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Archived CMMB News (Prior to 2014)

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Dr. Cecilia Nunes Research Spotlight

December, 2013 - Tampa Tribune. by John Buchanan

Can Florida strawberry growers gain clear, important market advantages by reducing the use of pesticides?

Researchers at the University of South Florida and University of Florida will address that question by investigating whether the reduced use of pesticides and fungicides can improve the post-harvest quality of Florida strawberries and deliver other key benefits such as lower production costs.

Funded by a $172,663 USDA specialty crop block grant administered by Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the innovative two year-project is being led by Cecilia Nunes, an assistant professor in USF's department of cell biology, microbiology and molecular biology. She is working with Natalia Peres of UF's Gulf Coast Research Center, where initial research on the reduced use of pesticides by strawberry growers was already underway.

The fundamental purpose of the study is to determine the effect of reduced pesticide use on the quality of the fruit, Nunes said. "We already know that growers can decrease the use of pesticides and fungicides without increasing disease in the fruit," she said. "But we do not know what happens to the quality of the fruit." Nunes and Peres will study such effects on the quality of fruit from its harvest, through the shipping process and at market. In turn, those findings will be used to determine whether improved fruit quality can be used successfully as a competitive marketing tactic against strawberries grown in other places, such as Mexico. "There was some criticism of this project initially, because we have to be very careful not to suggest that fruit from foreign producers is not safe because of the use of certain chemicals," Nunes said. "The foreign fruit is safe. Our idea is to find ways to make it better. And also determine ways that Florida growers can develop certain advantages, such as lower costs or better protection of the environment, because they use less pesticides."

Nunes and Peres are working with a Florida grower to produce side by side strawberry crops - one grown with the customary levels of pesticides, the other reduced by 50 percent. After harvest, those crops will be compared to one another and also to commercially available organic berries bought from Wish Farms in Plant City. "We want to know what happens to the fruit after harvest," Nunes said. "What is its appearance? What is its texture? What are the effects of time and temperature as it is packaged and shipped? What is its shelf life?" The research that will answer those questions will be done in two annualized cycles through two experimental crops in 2014 and 2015. Then results will be compared, studied and announced.

Ted Campbell, executive director of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association in Dover, has strongly endorsed the research initiative. "It's a great goal," said Campbell, who wrote a letter to USDA in support of funding for the project. "Any farmer wants to reduce input costs any way he can. He also wants to produce more wholesome fruit at the same time. So the work represented by this project is certainly an ideal to reach toward." However, he said, by definition the effort faces some practical challenges. "The tricky piece of the puzzle is consumer awareness," Campbell said. "Or consumer apathy, depending on which side of the coin you want to look at. How do you communicate what you've done to the consumer in a way that might motivate their purchasing behavior? That is really, really hard to do."

In addition, Campbell said, it's important that consumers understand that Florida strawberry growers are already doing everything possible to grow the highest quality and safest fruit available anywhere in the world. "And that includes understanding that we are not indiscriminately spraying [pesticides] everywhere," he said. "But some consumers will just never understand that. And there are others who want absolutely no pesticides at all used." And there are still others, he said, who only want the fattest, reddest strawberries, without any concern for how many pesticides were used to get an attractive, appealing product. In general, however, Campbell said, there is a powerful market trend toward more consumers caring about where their food comes from and how it is grown. "And wise agriculturists should be addressing that in social media and whatever other marketing methodologies they use, to begin to teach people how and why fruit is grown the way it is," he said. "And why we already work to limit the use of chemicals. And why we can't in a lot of cases."

He also agreed that even if an ability to produce improved fruit is not a result of the project, reduced production costs and improved environmental responsibility would deliver clear market advantages. "Those in and of themselves are noble goals,"

Robert BuzzeoCMMB Faculty Dr. Daniel Lim is Announced as a 2013 AAAS Fellow.

November 25, 2013

Washington, D.C. – Six faculty members at the University of South Florida in Tampa have been named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Election as an AAAS Fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their members.

This year 388 members have been awarded this honor by AAAS because of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.

With six Fellows, the University of South Florida ranks in the top ten worldwide for organizations with the most AAAS Fellows named this year. This is the second year in a row that USF has been in the top ten worldwide. USF is #1 in Florida for 2013 AAAS Fellows, also for the second year in a row.

Others among the top ten include Vanderbilt University (18 Fellows), Duke University (12 Fellows), University of California, Davis (10 Fellows), University of Michigan (8 Fellows). Pennsylvania State University and Texas A&M University tied for sixth place with seven Fellows each. Tied for seventh place with USF, with six fellows each, were Cornell University, Ohio State University, University of California, San Diego, University of Chicago, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and University of Southern California.

"The University of South Florida is proud of the research, scholarship and service accomplishments of these outstanding faculty members," said Dr. Paul R. Sanberg, AAAS Fellow and senior vice president for research and innovation at USF. "Our faculty are the key to our continued growth and success as a global research university."

New Fellows will be presented with an official certificate and a gold and blue (representing science and engineering, respectively) rosette pin on Saturday, 15 February from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. at the AAAS Fellows Forum during the 2014 AAAS Annual Meeting in Chicago.

Daniel Lim Ph.D. is a distinguished University Professor of Global Health and Cell Biology, Microbiology and Molecular Biology, Colleges of Public Health and Arts and Sciences, for distinguished contributions to the field of microbiology for rapid sample processing and detection of pathogens in food, water, and infectious diseases including LIM Broth. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, actively involved in the American Society for Microbiology, and has served on NIH and other federal study sections and the National Academies Committee on Water System Security Research. He is the inventor of LIM Broth, used worldwide for rapid growth of group B streptococci, and has received numerous awards and honors, including the Florida Governor's Award for Outstanding Contribution in Science and Technology and the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation's Homeland Security Award in the Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Field. He is a charter member of the National Academy of Inventors.

Robert BuzzeoCMMB Faculty Dr. Johnny El-Rady has received the 2012/2013 Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award[11.22.2013]CMMB Instructor Dr. Johnny El-Rady has received the 2012/13 Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award. This is the second time Dr. El-Rady has received the award which is a USF-wide honor.  Dr. El-Rady is known for his innovative teaching style where he engages students both in and out of the classroom with projects and other unique & compelling activities.

Meera Nanjundan NIH AwardCMMB Faculty Dr. Meera Nanjundan is Awarded a NIH R21 Research Grant.[10.17.2013] University of South Florida researcher and Cell Biology, Microbiology and Molecular Biology (CMMB) faculty member Meera Nanjundan has recently received a new NIH R21 grant for $ 383,969. The purpose of the grant is to study the role of autophagy, the process of self-digestion by a cell, in the development of endometriosis. Endometriosis is a very painful gynecological disease which affects reproductive age women, and can lead to infertility. The causes of endometriosis are unclear, hence a better understanding of molecular changes that occur in the endometriosis is needed in order to improve therapeutic strategies and help patients. The role of autophagy has yet to be investigated in the development of endometriosis.

“The proposed research will contribute to an important missing link in our understanding of the genesis of endometriosis,” said Nanjundan. “If proven correct, the results of this research will improve our understanding of the development of endometriosis, identify potential new therapeutic targets to reduce the burden of endometriosis, identity whether treatment with inhibitors of autophagy may be potentially beneficial in endometriosis patients diminishing development of endometriosis lesions, and potentially improve the reproductive capacity of women of child-bearing age.” Nanjundan is assistant professor of Cell Biology, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology. She received her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Western Ontario in Canada, was a postdoctoral fellow at The Scripps Research Institute, and research assistant professor in Molecular Therapeutics at MD Anderson Cancer Center before joining USF in 2008.

Spring 2013

CMMB Faculty Dr. Lindsey Shaw is Awarded a NIH R21 Research Grant.[09.09.2013]Associate Professor and Director of CMMB Graduate Studies, Lindsey Shaw Ph.D. was recently awarded an R21 research grant by the National Institute of Health. The grant seeks to use epigenetic modifiers to unlock cryptic metabolic pathways in fungal organisms with the goal of identifying novel antimicrobial agents. Dr. Shaw’s long-term research goal is to identify novel antibacterial agents that target the ESKAPE pathogens (Enterococcus faecium, Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella species, Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Enterobacter species), which are the leading cause of hospital acquired infections in the United States. Dr. Shaw shares this award, totaling more than $400,000, with Dr. Bill Baker who is the director of the University of South Florida's Center for Drug Discovery and Innovation.


CMMB Faculty Sameer Varma and his collaborators in Germany publish their findings on the "hydrophilic" character of methyl groups in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.[08.05.2013] The hydrophobic character of methyl groups, that is, their inability to hydrogen bond with water, is understood to be a primary driving force that bestows biomolecules with their overall shapes and functions. Nevertheless, it has also been known for a very long time that methyl groups possess a so-called hydrophilic character: while methyl groups themselves do not form strong hydrogen bonds, they can influence how their bonded neighbors interact with their environment. As Professor Varma's team point out through a series of state-of-the-art simulations, the energetic contribution of methyl hydrophilicity can be large enough to influence both the structures and the functions of biomolecules. Their case studies of potassium channels provide a paradigm shift in our understanding of the role of methyl groups in biology. More information can be found at the PNAS website.


Entering USF Student Summer Monroe Finishes 3rd at International Science Fair [07.18.2013]Summer Monroe who will be matriculating to The University of South Florida this Fall has taken home 3rd place at the exclusive Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, Arizona. Summer’s research project evaluated the antimicrobial properties that copper and a material called Sharklet™, which was developed to mimic the protective features of shark skin, has in combination. To take this further, the 18-year old Polk State College/Lakeland High School student developed a prototype of a bandage or wound dressing containing these two substances that could potentially help prevent infection and increase healing time.

Sponsored by Intel, this International Science and Engineering Fair is the world’s largest high-school science competition attracting more than 1,500 students from more than 70 countries. Earlier this year, Summer Monroe placed second in the state science fair and first at the county level.

Summer's pilot experiments performed on the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus were accomplished using a fluidics-based cellular analysis technique called flow cytometry. Her experiments were carried out at the University of South Florida’s Department of Cell Biology, Microbiology and Molecular Biology’s (CMMB) Research Core Facility. Under the scientific direction of CMMB faculty James Garey, Ph.D. and management by USF Staff Scientist Robert Hill, M.S., the CMMB Core Facility serves its department and the University of South Florida by offering a wide range of resources providing products, education, services and support that assist students and scientists in solving research problems. The CMMB Core Facility offers additional technologies that specialize in microscopy, microarray, and tissue procurement.

When asked about the possible uses of her bandage design, Summer expressed the greatest interest in the applications it could have to combat soldiers and battlefield wounds. Summer stated the project originated in middle-school during a history project presenting information on her great-grandfather, a physician who served during World War I. Her great-grandfather wrote a book about his experiences and described how common it was for battlefield wounds to become infected. At the time, her great-grandfather noted that physicians simply used gauze to protect injuries as they healed. Summer noted interestingly how little wound treatment has changed since then. For her third-place finish, Ms. Monroe earned $1,000 prize. Summer will attend the University for South Florida as an entering freshman this Fall.


New Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Biology to be effective Fall 2013 [06.27.2013]
On Thursday, June 20, 2013, the Florida Board of Governors approved the Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Biology to be effective this coming Fall 2013. The current Ph.D. in Biology with a concentration in Cell and Molecular Biology will be phased out and replaced by the newly approved degree.

Dr. Stanley Stevens to hold Proteomics Workshop August 13-15. Click here to learn how to register!!! [05.24.2013]
CMMB faculty, Stanley Stevens, Ph.D. will be hosting a 3-day workshop about proteomics beginning on August 13 in BSF 102. The workshop will provide an opportunity to receive hands-on experience in protein digestion and sample processing for mass spectrometry analysis, database searching, stable isotope labeling by amino acids in cell culture (SILAC) demonstration & data analysis of SILAC data sets using MaxQuant. Additionally Dr. Stevens will discuss Global-scale analysis of protein expression and posttranslational modifications, chemical methods used to elucidate biological mechanisms & Current topics in protein structure characterization by mass spectrometry. Click here to find out more and learn how to register


CMMB undergraduate Kenyaria Noble accepted to the prestigious research internship program: SMART [05.22.2013]
CMMB undergraduate Kenyaria Noble joins 79 other national applicants for The Summer Medical and Research Training (SMART) program at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. The SMART program is designed for undergraduate students who are interested in exploring a career in scientific research. The internship includes 9 paid weeks of biomedical related research covering many disciplines, daily seminars, GRE preparation and career development. Kenyaria will be working in the laboratory of Dr. Bert W. O'Malley, a world-renowned researcher of eukaryotic gene expression.  



CMMB Faculty Elected as AAAS Fellows Recognized by USF [04.16.2013]
20 University of South Florida faculty members were honored on Monday, April 15, with a dinner and formal awards ceremony in Lindsey House on the USF campus in acknowledgment of their recent professional recognitions by a number of the world’s top scholarly and research organizations. Nine of the 20 honorees are College of Arts and Sciences faculty. Of those recognized were 2 members from the CMMB department: Dr. James Garey, professor and chair of CMMB and Dr. Richard Pollenz, professor of CMMB. Both awarded for their election as fellows in the American Association for the Advancement of Science.