Department of Biology

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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 two focused, yet overlapping, graduate training programs: Molecular, Cellular, and Evolutionary Biology (MCEB) and Ecology Evolution and Organismal Biology (EEOB).


Snail Venom replaces opiods?

November 29, 2017 - A handful of University of Utah researchers for years have investigated the venom of marine snails and how it might be transformed into a safer alternative to opioid painkillers. Now, they have new backing to expand their research. The U. this week said it has received $10 million from the Department of Defense to further study cone snail venom and search for similar compounds from the venom of other marine organisms. “We’re going back to natural sources to find the next generation of pain drugs,” said Dr. Russell Teichert, a research associate professor in the Department of Biology. Dr. Michael McIntosh and another U. researcher, Dr. Baldomero Olivera, have isolated and studied portions of the cone snail venom for decades. The small organisms use the venom to stun and consume prey, including small fish, and it turned out that portions of the venom, known as peptides, were effective as painkillers. See Tribune Story... See YouTube Video...

Biology Newsletter - Our DNA

November 15, 2017 - Just released “Our DNA” News! The Department of Biology’s Fall 2017 issue. Check out our “Faculty Spotlight”, Sophie Caron: How sensory input is remembered; Ryan Watts of Denail: Quest to conquer neurodegenerative illnesses; and “Alumni Spotlight”, Randy Rasmussen of Biofire, and much more! If you would like to be added to the mailing list, please email Cathy Green PR/Advancement Director for the Biology Department. See Fall 2017 Newsletter

New Book from Biology Post Doc

October 6, 2017 - Newborn mammals can weigh as little as a dime or as much as a motorcycle. Some receive milk for only a few days, whereas others nurse for years. Humans typically have only one baby at a time following nine months of pregnancy, but other mammals have twenty or more young after only a few weeks in utero. What causes this incredible reproductive diversity? In Reproduction in Mammals, Virginia Hayssen with Teri J. Orr, of the Dearing Lab present readers with a fascinating examination of the varied reproductive strategies of a broad spectrum of mammals, from marsupials to whales.

Nature imagery in prisons

October 3, 2017 - The Ecological Society of America has published an article by University of Utah biologist Nalini Nadkarni. An estimated 5.3 million Americans live or work in nature-deprived venues such as prisons, homeless shelters, and mental hospitals. Such removal from nature can result in an “extinction of experience” that can further lead to disinterest or disaffection toward natural settings, or even biophobia (fear of the natural environment). People who infrequently – or never – spend time in nature will be deprived of the numerous physical and emotional benefits that contact with nature affords. See ESA Article, See Nature Article..., See UU Story..., See Deseret News Story...

Skolnick Foundation Fellowship

The Skolnick Foundation Fellowship is awarding fellowships in honor of Gordon Lark, Ph.D., the first Department Chair of the Biology Department at the University of Utah, and a champion of undergraduate research. The Fellowship will provide four Biology undergraduates in the Biology Department the opportunity to receive $1,250 to work in a Biology Department research lab Spring Semester, 2018. Application deadline: October 16, 2017 for Spring Semester 2018.

Evolutionary Arms 'Chase'

August 23, 2017 - New research led by the University of Utah challenges the paradigm of an evolutionary arms race. The study analyzed multiple species of Inga, a genus of tropical trees that produces defensive chemicals, and their various insect herbivores. The researchers found that closely related plants evolved very different defensive traits. “This allows us to ask this important question: Is plant relatedness or are plant traits more important for determining which plant species a particular herbivore may feed on?” said senior author Thomas Kursar, professor in the Department of Biology at the U and Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. “The answer turns out to be that plant traits are more important.” “The fact that there is this asymmetry in the evolutionary interactions is surprising,” adds lead author Maria Jose Endara, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Utah, and associated researcher at Universidad Tecnológica Indoamérica in Ecuador. “Herbivores select for the divergence in the chemical defenses in Inga hosts.  See Full Story...

the 'far side' of science

August 14, 2017 - Since Gary Larson’s “The Far Side” cartoons hit newsstands in 1979, Dale Clayton, an evolutionary parasitologist at the University of Utah and appreciator of the wacky, has loved the comic’s tongue-in-cheek representation of the natural world and the scientists who study it. In “The Far Side” universe, anthropomorphic organisms and suburbanites in cat-eye glasses poke fun at all fields of study, from microbiology to astronomy, with wordplay and dark humor. When Clayton discovered a new species of feather louse as a graduate student at the University of Chicago in 1989, he knew exactly what to name it. So began the strange tale of a type of chewing louse that came to be known as Strigiphilus garylarsoni. See Full Story...

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