News

Harish Eswaran spent his senior year at Duke bringing music to life. For his senior project, the biology and music major composed his first large-scale piece, Carnatic Concerto, which merges two styles of violin. While performing the work for the first time, Eswaran played the violin in the traditional western style and also in the classical tradition of South India called Carnatic violin.“The violinists [in India] would actually play while seated,” Eswaran said. “The way you learn… read more about Student Composer Meshes Two Musical Traditions  »

Sheena Faherty has received a AAAS Mass Media Fellowship for the summer of 2015.  The American Association for the Advancement of Science places 15 to 20 Fellows from STEM disciplines in various media outlets across the United States.  Fellows observe the practical difficulties journalists must contend with and sharpen their communication skills by writing for non-scientists.  Great work, Sheena! read more about Sheena Faherty Receives AAAS Mass Media Science and Engineering Fellowship »

Congratulations to these Biology students who have received awards from the Graduate School! International Dissertation Research Travel AwardRyan Campbell (Yoder lab)Eleanor Caves (Johnsen lab) Domestic Dissertation Travel AwardKate Thomas (Johnson lab) Aleane Webb Dissertation Research AwardKo-Hsuan Chen (Lutzoni lab) Katherine Goodman Stern Fellowship AY 2016Sheena Faherty (Yoder lab)Kathryn Picard (Pryer lab)… read more about Biograds Score with the Graduate School! »

Six Biology graduate students have won Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grants from the National Science Foundation.  Congratulations are due to:  Jenn Coughlan (Biology), Brenna Forester (UPE), Lindsay Leverett (UPE), Emily McLean (UPGG), Joanna Rifkin (UPGG), and Ashley Troth (Development). We're digging you guys! read more about Biograds DDIG it! »

The Biology Department proudly announces that The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation has awarded a fellowship to Prof. Sheila Patek.  Out of 3,100+ applicants 175 distinguished artists, scholars and scientists were chosen because of their established record of creativity and "exceptional promise."  We congratulate Sheila and look forward to more ground-breaking research from her laboratory. read more about Sheila Patek Wins Guggenheim Fellowship »

Prof. Amy Schmid's lab has been awarded funding from the Energy Initiative to study metabolic pathways in Archaea, single-celled microorganisms.  Prof. Michael Lynch (Pratt School of Engineering) is the co-P.I.  The researchers hope that the knowledge gained will lead to bioengineering new metabolic pathways for producing biofuels. The Energy Research Seed Fund made seven awards this year.  Projects must address top energy challenges and have the potential to gain external funding once… read more about Schmid Lab gets Energy Initiative Funding »

Jennifer Gredler (Noor Lab), Kevin Lehner (Benfey Lab), Leslie Slota (McClay Lab) and Allan Castillo (matriculating, Rausher Lab) have all won Graduate Research Fellowships from the National Science Foundation.  These prestigious fellowships fund three years of graduate study in science and engineering.  Only 2000 are awarded in the entire country.  Way to go, Biology grad students! read more about Biograds win NSF pre-doc fellowships! »

The saying ”what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” may not hold up to scientific scrutiny. Baboons born in times of famine are more vulnerable to food shortages later in life, finds a new study. The findings are important because they help explain why people who are malnourished in early childhood often experience poor health as adults.After the plains of southern Kenya experienced a severe drought in 2009 that took a terrible toll on wildlife, researchers at Duke and Princeton Universities looked at how 50 wild baboons… read more about Being Born in Lean Times Is Bad News for Baboons »

As Lab Coordinator for the Gateway to Genetics and Evolution course Julie Noor is responsible for designing and implementing experiments performed by hundreds of undergraduates.  It’s an excellent job for a very hands-on person.  In the newest exercise, students learn about mating—and observation.  They read up on different methods of observing animal behavior and choose one to use.  Lab partners then get 4 tubes containing one lonely fly each: a male and female of one species and a male and female of… read more about In Plain English: Julie Noor »

In 1995 Diana Nemergut was one of the first Americorps volunteers, and helped to build community gardens in New Orleans.  It changed her life, and she went on study ecology.  Now she investigates the microbes living in soil, and their community structures.  Community structure?  How can a microbial community have structure?  No, the microbes aren’t living in teeny high-rise condos.  Structure refers to diversity:  What species are present, and in what proportions?  How are they… read more about In Plain English: Diana Nemergut »

The Biology Department regrets to announce the passing of former Professor and Chair of Botany Terry Johnson, on February 26, 2015.  Prof. Johnson, a specialist in mycology, came to Duke in 1954 and retired in 1985.  He served as Chair of Botany from 1963 to 1971 and also won the Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award.  In 1986 he was elected a Lifetime Member of the Mycological Society of America in recognition of his scholarly contributions.  After his retirement Johnson became a… read more about Professor Emeritus Terry Johnson Has Passed Away »

Assistant Professor of the Practice Eric Spana will speak on March 15 at the Wizard World convention in Raleigh.  His topic is "Harry Potter and the Genetics of Wizarding."  An expert on fruit fly genetics, Spana will discuss the characteristics of the Wizarding gene, how frequently it occurs, and why Wizard parents sometimes have offspring who lack the Wizarding gene.  A fun, informative time will be had by all! read more about Eric Spana to Speak at Wizard World March 15 »

Joanna Rifkin, graduate student in the Rausher lab, has been awarded an NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement grant to extend her studies of the evolution of “selfing syndrome” traits in the highly selfing morning glory species Ipomoea lacunosa.  In particular, she has been awarded funds to create nearly isogenic lines for alleles of genes affecting floral size and nectar production from I. lacunosa and its outcrossing sister species I. cordatotriloba.  She will use these lines in field… read more about Joanna Rifkin garners two awards »

It's a fact: only 10 to 20% of biomedical and basic science Ph.D.s find careers in academia.  Recently the Graduate School offered funding to explore opportunities outside the ivory towers.  In response, four Biology graduate students have initiated "Professional Development for Careers in Biology," aka "Biology Boot Camp."  Students register for the class to learn about different career goals, how to transfer skills to new fields, and acquiring new skills.  Patrick Green, Erin McKenny, Kathryn… read more about Bio Grads Lead Professional Development Class »

A delicate woodland fern discovered in the mountains of France is the love child of two distantly-related groups of plants that haven’t interbred in 60 million years, genetic analyses show.For most plants and animals, reuniting after such a long hiatus is thought to be impossible due to genetic and other incompatibilities between species that develop over time. Reproducing after such a long evolutionary breakup is akin to an elephant hybridizing with a manatee, or a human with a lemur, said co-author Kathleen Pryer,… read more about Distant Species Produce Love Child After 60-Millon-Year Breakup »

Maggie Wagner's work on soil microbes in Idaho has the potential to improve crop yields and address the problem of world hunger.  It's a great example of how basic research can lead to important practical results.  Wagner has discovered that certain microbes improve plants' nutrition to speed up flowering.  This could have a dramatic impact on agriculture in the future, when the world's population is projected to reach 9.8 billion people, and increase of 38%.  Good work, Maggie! read more about JSTOR Daily Features Maggie Wagner's Research »

Duke University has won eight student research awards from Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society.  This was twice as many as the next highest university.  Of the eight, seven were won by students in Biology or programs affiliated with Biology.  Congratulations to our high flyers! Allan Castillo (Biology) Rebecca Dalton (University Program in Ecology) Andrew George (Biology) Julian Kimura (Undergraduate, McClay Lab) Katharine Korunes (University Program in Genetics and Cenomics) Jessica Nelson (Biology)… read more about Congratulations to Recipients of Sigma Xi Research Grants! »

Alison Hill has been awarded $2325 through the David L. Paletz Call for Innovative Course Enhancements.  Alison requested funding to purchase clickers, i.e. public response devices, for use in class to enhance learning and feedback.  The Biology Department will not have to ask students to purchase clickers (a significant barrier) but will have a set that can be loaned out to several different classes during the semester. Congratulations, Alison! read more about Alison Hill Receives Paletz Funding »

Science magazine has published a feature on the renowned Amboseli Baboon Research Project, covering its history from the beginning under Robert and Jeanne Altman to the present day.  It gives special focus to the research of Susan Alberts, Jenny Tung, and grad student Amanda Lea on the long-term effects of being born in a drought year, or under other environmental stressors.  This study has shed particular light on the life histories of Dutch children conceived and born during the infamous Hunger… read more about Science Magazine Features Duke Research at Amboseli »

Sociology Professor Angela O'Rand will lead a committee tasked with conducting a national search for a new dean of Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, Provost Sally Kornbluth announced this week. The 18-member committee is comprised of faculty, administrators, a student representative, and an alumnus who formerly chaired the Trinity Board of Visitors.  Laurie Patton, the current Trinity College dean, will leave Duke at the end of the semester to become president of Middlebury College beginning July 1… read more about Committee Selected to Lead Search for New Arts & Sciences Dean »

Congratulations to Biology faculty who have recently published! Susan Alberts et al., "Social affiliation matters: both same-sex and opposite-sex relationships predict survival in wild female baboons." Proceedings of the Royal Society B. September 10, 2014; 281:20141261. Zhen-Ming Pei et al., "OSCA1 mediates osmotic-stress-evoked Ca2+ increases vital for osmosensing in Arabidopsis." Nature. October 16, 2014; 514:367-71. Julie A. Reynolds et al., "On course for supporting expanded participation and… read more about Recent Faculty Publications »

Amanda Lea (Tung/Alberts Labs), Emily McLean (Alberts Lab), and Michael Granatosky (Schmitt Lab) have won Research Grants from the Leakey Foundation. The Foundation’s mission is to increase scientific knowledge, education, and public understanding of human origins, evolution, behavior, and survival. It awards funding only to advanced doctoral students and established scientists. Congratulations to Amanda, Emily and Michael! read more about Grad Students Win Leakey Foundation Awards! »

The Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University has named Prof. Emily Bernhardt one of 20 Leopold Leadership Fellows.  The Leopold Program was begun in 1995 to fill a critical gap in environmental decision-making: getting the best scientific knowledge into the hands of government, nonprofit and business leaders, as well as the public, in hopes of fostering policies and practices that support sustainable development. The Fellows are selected through a highly competitive process and will receive intensive… read more about Emily Bernhardt Named a 2015 Leopold Leadership Fellow »

Greg Wray headed a team that took the "No" position on the question "Does Evolutionary Theory Need a Rethink?" (Nature 514, 161-164, 09 October 2014).  The debate about the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis pitted Wray, Hopi Hoekstra and others against Kevin LaLande, Tobias Uller, and additional colleagues.  The article was among the most frequently downloaded from the issue. read more about Wray et al. Square Up for Debate »

Catherine Rushworth (Mitchell-Olds Lab) has been awarded the J. S. Karling Graduate Research Fellowship for her proposal, "Insights into the Origin and Persistence of Apomixis in the Boechera Holboellii Species Complex." The Edgar T. Wherry Award for the best paper contributed to the Pteridological (Fern) Section went to Fay-Wei-Li (Pryer Lab), for "Massive Horizontal Gene Transfer of a Chimeric Photoreceptor within Ferns." The Rausher Lab takes pride in their former postdoc, Stacey Smith, who won the first Emerging… read more about Botanical Society of America Recognizes Dukies »