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BIOrhythms BIOrhythms Document Transcript

  • BIOrhythms Washington University Biology Department Newsletter November 2008 For man, Featured in this issue: autumn is a Faculty Spotlight: Bruce Carlson: Neuroscience time of harvest, Staff Spotlight: Mike Dyer: Greenhouse of gathering Course Spotlight: BIO 404 Neurophysiology Lab together. For Get Involved: Clubs & Volunteer Opportunities nature, it is a Calendar: Biology Events and links to event listings time of sowing, The Neuroscience Track of scattering The Neuroscience Track of Biology is the most diffi- abroad. cult major to declare with just 28 spots for each gradu- ating class. The primary reason for the Track’s limited ~Edwin Way Teale availability is that until recently, the Biology Depart- ment had just two neuroscience professors, only one of which teaches the required BIO 404 Lab, offered each fall. The addition of new faculty members Bruce Helpful Links Carlson, who studies the neural basis of behavior in electric fish, and Yehuda Ben Shahar, who studies Biology Home Page genetic bases of behavior in fruit flies and honeybees, will change these statistics for Biology Course Listings future graduates. Faculty Listings BIO 404 Neurophysiology Lab Taught by Professors Erik Herzog and Bruce Carlson with assistance from Gavin Perry BIOrhythms is a publication of of the Electronics Shop, the course is offered Fall semester. The lab was started in 1972 theWashington University by famous bat specialist Professor Nobuo Suga. Biology Department for Undergraduate Majors Students spend the first 3 weeks learning the ropes of neu- Contact Erin Gerrity to submit rophysiology, i.e. brain and body response to stimuli. In articles/info the 3rd week they study weakly electric fish (such as the Erin Gerrity Apteronotus albifrons, or “Black Ghost” fish, pictured Editor-BIOrhythms here), placing wires in the water and using an amplifier Biology Department and oscilloscope to map out electrical fields in the tank as Washington University well as stimulate and record behavior. Students essentially Plant Growth 105 have a conversation with the fish by adding tones to the wa- Campus Box 1137 St. Louis, MO 63130-4899 ter. The fish then detect and react to them. This exercise is 314 935-5064 an introduction to recording from live cells (no dissection is involved). This section of gerrity@biology2.wustl.edu BIO 404 is designed to introduce students to basic neurophysiological concepts, how the signals function and what purpose they serve, and to teach students how to graph data in a professional manuscript format. —continued on page 2
  • The following weeks consist of a “six ring circus” in which teams of students rotate The Electronics Shop through six two-week lab experiments, some Nobel Prize winning, ending with an experiment of their own design. They submit their findings in professional format to Gavin Perry came to SPIKE, the lab journal. Washington University in 1975 to study neuroscience The Experiments after receiving his BS at Tufts University. He now 1) Frog sciatic nerve: this Nobel Prize winning experiment (performed at Wash U by “builds toys for scientists” Profs. Erlanger and Gasser) demonstrates conduction of nerve impulses. The nerve is at the Electronics Shop at stimulated with electrical pulses; activity is recorded by measuring conduction veloc- the Washington University ity, or how fast the signals are sent. Medical School, which basi- 2) Crayfish tail: demonstrates synaptic transmission, or how neurons talk to other cally means he designs and cells. One electrode is attached to the nerve and one into the muscle. builds instrumentation for various labs at both cam- 3) Rat cochlea: demonstrates sound reception. An electrode is placed on the cochlea; puses. students record and measure responses of 3 different cell types in the cochlea to differ- ent types of sound stimuli, including music and a human voice. He also assists Profes- 4) Horseshoe crab eye: this Nobel Prize winning experiment (performed by Prof. sors Herzog and Carlson Hartline) demonstrates how light is encoded by the nervous system and how neurons in teaching the BIO 404 communicate. Students measure electrical activity by recording the activity on the Neuroscience Lab where optic nerve to light. he constantly sharpens and repairs implements and 5) Frog brain: demonstrates feature extraction and retinotopic mapping in the visual demonstrates how they are system. A projector provides stimuli by creating a variety of shadows for different used in the experiments. classes of neurons to detect (straight edges and circular edges moving in different di- rections) while an electrode records the brain activity. Students essentially map where Dr. Perry’s other proj- brain neurons look and what makes them respond. ects over the years have 6) Sensory psychophysics: studies the physiol- ranged from building a lens ogy that helps humans feel and move. Students stretcher to measure the test their senses through their own experiment viscoelasticity of pigs’ eyes, designs. Example: “Analysis of flicker fusion”. to building an olfactometer The goal is to find how fast a light can flash used in training and test- before it appears to be on all the time and asks ing mice to smell different which photoreceptors in the eye mediate our abil- odors. He also designed and ity to see fast changes in light intensity. built hardware and software (T. A.: Hien Tran, Students: Anthony Zoghbi, for the MRI labs. He even Joe Cooper and Chelsea Pearson) built a camera for an imager that didn’t match up with Students interested in the Neuroscience Track and BIO 404 lab should contact Erin any existing cameras on the Gerrity <gerrity@biology2.wustl.edu> for information on how to apply. market. In short, if it needs to be built, he will come. He can rise to practically any Faculty Spotlight: Bruce Carlson, Assistant software, firmware, techni- Professor of Biology cal or electrical challenge. Bruce Carlson credits his father with fostering his natural To learn more about Gavin curiosity and fascination with science, putting him on his Perry and the Electronics career path at an early age by arming him with tools such as a Shop visit: http://eshop. telescope and chemistry set. Dr. Carlson specifically became wustl.edu/. interested in marine biology while snorkeling and scuba diving in the Caribbean. His interest in marine biology led him from his hometown of Chicago to study at the Uni- versity of Miami where he was strongly influenced by an undergraduate professor of neuroscience. He went on to receive a PhD from Cornell University in Neurobiology and Behavior; conducted his post-doctoral work at the University of Virginia, and field work in Brazil on the Rio Negro. —continued on page 3 2
  • son continued Faculty Spotlight: Bruce Carlson continued Plant Experiments in Washington University brought Dr. Carlson to St. Louis earlier this year. He enjoys the city, especially Forest Park because it encompasses many of his favorite activities: the Greenhouse Ultimate Frisbee, hiking, biking, walking his dog and going to museums. He currently teaches with Erik Herzog in the BIO 404 Neurophysiology Lab. Starting in Spring 2010 he will offer a course in neuroethology which will explore how the nervous system controls animal behavior. His approach to researching the nervous system is to pose the questions he is interested in answering and then find animals that are well suited to tackling those questions, taking into account their unique behavioral charac- teristics, natural history, ecology, and evolutionary history. He currently studies weakly electric fish native to Africa and South America. He plans to conduct field work in Gabon, Africa next year. To learn more about Dr. Carlson’s teaching and research, visit http://biology4.wustl.edu/faculty/carlson/. Staff Spotlight: Mike Dyer, Goldfarb Plant Growth Facility The Jeanette Goldfarb Plant Growth Facility is a horti- culture haven for professors experimenting with plants for research purposes. Greenhouse staff assists with starting and maintain- ing plants in the greenhouse and the growth chambers on the upper floors. One such experiment is Profes- sor Kenneth Olsen’s study on the molecular evolution of cyanogenesis in white clover (detailed below). The Mike Dyer began working for Washington staff welcomes visits from University at the old greenhouse in front students, staff and faculty of Rebstock Hall over 25 years ago. He members who are interested now manages the Jeanette Goldfarb Plant in plants and research or Growth Facility, built in 1986. The first who just want to step into a floor is the visible greenhouse on the front summer day in the middle of the building plus a headhouse for potting, of winter. washing and storage. The two upper floors “White clover (Trifolium contain environmental growth chambers— repens) is naturally polymor- computer controlled environments that are phic for cyanogenesis (HCN programmed by the staff. The growth chambers look like industrial sized refrigerators production with tissue dam- from the outside. The computers deliver proper levels of light, temperature and humid- age). Cyanogenesis protects ity to foster the most ideal growth for the experiments. Greenhouse staff helps with plants from small herbivores, advising and tending experiments that are set up by but frequencies of cyano- students and faculty for research purposes, in other genic plants decrease in colder words they produce the plants for the research. climates, possibly because cyanogenesis is detrimental to plants in areas of frequent Mike cites interaction with professors and students as frosts. We are currently exam- well as the mechanical/technical aspects of environ- ining the molecular evolution mental control as compelling reasons for staying with of the cyanogenesis loci to the greenhouse for so long. He never gets bored be- understand the genetic basis cause there are always new challenges, new people, and evolutionary dynamics of new plants and new technology. this adaptive variation.”-Olsen 3
  • GET INVOLVED: Clubs and Volunteer Opportunities Biology Club: Professor Lunch with Erik Herzog On Thursday, October 2nd, amid the debate frenzy, Professor Erik Herzog sat down to talk to students about biology. Armed with free lunch and years of experience, Dr. Herzog talked to the students in casual conversation, answering questions on his research and courses, and giving advice to students on doing research as an undergrad. His research consists of studying biological clocks and circadian rhythms in cells of the brain, and he teaches both Biological Clocks and Neurophysiology Lab. Did you know Dr. Herzog once did research in Antarctica? Did you know he has glow in the dark mice in his lab? Did you know it’s biologically normal to be falling asleep in your morning classes? There’s no anticipating what you’ll learn in a Bio Club Lunch, so don’t miss them. The next lunch will be held sometime in early November with Dr. Alan Templeton, Profes- sor of Genetics and Biomedical Engineering. Email wubioclub@gmail.com for more information. —Scott Fabricant CO-SIGN (College Student Interest Group in Neuroscience) Events CO-SIGN will have two events in November. The weekend of November 10th, we will be hosting a dinner with the SIGN group (our medical school counterpart). Come for free food and a chance to meet Wash U medical students who can tell you what med school is really like! The following week, we will be visiting Wash U’s anatomy lab. Students will be given a tour of the facilities as well as a chance to see cadavers. If you would like to join us for our November activi- ties, please email washucosign@gmail.com to join our mailing list. Volunteer Opportunities Do You Have... Science Outreach: The Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp holds extension activi- An announcement you’d ties throughout the academic year for the previous summer’s campers. These “Satur- like to make? day Academies” are scheduled for: Nov. 22, 2008; Jan. 18, 2009; and March 15, 2009 from 1:00 to 3:30 PM. We are looking An interesting story or for undergraduate volunteers to fun fact you’d like to help facilitate the events. The students are middle- share? school age, grades 6-8, and activities A professor or course are science related. you’d like to suggest for Volunteers arrive at a spotlight? Busch Lab at 12:00 to set-up and then We want your input! act as teaching as- Send ideas and informa- sistants in a science tion to: activity, interacting with the students as positive gerrity@biology2.wustl.edu role models, and help clean up afterwards. We will take help from Washington University undergrads for any one or all of the dates. Interested WU students should contact Chris Mohr by phone (314) 935-8271 or e-mail <mohr@wustl.edu>. Other Volunteer Opportunities: subscribe to the Community Service Connection, an email newsletter: http://www.communityservice.wustl.edu/csconnection/ 4
  • Biology Department Calendar Links to General Calendars and Regular Events: Washington University Record Calendar: http://record.wustl.edu/calendar Biology Department Seminars, Mondays, 4:00pm, Rebstock 322, check the website for topics/schedule: http://www.biology.wustl.edu/seminars/nextsemester.html Evolution, Ecology, & Population Biology Seminars, Thursdays, 4:00pm, Rebstock 322, check the website for topics/schedule: http://www.biology.wustl.edu/seminars/evpop.html Bioforum, alternating Fridays, 4:00pm, McDonnell 361, check the website for topics/schedule: http://www.biology.wustl.edu/seminars/biologyforum.html Plant Lunches: most Tuesdays at noon (1st Tuesday of month @ DDSPC, others @ McDonnell 212) Contact Professors Tuan-hua David Ho or Mark Running for topics/schedule. Donald Danforth Plant Science Center (DDSPC), Weekly Seminar Series—Wednesdays, 4:00pm, AT&T Auditorium, check the website for topics: http://www.danforthcenter.org/opportunities/seminars.asp Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences (DBBS), all lectures and seminars: http://dbbs.wustl.edu/ dbbs/website.nsf/SDN November 2008 3rd 3rd -14th, Advising Period: Make an appointment with your Biology Major Advisor so you can register for Spring 2009 Classes 4th DO NOT FORGET TO VOTE!! 14th Annual home-made salsa contest at Jeanette Goldfarb Plant Growth Facility (the greenhouse) 4:30pm. Call 935-8139 or 935-6807 for information. 17th 17th-20th, Online Registration, check Academic Calendar to see which day you need to register— http://college.artsci.wustl.edu/calendar 26th THANKSGIVING BREAK (November 26-30) NO CLASS December 2008 1st Last day to file intent to graduate for May 2009 8th Last day of classes 12th 12th-18th, Final Exams