G&D Field (entered program fall 2001)
From: born in Ghana, grew up mostly in New York City.
Undergraduate: Carleton University, Ottawa ON Canada; BS (Biology/Biotechnology) in 2001
"I had always been interested in science, but not until my first undergraduate genetics course was I certain of my interests in molecular biology. After learning a bit about retroviruses and working at the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in New York City, I became even more interested in virology. I decided to come to Cornell because of the flexibility afforded by the Graduate Field system. It also didn't hurt that Ithaca is absolutely beautiful.
Our lab is interested in the mechanisms underlying retroviral assembly. A single structural protein, Gag, drives assembly by means of protein-RNA-, protein-protein- and protein-lipid interactions. The two retroviruses we focus on are the classic chicken virus Rous sarcoma virus (RSV) and human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1). In my project I have created chimeric RSV/HIV-1 Gag proteins as tools to better understand assembly and morphogenesis.
Ako-Adej D, Johnson MC, and Vogt VM. (2005). The retroviral capsid domain dictates virion size, morphology, and co-assembly of Gag into virus-like particles. J Virol 79:13463-72.
Johnson MC, Ako-Adej D, and Vogt VM. (2005). The C-terminal half of TSG101 blocks Rous sarcoma virus budding and sequesters Gag into unique non-endosomal structures.
J Virol 79:3775-86.
Ako-Adjei D, Johnson M, Vogt VM.The retroviral CA domain dictates virion size, morphology and the co-assembly of Gag into virus-like particles." International Retrovirus Meeting, Cold Spring Harbor, NY (May 2005). (Poster)
Ako-Adjei D, Johnson M, Vogt VM.Assesment of retroviral size and morphology determinants via RSV/HIV chimeras." International Retrovirus Meeting, Cold Spring Harbor, NY (May 2004). (Poster)
Ako-Adjei D, Johnson M, Vogt VM.Electron microscopic analysis of virus particles assembled from RSV/HIV chimeric Gag proteins." International Retrovirus Meeting, Cold Spring Harbor, NY (May 2003). (Poster)
G&D Field (entered program fall 2001)
From: Gloucestershire, England.
Undergraduate: University of Nottingham; BS (Genetics) in 2001
I wanted to undertake my graduate study in the USA because the five year (as opposed to three year) program in the States gives greater opportunities for teaching, taking classes and learning how to write Grant applications. I chose Cornell because of its great reputation for being a top research and teaching institution, and because there were several labs at Cornell working on the area that I was most interested in (mechanisms of gene expression). The visitation weekend sealed my decision to come to Cornell, after I received a terrifically warm reception and immediately made a great bunch of friends. Another great bonus for Cornell was the setting in a small, friendly town with plenty of arts, entertainment and outdoor activities to take advantage of. I was also particularly excited about being within a 30 minute drive of a ski resort.
The Lis lab studies the mechanism of transcription activation at the Drosophila heat inducible gene, hsp70. I primarily focus on examining the recruitment and localization of various transcription factors along the hsp70 gene, and my research makes use of a range of biochemical and genetic techniques. I am attempting to make fly lines carrying temperature sensitive alleles of factors that I'm interested in, and I am also making use of a drug that inhibits the activity of particular factor as a tool to study the factor. Additionally I am involved in the development of new technologies with which to study the distribution of factors along the gene.
Adelman, K., Marr, M. T., Werner, J., Saunders, A., Ni, Z., Andrulis, E. D. and Lis, J. T. (2004) Efficient Release From Promoter-Proximal Stall Sites Requires Transcript Cleavage Factor TFIIS. Molecular Cell 17:103-112.
Belotserkovskaya, R., Saunders, A., Lis, J. T. and Reinberg, D. (2004) Transcription Through Chromatin: Understanding a Complex FACT. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 1677: 87-99.
Saunders, A., Werner, J., Andrulis, E. D. et al. (2003) Tracking FACT and the RNA Polymerase II Elongation Complex Through Chromatin in Vivo. Science 301: 1001-1140
Boehm, A. K., Saunders, A., Werner, J. and Lis, J. T. (2003) Transcription Factor and Polymerase Recruitment, Modification, and Movement on dhsp70 In Vivo in the Minutes following Heat Shock. Molecular and Cellular Biology 23: 7628-7637.
Saunders, A., Kim, S., Filippone, L., Spector, A. and Lis, J. T. (March 2005) Utilizing Yeast for the Creation of Drosophila Fly Lines Carrying Temperature Sensitive Alleles of Factors Involved in hsp70 Transcription. Poster abstract for the 46th Annual Drosophila Research Conference.
Workshop Talk at the March 2003 KeystoneEnzymology of Chromatin and Transcription meeting, Sante Fe, New MexicKinetic Analysis of the Transcription Apparatus on Drosophila hsp70.
Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics (May 2003).
BMCB Field (entered program fall 2001)
From: St. Cloud, MN
Undergraduate: Michigan Technological University; Dual BS (Biological Sciences and Chemical Engineering)
I spent several years focused on a ski racing career before returning to research full time. The faculty at Cornell seemed to welcome the diversity of my experience when I applied and interviewed, and I appreciated the fact that they were utilizing ideas and technologies from various disciplines in their own work. Furthermore, I really feel the program supports me as I strive to become a better scientist while simultaneously becoming a first-time mother.
Current research indicates that regulation of gene expression goes far beyond transcriptional control, including post-transcriptional alterations of RNA. The focus in the Stern lab is chloroplast gene expression, where relative levels of mRNAs are primarily regulated at post-trancriptional steps. I have identified several genes that are likely to participate in these steps, by modifying or cleaving RNA. I am silencing them in the versatile alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, as well as overexpressing one of them and performing biochemical assays. My thesis work is centered on determining what role these proteins have in both the processing and turnover of chloroplast RNAs. I am especially interested in understanding how polyadenylation promotes degradation of mRNAs and how my candidate genes affect this step in the degradation pathway.
Joint Genome Institute Chlamydomonas Annotation Jamboree. December 2003. Walnut Creek, CA.
Mascher T., Zimmer S. L., Smith T. A., Helmann, J. D. (2004). Antibiotic-inducible promoter regulated by the cell envelope stress-sensing two-component system LiaRS of Bacillus subtilis. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 48: 2888-96.
Nishimura Y., Kikis E. A., Zimmer S. L., Komine Y., Stern D. B. (2004). Antisense transcript and RNA processing alterations suppress instability of polyadenylated mRNA in Chlamydomonas chloroplasts. Plant Cell 16: 2849-69.
3M Engineering Scholar (Undergraduate)
BMCB Field (entered program fall 2001).
Undergraduate: Franklin and Marshall College, BA (Chemistry) in 2001
The introductory eight-week lab course is one reason why I chose the BMCB Graduate Program. The Field System brings together labs from Chemistry, Nutrition, Microbiology, etc., so it was beneficial for us to get an introduction to a variety of techniques to prepare us for our rotations and future lab work. The Graduate Program also provides students with terrific training -- student seminars, Friday seminars and progress reports are just a few examples of this training.
Pyridoxal-5-phosphate (PLP, vitamin B6) is an essential cofactor in all living systems. It plays an important role in amino acid and carbohydrate metabolism and has recently been implicated in singlet oxygen resistance. The biosynthesis of PLP in Escherichia coli has been well studied. This pathway, however, is restricted to a relatively small number of bacteria. Most bacteria, archaebacteria, fungi, and plants contain the highly conserved SNZ and SNO family of genes which have been implicated in PLP biosynthesis. My project involves the identification of the substrates for the SNZ and SNO family of proteins in Bacillus subtilis, reconstituting the biosynthesis, and analyzing the reaction mechanism.
I am interested in studying Mycobacterium tuberculosis in my post-doc, with the hope of uncovering interesting biosynthetic pathways and chemistry.
Burns, Kristin E.; Baumgart, Sabine; Dorrestein, Pieter C.; Zhai, Huili; McLafferty, Fred W.; Begley, Tadhg P. (2005) Reconstitution of a New Cysteine Biosynthetic Pathway in Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Journal of the American Chemical Society 127: 11602-11603.
Burns, Kristin E.; Xiang, Yun; Kinsland, Cynthia L.; McLafferty, Fred W.; Begley, Tadhg P. (2005) Reconstitution and Biochemical Characterization of a New Pyridoxal-5'-Phosphate Biosynthetic Pathway. Journal of the American Chemical Society 127:3682-3683.
Park, Joo-Heon; Burns, Kristin; Kinsland, Cynthia; Begley, Tadhg P. (2004) Characterization of two kinases involved in thiamine pyrophosphate and pyridoxal phosphate biosynthesis in Bacillus subtilis: 4-amino-5-hydroxymethyl-2-methylpyrimidine kinase and pyridoxal kinase. Journal of Bacteriology 186:1571-1573.
Enzymes, Coenzymes and Metabolic Pathways Gordon Research Conference, July 2005. Reconstitution and biochemical characterization of a new Pyridoxal-5-phosphate biosynthetic pathway, Kristin E. Burns, Yun Xiang, Cynthia L. Kinsland, Fred W. McLafferty and Tadhg P. Begley.
228th American Chemical Society National Meeting, August 2004. A new cysteine biosynthetic pathway in Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Kristin E. Burns, Sabine Baumgart, Pieter C. Dorrestein, Huili Zhai, Fred McLafferty and Tadhg P. Begley.
Research highlighted in Chemical and Engineering Latest News, August 31, 2005. TB's Novel Path To Cysteine: Route's chemistry suggests it may play a role during tuberculosis infection, by Amanda Yarnell. (http://pubs.acs.org/cen/news/83/i36/8336cysteine.html)
Award of Excellence, Vincent du Vigneaud Memorial Symposium, May 2005
Weill Medical College
BMCB Field (entered program fall 2002).
Undergraduate: Liberty University, BS (Premed) in 1999
The BMCB field in the Molecular Biology and Genetics Department was the reason I chose to come to Cornell. With past experience as a high school science teacher, I knew I needed a broad foundation in biochemistry and molecular biology in order to meet the challenges of teaching science in the future. Since the program contains professors from various fields of study, I quickly found the area of research that sparked my interest the most. To this day, collaborations and interactions within the MBG Department challenge my way of thinking about science and enable me to be a better teacher in the future.
My research in the Kraus Lab is directed at understanding the mechanism by which AP-1 transcription factors activate transcription. I am particularly interested in how estrogen receptors cause an activation of certain AP-1 driven genes in a ligand-dependent manner. I am attempting to determine the proteins that compose these transcription complexes and determine their role in transcriptional activation.
Currently I am working towards a career in academia with the desire to teach courses in biology, biochemistry, and molecular biology full-time.
2005-2006Endocrine Society Travel Grant
2004-2005The Chancellors List
2003-2004Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant
2005-2006Poster Presentation at the Endocrine Society Meeting:
Molecular Mechanism of Estrogen-Dependent Transcription Through Activating Protein-1.
Aquadro and Wolfner labs
G&D Field (entered program fall 2002)
From: Ottawa, Ontario
Undergraduate: Carleton University, Ottawa ON, Canada. BA (Biology/Philosophy) in 2000.
Graduate: Carleton University. MA (Philosophy) in 2002.
I was interested in coming to the Field of Genetics and Development because of the wide range of research being conducted, in diverse fields such as developmental biology, molecular genetics, population genetics, and molecular evolution. I was excited about the possibility of doing interdisciplinary work for my PhD, where I could use tools from both molecular evolution and molecular genetics to address interesting questions. Moreover, Ithaca has a lot to offer outside of the University like great hiking, good restaurants, and a lively music scene.
I work on the molecular evolution and functional analysis of genes involved in fruit fly reproduction. Following mating, female fruit flies undergo many behavioral and physiological changes: they store sperm, resist further mating attempts, and increase their rates of ovulation and egg laying. Interestingly, some of the genes that cause such post-mating changes evolve very rapidly between species; this observation also holds true for many reproductive genes in marine invertebrates, mammals, and plants. It has been suggested that interactions between proteins produced by males and those produced by females underlie this rapid evolution. Differing reproductive interests of males and females may, for example, drive a moleculararms race similar to that observed between immune molecules and their targets. My research focuses on co-evolution between male and female reproductive proteins. I am attempting to identify receptors for several well-characterized seminal fluid proteins, and I am characterizing the functions and evolution of a number of proteases expressed in the female reproductive tract.
Swanson WJ, Wong A, Wolfner MF, Aquadro CF. (2004) Evolutionary expressed sequence tag analysis of Drosophila female reproductive tracts identifies genes subjected to positive selection. Genetics 168:1457-65.
Wong A, Smith ML, Forbes MR. (2003) Differentiation between subpopulations of a polychromatic damselfly with respect to morph frequencies, but not neutral genetic markers. Mol Ecol. 12:3505-13.
Yan H, Aziz E, Shillabeer G, Wong A, Shanghavi D, Kermouni A, Abdel-Hafez M, Lau DC. (2002) Nitric oxide promotes differentiation of rat white preadipocytes in culture. J Lipid Res. 43:2123-9.
Wong A, Forbes MR, Smith ML. (2001) Characterization of AFLP markers in damselflies: prevalence of codominant markers and implications for population genetic applications. Genome 44:677-84.
Drosophila Species Workshop (Tucson, AZ, October 2005). Workshop participant.
Congress of Sperm and Seminal Fluid (Monte Verita, Switzerland, February 2005).Interactions of Drosophila melanogaster male seminal fluid proteins. Poster presentation.
Genomes and Evolution (State College, PA, June 2004).Evidence for positive selection on genes expressed in the reproductive tract of female Drosophila melanogaster. Poster presentation.
45th Annual Drosophila Research Conference (Washington DC, March 2004).Evidence for positive selection on genes expressed in the reproductive tract of female Drosophila melanogaster. Poster presentation.
NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (2005-2007)
Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant (2004)
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Predoctoral Fellowship (2003-2008)
BMCB Field (entered program fall 2002)
From: San Diego, CA
Undergraduate: University of Notre Dame. BS (Biological Sciences) in 2002
The highly collaborative environment at Cornell was one of the main reasons I decided to join the BMCB program. Many labs work in similar areas, which allows the labs to hold joint journal clubs, discuss problems, and troubleshoot protocols. Its great to have the entire building as a resource whenever you have a question because chances are someone is willing and able to help. Everyone in the department is very supportive and friendly, which makes for a great working environment.
The formation and stability of the mitotic spindle during the cell cycle is critical for proper segregation of chromosomes. The bipolar spindle is composed of microtubules and associated proteins. Using the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, I am interested in understanding the role of the essential microtubule-associated protein Stu1 in assembly and maintenance of the mitotic spindle. Stu1 is a member of a family of proteins conserved from yeast to humans that localizes to the spindle and binds microtubules. Loss of Stu1 results in a compromised collapsed spindle. I am currently investigating if Stu1 maintains spindle integrity by modulating microtubule dynamics.
Awards: NIH Pre-doctoral Fellowship 2005
Outreach: Expanding Your Horizons Publicity/Brochure Chair (2005-2006)