The beauty of research is that it allows you to take control of your own path. “We are very lucky to be in the position to decide what we love to do and do it,” says Tai-ping Sun, a Duke biology professor studying the plant hormone GA. Researchers get to take control of their own path, she said. Every day is an opportunity to learn something new, design and analyze experiments and decide what direction to take. Sun studies the GA signaling pathway because it regulates plant growth and development. She got interested in GA… read more about Her Research Path Winds Through a Plant’s Growth »

Tai-ping Sun is a professor of Biology at Duke The beauty of research is that it allows you to take control of your own path. “We are very lucky to be in the position to decide what we love to do and do it,” says Tai-ping Sun, a Duke biology professor studying the plant hormone GA. Researchers get to take control of their own path, she said. Every day is an opportunity to learn something new, design and analyze experiments and decide what direction to take. Sun studies the GA signaling pathway because it regulates plant… read more about Her Research Path Winds Through a Plant’s Growth »

Dr. Sönke Johnsen and PhD student Alex Davis' study on ultra-black deep-sea fishes was highlighted by the Smithsonian Magazine as one of the top 10 Ocean Stories of 2020. In a partnership with the Smithsonian, Dr. Johnsen and Davis described how some deep-sea fishes have a special arrangement of black pigments within their skin that absorb at least 99.5 percent of light.  Read more about these ultra-black fishes on the Duke Today. The scientific paper by DR. Johnsen, Davis and collaborators is here. Read the Smithsonian'… read more about Ultra-black fishes on the Smithsonian Magazine!  »

Dr Mohamed Noor, Professor in the Biology Department and Dean of Natural Sciences, was interviewed by the North Carolina journal News & Observer, to talk about his outreach work based on the Star Trek Universe. In addition to having a succesful outreach program based on the popular Sci-fi series, Dr. Noor is one of the science consultants of the series Star Trek Discovery. Read the full story here.  To learn more about Dr. Noor's outreach related to Star Trek, go here. To learn about Dr. Noor's research, go here… read more about Dean Mohamed Noor on The News & Observer! »

DURHAM, N.C. -- It’s no surprise that losing your mother is bad for you. What is surprising is that the troubles start even before she dies, according to a new study comparing life histories of several species of primates. The study from Duke University shows that kids born in the last four years before a female’s death are more likely to die at a young age, before their mother dies. If these kids make it, the negative effects of losing their mother will reach across generations, lessening the survival of their future… read more about Primate Orphans Have it Tough Even Before Mother Dies »

Of all the things that make college students anxious, now you can add ghost cars to the list. Not haunted, unoccupied moving vehicles, Flying Dutchman style. “Ghost cars” is a term Duke Parking & Transportation (DPT) uses to define cars that enter or leave parking lots when the gates are up, like during a football game or evening event. The gate sensors don’t record them both entering and exiting, which causes problems in keeping an accurate count of the cars using a lot. A few summers ago, DPT asked a group of… read more about Quantitatively and Qualitatively, Data+ and Its Affiliated Programs Are Big Hits »

DURHAM, N.C. – Duke University senior Yuexuan Chen has been named a Schwarzman Scholar, a program that funds one year of study in Beijing, the organization announced Monday. Chen, from Cleveland, is among 140 scholars chosen from more than 3,600 applicants worldwide. The scholars develop leadership skills through a one-year master’s degree in global affairs, with specialization tracks in public policy, economics or international studies. Scholars are selected on the basis of leadership potential, entrepreneurial spirit… read more about Duke Senior Named a Schwarzman Scholar, Will Study in Beijing »

Duke’s leading scholars are once again prominently featured on the annual list of “Most Highly Cited Researchers.” Thirty-seven Duke faculty were named to the list this year, based on the number of highly cited papers they produced over an 11-year period from January 2009 to December 2019.  Citation rate, as tracked by Clarivate’s Web of Science, is an approximate measure of a study’s influence and importance. Three of these faculty are researchers in Duke Biology: Drs. Emily Bernhardt, Xinnian Dong and Sheng-Yang He.… read more about Three Duke Biology Faculty Listed in "Most Cited" List.  »

New Duke biology professor Ke Dong is drawn to creeping, crawling, swarming pests that make most people squirm: invincible cockroaches and blood-sucking mosquitoes. Rot-loving fruit flies and parasitic mites. Her interests started early, while growing up on the campus of a silkworm research institute in southeastern China where her mother worked as a chemist. As a child, Dong didn’t have the standard childhood pets. Instead of a cat, or a dog, she raised caterpillars. The institute where her mother worked grew row upon row… read more about Duke Welcomes Professor Ke Dong, Insect Neurotoxicologist  »

James (Jim) Siedow, Duke's former vice provost for research and a longtime biology professor known for his kindness and quick, Texan wit, died on Sunday, November 15 in Durham’s Croasdaile Village after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 73. Over the course of his 40-year career at Duke, Siedow made various contributions to our understanding of plant growth. Siedow is the author or coauthor of more than 125 scientific papers on plant respiration, the process by which plants convert the food they make through… read more about Former Vice Provost James Siedow, Plant Biochemist, Dies at 73 »

When Sheng-Yang He walks by a field of wheat, or beans, he doesn’t just see a farm. He sees a battlefield. However, in this conflict, it's not soldiers with rifles on the front line. The war is between plants and the microbes that infect them, and He -- who joins the Duke faculty this year as full professor -- has spent his career trying to understand these battles at a molecular level, though from a different angle than many other researchers. Plants, like humans, face an onslaught of microbial invaders, He says. They’re… read more about Duke Welcomes Professor Sheng-Yang He, Plant Infectious Disease Expert  »

Forty-eight years. That’s more than twice the average age of your typical Duke undergrad. That is how long Dr. David McClay, the Arthur S. Pearse Distinguished Professor of Biology, has been teaching Cell Biology to cohort after cohort of Duke students. Today, the Biology department celebrated Dr. McClay’s last lecture with a friendly “zoom-bombing”. Dozens of colleagues and ex-students flooded his last virtual lecture to celebrate his ability to instill a passion for Biology in the classroom. A passionate teacher, Dr.… read more about A friendly zoom-bombing! The Bio department celebrates Dr. David McClay 48 years inspiring students »

Drosophila, the fruit fly, has been a staple of undergraduate education in Biology for a long time. More and more, however, undergraduates are becoming assets in Drosophila research. One example: Duke Biology’s Eric Spana and a group of six undergrads have uncovered the genetic basis of a mutation known for over 100 years: Drosophila’s speck phenotype. In 1910, Thomas Hunt Morgan identified speck flies, characterized by their slightly darker body and by a little dark spot at the… read more about Collaborative Classwork Reveals 100-Year-Old Secret in Fruit Flies »

According to a new Duke University study, the ability to mentally categorize colors is not a universal avian attribute, and dull-colored birds may see the world in a completely different way than their colorful cousins. In previous experiments, a team led by Duke postdoctoral researcher Eleanor Caves showed that female zebra finches presented with a continuum of orange to red colors will categorize these into two distinct groups with a clear threshold. These birds have brightly colored orange to red beaks, which may act as… read more about Dull-Colored Birds Don't See The World Like Colorful Birds Do »

Patek lab alum Patrick Green (currently a postdoc at the University of Exeter) and PhD candidate Jacob Harrison just published in Animal Behaviour showing that, when presented with empty burrows, shrimps prefer homes that are a tad too large. When faced with occupied burrows, however, intruders fought hardest for homes that were slightly smaller than ideal. Read more in this press release by the University of Exeter.  CITATION: Green, P. A., Harrison, J. S., Quadratic resource value assessment during mantis shrimp (… read more about Mantis shrimp will fight to keep their burrows, even if they're not the perfect home »

DURHAM, N.C. -- Fall is here, and we see the leaves turning yellow, orange or red thanks to a trick of our vision: our brains categorize colors. Scientists have learned that birds with colorful markings do this too. But what about drab birds that don’t rely on color? According to a new Duke University study, the ability to mentally categorize colors is not a universal avian attribute, and dull-colored birds may see the world in a completely different way than their colorful cousins. To test whether birds separate colors… read more about Dull-Colored Birds Don’t See The World Like Bright Birds Do »

Quantifying how microbes grow is fundamental to areas such as genetics, bioengineering, and food safety. In a collaboration between the Schmid lab and Duke Statistics, Tonner and colleagues revisit the old problem of understanding microbial growth. This problem, thought to be solved in the 1940s by Jacob and Monod, was actually far from understood. A new paper, published on October 26, 2020, in the journal PLOS Computational Biology, reports that random effects such as experimental variability, batch effects or… read more about How do Microbes Grow? Turns Out It’s Not How We Think »

PhD Student Matthew Zipple, Susan Peters, Bill Searcy (U. Miami), and Steve Nowicki found that female swamp sparrows do not show any preference for the songs of males that are in the peak of their lives as compared to songs recorded from the same males after they senesced. This lack of female preference is in contrast to male swamp sparrows, who this group has previously found to respond more aggressively to the songs of peak-aged songs as compared to senescent songs. They describe their findings in a new paper, published… read more about Female swamp sparrow don't care about male age »

DURHAM, N.C. -- We know that the coronavirus behind the COVID-19 crisis lived harmlessly in bats and other wildlife before it jumped the species barrier and spilled over to humans. Now, researchers at Duke University have identified a number of “silent” mutations in the roughly 30,000 letters of the virus’s genetic code that helped it thrive once it made the leap -- and possibly helped set the stage for the global pandemic. The subtle changes involved how the virus folded its RNA molecules within human cells. For the … read more about 'Silent' Mutations Gave the Coronavirus an Evolutionary Edge »

DURHAM, N.C. -- Transcription factor proteins are the light switches of the human genome. By binding to DNA, they help turn genes “on” or “off” and start the important process of copying DNA into an RNA template that acts as a blueprint for a new protein. By being choosy about which genes they turn on, transcription factors determine which rooms in the house are lighted and which aren’t, or rather, which components of a person’s genome are activated. A team of Duke researchers has found that transcription factors have a… read more about Transcription Factors May Inadvertently Lock in DNA Mistakes »

Check this out!  The Gibert Lab has contributed video of a protist eating a smaller protist to Duke Today.  Euplotus sp. creates water currents that sweep the smaller protozoan into its mouth.  Down the hatch! Three Biograds have won fellowships as Bass Instructors of Record and will teach special topics seminar courses next spring.  Stepping out will be: Emily Levy (Alberts Lab), Ecology & Evolution of Being Social Emily Ury (Bernhardt Lab), Wetland Ecology in a Changing… read more about News Shorts!  »

“Salicylic acid (SA) is a plant hormone that is critical for resistance to pathogens.”  So begins a pivotal new study by Xinnian Dong’s lab in collaboration with Ning Zheng’s lab at the University of Washington (“Structural basis of salicylic acid perception by Arabidopsis NPR proteins.” Nature 586, 311-316).  Plant pathologists have long known that the NPR proteins are responsible for sensing the presence of SA, but not how they do it.  Now Dong and Zheng et al. have unfolded the crystal structure of two… read more about Dong Lab Collaboration Brings Big Results »

Professor Masayuki Onishi has published “Cleavage-furrow formation without F-actin in Chlamydomonas” (PNAS Aug. 4, 2020. 117 (31): 18511ff.) based on postdoctoral research he did at Stanford. Masa studied how cells without a canonical division machinery, the contractile actomyosin ring, can form a cleavage furrow. Surprisingly, although the myosin-less furrows are still associated with F-actin, complete removal of this structure caused only partial delay rather than complete blockage of cytokinesis. In contrast,… read more about Masa Onishi Finds a Surprise in Cell Division Study »

Congratulations to Professor Gustavo Silva! Gustavo's lab has been awarded a 5-year NIH R35 MIRA grant to study the roles of ubiquitin in translation control under stress. Former Professor Bill Schlesinger and Professor and Chair Emily Bernhardt have published the fourth edition of Biogeochemistry: An Analysis of Global Change. This edition is dedicated to "planet Earth" and takes readers on a journey that extends from the Big Bang and the origins of elements in supernovae all the way to the latest understanding of modern… read more about News Shorts! »

Getting Ideas out of the Lab Duke’s Office of Licensing & Ventures (OLV) oversees the management of innovations resulting from Duke research – from creation, to feasibility and marketing, to protection, and on into licensing to commercial partners, for both startups and existing companies. Our research faculty and staff worked tirelessly in FY20, helping the office break multiple records. OLV received an all-time high of 405 invention disclosures, 26 of them COVID-19 related innovations. Revenue from… read more about OLV Breaks Idea-Generating Records: FY20 »

The Duke University Herbarium houses samples of roughly half of the known mosses in North America. It total, it holds 800,000 specimens. Soon, they will all be available to explore online. A collaboration between Duke and 24 other universities across the country has received a $3.6 million National Science Foundation grant to digitize and study nearly 1.2 million specimens of lichens and mosses housed in their collections. The project will allow for deeper investigation of species that “have global relevance and perform… read more about Duke Herbarium Part of $3.6 Million Grant »

The Biology Department faculty voted to certify completion of the major for seniors graduating in Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 if they have a completed at least one upper-level lab course (beyond Bio 203L) or approved Research Independent Study, rather than a minimum of two as specified in the Bulletin of Undergraduate Instruction. Please note that this revision is only for the lab requirement - all other requirements for the major are still in force. Note also that it applies only to this year’s seniors, as an accommodation… read more about Announcement: Requirement Update for Fall 2020 & Spring 2021 Majors »

The journal Cell has published a new study by Dr. Raul Zavaliev and colleagues in Xinnian Dong’s group. Formation of NPR1 Condensates Promotes Cell Survival during the Plant Immune Response sheds light on the biochemical function of the plant immune regulator NPR1. Activated by salicylic acid, it promotes cell survival against a broad spectrum of pathogens and environmental stresses by forming protein condensates. These condensates are enriched with protein-degrading enzymes as well as stress-responsive proteins,… read more about Raul Zavaliev leads team to reveal enzymatic function of NPR1 »