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GEORGIA TECH HOSTED EXPERTS TO IMPROVE EBOLA MODELING AND RESPONSE


School of Biology faculty member and chair of the "Modeling the Spread and Control of Ebola in West Africa" organizing committee Joshua Weitz, speaking with President Bud Peterson and Terry Snell, Professor and Chair, School of Biology.

January 22-24, Georgia Tech hosted a two-day workshop, "Modeling the Spread and Control of Ebola in West Africa," with more than 180 participants to discuss the use of dynamical models to support, interpret and enhance public health practices to help stop the spread of the disease.

"There is a growing coalition of modelers working at different scales - from how the disease is transmitted at the community level, to how the virus is evolving - who can contribute to support the response effort on the ground," said Joshua Weitz, chair of the organizing committee and associate professor in Georgia Tech's School of Biology.

The lectures and discussions focused on four major questions: How much confidence should we have in forecasts of the epidemic? How do we evaluate control strategies? What are the challenges in implementing these strategies? How do we communicate models to each other, public health scientists and to the broader community?

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BIOLOGY PROFESSOR RECEIVES PRIVATE GIFT FOR OVARIAN CANCER RESEARCH





Pictured above: Professor John McDonald


Marcia and Jack C. Price of Gainesville, Georgia made a substantial gift to the School of Biology to support the ovarian cancer research of Dr. John McDonald. Dr. McDonald is taking a novel approach to ovarian cancer diagnostics and therapeutics that integrates the long standing strengths at Georgia Tech in the computational sciences and nanotechnology with state-of-the art molecular analysis of the disease. This integrated approach distinguishes his program from more traditional cancer research centers and provides Georgia Tech with an opportunity to advance the field in new and exciting directions.

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BIOLOGY FACULTY WIN RESEARCH AWARDS FROM SLOAN AND SIMONS FOUNDATIONS





Pictured above: Professors Danielle Dixson and Frank Stewart

Biology faculty member Dr. Danielle Dixson is among 126 scientists in North America who have been awarded a 2015 Sloan Research Fellowship, a two-year grant given to early career scholars to support their pursuit of scientific knowledge.  Dixson, an assistant professor in the School of Biology, investigates the influence sensory cues have on the behavior of coral reef organisms. Her recent work, featured on the cover of the journal Science, found that coral larvae and juvenile fishes can smell the difference between a reef that is unhealthy and one that is a suitable home.

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OPINION ARTICLE IN WIRED MAGAZINE BY BIOLOGY ALUM:
YEARS OF RESEARCH 'HAVE BEEN HANDLED LIKE A DISPOSABLE GOOD'

Kristen Marhaver got her BS in Biology at Georgia Tech in 2004 and PhD at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 2010. She is currently a research scientist at the Carmabi Research Station on Curacao. The article she wrote below was featured in Wired Magazine.

Let's say that you buy a new blender or new barbecue grill. You can use the appliance for one day, but it's programmed to lock up and become useless the next day. Because of a shortage of manufacturers, you can replace it only once every few years. Again, it works for only a day. This would be a stupid system for owning and using a product that could improve your health, nutrition and happiness on a daily basis. And your hopes for a grilled-fish sandwich with tartare sauce are pretty much ruined.
 
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Kristen Marhaver
Photo credit: Tedx Hoogstraat

NEW FAST-TRACK TO BIOLOGY
RESEARCH SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM



Undergraduate research assistant, Sharadha Krishnappan, 3rd year Biology major,
working in labs.
 
A new Fast-Track to Research Scholarship program has been initiated to enhance the educational experience of Biology undergraduates. This program leverages the extensive research activity at Georgia Tech by involving undergraduates in research labs as early as the spring of their freshman year. Fast-Track scholars receive stipends of $1,500 to work about 10 hr/week in a research lab of a Biology faculty member. The Fast-Track research program kicks off a multi-year relationship with a faculty mentor that usually culminates in an honors thesis based on the student’s research. Such a research experience often results in students being included as an author on scientific publications and presenting at scientific meetings. The mentor relationship also supplies students with strong reference letter writers who can comment authoritatively on the students’ lab skills, work habits, and analytical ability, serving them well regardless of career path.

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ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT

Tish Robertson, Ph.D.

Tish Robertson received her B.S. in Biology from Georgia Tech in 1999. After graduation she went to Rutgers University to study under Judith Weis, who focuses on the effects of stressors like environmental contaminants, invasive species, and parasites on the behavior and ecology of estuarine organisms. She received her doctorate in 2004, and then managed a fish monitoring program in the Everglades for three years. For the past seven years she has been working at the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality in Richmond, where she coordinates water quality assessments for the entire state. 

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STRATEGIES FOR MORE SUSTAINABLE SUGAR CULTIVATION IN SOUTH AMERICA




Picture above from left to right: Dr. King Jordan, Augusto Valderrama, Lina Valderrama, Dr. Joel Kostka at Incauca in Columbia

School of Biology faculty Drs. King Jordan and Joel Kostka are leading a project in Colombia entitled “Discovery of Native Biofertilizers for Sugar Cane.” Its long-term goal is to reduce the economic and environmental costs of sugar cane cultivation by developing nitrogen-fixing bacteria as a natural biofertilizer, either by adding an inoculum of bacteria to the soil or by improving cropping practices to stimulate nitrogen-fixing bacteria that are a part of the plant’s microbiome.

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BIOLOGICALLY INSPIRED DESIGN INSPIRES A NEW STRATEGY FOR ZOO ATLANTA




Pictured above: Professor Marc Weissburg


Owls are mostly nocturnal animals that depend on stealth to catch their prey. With the help of their wing structure, they also helped create the world’s most famous high-speed train by making it less noisy.

Georgia Tech researchers have created an iPhone app based on biologically inspired design, highlighting two dozen species that have helped engineers solve problems or invent new solutions.

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HOW YEAST EVOLVE MULTICELLULARITY




A genetic mutation in single-celled yeast turns it into a multicellular organism — hinting at
how multicellularity might have evolved. Will Ratcliff in the School of Biology at Georgia Tech and his co-workers studied a strain of yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) in which the daughter cells remain attached to the mother cells after dividing, resulting in multicellular ‘snowflake’ yeast. By mathematically modelling the way that clusters break off, the authors conclude that this way of growing makes the cells in each cluster genetically similar.

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SCHOOL OF BIOLOGY AWARDS



 

FACULTY AWARDS

Sigma Xi Best Faculty Paper Award
Dr. Francesca Storici
“Transcript-RNA-templated DNA recombination and repair”
Nature 2014

Georgia Tech CETL Undergraduate Educator Award
Dr. Shana Kerr

Georgia Tech CETL Educational Partnership Award
Dr. Jeannette Yen and Justin Chaddick

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DUGATKIN DISCUSSES ALTRUISTIC BEHAVIORS



Lee Dugatkin, Ph.D.
As part of the Frontiers in Science Lecture Series, Dr. Lee Dugatkin spoke to Tech students, faculty and members of the Atlanta community in February about “The Evolution of Goodness, Empathy and Justice.” Dr. Dugatkin teaches at the University of Louisville in the Department of Biology.

He has spoken at over 100 universities around the world and has published over 150 scientific articles. A self-described “evolutionary biologist, behavioral ecologist and historian of science,” Dr. Dugatkin’s primary area of interest is the evolution of social behaviors.

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