Spring is the season of renewal. This year will be a renewal of the leadership of the department—we are getting things ready for the 10th chair of the MSU Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (BMB). After completing an international search, Professor Erich Grotewold was selected for the position, and he will begin his assignment in August. Erich is currently the director of the Center for Applied Plant Sciences at The Ohio State University. You can read more about him on page 3. I will remain at the university, joining the MSUDOE Plant Research Laboratory to continue my research on photosynthesis and isoprene, while keeping my academic home in BMB. In my nine years as BMB chair, the university has invested heavily in molecular sciences. As a result, BMB has hired 22 faculty members, 15 of them starting as assistant professors. Last year, three assistant professors were reappointed (Danny Ducat, Jian Hu and Kristin Parent)—the first step to tenure— and Amy Ralston was given tenure and promoted to associate professor. The assistant professors help each other negotiate the early years of their careers, a time that can be stressful as people start their independent occupations, while often having significant family demands and worries about the increasing competition for research funds. Nevertheless, we have an outstanding group of assistant professors. Assistant professors teamed up to mentor a group of students competing in iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) this year. Danny Ducat, Björn Hamberger and Michaela TerAvest advised a team of undergraduate students who developed a low-cost reactor for growing cyanobacteria (blue-green algae). This reactor can speed research by lowering the cost of maintaining cultures. "THIS YEAR WILL BE A RENEWAL OF THE LEADERSHIP OF THE DEPARTMENT—WE ARE GETTING THINGS READY FOR THE 10TH CHAIR OF THE MSU DEPARTMENT OF BIOCHEMISTRY AND MOLECULAR BIOLOGY." They traveled to Boston to present their work and were given a bronze medal for their efforts. Each year, the department has an awards banquet to celebrate many of the awards and honors received by members of the department in the past year. This year’s banquet, scheduled for April 13 (see more information on page 2), will recognize the many awards and honors received by our faculty members and students in 2016, some of which are listed under Faculty Honors on page 3 and Undergraduate Honors on page 9 of this newsletter. Each year, we award either a John A. Boezi Memorial Alumnus Award or R. Gaurth Hansen Award. The Boezi award recognizes a distinguished former member of the department who died much too young; the Hansen award recognizes the founding chairperson of the department, R. Gaurth Hansen, and is given every other year to an outstanding young scientist who received his/her undergraduate or graduate degrees in the department. This year, we will present the Hansen award to Dr. Augen A. Pioszak, assistant professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. Augie, who did research in Professor Zachary Burton’s lab, graduated with a B.S. from BMB in 1997. In nominating Augie, Zach said “Augie is a great and creative young scientist . . .” All are welcome at the banquet. There have been many changes during my time as chair, but the collegiality that has been an important part of this department remains. It is important to renew leadership, to bring new ideas and invigorate the department. Enjoy this year’s newsletter! Thomas D. Sharkey, Ph.D. Chair, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
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