Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Fall Newsletter 2021
Laurie Stargell

A warm welcome to all as the fall semester 2021 kicks into gear. Campus is once again buzzing with activity! It is a joy to engage, work, teach, and collaborate with one another in person again.

The evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought both challenges and opportunities to our department, but it is a delight to have our students back in person. We are working hard to create a balance between valuing and upholding safety precautions and still finding ways to engage with one another and the Colorado State University community.

In other exciting news, we introduced a new Professional Science Masters program with specialization in biological data analytics in 2019 and, in Spring 2021, we congratulated our first cohort of graduates from the program!

One of the ways we are continuing to serve our students is through a brand-new concentration: the data science concentration in biochemistry. This new concentration builds on the general biochemistry core set of courses and is designed to provide a solid background in biochemistry, molecular genetics, and cell biology, and augmented with computer science, mathematics, and statistics.

The Robert W. and A-Young M. Woody Lecture Series, established by Dr. Robert and Dr. A-Young Woody to enable the department to invite distinguished scientists to campus to deliver lectures, is back up and running in hybrid format. The series was restarted by a visit to CSU by Dr. Rachel Green, a professor of molecular biology and genetics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, with a lecture titled “Ribosome collisions trigger cell fate signaling pathways” on Oct. 26. The Woodys attended the seminar and the reception as well, and we thank them so much for providing us with this wonderful series!

Of course, our researchers have been hard at work, as well, managing challenges related to the pandemic while still making key discoveries that can have huge impacts on people and the planet. Research by Dr. James Bamburg and collaborators is making huge strides in using small peptides to protect synapses, and if so, move into clinical trials to determine if they can prevent further cognitive decline and reverse the loss of cognitive function in patients with dementia.

The Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology is part of a collaboration specializing in high-resolution fluorescence microscopy and computational modeling to visualize and investigate gene expression in real time. Now, our scientists have, for the first time, observed early RNA transcription dynamics by recording where, when, and how RNA polymerase enzymes kick off gene expression by binding to a DNA sequence and elongating RNA. Monfort Professor and associate professor in biochemistry Tim Stasevich has been a critical driver in this collaboration.

Our success during this pandemic is entirely thanks to our dedicated faculty, staff, and students. I am proud to lead this department and excited to share, in this newsletter, some of the great things we’ve accomplished. Thank you for your support and for being part of the Ramily!

Sincerely,

Laurie Stargell, Chair

DEPARTMENT OF BIOCHEMISTRY AND MOLECULAR BIOLOGY NEWS

CSU researchers discover key protein associated with dementia, other diseases

Neurons

Understanding the role of a tiny protein in the brain could be the key to understanding the development of dementia associated with neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.

New biochemistry Bachelor of Science with a concentration in data sciences

Students in a classroom.

The 21st century has witnessed an explosion of large datasets in biology and medicine. There is a growing need for interdisciplinary expertise in both biology and data science at all levels. This semester, the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology released a brand-new data science concentration. The data science concentration in biochemistry builds on the general biochemistry core set of courses and includes 21 data science-specific course credits.

This option gives the student three “free elective” credits, which they can use to complete data science elective, bioscience elective of second semester physics courses.

Thus, this concentration is designed to provide a solid background in biochemistry, molecular genetics, and cell biology, and augmented with computer science, mathematics, and statistics.

The data science concentration is recommended for students interested in a career in life science data analysis. Students who graduate from this concentration obtain the skills necessary for organizing, analyzing, and communicating the meaning of massive data sets.

Professional Science Masters program with specialization in biological data analytics congratulates first graduates

Elizabeth and Sofia

In 2019, the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology launched a Professional Science Masters program with specialization in biological data analytics and, in the spring of 2021, we congratulated our first cohort of graduates from this program: Elizabeth Edwards and Sophia Montoya.

Lizzie and Sophia came to the program with very different backgrounds: Lizzie holds a B.S. in biology while Sophia has a B.S. in computer information systems with an emphasis in cybersecurity.

They not only braved the challenging two-year course work, they also had to face the pandemic, which impacted their ability to obtain internships. Luckily, Lizzie and Sophia were still able to participate in microbiome research on campus and gain valuable hands-on experiences.

Lizzie just finished a summer job at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and Sophia is working as a communicable disease specialist at the Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment. We look forward to hearing about their career adventures in the future, and we are excited to have five more students enrolled in the program.

COLLEGE OF NATURAL SCIENCES NEWS

Ph.D. students awarded national lab research opportunities

Ph.D. students

Three Ph.D. students in the College of Natural Sciences have been awarded research opportunities at Department of Energy laboratories through the Office of Science Graduate Student Research Program.

Rams shape science – Inflection Point offers needed community support for math classes

Inflection point poster

A council of three CSU students of color developed a new peer-led math space, called Inflection Point, that hopes to improve student support through community and shared learning.

College of Natural Sciences 2021 Distinguished Alumnus

tom heidenfelder

Tom Heidenfelder is a first-generation student who grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. One visit to Colorado State’s beautiful and welcoming campus convinced him to attend. He joined the U.S. Air Force ROTC program with a scholarship and, after graduation, spent four years in the Air Force as a computer systems officer.

Heidenfelder married his high school sweetheart, Randy, while in the service. They later returned to Chicago to begin their careers, his in information technology and hers in real estate law. They became loyal donors to the College of Natural Sciences in 1990 and, two years later, established the Thomas J. Heidenfelder Scholarship for computer science students. In 2012, they created the College of Natural Sciences Aspen Scholarship to assist students who need financial support.

Prior to retirement, Heidenfelder was the senior consultant with Galmont Consulting, working with clients such as CVS Caremark, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and U.S. Cellular. He and Randy visit campus annually to connect with their scholarship recipients.

CONNECT AND CONTRIBUTE

Your support of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology is incredibly valuable. Please consider making a difference to today’s students – at whatever level is right for you. Thank you!

For more information on giving, contact:

Keith Stout

Director of Development

College of Natural Sciences

1801 Campus DeliveryFort Collins, CO 80523-1801

D: (970) 491-0287

E: keith.stout@colostate.edu