Fall 2017 Biological Sciences Newsletter

New Research Funding

By Department of Biological Sciences

New research funding, new research equipment, and Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships.

New Research Funding

Ebenezer Tumban
Ebenezer Tumban

Ebenezer Tumban earned a $457,197 research and development grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-National Institutes of Health (NIH) for a project titled “Development of a Multi-epitope L2 Bacteriophage VLPs Vaccine to Enhance Protection Against Oral HPV Infections in HIV Patients.” The Tumban lab is engaged in production of vaccines against human papilloma viruses, the causative agents of some human cancers. In this project, he will explore novel strategies to increase immune responses against HPV infections, using platforms such as bacteriophage virus-like particles (VLPs).

Thomas Werner
Thomas Werner

Thomas Werner was awarded a $436,031 research and development grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services–National Institutes of Health (NIH). The project is “The Role of Toolkit Genes in Generating Complex Color Pattern in Drosophila.” Elucidating the pigmentation pathways in a fruit fly species will help understand how cancer-inducing pathways are regulated and how they have evolved.

Xiaoqing Tang
Xiaoqing Tang

Xiaoqing Tang received a $421,652 grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services-National Institutes of Health (NIH) for a three-year research project entitled “Role of miR-483 in Pancreatic Alpha and Beta Cells.” MicroRNAs are small non-coding RNAs that negatively regulate expression of target genes. Dr. Tang will explore the roles of one type of microRNA in the production of pancreatic alpha and beta cells. She also received a $75,000 research contract from the US Highbush Blueberry Council for the project “Blueberry Protects Pancreatic BetaCells.” Blueberries are known to provide some protection against diabetes. The Tang lab will explore the protective effects of blueberries on the health of insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells.

Robert Stottlemyer, head of the North Watershed Studies research group, has received $85,001 in a research and development agreement with the US Department of Interior—US Fish and Wildlife Service. The two-year project is titled “Climate Altered Terrestrial Carbon and Nutrient Flux to the Aquatic Foodweb from Increased Depth of Soil Ice Thaw, Selawik and Fish Rivers, Selawik National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska.” 

Stephen Techtmann won a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Young Faculty Award to study microbial biosignatures that identify what waters they traverse. He received an $883,735 grant from the US Department of the Interior for his project, entitled “Bilge Water Microbiomes as Biosignatures of Maritime Provenance.” The overall goal of this project is to find a better way of monitoring maritime movement of ships using microbiological and genomic methods for studying microbes growing in bilge water.

New Research Equipment

Whole Slide Scanner

With the help of C2E2 funding and contributions from many other departments and researchers, Xiaoqing Tang recently purchased a $56,000 whole slide scanner from Leica Microsystems. This automated microscope will provide digital archiving and quantitative analysis of histological, immunohistochemical and immunofluorescence staining of tissue sections and tissue microarrays. It will be used for analyzing physiological and pathological images from various organisms including animals, plants, and microbes. Use of this equipment will broadly benefit the entire campus.

Dedicated Bioinformatics Computer and Server

Stephen Techtmann has procured a new server/computer specifically for projects in bioinformatics. It is currently used for genome assembly and annotation of microbial genomes. Genome assembly is the process of stitching short DNA reads into longer stretches of DNA, and hopefully into large chromosomes. Annotation is assigning functional categories to predicted genes in the assembled genomes. This machine will allow researchers to process large sequencing data files that are too complex for a personal computer to manage.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 60 countries around the world. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our beautiful campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.


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