Photo of biochemistry assistant professor Vatsan Raman
Jan 18, 2019

A major goal of the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center is to harness the power of microbes to create biofuels. But often, it’s an expensive challenge for scientists to identify the most useful individual variants among thousands of similar microbe strains. A new study led by Vatsan Raman, an assistant professor of biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, unveils a biosensor that may light the way to the best microbial candidates for biofuel production.

In search of the best biofuel-producing microbes, scientists may need to make millions of variants via genetic...

Photo of NMRFAM spectrometer
Jan 14, 2019

The National Magnetic Resonance Facility at Madison (NMRFAM) housed in the UW–Madison Department of Biochemistry is home to state-of-the-art technology for biomolecular nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and related techniques. The facility’s equipment requires helium, and with worldwide supplies dwindling, has recently installed a helium recovery system to increase sustainability and cut costs.    

Photo of biochemistry professor Rick Amasino
Jan 08, 2019

If you’ve ever grown carrots in your garden and puzzled over never once seeing them flower, don’t blame a missing green thumb.

Carrots, beets and many other plants won’t flower until they’ve gone through winter. The extended cold gives them the signal to flower quickly once spring arrives, providing the plants an edge in the race to produce seeds.

But cold isn’t always required. In the 1930s, two English scientists discovered that some crops in the grass family, like rye or wheat, can use short days instead of cold to tell them when winter has come.

“But nothing was...

Photo of biochemistry professor Robert Landick
Jan 08, 2019

New research on transcriptional pausing, which helps control gene expression in cells, will aid in the understanding of the enzyme RNA polymerase — a key player in the process and an important drug target.

Researchers have provided this new insight on the mechanism underlying the control of gene expression in all living organisms in a study published today (Jan. 8) in eLife.

The findings could ultimately improve the understanding of how certain antibacterial drugs work against the enzyme RNA polymerase (RNAP) in treating conditions such as Clostridium difficile infections and...

Photo of biochemistry associate professor Katherine Henzler-Wildman
Dec 11, 2018

Nutrients in. Waste out. Everyone and almost every living thing does it, even at the cellular level. It seems like a simple enough concept: to survive, cells have to have a way to move different types of molecules in and out of themselves. It’s how they take in food, get rid of waste, send signals to each other, sense their environment, and more. But the reality is much more complex. Transmembrane proteins — those embedded in the cell membrane and of which some are responsible for this transmission of molecules — are notoriously hard to study and understand.

Biochemistry Ph.D. alumna Lynne Maquat
Dec 07, 2018

Lynne Maquat says she was shy when she first started as a graduate student in the Department of Biochemistry, but since graduating with her Ph.D. in 1979, she’s become a force in the field of RNA research. The first person in her family to attend college, she’s earned numerous awards for groundbreaking research and mentoring prowess in her current post as a professor at the University of Rochester.

Maquat studied with now-Emeritus Professor William Reznikoff. After her Ph.D. she also performed postdoctoral work at the UW–Madison McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research. Her lab...

Photo of Laurens Anderson
Nov 29, 2018

University of Wisconsin–Madison Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry and Ph.D. alumnus Laurens “Andy” Anderson died on Nov. 6, 2018 at the age of 98. He was a faculty member in the department for 35 years, known as a world-renowned expert on carbohydrate chemistry and nomenclature.

Anderson was born in South Dakota on May 19, 1920, and he earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Wyoming in 1942. After college, he joined the Air Force and served as a bomber pilot in missions over southern Europe. In 1946, Anderson and his wife Doris moved to Madison and he began his...

Graphic saying "Sam I am"
Nov 07, 2018

Shouting “Sam” in the lab of University of Wisconsin–Madison biochemistry professor Alessandro Senes won’t get you far. Three talented young scientists will turn their heads: Samantha Anderson, Samson Condon, and Samuel Craven.

All three graduate students in the Integrated Program in Biochemistry (IPiB) ended up in the same lab, which studies membrane proteins. IPiB is the joint graduate program of the Department of Biochemistry and Department of Biomolecular Chemistry. Although from slightly different backgrounds, they are linked by their research interests and, of course, their...

Photo of zebra in Akagera National Park, Rwanda
Oct 31, 2018

It’s easy to make a difference through an award that’s named after the Wisconsin Idea, and Jacob Olson is doing just that. The biochemistry and environmental studies major traveled to Rwanda this past summer through a Morgridge Center for Public Service Wisconsin Idea Fellowship that helped him combine his education with public service and community engagement.

Director of the Biochemistry Optical Core, Elle Kielar-Grevstad
Oct 18, 2018

The Director of the Biochemistry Optical Core, Elle Kielar-Grevstad, has earned an “Image of Distinction” award in Nikon’s 2018 Photomicrography Competition. The contest received more than 2,500 entries from 89 countries, with only the top 95 images receiving a distinction.

The root of a buttercup flower might look ordinary enough, but under a light microscope Kielar-Grevstad captured the beauty and complexity of the cells that are responsible for transporting the plant’s water and food.

Biochemistry professor John Ralph
Oct 11, 2018

Lignin makes up about a quarter of plant biomass and is the most abundant source of renewable aromatics on Earth. Aromatics are materials with six carbon rings usually derived from petroleum that are the building blocks for a wide array from products - from plastics to pharmaceuticals.

Despite its high energy density, researchers have struggled to find ways to realize lignin’s value, but if harnessed, this naturally-occurring substance could transform agricultural markets for the better.

Assistant professor of biochemistry Vatsan Raman
Oct 02, 2018

Biochemistry assistant professor Srivatsan “Vatsan” Raman has received a Director's New Innovator Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The $2.2 million-grants fund high-risk, high-reward research performed by early stage investigators. Compared to traditional NIH grants, the New Innovator Award supports “unusually creative early stage investigators” whose research can have a broad impact on biomedical sciences.

Raman’s project is focused on understanding protein allostery. Allostery is a property by which when something happens to one part of a protein, a signal is...

Three undergraduate biochemistry alumni at UPMC
Sep 27, 2018

Three UW–Madison Department of Biochemistry undergraduate alumni walked into the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and were instantly connected by their Badger pride. They might be far from their favorite spot, the Memorial Union Terrace, but that didn’t stop them from showing the rest of their medical team pictures of it — but “they just don’t do it justice,” they say.

The three alumni, all at different stages of their medical education, have met at UPMC as an attending, intern, and medical student. As fate would have it they all ended up on the same medical team at...

Rebecca Smith, a scientist in the lab of Professor John Ralph
Sep 13, 2018

Rebecca Smith has loved plants for a long time. In fact, her interest stems from an AP biology class in high school. 

“Something about the enormous variation and complexity in the plant kingdom sparked my interest,” says the assistant scientist at the Wisconsin Energy Institute and Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC), “and I knew I wanted to study plants as a career.”

During her undergraduate at the University of Manitoba, Smith took a course called ‘Medicinal and Hallucinogenic Plants’ which, she says, served as her introduction to the fascinating world of plant...

Students presenting at the life sciences consultancy competition
Sep 06, 2018

Badger Business Solutions — a team of graduate students and a postdoctoral researcher representing the departments and programs of Biochemistry, Chemistry, Food Science, and Biophysics — won third place at the Tufts New England Case Competition (TUNECC) on Friday, Aug. 3, 2018.

TUNECC is a life sciences consultancy competition where students and researchers are given an actual business case scenario: the company Seres Therapeutics specializes in microbiome therapies and is running out of cash but possesses great assets in their research pipeline that could make a profit. The...

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