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Biology is the study of the cellular and molecular make-up of animals and plants and offers a window into their behavior. It provides an avenue of study for such specialties as ecology, physiology, anatomy, zoology, and biotechnology.

Among the most exciting achievements of Biology this year is the on-going work for the Biotechnology Initiative that began in Summer 2014. Responding to the needs of the local biotechnology industry—with the support and guidance from Dean Breese and Ian Canning—and the departmental leadership of Drs. Grace, Crawford, Edgington, and Roberts, the department created a true B.S. program in biotechnology. This program represents the very first effort the department has made to respond to the needs of a local industry and in particular Alexion. Beginning in the fall 2014, meetings were completed between Alexion representatives, the City of New Haven Office of Economic Development, SCSU departments of biology, chemistry, physics, and earth science. SCSU and the city of New Haven, Alexion and industry representatives signed a MOU (memo of understanding) that gives SCSU 1 year to fully implement the new biotechnology program. We anticipate that the program will be approved to begin in the fall 2016 semester.

Biology faculty and students have been quite busy. Several faculty have published papers, co-authored grants, received CSUS Research Grants, and have included students in their research. Dr. Silady’s student, Kirsten Famiglietti, received a prestigious award from the Plant Biology Society of America. Dr. Roberts’ student, Aileen Ferraro, won the 2014 American Society of Microbiology fellowship award which provided travel funds to present at the national meeting in Washington DC as well as a 2-year membership and participation in the institute. Dr. Dunbar offered the department’s first study abroad class, Natural Field History in Belize. She was featured on Channel 61 (with her undergraduate student, Christopher Wisniewski) presenting research on how White Nose Syndrome is killing off a large portion of the bat population in Connecticut. Dr. Edgington and Dr. Roberts, as well as seven SCSU Honors College students are authors on a research paper. It is one of the largest authored papers ever published with 199 faculty and 2,664 students across the United States and at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.

Biology Department

Recent Departmental and Faculty Successes

Dr. Steven Burian presented a paper on taxonomy and distribution of the North American species of genus Parameletus (Ephemeroptera) at the International Conference on Ephemeroptera and Plecoptera convened at the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland. He provided taxonomic assistance concerning the taxonomy of mayfly species to the Lake Champlain Institute, NY, State of Maine Dept. of Environmental Protection, and State of Iowa, State Hygienic Laboratory.

Dr. Nicholas Edgington was named a “HHMI GIFT Scholar” by HHMI for the next three years. (GIFT= ‘Genome Inspection and Finishing Team’). He is part of a national eight member team that performs the bioinformatics-based assembly of next-generation sequencing reads/results of bacteriophage genomes, identifies areas of weak coverage, resolves areas of discrepancy, designs DNA primers, generates and shares final ‘fasta’ sequence files with other HHMI SEA-PHAGES Colleges and Universities. He spent a week at the University of Maryland Baltimore County providing pedagogy advice, and training new faculty and teaching assistants how to execute the SEA-PHAGES program.

Dr. Elizabeth Roberts published her work, “Rhizosphere microbiome selection by Epichloë endophytes of Festuca arundinacea” in Plant and Soil and presented her work, Metagenomic assessment of tall fescue seeds with and without fungal endophytes, at the Poster Session for the American Society for Microbiology General Meeting in New Orleans, Summer 2015. She has been invited to write a book chapter for the next edition of The Fungal Community series on interactions between fungal endophytes and plant microbiome bacteria.

Dr. Sean Grace was invited to become a Co-PI on KEEN (Kelp Ecosystem Ecology Network) which is a world-wide network of researchers examining the effects of global climate change on kelp beds. He had research presented at the Animal Behavior Society Meeting in Princeton, NJ and at the NEERS (New England Estuarine Research Society) in Bristol, RI.

Dr. Rebecca Silady co-authored a journal article, “Increased Grain Yield under Drought in the First Biotechnology-Derived Drought Tolerant Maize,” in Plant, Cell & Environment (2015).