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BioBits Newsletter
University of DelawareFebruary/March 2013
In This Issue:
Clark Memorial Lecture - April 3, 2013
Faculty News
Student News
Tri-Beta News
Research News
In Memoriam
Who's Who - Tri-Beta 1980
Department Pic
Welcome to the BioBits
E-Newsletter from the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Delaware.   We are excited to share our news!   

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Clark Lecture Speaker Photo
Dr. Elaine Ostrander

Dr. Arnold M. Clark

Memorial Lecture

April 3, 2013

Dr. Elaine Ostrander, Chief of the Cancer Genetics Branch at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) of NIH, will deliver the 7th Clark Lecture entitled "Both Ends of the Leash:  Good Dogs with Bad Genes Inform Human Health."  Dr. Ostrander also heads the Section of Comparative Genetics. She received her Ph.D. from the Oregon Health Sciences University and did her postdoctoral training at Harvard. She then went to UC-Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Labs where she began the canine genome project, initiating work on the canine map. She spent 12 years at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and University of Washington, rising to the rank of Member in the Human Biology and Clinical Research Divisions and Head of the Genetics Program.   Dr. Ostrander's laboratory has been engaged in the study of genes important in growth regulation, particularly as they pertain to disease states in humans and canines. Her group aims to find genes that control the morphologic body plan of the domestic dog, which shows an extraordinary level of variation between breeds, and to identify disease (particularly cancer) susceptibility genes in dogs. Her group's work also focuses on the identification of genes that relate to susceptibility to, progression of, and specific outcomes in humans with breast and prostate cancers.  The department is indebted to Dr. and Mrs. Hudson for again sponsoring the Clark Lectureship, to be held this year on April 3, at 5:00 p.m. in 100 Wolf Hall.
Dr. Singleton
Dr. Rivers Singleton


Faculty News . . .

"What is this thing called biology, anyway?" This was the title of one of several invited presentations given by Professor Rivers Singleton at the Hastings Center for Bioethics. Dr. Singleton has distinguished himself as a scientist with a strong interest in ways that biology impacts society and how society impacts science. He also has the unusual distinction of holding faculty appointments in both Biological Sciences and English. More than a few students have been introduced to "The Origin of Species" while honing their writing skills in his course on Charles Darwin. Dr. Singleton received his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Kansas and continued his research as a post-doctoral fellow in the laboratory of Harland G. Wood at Case Western Reserve, and later at the NASA-Ames Research Center. Dr. Singleton joined UD in 1974 as a research assistant professor, working with Professor Emeritus and former Provost Leon Campbell on the biology of sulfate-reducing bacteria. Over the years, as Prof. Singleton's condition of chronic progressive multiple sclerosis began to restrict his ability to continue his laboratory work, his interests in the history, philosophy and ethics of biology were growing. In 1988 he was named an American Association for the Advancement of Science-American Society of Microbiology Congressional Science Fellow. Working in the office of Representative George E. Brown, Dr. Singleton worked on a number of policy issues, including the implementation of legislation on laboratory animal welfare and the role of education in the National Science Foundation's funding policies. Upon returning to UD, he became director of the Center for Science and Culture, where he worked to promote an interdisciplinary climate for teaching critical thinking in the biological sciences. Prof. Singleton continues to pursue his varied interests, including biographical studies of Professor Wood and other key figures in the history of biochemistry.






Firestone Photo
Gracie Firestone with the children from the Flying Kites Orphanage in Kenya, Africa
   News . . . .

"I am happy to be here.  I am happy to be part of this family." Simple words. How often do you say them out loud? These were the lines sophomore biology major, Gracie Firestone heard every single day during January. This winter, Gracie flew to Africa to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and volunteer at Flying Kites (FK), a remarkable, U.S.-based orphanage in Kenya which is home to nearly 30 children ages 7-18. Gracie's connection to FK began as a sophomore in high school when a desire to serve drove Gracie to found "Let the Kids Play," a non-profit that has raised over $15,000 to promote athletics and healthy lifestyles at home and abroad.  Another force, however,  inspired this winter's trip. Two days after her high school graduation, Gracie collapsed at home due to sudden cardiac arrest from a virus that attacked her heart. As she adapted to changes accompanying an implantable cardioverter defibrillator in her chest, college became questionable (a result of brain-swelling and memory loss), and Gracie, a three-sport HS varsity athlete, was prohibited from contact sports. She then decided to focus on how she would change her life, rather than on how her life had changed. This past fall Gracie raised almost $10,000, including $8,000 for the FK orphanage, in order to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro (Kili), the highest mountain in Africa, with fellow volunteers and to stay at FK for 3 weeks. On Kili, she hiked from rainforests to deserts to glaciers. At FK, she volunteered and taught at the local school. While both experiences inspired perspective, it was the kids who touched her heart: "Remembering those small voices each day - I am happy to be alive."  Now settled back at UD, Gracie is more determined than ever to pursue her goal to serve others.


For more pictures and videos see Gracie's Facebook page or contact Gracie at




Tri-Beta News . . .
Tri-Beta Honor Society has been hard at work since the beginning of the spring semester! At Spring Activities Night on February 6th, they met with many students who were interested in learning all about what Tri-Beta has to offer. The meeting on February 22nd was jam-packed with first-time and returning members coming out to hear about future events. The Tri-Beta board assisted students with scheduling classes and provided information on available research opportunities and applications for internships and summer programs. Their scheduled events include the famous Bagels, Banter and Brew which took place on March 1st, a trip to the Baltimore Aquarium planned for April 27th, and free tutoring for undergraduates. Tri-Beta is also hosting an Undergraduate Biology Seminar Series, featuring a variety of science professors presenting their research every Monday from 4:00-5:00 p.m. beginning March 4th through May 13th in room 061 in McKinly Laboratory.  Tri-Beta hopes to see everyone there!
Tri-Beta Photo
(Pictured L to R:)  Vandhana Reddy & Lisa George






(Pictured L to R:) Paul Niemczura, Julia Yu, Dr. Herson, Clinita Randolph, Mollee Crampton, James Young
   News . . .  


Dr. Diane Herson's lab has a number of ongoing studies including The Use of Crumb Rubber as a Matrix in Green Roofs, which is in collaboration with Dr. Katherine Baker of Pennsylvania State University-Harrisburg. They are studying the potential use of crumb rubber (shredded tires) as a matrix in green roofs. This will be an appropriate way to recycle tires if it can be shown that runoff from the roof does not contain either inhibitory levels of zinc from the steel belts or high levels of contaminating bacteria which would negatively impact the environment. Their initial studies involve mixing the crumb rubber with synthetic rain water for different lengths of time and then determining if the leachate is inhibitory to Salmonella. Follow up studies include testing the ability of microorganisms to attach to the crumb rubber and form biofilms. The organisms tested will be Escherichia coli and Salmonella sp. as examples of species that might be introduced onto a green roof from bird feces. In another project, The Microbiology of Healthy Honey Bee Hives, they are studying the microbial flora in bee bread (a mixture of pollen, nectar and bee saliva) from healthy and stressed/declining honey bee hives. The Herson group is attempting to determine if bee breads from stressed/declining hives have a diminished, different or less diverse flora than bee bread from healthy hives. They are using PCR and denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) to determine if there are different DNA profiles from the two types of hives. This will ultimately allow them to predict if a hive is starting to decline. Their preliminary studies indicate that altered, less diverse profiles are observed for hives that are in decline. They will also determine if these observations can be correlated with other measures of hive viability.  





In Memoriam . . .
We are sad to report that our former colleague, Frank Edwin South Jr., passed away on March 4th.  Dr. South was a professor of physiology and director of the School of Life and Health Sciences from 1976-1982.

Tri Beta Photo



Who's Who - Tri-Beta Initiation April, 1980


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Department of Biological Sciences

105 The Green

118 Wolf Hall

Newark, DE  19716



University of Delaware