News From The Basic Sciences

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CAS - Basic Sciences - Internal E-Newsletter [Vanderbilt University]

April 2021


Cover image of the March 2021 Basic Sciences magazine, Vestigo.

Did you miss us? We hated to keep you waiting with the newsletter, but we were working hard to make sure that the second issue of our magazine, Vestigo, was top notch!


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We’re very excited to present the latest Vestigo in both PDF and web versions, both of which are accessible to screen readers. The new issue includes everything from trainee-led research on ubiquitin, fibroblasts, membrane proteins, and tuft cells, to a feature of the mitochondrial diseases program and efforts to combat SARS-CoV-2 in our labs. Also featured are highlights of the art presented at the Winter Showcase 2020 and the programs designed to combat inequity and promote diversity and inclusion within Basic Sciences.

We hope you enjoy Vestigo. And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming!

P.S. Don’t forget to check out the AR experience we’ve prepared for you on the cover of the magazine!



Bordenstein elected to AAM

Seth Bordenstein (Biological Sciences) was recently elected to fellowship in the American Academy of Microbiology. Sixty-five fellows were elected in 2021.



Hasty recognized with Research Career Scientist Award

Alyssa Hasty (MPB) has recently been awarded a Veterans Affairs Research Career Scientist Award. This five-year grant is for established, non-clinician, independent investigators who are currently working on a VA/Health Services Research & Development project.


Roden honored with Oscar B. Hunter Career Award

Medicine’s Dan Roden has been presented with the Oscar B. Hunter Career Award in Therapeutics from the American Society for Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, an award that recognizes multifaceted eminence exemplified through a “meritorious career in drug research, excellence or contributions in direct patient care, and a distinguished teaching career.”


Reyes Ruiz selected as HHMI Hanna Gray Fellow

Valeria Reyes Ruiz, a postdoc in the lab of Eric Skaar (PMI), has been named a Hanna Gray Fellow. These exceptional, early-career scientists are recognized as part of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s effort to support diversity in biomedical research.


Sloan Research Fellowship goes to Townsend

Steven Townsend (Chemistry) was selected as one of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation 2021 Sloan Research Fellows, an award that identifies him as one of the most promising early-career researchers working today.


Denison recognized during Spring Faculty Assembly

Chancellor Diermeier presented Mark Denison (Pediatrics) with the Joe B. Wyatt Distinguished University Professor Award at the Spring Faculty Assembly held last week.



Zanic recognized at Biophysical Society annual meeting

CDB faculty member Marija Zanic received the 2020 Early Career Award from the Motility & Cytoskeleton subgroup. She accepted the award and presented a talk at the 2021 Annual Meeting of the Biophysical Society, which took place in February.


Neuropsychopharmacology recognizes Centanni/Winder and Calipari

The journal Neuropsychopharmacology recently awarded its Editors’ Award for a Transformative Original Report to a paper penned by postdoc and PI team Sam Centanni and Danny Winder (MPB) and their collaborators. The NEATOR is awarded to the top original article published in print in NPP during the previous year. Additionally the journal recognized Assistant Professor of Pharmacology Erin Calipari (Pharmacology) with the Neuropsychopharmacology Editor’s Early Career Award, intended to recognize the top paper from an early-career researcher, from their own independent lab, published in print in NPP during the previous year.


Trainee fellowships

We would like to recognize the following graduate students who received grants from the NIH: Andrea Wojciechowski (CDB, Bill Tansey lab), Logan Richards (Biological Sciences, Jared Nordman lab), Hillary Layden (Biochemistry, Scott Hiebert lab), Payam Fathi (MPB, Julio Ayala lab), and Sara Ramirez (CDB, Sabine Fuhrmann lab). Wojciechowski also received a grant from the National Cancer Institute.


Students win NSF GRFP grants, honorable mentions

Congratulations to Kathleen McClanahan (MPI, Danyvid Olivares-Villagómez and Hendrik Weitkamp labs) and Ebony Hargrove-Wiley (Cancer Biology, Barbara Fingleton lab), who received National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program grants. The following students received honorable mentions: Baltazar Zuniga (MPB, Jamey Young lab), Elizabeth Semler (MPB, Kasey Vickers lab), Jordyn Sanner (Biological Sciences, Julian Hillyer lab), Kyle Riedmann (CDB, Julie Bastarache and Matt Semler labs), Greg Konar (IGP), and Tomas Bermudez (MHI, Hadjifrangiskou & Byndloss labs).


Snider earns JCB Hall Award

Recent Ph.D. graduate Chloe Snider (CDB, Kathy Gould lab) was recognized by the Journal of Cell Biology with the Alan Hall Award, granted to outstanding graduate students and first-year postdocs whose work was presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology.


Hutchison received Karpay Award

James Hutchison of the lab of Chuck Sanders (Biochemistry) was presented the Karpay Award, sponsored by the Center for Structural Biology, in January. He presented a seminar titled “We’re All in This Together: Choosing the Right RAFTing Partners.”


Kavlashvili wins 2nd place in 3MT competition

The Graduate Student Council hosts an annual 3-Minute Thesis competition in which graduate students must present their thesis research simply and concisely and in a way that is understandable to people outside their fields. This year, the second-place winner was Tata Kavlashvili (Biochemistry, James Dewar lab)! Congratulations as well to Kelsey McNew (MPI, Dan Moore lab), who was one of the finalists.



Fresh-from-the-oven grads

Starting in 2021, we’ll be letting you know which Ph.D. students have successfully defended their dissertation or completed a master’s degree (if we missed any, let us know and we’ll give the student a shout out in our next issue!). To kick it off, here are the students who completed their programs between December and March:

  • Biochemistry: Vaughn Thada, Ph.D.
  • Biological Sciences: Jessica Abner, Ph.D.; Zi Ye, Ph.D.
  • Biomedical Informatics: Patrick Wu, Ph.D.
  • Cancer Biology: Victoria Ng, Ph.D.
  • Cell & Developmental Biology: Maria Fomicheva, Ph.D.; Alissa Guarnaccia, Ph.D.; Trevor Hann, M.S.; Chloe Snider, Ph.D.
  • Chemical & Physical Biology: Corey Hayford, Ph.D.
  • Epidemiology: Jaimie Zhi, Ph.D.
  • Microbe-Host Interactions: Diana Contreras, Ph.D.; Clare Laut, Ph.D.; Lauren Williamson, Ph.D.
  • Neuroscience: Rose Follis, Ph.D; Randall Golovin, Ph.D.; Darren Yeo, Ph.D.
  • Pharmacology: Kayla Shumate, Ph.D.

Want to keep up with upcoming defenses? Bookmark this calendar.


To preprint or not to preprint?

With preprint servers growing in popularity within the biomedical sciences, should you or should you not post your manuscript before submitting it for peer review at a journal? Associate Dean for Faculty Chuck Sanders has some thoughts he’d like to share with you as you deliberate your decision.

Welcome new faculty!

In the last few months, the basic sciences departments at Vanderbilt have welcomed the following faculty:

  • Pharmacology: Assistant Professor Rick Sando, Ph.D.
  • CDB: Research Instructor Alaina Willet, Ph.D.
Faculty recognized for teaching during pandemic

Vanderbilt University recently recognized over 50 faculty members for their efforts in teaching during the pandemic. Among those lauded were Lars Plate (Chemistry) for teaching a course focused on timely and topical pandemic-related issues and Katherine Friedman (Biological Sciences) and John McLean (Chemistry) for developing innovative approaches to teaching science.

Carter named to CRF scientific advisory board

Bruce Carter (Biochemistry) has been appointed to the scientific advisory board of CMT Research Foundation. In this role, Carter will help guide CRF’s research strategy and funding to deliver treatments and cures for Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.

Blind named GSA Presidential Member

The Genetics Society of America launched a new initiative in 2020 to invite talented and creative individuals from diverse backgrounds into their community, and named Ray Blind (Medicine) as a member of its first cohort.

IBM Developer Podcast features Lopez

IBM’s high-performance computing and AI podcast recently aired an interview with Carlos Lopez (Biochemistry) in which he discussed his work using HPC simulations of biological systems to understand and treat cancer.

Calipari on the effects of the pandemic on addiction

The annual fundraising breakfast of Mending Hearts, a Nashville organization that seeks to help women who struggle with drug and alcohol addiction, featured Erin Calipari (Pharmacology) as a speaker this year. Calipari spoke about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected people suffering from addiction. You can view the recording of the event here.

Immuknow+: SARS-CoV-2 variants

VI4 intern Taylor Engdahl (MHI, James Crowe lab) has published an editorial on the new variants of the virus that cause COVID-19 and what that means for vaccines and treatments.

Beyond the Lab podcast highlights BOV members

The ASPIRE program interviews Vanderbilt Ph.D. and postdoc alumni and publishes these conversations as part of the Beyond the Lab podcast. Season 4 includes two alumni who are part of the Basic Sciences Board of Visitors, an advisory board for the school, Renee Bailey Iacona and Colleen Piersen.



Microvillus cover stories

The lab of Matt Tyska (CDB) recently landed two of his lab’s images on the covers of two journals. The first was a Molecular Biology of the Cell cover related to a paper on the limits of epithelial microvillus length and the second was a Journal of Biological Chemistry cover related to a paper on a novel microvillar protrusion length-matching mechanism.


Neuron cover

A recent paper from the Ege Kavalali (Pharmacology) lab, focusing on the newly discovered sharing of synaptobrevin between neurons, has been featured on the cover of the journal.


CRISPR screen helps understand cancer origins

A new CRISPR screening method developed by the lab of Ian Macara (CDB) allows researchers to find singular genes responsible for particular traits. The group used the screen to find genes that drive uncontrollable cell growth in cancer. The results of this paper were reported in the media.


Battling SARS-CoV-2 variants, chikungunya

A monoclonal antibody cocktail developed by James Crowe (Pediatrics) and collaborators at the Washington University in St. Louis has been shown to be effective against all known variants. At the same time, a second monoclonal antibody against the chikungunya virus isolated in the Crowe lab will be entering a phase 1 clinical trial.


A potential treatment for diabetes

According to the lab of Danielle Dean (Medicine), excess glucagon contributes to metabolic dysregulation in diabetes, so the targeted disruption of glucagon action could be a potential treatment for type 1 diabetes.


Pulmonary hypertension drug targets specific T cells

A team of researchers, led by Stokes Peebles (Medicine), recently found that prostaglandin I2, an FDA-approved medication, augments the function of T regulatory cells.


Preventing widespread scarring post heart attack

Recent research from the lab of David Merryman (Biomedical Engineering) has found that inhibiting the serotonin 2B receptor in the heart could prevent widespread scarring that occurs after heart attacks. A partnership with Craig Lindsley (Pharmacology) aims to develop a highly targeted molecule against the receptor.



In addition to the papers listed above, we believe you might be interested in these recent publications:



Beautiful young african american woman wearing glasses over isolated background Shouting angry out loud with hands over mouth

Wellness Rooms available soon!
Basic Sciences is committed to meeting the needs of its nursing mothers as they return to work. As such, the Office of the Dean is proud to announce the opening of two new Wellness Rooms located in 715C PRB and 6136 MRBIII. Each room features comfortable chairs, an ottoman, a Medela breast pump with sanitizing bags and cleansers, and a television you can use for music, watching your favorite show, or projecting your computer if you need to work. Each room also has a refrigerator for the temporary storage of breast milk, a microwave for sanitization, a kitchenette with sink, dimmable lighting, a mirror, and a nearby bathroom. Keep an eye out for the next newsletter to find out how to book the room. In the meantime, you can reach out to our office of Facilities, Infrastructure and Risk Management if you have any questions.
Photo of interior room showing a white-checkered design carpet, chair, sidetable, and footstool.

CISR to acquire new microscope
Thanks to a Shared Equipment Evaluation Program grant from the Veterans Affairs, the Cell Imaging Shared Resource will be acquiring a new Zeiss LSM980 Confocal Microscope with Airyscan2. Be excited!

Let us tweet your paper
Tweeting your recent research can help spread its reach, expand your network, and perhaps help you find new collaborators — so let us tweet it for you. Give us some quick info on your paper here and we’ll do the rest. Make sure to bookmark the link to keep it handy for the next time you publish a paper.

Apply for the OpEd Project
The Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center and the provost’s Office for Inclusive Excellence invite faculty, graduate and professional students, postdoctoral fellows, and staff to apply for an upcoming two-day workshop, “Write to Change the World,” administered virtually by the OpEd Project. The workshop will be held May 17 and 18 from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Applications are due by April 23.

Read the quarterly healthy U
HR is now publishing a quarterly newsletter called healthy U, designed to foster the holistic well-being of Vanderbilt faculty and staff. Check it out for some tips on maintaining your well-being, including info on foods that can help you sleep, some compelling arguments for taking PTO, and more.

Lobbying disclosure
The Office of Federal Relations provides annual reminders about Congressional rules regarding gifts to covered federal elected officials (including athletic tickets, travel to campus, and meals) and our obligations with respect to reporting lobbying contacts made on behalf of the university or using university resources. Read this year’s memo here.

We want YOU on our Instagram!
Basic Sciences is more than just our research—we’re a community of individuals driven to excel in biomedical research. Let us feature you on Instagram! We want to see you in lab, outside of lab, with friends (physically distant and masked, though!), in the wilderness—wherever you are, we want to see you. Tag or DM us on social media (@vubasicsciences).


2021 pharmacology forum
The annual Joel G. Hardman Student-invited Pharmacology Forum will take place on April 8 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The theme of this year’s forum will be “Therapeutic alternatives to small molecules.”

Spring retreat for the EV Program
The Vanderbilt Program for Extracellular Vesicle Research will be hosting a virtual spring retreat on April 13, from 8:45 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. To register or submit an abstract, fill out the RedCap survey. If you intend on submitting an abstract, please do so ASAP!

VI4 Symposium coming up
The annual symposium of the Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology and Inflammation will take place on April 15. To learn more and to register, visit their website.

Webinar: Molecules to Market – Overcoming the Valley of Death
A webinar called “Molecules to Market – Overcoming the Valley of Death” will be held on April 16 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. CT. The seminar, which will discuss how to move research through the long process of commercialization, will be presented by Deerfield Management and the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. This is a great opportunity to learn more about the translational process from experts in both academia and in Deerfield Management. Registration is required.

Diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease: Multiple overlapping mechanisms of risk
The Diabetes Research and Training Center Friday Seminar Series will be hosting Heather Ferris on April 16 at 12 p.m.


Will Welch

Addiction, Sobriety and Art in the Time of COVID-19
Basic Sciences will be hosting Will Welch, the global editorial director of GQ magazine, for its April seminar. Welch, who has had personal experience with addiction and sobriety and has made discussing these issues a focus of GQ in recent years, will be discussing the impacts of COVID-19 on addiction and sobriety, the stigma of addiction, addiction research, and the intersection of isolation, sobriety, addiction, and art with co-moderators Danny Winder (MPB), director of the Vanderbilt Center for Addiction Research, and Erin Calipari, assistant professor of pharmacology. Mark your calendars for this webinar, which will take place on April 21 at 11 a.m. Register here.


External Funding Opportunities

Equipment funding opportunities for NIGMS research
Two NIGMS notices of special interest offer administrative supplements for equipment to select research projects or center/core facilities (deadlines: April 8 and April 30). In addition, the NIH Office of Research Infrastructure Programs has issued three funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) for the S10 Instrumentation Programs to make available modern scientific instruments that are needed by NIH-funded investigators at academic and research institutions nationwide (deadline: June 1). More information of both sets of grants here.

Ancora rare genetic diseases funding
Each therapeutic discovery project supported by this funding opportunity must focus on a clear therapeutic hypothesis enabled by genetic and biological understanding of disease pathophysiology. To learn more about the Letter of Intent application, please click here. Interested faculty should email Margaret Read to learn more about next steps and formal submission.

Funding for COVID-19 research
Many new COVID-19-related funding opportunities are now available from both federal agencies and from private foundations. For an excellent and constantly updated list, visit the VU OVPR website. We urge you to be vigilant in following new funding announcements from the NIH and other groups. If you stumble upon new grant programs that you think may be of broad interest, please forward this info to Chuck Sanders and we will make sure they are appropriately posted.

NIH to provide childcare support
Thanks to ongoing efforts to support family-friendly work environments for the NIH-supported workforce, the NIH will begin providing childcare support to recipients of NRSA fellowships, on or after April 8, 2021. More info here.


Internal Funding Opportunities

New internal funding mechanisms
Vanderbilt University has established the Seeding Success Grant to support work with external sponsorship potential and facilitate faculty scholarship and endeavors through course buyouts; and the Rapid Advancement Micro-Grant Program Awards for smaller-scale funding opportunities that require a rapid-response. You can learn more by visiting each award’s page or viewing this town hall.

SARS-CoV-2 and diabetes
The Vanderbilt Diabetes Center, the NIH-funded Diabetes Research and Training Center, and the NIH-funded Center for Diabetes Translational Research seek pilot and feasibility proposals to study the interaction of SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 and diabetes.




In our last issue, we incorrectly identified Jim Goldenring’s primary appointment. It is in Surgery, not Medicine.


Have a job opening you’d like to promote? Send us a link or a description and contact info, and we’ll post it below.

Basic Sciences: Educator-track assistant professor

CSB Cryo-EM Microscopy Facility: Research assistant. Internal and external applications.


About this Issue’s Banner

This image, taken by Colbie Chinowski (CDB), a graduate student in the lab of Matt Tyska, shows a network of non-muscle myosin 2C, a protein expressed only in the inner ear, the intestines, and the pituitary gland, stretching across the apical surface of enterocytes (intestinal absorptive cells). Chinowski’s research focus has been on understanding the function and organismal localization of NM2C, which remains uncharacterized despite its very strong enrichment in the intestine.

See larger view.


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This monthly newsletter recognizes the achievements and latest discoveries of trainees, faculty, and staff associated with the departments, centers, and cores of Basic Sciences or who carry out basic biomedical research. Archive.


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Faculty Profile: David Cortez, interim chair of biochemistry

Check out David Cortez’s recent faculty profile where he discusses his research into the mechanisms that maintain genome integrity and promote the complete and accurate replication of the genome.





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