Department of Biology

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Cell Center - Cryo-EM

The Department of Biology offers exceptional opportunities to learn, work, and collaborate across levels of biological organization and styles of research. Faculty research interests span the complete spectrum of biological phenomena and disciplines, from biochemistry to global environmental change. This breadth of research interests has led to development of three focused, yet overlapping, graduate training programs: Molecular, Cellular, and Evolutionary Biology (MCEB) and Ecology Evolution and Organismal Biology (EEOB).


Reading the genetic code triplet of triplets

April 17, 2017— The so-called central dogma of molecular biology states the process for turning genetic information into proteins that cells can use. “DNA makes RNA,” the dogma says, “and RNA makes protein.” Each protein is made of a series of amino acids, and each amino acid is coded for by sets of “triplets,” which are sets of three informational DNA units, in the genetic code. University of Utah biologists Fabienne Chevance and Kelly Hughes now suggest that connecting amino acids to make proteins in ribosomes, the cell’s protein factories, may in fact be influenced by sets of three triplets – a “triplet of triplets” that provide crucial context for the ribosome. Their results are published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

How nature engineered the original rotary motor

April 14, 2017— The bacterial flagellum is one of nature’s smallest motors, rotating at up to 60,000 revolutions per minute. To function properly and propel the bacterium, the flagellum requires all of its components to fit together to exacting measurements. In a study published today in Science, University of Utah researchers report the eludication of a mechanism that regulates the length of the flagellum’s 25 nanometer driveshaft-like rod and answers a long-standing question about how cells are held together. Dr. Kelly Hughes’ graduate student Eli Cohen pursued the question of rod length control in Salmonella enterica using genetic tools. See Full Story...

Badger buries cow" paper led by U undergrad goes viral

April 4, 2017 - While studying scavenger ecology in the Utah Desert, Ph.D. student Evan Buechley in Çağan Şekercioğlu's lab discovered camera trap photos of badgers burying the cow carcasses he left out for his experiment. The paper led by U senior Ethan Frehner and the video created by U senior Tara Christensen have gone viral and became a "Twitter moment". Evan, Ethan and Tara have been interviewed by Science, National Geographic, New York Times, NPR, USA Today and Newsweek. With 1 million views in 5 days, it became the U's most watched video and the National Geographic video has been viewed millions of times.

Biology Coordinator Recognized by Career Services

April 11, 2017 - Amy Sibul, Coordinator for the Biology Department Community Engaged Learning and Intership program has received recognition by the U's Career Services. The Career Services Faculty Recognition Program was designed in an effort to recognize faculty members who are contributing to students’ career development and exploration. With a campus of over 31,000 students, we recognize that our career coaching staff of 10 cannot possibly meet with every single one of these students multiple times, and for the majority of students, career conversations are not a one-time occurrence.

U Biology Student alternate for Fulbright award

April 4, 2017 - Four University of Utah students are either finalists or alternates for a prestigious Fulbright scholarship. Students will travel across the globe to teach English or conduct research. Tuscan Thompson, a Biology major, is an alternate and will receive the award if openings are created. Tuscan would teach English in South Korea.

Biology Instructor wins LDSSA award

April 4, 2017 - Dr. Renee Dawson has been selected by The Salt Lake University Institute of Religion and the Latter-day Saint Student Association (LDSSA) congratulate as the recipient of the 2016-17 Excellence in Education Award.

U professor featured in National Geographic

March 22, 2017 - It has long been known that radioactive isotopes in the atmosphere have made carbon dating of all kinds of materials possible. The method is now being used to help fight the illegal trade in elephant ivory. Thure Cerling, a University of Utah professor of biology, geology, and geophysics, and colleagues, published a study in late 2016 that demonstrates how radiocarbon dating, combined with genetic analysis of elephant tusks, can yield valuable clues as to when and where elephants are being poached. See Full Story...

Biology Student selected as STEM Advocate

March 22, 2017 - A biology student, Lane Mulvey of the Phadnis lab has been selected and featured in the “Student innovation @ the U” 2017 as a STEM advocate. Read it here: STEM Advocate
Read entire report here: Student Innovation

Distinguished Creative and Scholarly Research Award

March 7, 2017 - Dr. Kelly Hughes has been awarded a Distinguished Creative and Scholarly Research Award. The Distinguished Scholarly and Creative Research Awards were established as a means of recognizing University of Utah tenure track faculty members in all disciplines who have made significant scholarly contributions to their fields. No more than three awards are made for the following academic year and consists of a grant to pursue research or creative pursuits. Selection is made on the basis of the significance and quality of research or creative achievements. The award recognizes lifelong accomplishments by considering the extent to which they represent a major breakthrough or advance in the field, are intellectually distinctive or creative, and contribute to improvement and enrichment in the human condition. Recognition of one’s work by experts of national and international reputation is an indicator of its importance. Congratulations!

Rain Forest Tree Communities Across the Amazon Basin

Feb. 21, 2017 - Drs. Coley and Kursar of the Coley/Kursar Lab are receiving recognition for their work with rain forest ecosystems published in a current PNAS article. The rich diversity of trees in the Amazon could be the result of widespread dispersal over geological time, a study has suggested. Although the vast tropical area is now divided into regions, scientists suggest these areas did not evolve in isolation from one another. Modern fragmentation could be damaging the process that made the Amazon so important for plant biodiversity. The findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. See PNAS Article... See BBC Coverage...

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