Biology

Notable Faculty & Student Achievements

December 2018

  • Eleven Southwestern University faculty members have won Sam Taylor Fellowship grants to support their research, with award amounts ranging from $1,000 to $1,600. Sam Taylor Fellowships are selected through a competitive application process and are provided by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church. This year’s recipients are

    • Professor of Physics Steven Alexander, “Generating Energy from Hot Sidewalks” (awarded $1,200)
    • Assistant Professor of Communication Studies Lamiyah Bahrainwala, “The Politics of Stealth Halal: Re-Presenting the Islamic Origins of U.S. Meat Products” (awarded $1,600)
    • Associate Professor of German Erika Berroth , “Nature Education in the German Classroom: Possibilities for Integration and Inclusion?” (awarded $1,400)
    • Professor of Biology Romi Burks, “Unravelling the Mystery: Genetic Differentiation of Chinese and Japanese Mysterysnails Using 16S” (awarded $1,400)
    • Assistant Professor of History Jethro Hernandez Berrones, “With Indigenist Spirit: Doctors on Spiritual Practices in Post-Revolutionary Mexico” (awarded $1,500)
    • Professor of Anthropology Melissa Johnson, “Human–Jaguar Becomings and Racial Capitalism in Belize” (awarded $1,000)
    • Associate Professor of French Francis Mathieu, “Research on Claire de Duras’s Avant-Garde Novella, Ourika” (awarded $1,400)
    • Associate Professor of French Aaron Prevots, “Gestures toward the Sacred: Guillevic, Vargaftig, Tellermann, Michel” (awarded $1,400)
    • Associate Professor of Communication Studies Valerie Renegar, “Contemporary Modes of Parenting: Disrupting the Representation of Stepmothers in Popular Culture” (awarded $1,500)
    • Associate Professor of Spanish Maria De Los Angeles Rodriguez Cadena, “Cultural Memory and Historical Fiction: Women of the Past on Television and Film by Four Contemporary Mexican Women Directors” (awarded $1,400)
    • Assistant Professor of Political Science Emily Sydnor, “Researching Attachments to American Political Institutions” (awarded $1,600)




November 2018

  • Professor of Biology Romi Burks presented a talk titled “The future of Genetic Engineering in the Chocolate Industry” on the Pro Series Stage of the Northwest Chocolate Festival in Seattle, WA, Nov. 10. The Festival represents one of the largest gatherings of professionals involved in fine chocolate. Burks sought to translate the latest research using CRISPR-Cas9 (a gene editing tool) that sought to increase disease resistance in Theobroma cacao (the tree from which chocolate comes). The talk developed from a case study that Burks taught in her First Year Seminar “Does Chocolate Have a Dark Side?”





October 2018

  • Professor of Biology Romi Burks participated in the first-ever Chocolate Conservatory, sponsored by the Fine Chocolate and Cacao Institute, held at Harvard University, Oct. 1112. The conference sought to link those academically interested in chocolate with industry professionals and producers from regions where they harvest cacao. Following the Conservatory, Burks gave an invited talk titled “Delicious Science” at the first New England Chocolate Festival. The First-Year Seminar Program provided support for these experiences, which Burks hopes will develop into case-study resources for teaching about chocolate across the liberal arts.





  • Professors of Biology Maria Cuevas and Maria Todd received a $12,000 grant from the Joe and Jessie Crump Foundation for Medical Research. The funds will support their current research project titled “Simultaneous Analysis of 84 Tight Junction Genes Involved in Uterine Cancer Progression.” This grant will enable them to expand the scope of their studies and increase the clinical relevance of their research endeavors.





September 2018

  • Professor of Biology Romi Burksgave an invited presentation at the Dallas Chocolate Festival titled “The Scientific Future of Chocolate: Genetics” as part of the educational lineup associated with the event that took place on Sept. 8, 2018. The presentation builds on her development of a First-Year Seminar focused on chocolate.





  • Professor of Biology and Lillian Nelson Pratt Chair Ben Pierce published an article titled “Within-Spring Movement of the Georgetown Salamander (Eurycea naufragia)” in the August 2018 issue of Herpetological Conservation and Biology. The article was coauthored with former Southwestern students Areli Gutierrez ’15 and Samuel Guess ’17.





August 2018

  • Professor and Chair of Biology Romi Burks presented a five-minute “INSPIRE” talk (20 slides timed for 15 seconds each) at a special session titled “Students as Ecologists: Collaborating With Undergraduates From Scientific Question to Publication” at the Ecological Society of America meeting in New Orleans, LA. The talk, “’Wait, You Can’t Leave Me!?’ How to Maintain Writing Productivity With Undergraduate Students Post-Graduation,” drew on her experience publishing peer-reviewed scientific papers with many Southwestern students. The text and slides have been archived (doi:10.7490/f1000research.1115925.1) on the F1000 Research site.





July 2018

  • Eight faculty members in the natural sciences published a letter to the editor in the Williamson County Sunin the July 29th edition. “SU Scientists Refute ‘Hoax’ Climate Claim” was in reference to the Sun’s July 22 account of a community forum on the science of climate change. The letter was written by Professor of Biology Max Taub and co-signed by Professor of Chemistry Kerry Bruns, Professor of Biology Romi Burks, Professor of Biology Maria Cuevas, Assistant Professor of Chemistry Mike Gesinski, Associate Professor of Biology Martín Gonzalez, Professor of Kinesiology Scott McLean, and Professor of Biology Ben Pierce.





  • Associate Professor of Education Sherry Adrian, Professor of Education Michael Kamen, and Associate Professor of Education Alicia Moore, together with staff from Texas Parks & Wildlife, hosted the Texas WILD Forum over three days for 40+ participants in Mood-Bridwell. The Forum was an opportunity to demonstrate how to share conservation with young children with the intent to build a child’s sense of wonder with arts and crafts, music, reading, math, and conservation activities. Presenters demonstrated the importance of enhanced learning and development in all areas within the social, emotional, physical, linguistic, and cognitive domains,correlated with TEKS, Head Start, and National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) standards.

    • Dr. Adrian spoke of differentiating instructional content and procedures to foster more successful inclusion of all students in her presentation “Diversity Is Nature’s Greatest Asset: Including All Children in Project WILD.”
    • Professor of Biology Romi Burks presented the “ABCs of Apple Snails and eDNA.” She spoke about the basic ecology, diversity, and distribution of apple snails and how future monitoring efforts may incorporate environmental DNA.
    • Dr. Kamen delivered a session titled “WILD Play and the International Play Crisis.” His session touched on the importance of play in development and learning for children and animals.
    • Dr. Moore presented “The WILD Ones: Working to Identify Learning Pathways through Diversity,” which provided opportunities for participants to examine personal and cultural identities to enhance their teaching and learning.