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Biology Advisory Board Members
L-R: Lawrence Catchpole ’73; Tim Helton '74; Wayne Kerr '73, MS '74; Phil Williams PhD '88; Kerry Smith '86; Wade Barnes '71.


The School of Biology has an advisory board composed of alumni and friends. It meets once each fall to discuss the state of the school and receive advice about a range of topics, including branding, alumni outreach, student recruitment and mentoring, and internships. Board membership is by invitation, but self-nominations are welcome. Currently there are 15 members including: Cynthia Bossart '74; Wade Barnes '71; Tim Helton '74; Larry Lawrence '74; Joel Pittard '68; Georgette Samaritan '70; Fred Levin '72; Phil Williams PhD '88; William Caldwell '65; Kerry Smith '86; Wayne Kerr '73, MS '74; Willa Kerr  '73; John Harden '74, MS '76; Lawrence Catchpole '73; and Ruben Uribe '85.

The board listens intently to the presentation.
Professor and Chair Terry Snell leading a discussion of the state of the school.
Wayne Kerr '73, MS '74 elicits a laugh from Dr. Chrissy Spencer.
Lawrence Catchpole '73 enjoys a lighter moment at dinner.


Dr. Todd Streelman was promoted to full professor this spring because of his accomplishments in research, teaching and service. He joined the School of Biology in 2004 as an assistant professor and was tenured and promoted to associate professor in 2009. Dr. Streelman is a world-renowned evolutionary biologist working on the development and genomics of craniofacial, neural and sensory systems. He uses fish to explore the complex genetic architecture of dentition and how it is modified by natural selection during adaptation. Dr. Streelman uses breeding, intercrossing and genetic analysis to tease apart the structural/functional relationships in the jaws, teeth, eye and brain of these fish and how these structures relate to the ecology of fish feeding. He teaches the courses Evolution, Evolution and Development, and Advances in Evolution.
Dr. Brain Hammer was awarded tenure and promoted to Associate Professor this spring because of his strong record of research, teaching and service. Dr. Hammer joined the School of Biology in 2008, after spending seven years as a post-doctoral researcher at Princeton University. At Georgia Tech, Dr. Hammer initiated a research program in microbiology, working on the pathogenesis and ecology of the human bacterial pathogen Vibrio cholera, the causative agent of the human disease cholera. He uses V. cholera as a model organism to examine bacterial cell-to-cell communication in a process called quorum sensing, where bacteria coordinate their gene expression by responding to chemical signals that they put into their medium. These quorum signals trigger regulation of the expression of more than 100 genes. His lab uses a variety of genetic, biochemical and computational methods to elucidate the role of V. cholerae quorum sensing in human disease and microbial ecological interactions. He teaches the courses Microbiology, Prokaryotic Molecular Genetics, and Quorum Sensing: Bacterial Chemical Ecology.
Dr. Eric Gaucher was awarded tenure in the School of Biology this spring after accumulating a distinguished record of research, teaching, and service. He joined the school in 2008 as an untenured associate professor and initiated a research program in evolutionary biology. Dr. Gaucher works at the interface of molecular evolution and synthetic biology, seeking to understand the molecular mechanisms of protein adaptation by resurrecting and engineering gene families. Uricases are an example of an ancient enzyme family that is involved in purine catabolism. Uricase is not functional in some apes and humans, despite its role in converting highly insoluble uric acid into 5- hydroxyisourate so it can be easily excreted. The work is biomedically relevant because evolutionarily-engineered uricases are capable of treating gout and preventing Tumor Lysis Syndrome in humans. He teaches Evolution, Research Project Lab, Astrobiology, and Evolution and Synthetic Biology.


Marc Pline

Marc Pline began his career at Georgia Tech in the fall of 1980 as a student in the School of Biology’s masters program. Following graduation he worked as a Lab Technician in Professor Dave Dusenbery’s lab researching the responses of the nematode Meloidogyne incognita to carbon dioxide and their extreme sensitivity to thermal gradients. Pline remained in that position until 1986 when then-Chair, Dr. Tom Tornabene, offered him the position of Lab Coordinator of Teaching Labs. This was a unique opportunity for Marc because the position had not previously existed. Pline took the position and worked as the lab coordinator until 1994, when his position was reclassified to laboratory manager by the Equitech Project.

Pline’s career has been marked by dedication and excellence in service. For his exceptional effort he has received two Institute wide awards from Georgia Tech: the Outstanding Staff Performance Award (2006) and the Outstanding Management in Action Award (2014). Pline is scheduled to retire at the end of August and is looking forward to focusing on one or two projects at a time, and not being stressed out because a culture did not grow properly or a shipment needed immediately got delayed in a snow storm. Marc will truly be missed in the School of Biology. He states, “I will miss the incredibly supportive, forgiving and usually pleasant people—faculty, staff and students—that I've been honored to work with for the past 34 years.”

Teresa Vinson

Teresa Vinson began her career at Georgia Tech in August of 1980. She has spent the majority of her time here in the Biology Finance office, where she is currently serving as a Financial Administrator, and has occasionally worked in the Bursar’s office during registration. Teresa has become a welcoming and familiar face in the School of Biology and her presence will truly be missed.

She is scheduled to retire at the end of June and though she is looking forward to renovating her home, traveling and taking time to enjoy the day she will miss “the faces that stop by just to say hello or the frantic students needing help and their kind emails to say thanks!”


The School of Biology and College of Sciences annually gives several undergraduate awards recognizing excellence in research, academic performance and service.

2014 Undergraduate Biology major award winners:

School of Biology Awards

School of Biology Faculty Award
– Leonid Aksenov

John H. Ridley Award
– Jiby Yohannan, Rachel Azevedo,
Megha Mandal

Cherry L. Emerson Research Award
– Jennifer Goff, Alicia Lane

Williams-Walls Award
– Abigail Shockey

College of Sciences Awards – Biology majors

Mehta Phingbodhipakkiya Memorial Scholarship
– Courtney Hegener

Wartell and Brossette Award
– Rebecca Wolf

College of Sciences Research Award
– Jennifer Goff
The School of Biology gave two $500 Wayne and Willa Kerr Graduate Student Research Awards for outstanding scientific papers published by our PhD students:
Natalie Saini
“Migrating bubble during break-induced replication drives conservative DNA synthesis," published in Nature
Jaiqi Tan
“Temporal niche promotes biodiversity during adaptive radiation," published in
Nature Communications


Wade Barnes, B.S., Applied Biology, Georgia Tech (’71), MD, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Medical College of Georgia (’75) is an Atlanta native who currently resides in Jacksonville, FL. He completed his residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Florida prior to starting his private practice. He is a founding partner of North Florida OB/GYN. Dr. Barnes’ personal philosophy is that giving back to our community is the greatest legacy we can leave to the world. He has been active with the Georgia Tech Alumni Association, having served as a Trustee of the Alumni Association, Jacksonville Network President (twice), Regional Presidents Scholarship Chair, and Jacksonville Network Scholarship Chair. He has helped raise more than 7 million dollars for scholarships. He presently serves on the Georgia Tech College of Sciences Board of Advisors and the Georgia Tech School of Biology Board of Advisors.
We asked Dr. Barnes to reminisce about his experience in the School of Biology at Tech:

Who was your favorite Biology professor and what was special about them?
My favorite professors in the School of Biology were Dr. Nancy Wall and Dr. Bruce Yergin. They both were demanding but fair. They were teachers and available to students. Outside of the School of Biology, my favorite professor was Dr. Charles Liotta of the School of Chemistry.

What was one of your most memorable experiences in the School of Biology?
The School of Biology from 1967-1971 was small. Classes were small. You knew all of your classmates. It really felt like a family. I think the comfort of that supportive environment helped all of us excel.

What was the most important lesson learned at Tech that has best served your career?
The most important lesson learned at Georgia Tech was that hard work, preparation and diligent effort could overcome any of life's hurdles. Medical School was very easy compared to Georgia Tech.

Do you have some career advice for new generations of Tech Biology graduates?
The most important thing to learn at Georgia Tech is work and discipline will prepare you to recognize the future (of biology). The future will best be recognized by people that understood the present and appreciate the past.


Atlanta Science Festival

The first Atlanta Science Festival was held March 22-29 throughout the city. On Saturday, March 29, at the Festival's Exploration Expo, several Georgia Tech faculty, students and staff hosted booths demonstrating the wonderful research happening in their labs.

One very successful booth was entitled “An Oiled Beach," organized by Dr. Joel Kostka and his students Will Overholt, Kala Marks, Boryoung Shin and Xiaoxu Sun. The activity was developed by Dr. Kostka’s wife, Beth Kostka who is a research associate in Georgia Tech’s Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics and Computing (CEISMC). She worked with Will Overholt to set up a display of pristine and oiled beaches with sand and colored vegetable oil in paint trays. Oiled water was poured over the tray to simulate oil coming ashore during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2011 in the Gulf of Mexico. They had posters to describe the Gulf of Mexico, oil extraction activities, and ecosystems potentially impacted by the spill. The students brought cultures of oil-degrading bacteria to teach folks about the natural clean-up of oil from the environment by these microbes.

The students were there all day long, entertaining and educating a constant stream of visitors. Several high school teachers were among the visitors and some invited the Kostka group to put on similar demos at their high schools. Outreach activities like these inform the public about the exciting research at Georgia Tech and help recruit the best and brightest students to become Yellow Jacket biologists.


Every year, the Georgia Tech Faculty Honors Committee and the Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning (CETL) give several teaching awards to faculty and teaching teams recognizing outstanding teaching and contributions to the educational mission.
2014 Biology Faculty and Teaching Team Award Winners:
Linda Green
Awards: Outstanding Undergraduate Academic Advisor and Eichholz Faculty Teaching
Eric Gaucher, Ryan Randall (left) and
Janetta Greenwood (right)

Award: Education Partnership
Brian Hammer
Award: CETL/BP Junior Faculty
Teaching Excellence
Jennifer Leavey
Award: CETL Innovation in
Co-Curricular Education
Chrissy Spencer
Award: CETL Undergraduate Educator


SURA Honors Georgia Tech Professor as Distinguished Scientist

Jeffrey Skolnick, PhD, Mary and Maisie Gibson Chair and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Computational Systems Biology at Georgia Tech, will receive the Southeastern Universities Research Association’s (SURA) 2014 Distinguished Scientist Award. The award is given annually to a scientist whose extraordinary work fulfills the society’s mission of “fostering excellence in scientific research.”

Skolnick, who also serves as director of the Integrative BioSystems Institute, will be presented the award and its $10,000 honorarium on March 18, 2014 at the SURA Board of Trustees meeting at the University of West Virginia at the SURA’s spring board of trustees meeting.

“Jeff is extremely deserving of this award as he is one of the outstanding thought leaders in the field and has been called ‘visionary’ and ‘an out of the box thinker’ by many colleagues,” stated Mark Hay, PhD, professor and Harry and Linda Teasley Chair in Environmental Biology in the School of Biology at Georgia Tech. “Not only has his research provided unique and fundamental insights into the behavior of biological systems, he has developed several of the best algorithms for virtual ligand screening and for predicting protein structure-function relationships.”

Skolnick is the author or co-author of over 350 journal articles in the fields of systems and computational biology and his cutting edge research on protein structure and function has provided remarkable insights into the relative
roles of physics and evolution in dictating the properties of protein structure and function and holds the potential to dramatically accelerate and enhance the drug discovery process.“Jeff is a world-class scientist with tremendous imagination and creativity,” stated Terry Snell, Chair of the School of Biology at Georgia Tech. “His research has significantly enhanced our understanding of protein structure and function.”

Over his career, Skolnick has made significant scientific contributions. He developed the first coarse grained model for protein structure prediction, the first successful multiscale modeling approach to structure prediction, the first effective medium model for a membrane that enabled the successful prediction of peptide orientation and conformation with respect to the membrane, Fuzzy Functional Forms that were the first low resolution approach to protein function prediction, and the highly accurate EFICAz approach to enzyme function inference. His more recent work has significant applications to both drug discovery and to improving our fundamental understanding of the possible origin of life.

The SURA Distinguished Scientist Award was established in 2007 to commemorate the organization’s 25th Anniversary and is considered its highest honor. SURA’s Development & Relations Committee manages the solicitation, screening and selection of the recipient for this award from a SURA
member institution.


Many Biology faculty are internationally renowned scientists. They often get invitations to speak at leading universities, scientific meetings and government advisory committees. Whenever possible, we have these presentations recorded so that students and alumni can view these lectures online at their leisure. You can find these lectures at

So have a look at some of the cutting edge research performed at Georgia Tech. You will be astounded by the breadth and accomplishments of our faculty.
Titles include:


Biology has a new website! Our new site features a user friendly design that will help you to find the information you are looking for more quickly. Our home page has been redesigned to give you quick reference to our upcoming events, the most recent biology news on the homepage and short video presentations by faculty and students. Be sure to browse, bookmark and share the new site by visiting


Over the past few months, a new program aimed at enhancing the career opportunities for our graduates has been organized. Beginning in the summer and fall semesters of 2014, ten internship positions are available for current Biology undergraduates. These opportunities are with local government, academia and industry groups and will provide each intern with work experience in fields with employment possibilities after graduation with a Biology degree. Current partnerships exist with VWR, Inc., Caprico BioTechnologies, the Centers for Disease Control, Georgia Tech’s Environmental Health and Safety department, the Army Defense Forensic Science Center, and GTRI Occupational Safety and Health Programs. Students can apply through the Biology website, with top candidates receiving interviews with the employer of interest.
We are delighted to be able to offer these positions to our Biology majors, and we anticipate growing the program to 15-20 partnering employers in the next 1-2 years. Our current partners were identified from GT’s Career Fair in January and emails to local biotech organizations. We have capitalized on connections through faculty, alumni and students. If you have  suggestions for other potential internship partners, please email Dr. Terry Snell ( or Dr. Linda Green ( with your ideas. Our current model includes positions for pay or for GT credit, and we can be flexible in meeting the needs of our intern partners. GT Biology students have strong content knowledge in genetics, cell biology, ecology, microbiology and environmental health, as well as skills in modern laboratory techniques, statistics, computers and communication. We believe that they can be a strong asset to many organizations.


Whether you are a social media enthusiast or just an occasional visitor to social media sites we encourage you to like us on Facebook and to join our LinkedIn group. Here are a few reasons for you to stay connected to the School of Biology through social media.
  1. A source of connection: Connect with current students and with other alumni
  2. A source of information: Get the most recent updates on events and School of Biology happenings
  3. A source of promotion: Promote industry specific events taking place in your region
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