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Biology staff member among sisters celebrating 90 years of service to VCU

(From left to right) Sisters Adriene Hall Johnson, Rhonda Hall and Octavia Hall each celebrated milestone work anniversaries this week. (Photo by Kevin Morley, University Marketing)
(From left to right) Sisters Adriene Hall Johnson, Rhonda Hall and Octavia Hall each celebrated milestone work anniversaries this week. (Photo by Kevin Morley, University Marketing)

Biology’s Octavia Hall is celebrating 20 years of service at VCU alongside her sisters who, together, share 90 total years at VCU. Rhonda Hall reached the 40-year milestone at VCU, and Adriene Hall Johnson reached the 30-year service mark.

Full article at VCU News: “Sisters celebrate 90 years of service to VCU” by Joan Tuponce.

Octavia is the Senior Fiscal Technician for VCU Biology.

NSF: Structural complexity in forests improves carbon capture

 A forest's structural complexity is a good predictor of its carbon sequestration potential.
A forest’s structural complexity is a good predictor of its carbon sequestration potential. Credit: Morrowlong/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Chris Gough co-authored a study on carbon sequestration which was funded and recently featured by the National Science Foundation.

The study demonstrated the importance of a forest’s structural complexity to carbon sequestration.

Read the full article on the NSF website entitled “Structural complexity in forests improves carbon capture” by NSF public affairs.

Chris Gough is an associate professor in the Department of Biology who studies forest ecology.

CHS announces new Student Emergency Fund for students near graduation experiencing financial hardship

Students in graduation regalia celebrate their academic achievements at a VCU commencement ceremony
The CHS Student Emergency Fund will help students to overcome minor/temporary financial emergencies – providing assistance to students in good academic standing who are one or two semesters away from graduation.

VCU College of Humanities and Sciences students work hard while they’re in school. Many live on the edge financially, patching together scholarships, grants, loans and jobs to pay for college. Just one emergency can upend their lives and threaten their ability to complete their degree.

We recognize the sacrifices our students make for their education. We want to see them walk across the stage to receive their diploma, so the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences has established a Student Emergency Fund to keep minor or temporary financial emergencies from derailing students’ progress toward a degree. It will help those who need it most, when they need it most.

Your contribution helps CHS students in good academic standing who are one or two semesters from graduating. This is a gift that has a direct and tangible impact.

Join us by making your contribution today. Your support helps students graduate from VCU. #WalkAcrossTheStage

The College is undertaking a crowdfunding campaign to benefit the fund October 7-14. Please help by visiting the link below and sharing on social media.

Igniter Crowdfunding at VCU: CHS Student Emergency Fund

Explore Neon Workshop: Register by Sept. 27th

Virginia Commonwealth University Explore Neon Workshop.  For everyone interested in NEON data.  10/25 - 10/26. https://bit.ly/2kQSys Registration Deadline: 9/27
Text reads: Virginia Commonwealth University Explore Neon Workshop. For everyone interested in NEON data. 10/25 – 10/26. https://bit.ly/2kQSys Registration Deadline: 9/27

This two-day workshop introduces participants to NEON, teaches them how to access and work with NEON data, and allows them to interact with NEON science staff to get assistance working on the data they are interested in using. The workshop includes hands-on, interactive instruction on how to access and work with NEON data, both through the NEON data portal and programmatically. 

For further information and to register for the workshop, please visit https://www.neonscience.org/resources/workshops/explore-neon-workshop-vcu-2019

This workshop is hosted by Catherine Hulshof, Chris Gough, and Lesley Bulluck.

Catherine Hulshof is an assistant professor in the Department of Biology.

Chris Gough is an associate professor in the Department of Biology.

Lesley Bulluck is an assistant professor in the Center for Environmental Studies.

Biology faculty member named “Rockstar Fundraising Researcher”

Santiago Lima, Ph.D. studies the role of lipids in the development of lung cancer in an effort to minimize tumor resistance to drugs and improve patient outcomes. Left courtesy of Massey Cancer Center. Right courtesy of Amanda Dickinson, Ph.D. and Swim Across America Richmond Open Water Swim.

Santiago Lima, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the VCU Department of Biology.  He is a teacher-scholar, and teaches a 3-course series in Cancer Biology that covers the fundamentals of cancer and gets students into the lab to conduct research. As a researcher, Lima is interested in understanding the molecular and metabolic changes that occur in normal cells as they are transforming into cancer cells. Specifically Lima is interested in how a specific class of lipids, called glycosphingolipids, change during the development of cancer cells and how these changes might lead to cancers becoming resistant to standard chemotherapies. Further, Lima has strong interest in health disparities research,  and is investigating whether there are molecular differences in tumor cells of various racial populations with the same types of cancer. 

Lima was recently awarded a R21 entitled “ Glycosphinholipid alterations in lung cancer.”  That amounts to $423,000.

Not only does Lima study and teach about cancer he is also an active fundraiser for the Massey Cancer Center.  He recently received an award titled “Rockstar Fundraising Researcher” for raising money and bringing attention to last year’s Swim Across America cancer fundraiser. As a former 5-time member of the Mexican National Swim Team, Mexican National Record Holder, and 12-time Mexican National Champion, it only makes sense that Lima is the captain of Team Massey for Swim Across America Richmond Open Water Swim. This year, the open water swimming event takes place on the upper James River on October 5th, and all of the money raised will again support cancer research at The Massey Cancer Center. Lima is planning to complete the 5-mile swim, and is currently looking for participants to join his team as swimmers, floaters and kayakers.

VCU, UR study on spread of gypsy moths amid climate change receives prestigious award

A VCU-led study of gypsy moths and temperature received a Royal Entomological Society Award for Best Paper Published in 2017/18 in the journal Physiological Entomology. (Getty Images)

The Royal Entomological Society will recognize a study led by current and former VCU researchers as the best to be published in Physiological Entomology over a two-year period.

The study was led by Lily Thompson, a graduate of VCU Biology’s M.S. degree program.

Co-authors include:

  • Trevor Faske; graduate of VCU Biology’s M.S. degree program.
  • Dominique Grimm; graduate of VCU Biology’s M.S. degree program.
  • Kristine Grayson; assistant professor at University of Richmond following a postdoctoral fellowship in VCU Biology.
  • Derek Johnson; Associate Professor and Chair of VCU Biology.

Read the full article “VCU, UR study on spread of gypsy moths amid climate change receives prestigious award” by Brian McNeill, VCU News.

VCU News: Structurally complex forests better at carbon sequestration

Jeff W. Atkins, Ph.D., a post-doctoral researcher in VCU's Department of Biology, uses a lidar system to collect data in a forest at VCU's Rice Rivers Center in 2016. (Photo by Julia Rendleman, University Marketing)
Jeff W. Atkins, Ph.D., a post-doctoral researcher in VCU’s Department of Biology, uses a lidar system to collect data in a forest at VCU’s Rice Rivers Center in 2016. (Photo by Julia Rendleman, University Marketing)

Associate professor Chris Gough, Ph.D. and post-doctoral fellow Jeff Atkins, Ph.D. were recently featured in a VCU News article about carbon sequestration in forests.

Read the full article “Structurally complex forests better at carbon sequestration” by Brian McNeill at VCU News.

Chris Gough is an associate professor in VCU Biology, studying forest ecology.

Jeff Atkins is a post-doctoral fellow in Professor Gough’s Forest Ecology Lab.

Biology Faculty, Staff to Serve on CHS and University Organizations

First Row: Derek Johnson, Jennifer Olson, Fernando Tenjo, Alvin bryant. Second Row: Gerron Scott, Carmen Rodriguez, Carolina Yáber. Third Row: Jonathan Moore, Will moran, Maria Rivera, Sarah Golding.
First Row: Derek Johnson, Jennifer Olson, Fernando Tenjo, Alvin Bryant.
Second Row: Gerron Scott, Carmen Rodriguez, Carolina Yáber.
Third Row: Jonathan Moore, Will moran, Maria Rivera, Sarah Golding.

Several members of the VCU Biology community will serve on university and college organizations for Academic Year 2020 (Fall 2019 – Summer 2020).

Carolina Yáber was elected to be Secretary for Faculty Council of the College of Humanities and Sciences.  Carolina is an assistant professor in VCU Biology.

Gerron Scott was elected to serve as Vice-Chair for the University Academic Advising Board.  Gerron is an undergraduate academic adviser for the biology major.

Jonathan Moore was elected to serve on University Council as a member of the Faculty Caucus from the College of Humanities and Sciences.

Carmen Rodriguez Hernandez and Jennifer Olson will continue their terms on VCU Faculty Senate as representatives for the College of Humanities and Sciences.  Carmen is an associate professor for VCU Biology and Jennifer is an instructor for VCU Biology.

Additionally, Carmen has been elected to serve as President of the Faculty Senate of Virginia and will continue her role as VCU’s representative therein.

Will Moran was elected for a third annual term as President of Staff Council for the College of Humanities and Sciences.  Will is the Office Manager and Webmaster for VCU Biology.

Derek Johnson and Fernando Tenjo-Fernandez will continue to serve on the VCU ADVANCE-IT initiative to diversify VCU faculty across various intersecting identities in STEM fields and beyond.  Derek is the Chair of VCU Biology and Fernando is the Interim Associate Chair.

Sarah Golding is continuing her appointment on the President’s award committee and will serve on the REAL council as the representative from the College of Humanities and Sciences following her appointment as Co-Chair of the REAL taskforce.  Sarah is an instructor and the Director of Undergraduate Research in VCU Biology as well as Special Assistant for Experiential Learning in the Office of the Dean for the College of Humanities and Sciences.

Alvin Bryant will continue his role as Mentor Chair for the University Academic Advising Board.  Alvin is an Assistant Director for Undergraduate Advising in VCU Biology.

Maria Rivera was elected to serve as the Corresponding Secretary of the VCU Faculty Senate following her term as Senate representative which ended with this academic year.  Maria is an associate professor in VCU Biology.

The Biology Department is thrilled and privileged to have such qualified and passionate members of its community serving in so many important and varied roles.

Biology TRIO Student Featured in VCU News

Kamyar Sharifi looks back fondly on his first VCU experience — RAM CAMP — and the leadership skills it fostered. "I still remember when we participated in the challenge discovery program and climbed up the ropes. We were scared, but we trusted each other to finish it." (Photo by Allen Jones, University Marketing.)
Kamyar Sharifi looks back fondly on his first VCU experience — RAM CAMP — and the leadership skills it fostered. “I still remember when we participated in the challenge discovery program and climbed up the ropes. We were scared, but we trusted each other to finish it.” (Photo by Allen Jones, University Marketing.)

VCU News recently featured Kamyar Sharifi, a recent graduate from VCU Biology, in an article about the TRiO student support program.

Read the full article, “On the brink of graduation, students from VCU’s TRIO program reflect on their pasts and look ahead to the future” at VCU News.

VCU News features graduating Biology senior

Being diagnosed with alopecia areata at age 16 inspired in La’Tila Abbott a passion for health sciences that eventually led her to VCU. Abbott will graduate in May with a biology degree. (Photo by Kevin Morley, University Marketing)

VCU News reports:

“When she was 16, La’Tila Abbott was diagnosed with alopecia areata, a medical condition that causes the immune system to attack hair follicles. Her hair fell out, and she began to receive steroid shots in her scalp that came with “really horrible side effects,” she said. She wore a wig to school.”

“Her diagnosis inspired a passion for the health sciences that eventually led her to Virginia Commonwealth University, where she will graduate in May with a biology degree from the College of Humanities and Sciences.”

Read the full article, “Class of 2019: Entrepreneur and biology graduate driven by a personal mission” by Taylor Pilkington at VCU News.

La’Tila will graduate in May with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology.

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