VCU News: The River of No Return

Amid wild blackberries, Professor Dan Carr gives an impromptu lecture on how different kinds of fruit form.

Assistant Professor Dan Carr was featured in a VCU News article on The River of No Return: The Lower Salmon River Experience, a series of classes taught along the Lower Salmon River in Idaho.

Full Article: “The River of No Return” by Brian McNeill from University Public Affairs

Dan Carr is an Assistant Professor in VCU Biology.

VCU News Features Coastal Plant Ecology Lab’s research on climate change

On Parramore Island, what was once a maritime forest is now essentially dead — a change brought about, at least in part, by climate change. (Photo contributed by Coastal Plant Ecology Lab)
On Parramore Island, what was once a maritime forest is now essentially dead — a change brought about, at least in part, by climate change. (Photo contributed by Coastal Plant Ecology Lab)

VCU News featured the Coastal Plant Ecology Lab‘s research into climate change and its effects on barrier islands in Virginia.

Full Article: “How will climate change impact coastal communities? VCU researchers look to Virginia’s barrier islands for clues” by Brian McNeill with VCU News

The Coastal Plant Ecology Lab is managed by Assistant Professor Julie Zinnert, the principal investigator.  Also featured in the story are Instructor Spencer Bissett, postdoctoral fellow Natasha Woods, and M.S. in Biology student, Michael Sinclair.

Plant Research in Zhang Lab Featured on VCU Home Page

A Juanuolla mexicana shrub, Solanaceae family, in Zhang's backyard.  Photo by Kevin Morley from VCU University Marketing.
A Juanuolla mexicana shrub, Solanaceae family, in Zhang’s backyard. Photo by Kevin Morley from VCU University Marketing.

Assistant Professor Wenheng Zhang, PhD, was recently featured on the VCU homepage ( along with her graduate students, Farahnoz Khojayori, Joon Kim, & Ghadeer Bukhari, and her postdoctoral fellow Jingbo Zhang, for their research efforts in plant evolution and development.

Zhang’s lab & research website can be found at

Full Article: “Flower Power – VCU biologists use developmental clues from plants to unlock secrets of evolution in the natural world.” by Leah Small in VCU Public Affairs.

Biology Advisers Elected to UAAB Executive Board

Rachel Hill, Right.  Alvin Bryant, Left.

The University Academic Advising Board announced the results of the Executive Board elections today.  VCU Biology’s Assistant Directors of Undergraduate Advising Rachel Hill and Alvin Bryant were both elected!  Hill will serve as Treasurer, and Bryant will serve as Chair of the Mentorship Committee.

Hill and Byrant are the leaders of the department’s academic advising office.  They coordinate all undergraduate advising activities for VCU Biology.  Congratulations Rachel & Alvin!

CHS Now Hiring Advisers

VCU Biology

The Office of Student Services in the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences (CHS) is recruiting to fill multiple Academic Adviser positions in the areas of Biology; Forensics; Kinesiology and Health Sciences; African American Studies, Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, and Philosophy; and one Academic Adviser who will serve as a Generalist in CHS. The Academic Adviser will sustain an environment of effective academic advising for undergraduate students in the College in order to support VCU being a leader among national research universities in providing all students with high-quality learning/living experiences focused on inquiry, discovery and innovation in a global environment. More specifically, depending on the unit assigned, the Academic Adviser will provide resources to improve the student to adviser ratio in the Biology, Forensics, or Health, Physical Education and Exercise Science programs; provide professional advising for the programs in the smaller departments of African American Studies, Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, and Philosophy; provide general advising through the CHS Office of Student Services to answer general questions, provide guidance to upper-level CHS majors who are exploring the option of changing to another major, and assist programs with larger student to adviser ratios that may change over time. Meeting these needs will improve student engagement through effective academic advising, while supporting the identified metrics of graduation rates and retention.

Interested applicants should visit the VCUJobs posting at the following url:

The Department of Biology would like to congratulate Academic Adviser Samantha Rogers on being accepted into the Integrative Life Sciences PhD program at VCU Life Sciences.  Samantha will continue as an academic adviser through the end of Academic Year 2018.  VCU Biology wishes her the best and she will be dearly missed as a member of the biology team.

3 Biology Faculty Receive CHS Seed Awards

From the left, Lesley Bulluck, Bill Eggleston, Karen Kester

The College of Humanities and Sciences announced today that three VCU Biology faculty would receive Seed Awards for 2018.  Scott Gronert, Associate Dean for Research writes, “the Seed awards were established to foster the development of successful grant proposals and nationally or internationally peer-reviewed scholarly and/or creative works.”

Assistant Professor Leslie Bulluck (pictured above, left) will receive a Seed award for her project “Using DNA barcoding to measure diet variation of a riparian consumer.”

Associate Professor Bill Eggleston (pictured above, center) will receive a Seed award for his project “Molecular analysis of loss of canalization and habituation in maize.”

Associate Professor Karen Kester (pictured above, right) will receive a Seed award for her project “Save the wasps! Maintaining productive collaborations and nurturing future funding opportunities.”

3 Biology Faculty to Develop Open Educational Resources for Biology Core Course

From the left, Ching-Yu Huang, Dianne Jennings, and Jonathan Moore

VCU Biology congratulates Instructors Ching-Yu Huang (pictured, left) & Jonathan Moore (pictured, right), and Associate Professor Dianne Jennings (pictured, center) for being granted an Affordable Course Content Award for their proposal, “Adopting and developing free open education resources for BIOL 151.”

Huang, Jennings, and Moore were awarded a total of $18,717 to develop lesson plans for BIOL 151 Introduction to Biological Sciences I that would rely on open educational resources which would be free to students as an alternative to traditional textbook-based options.  The award money will contribute to additional time and resources spent creating, implementing, and reviewing changes to the way BIOL 151 is conducted.  The successful implementation of this proposal is estimated to save each student an average of $237 which would amount to total savings of $308,555 for the student population in a semester (based on estimated enrollments and textbook costs for Fall 2018).

BIOL 151 Introduction to Biological Sciences I is the first of two sequential courses in the biology department that all students pursuing a major or minor in biology are required to complete and that serves as a collateral requirement for numerous other areas of study at VCU.

Wenheng Zhang named 2018 Biology Faculty of the Year

From the left, Ghadeer Bukhari, Wenheng Zhang, Joonseog Kim, Jingbo Zhang, Farahnoz Khojayori
From the left: Ghadeer Bukhari, Wenheng Zhang, Joonseog Kim, Jingbo Zhang, Farahnoz Khojayori

VCU Biology is thrilled to announce the 2018 Faculty of the Year: Wenheng Zhang!

Wenheng Zhang, PhD is a renaissance person who with sophistication, precision, humility, immense passion, and extending benevolence inspires her students everyday. In addition to teaching undergraduate courses, Zhang has mentored numerous undergraduate and graduate students as an Independent Study, Directed Study, thesis, dissertation, and postdoctoral supervisor. Her major accomplishments include identifying a new rheophytic orchid species, attaining ongoing funding from the National Science Foundation, and publishing in major journals such as PNAS and American Journal of Botany. Her research utilizes evolutionary developmental techniques to elucidate on plant morphologies that have daunted botanists for centuries, causing journals to seek her opinion.

Zhang was awarded the 2018 Faculty of the Year at the 2018 GOBS & ILSSO Picnic.  Her name has been placed on the ‘Faculty of the Year’ plaque displayed outside of the VCU Biology main office and she also received a personal plaque.

The picnic was hosted by the Graduate Organization of Biology Students and the Integrative Life Sciences Student Organization.

Of two minds: VCU students share their experience as double majors

Top row Seamus McDaniel and Jillian Allen, Bottom row Sneha Krish and Catherine McGuigan
Top row: Seamus McDaniel and Jillian Allen. Bottom row: Sneha Krish and Catherine McGuigan.

When it comes to choosing a major, many Virginia Commonwealth University undergraduates decide that two is better than one. Roughly 1,000 VCU students take on a second major.

Full Article: “Of two minds: VCU students share their experience as double majors” at VCU News.

Biology Faculty & Staff Receive Multiple Awards and Honors at CHS Awards Ceremony

CHS Awards for Rachel Hill, Hebing Liu, Susan Polich, Tim Millican, and Chris Gough

A staggering number of VCU Biology faculty and staff received various awards and honors at this year’s College of Humanities and Sciences Faculty & Staff Awards and Retirees Breakfast.  The awards and honorees are as follows:

Chris Gough
Excellence in Scholarship Award (Math/Science)

Rachel Hill
Distinguished Advising Award

Hebing Liu
Distinguished Adjunct Award

Tim Millican
Impact Award

Susan Polich
Academic Year 2018 Retiree

The Department of Biology congratulates these faculty & staff and is privileged to have such talented and passionate people making the department so outstanding.

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