses over two semesters while also taking part in research experience that culminates in a written thesis. Students will be mentored by Biological Chemistry faculty members who conduct research at the cutting edge of modern biochemistry and molecular biology. Current areas of research include structural biology, protein biochemistry, enzyme reaction mechanisms, molecular genetics, signal transduction, neurobiology, cell and developmental biology, and bioinformatics. The application deadline is April 21, 2014, but application in December or January is highly encouraged.

More information is available at http://www.biochem.med.umich.edu/?q=msprog and applications are submitted through U-M’s Rackham Graduate School’s site, at http://www.rackham.umich.edu/admissions/. This is the latest in a range of master’s degree options offered by the Medical School, in addition to medical degrees, and Ph.D. degrees offered in conjunction with Rackham.

For more information on all degree programs offered by the Medical School, visit http://www.med.umich.edu/medschool/edu/.

For a list of master’s degree programs, visit http://www.med.umich.edu/medschool/edu/masters.htm.

News & Announcements

In June of 2014 the University of Michigan will play host to the International Conference on Transcription by RNA polymerases I, III, IV and V, known also as the OddPols. This meeting of researchers from around the world started as a small, informal gathering of scientists exploring the mechanism of small RNA synthesis by RNA polymerase III. Held every two years at venues around North America, it has broadened to encompass commonalities and differences of nuclear transcription mechanisms in animals, plants and fungi. People interested in registering for the conference or attending individual sessions can obtain more information at the conference web site or contact one of the local conference organizers, David Engelke (Dept. of Biological Chemistry) or Andrzej Wierzbicki (Dept. of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology).

Undergraduate Megan Baker has received the 2014 Merck Index Award. This award is given to the most outstanding senior science student at The University of Michigan by the Chemistry Department. Megan is doing her honors thesis research with Ruthann Nichols exploring a food intake regulation pathway in the red flour beetle, a pest which attacks stored grain products. Working collaboratively with colleagues in the Nichols’ laboratory, the structure-activity relationship of sulfakinin, an insect peptide which affects food intake, and its ligand-receptor interactions were explored with a goal of designing antagonists to target the food intake pathway. An international collaboration was formed to test the impact of the antagonists in order to regulate pest food intake and address grain damage.

Recent graduate Mike Lofgren has published, with Ruma Banerjee, a paper in the Journal of Biological Chemistry titled Autoinhibition and signaling by the switch II motif in the G-protein chaperone of a radical B12 enzyme. Their results demonstrate that the GTPase activity of MeaB is autoinhibited by switch II and that this loop is important for coupling nucleotide-sensitive conformational changes in switch III to elicit the multiple chaperone functions of MeaB. More

A paper from the laboratory of Interim Chair David Engelke appearing in PNAS titled Mod5 protein binds to tRNA gene complexes and affects local transcriptional silencing identifies proteins that bind tRNA gene transcription complexes and are required for tgm silencing but not required for gene clustering. More

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