Tag: Spring 2018

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: https://www.vcujobs.com/postings/78810

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.

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.

Biology Grad Student Awarded a Virginia Sea Grant Fellowship

2018 Commonwealth Fellows Announced. Lauren Pudvah shown on the left, Benjamin Nettleton shown on the right.  A faded seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia is seen in the upper right.

Virginia Sea Grant announced that Benjamin Nettleton (pictured above on the right), an MS student in biology, was awarded a Commonwealth Coastal & Marine Policy Fellowship.  Nettleton will be partnered with The Nature Conservancy’s Virginia Coastal Reserve.

Nettleton pursues his MS degree as a member of Assistant Professor Julie Zinnert’s Coastal Plant Ecology Lab.


Press Release: 2018 Commonwealth Fellows Announced

2018 Awards Ceremony Honors Biology Students

Joseph Brown, Julie Zinnert, Benjamin Nettleton, and Chair Bonnie Brown pictured.  Joseph and Benjamin were honorees at the awards ceremony.
Pictured (left to right) are Joseph Brown (PhD student in Integrative Life Sciences), Julie Zinnert (Assistant Professor), Benjamin Nettleton (Masters Student in Biology), and Bonnie Brown (Interim Chair for VCU Biology).

On April 6th, the Department of Biology honored nine students at the annual College of Humanities and Sciences Award Ceremony.  The department recognizes these individuals for their outstanding work in their academic career, research, teaching, community contributions, and humanitarian efforts.  We congratulate these students and look forward to their continue excellence.

2018 Award Recipients

  • Sravya Uppalapati, Mohamed Shaaban Humanitarian Award
  • Sarah Ingram, Outstanding Biology Graduate Teaching Assistant Award
  • Benjamin Nettleton, Outstanding Biology Masters Student in Ecology
  • Farahnoz Khojayori, Outstanding Biology Masters Student in Evolution
  • Joseph Brown, Outstanding Biology PhD Student in Ecology
  • Rohan Kankaria, Outstanding Biology Senior Award
  • Nitika Gupta, Outstanding Biology Undergraduate Student in Cellular & Molecular Biology
  • Emma Davis, Outstanding Biology Undergraduate Student in Ecology
  • Heather Caslin, Outstanding PhD Student in Cellular & Molecular Biology

Grad Student in a Biology Lab Weighs In on Turtle Meat Trade

Ben Colteaux, P h. D., holds a snapping turtle.

Ben Colteaux, a recent Ph.D. graduate in Derek Johnson’s lab provided some important input to Virginia Public Radio on the turtle meat trade to China.

Full Article: “The Chinese Feast on Virginia’s Turtles” by Sandy Hausman

Nature Magazine interviews Biology faculty member

Flowering Plants Blooming

Assistant Professor Wenheng Zhang was interviewed in an article by Nature: International Journal of Science about the anatomy of the first flower to appear on the planet.  Zhang, an expert in the evolution and development of plants, gave input and perspective in the ongoing debate about the first flowering plant in the world.

Article: “Debate blooms over the anatomy of the world’s first flower”

Biology Faculty Contribute to Study on Student Understanding of Evolution


Dianne Jennings and Jonathan Moore

Dianne Jennings (Associate Professor) and Jonathan Moore (Instructor) attended an Avida-Active Lens workshop prior to the 2018 academic year to receive training on a unique platform for delivering a curriculum of evolution to students.  They have created unique modules for in-class and online activities that students in their BIOL 151 and BIOL 152 courses will complete over the course of the 2018 academic year.

The data from these activities will help to develop effective teaching techniques for curricula in evolution that will benefit future biology students across the country.  Avida-ED, an application developed and deployed by Michigan State University, will be utilized by Jennings and Moore as a part of their participation in the study.  Learn more about Avida-ED here.

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