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A Newsletter for Biochemistry, Genetics and Cell Biology, and Microbiology Alumni & Friends College of Veterinary Medicine | Molecular Biosciences News

Pat Hunt

Pat Hunt called “the accidental toxicologist” by Scientific American magazine, was invited to give a talk this fall called “Science by Accident.” Her lecture was part of the WSU’s Common Reading program. This year’s book is “Being Wrong” by Kathryn Schulz.

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Meet New SMB Director, Jonathan Jones

by Marcia Hill Gossard ’99, ‘04

Drs John Nilson and Jonathan Jones
John Nilson and Jonathan Jones

SMB welcomes new a director, Jonathan Jones. Jonathan comes to us from Northwestern University’s Department of Cell and Molecular Biology in the Feinberg School of Medicine. To get here, he and his wife Susan drove 1869 miles from Chicago to Pullman over Labor Day weekend with a dog and tropical fish in tow.

“We were very glad when we drove into the parking of the SMB building September 3,” says Jones. “The fish most of all.”

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Spring/Summer 2013: Message from the Director

Welcome

John H. Nilson

SMB continues to thrive.  We began the 2012-13 academic year with our annual retreat held at the Coeur d’Alene Resort in Idaho.   I am pleased to report that over 130 faculty and students participated.  Basically, the retreat was divided into two parts; science presentations from faculty representing SMB and IPN (Integrative Physiology and Neuroscience [formerly the Department of Veterinary and Comparative Anatomy, Pharmacology and Physiology (VCAPP)]) and workshops that focused on professional development.  The eight science presentations were split equally between SMB and IPN faculty.  Dr. Pat Hunt also presented on effective tools for communicating science with media and general audiences.  The first workshop focused on techniques for resolving tricky lab dynamics and included the entire audience with the intent of improving communication skills between faculty and trainees, within and across peer groups.  The second workshop divided faculty and trainees into separate groups.  The faculty developed strategies for providing more effective peer mentorship.  The trainees learned skills for enhancing their effectiveness in presenting themselves during professional interviews. The retreat concluded with a working lunch where I, as Director of SMB, outlined the progress and direction of our five year strategic plan.

The awards dinner, has become a hallmark of our annual retreat.  We have found over the last 10 years that the awards banquet builds camaraderie, celebrates excellence, and creates a strong sense of group ownership. Individual awards for research, teaching, and service were presented to one faculty and one trainee in each of the three categories.   Additional individual awards were presented for staff excellence, outstanding research assistant, and excellence in postdoctoral research.  Recipients received a crystal plaque and a written testimonial.  The graduate students acted out skits and two of our talented faculty provided musical entertainment.

Indeed, the 2012-13 academic year is finishing on a high note as numerous faculty have been recognized for their accomplishments.  Two of our clinical faculty, Julie Stanton and Consetta Helmick were recognized by the WSU Access Center for providing exemplary support and service to students with disabilities.  Phil Mixter, another clinical faculty member won the WSU Student Advising Award.  Phil Mixter, Julie Stanton, and Sue Wang were also awarded Samuel H. and Patricia W. Smith Teaching Learning grants that help support their educational research projects.  Bill Davis, who last year became associate dean for Undergraduate Education in the College of Veterinary Medicine, and Mary Sanchez-Lanier, associate dean of the WSU University College and Clinical Faculty member in SMB, were both independently nominated for the 2013 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Award for their work in promoting human rights and social justice.  Finally, Mike Griswold, former dean of the College of Science and former director of SMB will receive the Carl G. Hartmann Award at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Reproductive Biology this summer.  This is the society’s highest award that recognizes a notable career of research and scholarly activities in the field of reproductive biology.

It is also important to note that Nancy Magnuson stepped up help WSU by agreeing to serve as the Interim Vice-President of Research and Dean of the Graduate School in 2012-13.  Although a new dean of the Graduate School has been named, Nancy has agreed to continue to serve as the Interim Vice-President for Research during the 2013-14 academic year.  Kudos to Nancy!

In addition to the awards noted above, two of our young faculty, Jennifer Watts and Cynthia Haseltine, were awarded tenure and promoted to associate professors.  We expect that you will hear much more about Jenny and Cynthia as they will undoubtedly play leading roles moving SMB forward.

That’s my story for highlights of 2012-13 and I’m sticking to it!

John Nilson, Ph.D.

Director of the School of Molecular Biosciences

Mike Griswold and Tom Spencer

Mike Griswold and Tom Spencer received the 2013 Carl G. Hartmann Award and the SSR Research Award, respectively from the Society for the Study of Reproduction. The Carl G. Hartmann Award, named for a distinguished reproductive biologist, is the Society’s highest award. It recognizes a career of research and scholarly activities in the reproductive biology field.

Julie Stanton

Julie Stanton received the Samuel H. and Patricia W. Smith Teaching and Learning Grant from the University College for work on The Metacognitive Regulation and Student Performance in a Large Introductory Biology Course.

Phil Mixter Takes Over Molecular Bioscience Lab after Alberta Brassfield Retired

by Marcia Hill Gossard ’99, ‘04

Alberta Brassfield and Phil Mixter
Alberta Brassfield and Phil Mixter

For 16 years, Alberta (Bert) Brassfield, a WSU instructor, taught immunology and virology lab classes to seniors, a course now known as Molecular Biosciences 430.  The class was a favorite of many students because of its small size and lots of instructor-student interaction and individual attention.  Alumni have described Bert’s class as pivotal in “putting it all together” and “clarifying my career path.”

So when Phil Mixter took over the lab last fall, it was no small task.

“I had big shoes to fill,” said Mixter, clinical associate professor. “For many students, this was the place where a lot of the foundational knowledge began to be integrated.”

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Fall 2012: Message from the Director

Welcome

John H. Nilson

Educational programs in SMB remain vigorous. Undergraduate enrollment has reached a new steady-state of approximately 200 (120 certified). Thirty-five students celebrated the 2012 commencement last spring. Our PhD graduate program has also reached steady-state with 51current trainees. Seven completed their Ph.D. in 2012. Thirteen new PhD students joined our program in the fall. Our Professional Science Master’s Program, a new initiative directed by Dr. Norah McCabe, is growing rapidly with 20 students enrolled this year. Prospects for further growth and impact look promising. And, our NIH Training Grant just completed its third year of funding through the NIH. This training grant has increased the visibility of our graduate program as well as helped in take it to new heights.

Dr. Bill Davis was also recently appointed as the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies in the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM). Bill is taking on the challenge of organizing a unified undergraduate program that crosses all of the academic units in CVM. Rest assured that existing majors in SMB and the Department of Veterinary and Comparative Anatomy, Pharmacology and Physiology (VCAPP) will remain in place; the goal is to build upon these majors making them even more innovative and exciting. It seems likely that that graduate programs of SMB, VCAPP, Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology, and the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health will also be organized under a single umbrella to provide for a single portal of admission. This umbrella should enhance our ability to recruit and admit outstanding graduate students.

As we look ahead, 2012 marks the second year of our move from the College of Sciences to the College of Veterinary Medicine. Albeit there have been some growing pains, the transition has been smooth with new opportunities and collaborations beginning to develop. One new effort is the development of a joint strategic plan with VCAPP. This strategic plan will create a vision for the future development of SMB and its fuller integration into the College. We have also revamped our Website and Facebook sites and I encourage you to browse both to keep abreast of news and upcoming events. Highlights of news reported on the Facebook site include honors conferred to SMB faculty, staff and students in 2012; these were numerous and well deserved, so please take a look!

John Nilson, Ph.D.

Director of the School of Molecular Biosciences