Southwestern

Engaging Minds, Transforming Lives

Biology

Notables

Spring 2016

  • Professor of Biology Romi Burks attended the Society for Freshwater Science meeting in Sacramento, Calif. from May 21–25 where she gave an invited talk entitled “Worldly Science: Developing Undergraduate Research and Mentoring Activities to Train Diverse Global Scientists: An NSF-IRES Case Study.” The talk featured her international research program involving Southwestern students and host scientists from Uruguay. It took place in a special session focused on broadening participation of undergraduates in freshwater science.

  • Director of First Year Biology Laboratories Stacie Brown, in collaboration with Dr. Richard Meyer of University of Texas, has secured a contract with American Society for Microbiology (ASM) Press to co-write a lab manual for sophomore/junior level introductory microbiology students. The lab manual will include guided-inquiry and inquiry-based modules that conform to ASM curriculum recommendations. The expected publication date is 2017.

  • The Board of Trustees approved the following recommendations regarding promotion of faculty:

    Associate Professors promoted to the rank of Professor:

    • Dr. David Gaines, Professor of English
    • Dr. Katy Ross, Professor of Spanish

    • Dr. Maria Todd, Professor of Biology

Fall 2015

  • Stacie Brown, director of first year biology laboratories, has been selected to participate in the Prevalence of Antibiotic-Resistant microbes in the Environment (PARE) project, a program through Yale University that provides undergraduates the opportunity to do research and contribute data to a national database. This is in alignment with the Biology Department’s efforts to transform the laboratory exercises into research, which has been partially supported by the HHMI grant.

Spring 2015

  • Stacie Brown, director of first year biology laboratories, is a co-author for a paper published in Microbiology titled “Indole inhibition of N-acylated homoserine lactone-mediated quorum signaling is widespread in Gram-negative bacteria.”

  • Associate Professors of Biology Maria Cuevas, Maria Todd and Rebecca Sheller have an article in press in the International Journal of Oncology titled “Estrogen-dependent expression and subcellular localization of the tight junction protein claudin-4 in HEC-1A endometrial cancer cells.” This work was done in collaboration with Jonathan King, associate professor of biology at Trinity University, and two former SU biology students: Jenna Gaska ’13, currently pursuing a Ph.D. at Princeton, and Dr. Andrea Holland Gist ’11, currently doing her residency in family medicine.

  • Associate Professors of Biology Maria Cuevas, Maria Todd and Rebecca Sheller published a paper in Oncology Letters titled “Overexpression and delocalization of claudin-3 protein in MCF-7 and MDA-MB-415 breast cancer cell lines.”

  • Ben Pierce, professor of biology and holder of the Lillian Nelson Pratt Chair, was recently awarded a $27,691 grant from the Williamson County Conservation Foundation to carry out research on the ecology of the Georgetown salamander. In the past five years, Pierce has received a total of $131,557 for his research on the Georgetown salamander.

Fall 2014

  • Associate Professor of Biology Maria Cuevas and Tracey Lindeman ’09 published an article in the January 2015 issue of the journal “Oncology Reports.” The article, titled “In vitro cytotoxicity of 4’OH-tamoxifen and estradiol in human endometrial adenocarcinoma cells HEC-1A and HEC-1B.

  • Associate Professors of Biology Maria Todd and Maria Cuevas were awarded $10,000 from the JP Morgan Crump Foundation to support their collaborative cancer research project with Associate Professor of Biology Rebecca Sheller. The aim of the project is to study the deregulation of tight junction proteins in female reproductive cancers. 

  • Ben Pierce, professor of biology and holder of the Lillian Nelson Pratt Chair, published an article in Herpetological Conservation and Biology titled “Population size, movement, and reproduction of the Georgetown salamander,Eurycea naufragia.” The paper was co-authored with 2013 graduate Kira McEntire and 2012 graduate Ashley Wall.

Spring 2014

  • A paper written by Romi Burks, professor of biology, and seven others who have been involved with the SMArT program was published in Science Education and Civic Engagement: An International Journal. The paper is titled “Staying SMArT: Introduction, Reflection, and Assessment of an Inquiry-based Afterschool Science Program for Elementary School Students.” Other authors of the paper were Anna Frankel, Meredith Liebl, Megan Lowther, Amanda Mohammed, Erica Navaira, Kate Roberts and former staff member Suzy Pukys. The paper is available here.

  • Junior biology major Carson Savrick has received a $500 Grants-in-Aid from the Sigma Xi Research Society to support her molecular ecology undergraduate research project. Only about 20 percent of the hundreds of proposals submitted received funding and the competition does not distinguish between undergraduate and graduate student work. In collaboration with Kenneth Hayes at Howard University and with the research mentoring of Romi Burks, professor of biology, Carson has developed a project that investigates the direction in which exotic, invasive apple snail (Pomacea maculata) populations spread across the southeastern United States. In addition, Carson will use molecular tools (DNA extraction and PCR) to screen a subsample of snails from different populations for a parasite, Angiostrongylus cantonensis, which can pose a human health concern. Carson will present preliminary results of this work at The Texas Academy of Science meeting in March and at the Research and Creative Works Symposium at Southwestern in April.

  • December graduate Heather Petty presented a poster titled “Suppression of abnormally overexpressed claudin-3 protein decreases motility of MCF-7 breast cancer cells” at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium held Dec. 10-14. The symposium, which is sponsored by the American Association for Cancer Research, is the largest international meeting devoted to breast cancer. The poster was based on research Petty conducted with Maria Todd, associate professor of biology. Todd collaborates on a project aimed at elucidating the molecular basis of breast cancer metastasis with Maria Cuevas, associate professor of biology, Rebecca Sheller, associate professor of biology, and Jonathan King, associate professor of biology at Trinity University. 

Fall 2013

  • Ben Pierce, professor of biology and holder of the Lillian Nelson Pratt Chair, recently received a $25,927 grant from the Williamson County Conservation Foundation for research on the ecology of the Georgetown salamander. Over the past four years, Pierce has received a total of $104,069 for his research on the Georgetown salamander.

  • Romi Burks, professor of biology, and Therese Shelton, associate professor of mathematics, had an article titled “Count Your Eggs Before They Invade: Identifying and Quantifying Egg Clutches of Two Invasive Apple Snail Species (Pomacea)” published in the online journal PLOS ONE. Former students Allyson Plantz and Colin Kyle were co-authors on the paper. Read the article here.

  • Romi Burks, professor of biology and co-chair of Environmental Studies and Animal Behavior, is serving as a senior mentor at the Women Evolving the Biological Sciences Symposium being held in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., Oct. 16-19. Along with 14 other mentors, Burks participated in two panel discussions (Navigating Tenure and Promotion and Establishing a Research Lab at a PUI) and also partnered with Laura Katz of Smith College in a two-hour teaching workshop. WEBS is an annual three-day symposium supported by the National Science Foundation that is aimed at addressing the retention of female scientists and issues related to the transition of women from early career stages to tenure-track positions and leadership roles in academic and research settings. The symposium targets early career women in the biological sciences with an emphasis on ecology and evolutionary biology.  

  • Ben Pierce, professor of biology and holder of the Lillian Nelson Pratt Chair, published an article in Herpetological Conservation and Biology with Alex Hall, a 2011 graduate who is now a Ph.D. student at The University of Texas at Arlington. Their article was titled “Call latency as a measure of calling intensity in anuran auditory surveys.”  

  • The new issue of Bioscope (Fall 2013) – the Biology Department’s newsletter – is now available for download.

Spring 2013

  • Ben Pierce, professor of biology and holder of the Lillian Nelson Pratt Chair, was the invited speaker for Scholars Day at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton. The title of his talk was “The Ecology and Natural History of the Georgetown Salamander.” The talk included the contributions of Southwestern University undergraduate students who have assisted with research on the Georgetown salamander.

  • Martín Gonzalez, associate professor of biology, has been profiled on the website of the American Society for Microbiology-Burroughs Wellcome Fund Science Teaching Fellows Program. The program is designed to strengthen the science teaching skills of the fellows participating in this program. Read the profile here.

Fall 2012

  • Biology professors Maria ToddMaria Cuevas and Rebecca Sheller presented research they did in collaboration with Jonathan King from Trinity University at the 2012 Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas Conference held in Austin Oct. 24-26. Their presentation was titled “Sub-cellular Localization of Overexpressed Versus siRNA-Suppressed Claudin-3 Protein in Breast Cancer Cell Lines by Cell Fractionation and Indirect Immunofluorescence.” Students Browyn Tyler and Amanda Tompkins were co-authors on the paper. StudentsHeather Petty and Shannon Spears also attended the conference.

  • Senior biology and environmental studies major Kira McEntire gave several presentations over the summer. She gave an oral presentation at the EuryceAlliance meeting held May 25 at Texas State University, a poster presentation at the Ecological Society of America meeting Aug. 5-10 in Portland, Ore., and a poster presentation at the World Congress of Herpetology meeting Aug. 9-13 in Vancouver, Canada. Ben Pierce, professor of biology, presented the poster with her at the meeting in Vancouver.