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How does the embryo build itself? asks Dave McClay. It starts with a single cell containing the complete DNA instructions, but some cells develop into muscle and others into gut or skeleton. At the same time the cells have to communicate with each other, so that muscle cells join together to make a muscle with the right shape and in the right place. Sea urchins are ideal for this research. They are simple, but even better they are transparent; you can watch the structures form. McClay's student Cati Logan identified the… read more about In Plain English: Dave McClay »

Alyssa Perz-Edwards works far away on East Campus as Assistant Dean for pre-health majors. She works with many students but her special care is the Cardea Fellows Program. It serves diverse students hope for careers in health care by focusing on core knowledge in math and science. The Program employs advising, seminars and programs to create a "learning community." In their freshman year the Fellows take Alyssa's seminar on Medical Biology, studying case histories to learn how the progress of biological science has affected… read more about In Plain English: Alyssa Perz-Edwards »

Anne Yoder and former postdoc Jason Borwn (CCNY) have published "A necessarily complex model to explain the biogeography of reptiles and amphibians in Madagascar" in Nature Communications (October 2014).  The article studies the distribution of more than 700 species combined with historical and contemporary data on climate, topography, and other environmental variables.  It demonstrates that different species respond to different factors--tree frogs react to changes of elevation, but leaf chameleons to stability in their… read more about Yoder publishes on biodiversity in Madagascar »

On Monday the 22nd of September the Biology Department dedicated a plaque in honor of Knut Schmidt-Nielsen at the statue of Knut and the Camel. The statue, by Jonathan Kingdon, celebrates Schmidt-Nielsen's path-breaking research on the camel's physiology. The statue has languished for years with no explanation, but now the plaque identifies Schmidt-Nielsen, the importance of his work at Duke, and the artist. read more about The Camel Gets its Plaque »

Popular Science has selected Katia Koelle as one of their "Brilliant Ten," which features ten of the "brightest young minds reshaping science, engineering and the world."  Katia's research on how viruses mutate and spread caught the editors' eyes as timely and significant. read more about Katia Koelle One of Popular Science's "Brilliant Ten" »

ScienceNews recently featured research from David Sherwood's Lab on invadopodia, foot-like cell protrusions characteristic of metastatic cancer cells.  Sherwood and his colleagues discovered that invadopodia are actually an ancient, conserved structure in C. elegans worms, which emerge during development to link the uterus and the vagina. read more about Sherwood Lab Featured in ScienceNews »

Name: Jill Chaskes FosterPosition: Staff assistant, Department of BiologyYears at Duke: 14 yearsWhat I do at Duke: I help administer the undergraduate program in biology, which includes things like putting together our course schedule, coordinating the graduation ceremony for students and a lot of interaction with undergrad majors and faculty. I’m kind of like a catchall resource person.What I love about Duke: The sense of vibrancy on… read more about Longing for Nepal »

The Trinity Science & Research Scholars Program is launching this fall to provide opportunities for Trinity College freshmen and sophomores to engage in science and research early in their undergraduate careers.The scholars program will include multi-year research experiences during the academic year and summers and intensive one-on-one mentoring with Arts & Sciences faculty. Students interested in any area of science are invited to participate.  Information sessions will occur during the fall semester and the… read more about Willard to Lead New Research Program for Undergrads »

From whales to lemurs, senior Cassidy Pomeroy-Carter is using animal research experiences at Duke to prepare her for a future in veterinary medicine.As a pre-veterinary student interested in working with exotic animals, Pomeroy-Carter is a biology and German double major from Vienna, Austria. She is currently working on two research projects -- one involving lemurs at the Duke Lemur Center and a second with whales at the Duke Marine Lab.“The reason I'm involved in so many different research projects is that I really have a… read more about Cassidy Pomeroy-Carter: Studying Creatures Great and Small »

Duke University researchers have found a ”roving detection system” on the surface of cells that may point to new ways of treating diseases like cancer, Parkinson's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).The cells, which were studied in nematode worms, are able to break through normal tissue boundaries and burrow into other tissues and organs -- a crucial step in many normal developmental processes, ranging from embryonic development and wound-healing to the formation of new blood vessels.But sometimes the process… read more about Scientists Uncover Navigation System Used by Cancer, Nerve Cells »

Eighteen recent graduates and graduate students from Duke University received Fulbright Scholarships and will spend the 2014-15 academic year conducting research, studying and teaching English. “The success of Duke students in securing Fulbright research, study and English teaching grants is testimony to the quality of the undergraduate and graduate educational experience and to the global perspective of our students and faculty,” said David Baker, Duke’s Fulbright Program adviser.The Fulbright Scholarship application… read more about Fulbright Scholarship Winners From Duke University Announced »

When David Shiffman ‘07 applied to Duke University in 2002, he wrote his application essay about the first time he swam with sharks. The then-landlocked Shiffman, who grew up in Pittsburgh, included an anecdote about consoling his father before his dive into the deep with an 11-foot tiger shark -- "Don’t worry Dad. They don't usually eat people."Seven years later Shiffman has interacted with more than 3,000 sharks on five continents -- and he's still pushing boundaries and challenging stereotypes through his work as a… read more about Why Sharks Matter »

When Bob Cieri first arrived at Duke, he envisioned becoming an ecologist who worked in the field, not someone who’d flourish in a lab.All that changed during his four years at Duke. Now, three years out and happily ensconced in his first year of graduate school in biology at the University of Utah, Cieri recently was lead author on a published study that started as his honors thesis at Duke. The study theorizes that human society advanced when testosterone levels dropped and people started being more cooperative.The… read more about Lead Author Learned to Love Research at Duke »

Modern humans appear in the fossil record about 200,000 years ago, but it was only about 50,000 years ago that making art and advanced tools became widespread.A new study appearing Aug. 1 in the journal Current Anthropology finds that human skulls changed in ways that indicate a lowering of testosterone levels at around the same time that culture was blossoming."The modern human behaviors of technological innovation, making art and rapid cultural exchange probably came at the same time that we developed a more cooperative… read more about Society Bloomed With Gentler Personalities and More Feminine Faces »

A study of dominance in female baboons suggests that the route to a higher rank is to maintain close ties with mom, and to have lots of supportive sisters.A female baboon’s social status is dictated not by size or strength, but by the rank of her mother -– the higher the mother is ranked, the higher-ranked her daughter will be. For this reason, dominance rank in female baboons is thought to be determined at birth. Females born to high-ranking mothers are guaranteed a good spot in the pecking order, whereas females born to… read more about Supportive Moms and Sisters Boost Female Baboon’s Rank »

A Chinese biotech firm has pushed biology professor Kathleen Pryer and her team over the top in their quest to fund the sequencing of the azolla genome and its associated symbiotic bacteria – a project ultimately aimed at combating global warming and boosting agricultural yields.Pryer shared the news with more than 80 crowdfunding backers late last week. “We are thrilled to announce that the Azolla Genome Project has found its ultimate advocate,” she said. A leading international genome sequencing center -- Beijing Genomics… read more about Crowdfunding for Azolla Fern Research Hits Target »

Junior Julian Kimura came to Duke with an interest in developmental biology and he found a home on his first day at the university in the lab of biology professor David McClay Kimura is investigating the evolutionary relationship between sea urchins and sand dollars by studying how their embryos develop. He hopes to understand how the two organisms have changed or stayed similar over millions of years.From Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., Kimura said he has long been interested in the complexity of the processes involved in… read more about Julian Kimura: Evolutionary Paths of the Sea Urchin and the Sand Dollar »

Before biologists can understand the role of specific genes, they have to be able to determine whether those genes are "on or off." Howard Hughes Undergraduate Research Fellow Mitchell Lee is looking to make take process easier.Working with Nicholas Buchler, assistant professor of biology and physics, Lee is developing methods that will give synthetic biology researchers greater control over the expression of different genes.His research involves creating artificial two-gene circuits that can switch on and off in E. coli, a… read more about Mitchell Lee: Student Studies New Processes for Gene Expression »

Oh, the people you will meet when raising money for science. Biology professor Kathleen Pryer knows this now, after first writing an op-ed and then joining grad student Fay-Wei Li in launching a crowdfunding project on behalf of the tiny aquatic azolla, sidelined as a "lowly fern" in plant genome studies."This has been so much fun," she says. "I haven't felt so popular since ... well, never."Pryer is leading a group of researchers at Duke and Utah State University who are raising money through Experiment.com to sequence the… read more about Going Public With Research Funding »