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

NIH funds scientists’ work to unravel cell repair

Michael Smerdon, left, and John Wyrick with model of DNA double helix. (Photo by Shelly Hanks, WSU Photo Services)
PULLMAN, Wash. – Each moment, every cell in your body is being assaulted and – fortunately – fixed, thanks to the crews of handymen enzymes that travel up and down your DNA strands. Considering that you wouldn’t survive without these built-in repair systems, it’s reassuring to know that two Washington State University scientists, awarded a $1.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, have made it their mission to understand how the mechanisms work and why, sometimes, they fail.

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Paying it Forward: Dr. Herbert M. Nakata

by Marcia Hill Gossard ’99, ‘04

When it came to helping students, Dr. Herbert Nakata made it his life’s work. Beginning in 1970 and for the next 28 years, he helped establish 11 endowed scholarships fund that are still supporting students today.

“I have a lot of empathy for students,” said Dr. Nakata emeritus professor and former chair of the Microbiology department at WSU. “I know how tough it is for them, and college was a lot less expensive back then than it is today.”

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Freshman Discover and Name Viruses in SEA Lab

(l-r) Students Amy Nusbaum and Joseph Lawhead

by Marcia Hill Gossard ’99, ‘04

James Bonner loves science. As a freshman, James knew he wanted to major in biochemistry, so when he was selected to be part of the new hands-on Science Education Alliance biology lab, or SEA lab, in the WSU School of Molecular Biosciences, he was thrilled.

“The lab brings abstract scientific concepts into everyday learning,” said Bonner, one of 24 randomly selected freshmen admitted to the SEA lab in the fall 2011, the program’s pilot year.

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Fall 2011: Message from the Director


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.

First STARS Students Start Graduate School

Meet Ross Rowsey one of the first STARS students to start graduate school! STARS— Students Targeted toward Advanced Research Studies— gives select students a chance to accelerate learning and earn a doctorate in as little as seven years after leaving high school. Ross Rowsey, currently a senior at WSU working with Dr. Terry Hassold, will be one of the first graduates of the STARS program when he finishes his Ph.D. in 2015.

More on STARS students