Department of Biology
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), Ecology Evolution and Organismal Biology (EEOB), and Microbial Biology.
Why lizards may inherit the Earth
Dec. 11, 2013 - It’s not just for the birds: Air flows through the lungs of reptiles in a pattern that scientists previously thought necessary only for high-altitude flight. C.G. Farmer, an associate professor of biology at the University of Utah, discovered in 2010 that alligator lungs exhibit the same one-way airflow as their avian cousins, and that method thus evolved about 80 million years before the first birds. Wednesday, another study published in the journal Nature by Emma Schachner and Bob Cieri (Farmer Lab) , Jim Butler (Harvard) and C. G. Farmer finds that also true of monitor lizards — whose ancestors branched off from alligators’ ancestors 20 million years earlier. Nature story... SL Trib story...
Ultrafast endocytosis at mouse hippocampal synapses
Dec. 4, 2013 - To sustain neurotransmission, synaptic vesicles and their associated proteins must be recycled locally at synapses. Synaptic vesicles are thought to be regenerated approximately 20 s after fusion by the assembly of clathrin scaffolds or in approximately 1 s by the reversal of fusion pores via ‘kiss-and-run’ endocytosis. Here we use optogenetics to stimulate cultured hippocampal neurons with a single stimulus, rapidly freeze them after fixed intervals and examine the ultrastructure using electron microscopy—‘flash-and-freeze’ electron microscopy. Docked vesicles fuse and collapse into the membrane within 30 ms of the stimulus. Shigeki Watanabe and Erik Jorgensen report in a new article in Nature. Nature story... SL Tribune story... See full U story...
Utah scientist’s discovery may help fight pervasive parasites
Nov. 27, 2013 - When scientist Aude Peden was growing up in the western African nation of Gabon, parasitic nematode worms were a fact of life that affected people, livestock and crops. Fifty percent of the human population worldwide is affected by gastrointestinal nematode infections, according to a paper published in the International Journal of Experimental Pathology. But with a new discovery published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, Peden can chalk one up against the parasites. The study "potentially identified a new neurotransmitter," said U. biology professor Erik Jorgensen, one of the co-authors in the study. "These are the things that make our brains work." SL Tribune story... Nature story...
Socially Competitive Moms Have Sexier Sons
Nov. 21, 2013 - When mother mice compete socially for mates in a promiscuous social environment, their sons play hard and die young: They attract more females by making more pheromones, but smelling sexier shortens their lives. “Only recently have we started to understand that environmental conditions experienced by parents can influence the characteristics of their offspring through 'epigenetic' mechanisms. This study is one of the first to show parental social experience adaptively modifying offspring characteristics”, says University of Utah biology professor Wayne Potts , the study’s senior author. The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on November 19. Science News story... PBS Coverage... ArsTechnica... Discovery News video
TENURE TRACK Cellular Biology FACULTY Position
The Department of Biology at the University of Utah invites applications for a tenuretrack faculty position at the assistant professor level in cellular biology. Applicants should be addressing fundamental questions in any aspect of eukaryotic cellular biology including, but not limited to, gene expression, signaling, trafficking, development, evolution or neurobiology, and in plants, animals, fungi or protists. In addition to developing a vigorous independent research program, the successful candidate will. . . See full announcement
U Biologist Gets Neuroscience Prize
Oct. 31, 2013 – Shigeki Watanabe, a University of Utah postdoctoral fellow in biology, has been awarded the Society for Neuroscience’s Nemko Prize for his accomplishments as a young scientist. Shigeki works in the Utah laboratory of Erik Jorgensen, a distinguished professor of biology. He currently studies how nerve cell vesicles – tiny bubbles that contain neurotransmitter chemicals – are recycled after they help send a nerve signal from one nerve cell to the next.See full Story...