Accomplishments for 2012

(2012-12-03) Biological Sciences major, Connor Denison, recently received a Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal Undergraduate Research Grant. Connor's research, entitled "Identification of Compensatory Mutations in pcp1 alleles as a Strategy to Map Pcp1p Polypeptide Subdomain," will be conducted under the direction of Dr. Donna Gordon, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences.

(2012-12-03) Nandita Mahajan, Senior Pre-Med Biological Sciences student, recently received a Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal Undergraduate Research Grant. Nandita's research, entitled "Heterozygosity, Inbreeding, and Survival in Cyclura cyclura figginsi," will be conducted under the direction of Dr. Mark Welch, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences.

(2012-12-03) Jessica Martin, Senior Biological Sciences student, recently received a Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal Undergraduate Research Grant. Jessica's research, entitled "The Threat of Invasive Species to the Survival of Iguana Delicatissima," will be conducted under the direction of Dr. Mark Welch, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences.

(2012-12-03) Three Biological Sciences students have been awarded a Dr. Armando De La Cruz Travel Award. The awards ceremony took place in Harned Hall on Friday, November 30, 2012. The accompanying picture(left to right): Dr. Brian Counterman, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences and Chair of the De La Cruz Travel Award Committee; Giuliano Colosimo, Biological Sciences Ph.D. student and travel award recipient; Dr. Armando De La Cruz, Biological Sciences Professor Emeritus; Dayna Emrick, Biological Sciences Ph.D. student and travel award recipient; Connor Denison, Biological Sciences Pre-Dental undergraduate student and travel award recipient; and Dr. Nancy Reichert, Professor and Head of Biological Sciences. Dr. De La Cruz initiated the establishment of the travel fund approximately 6 years ago; the fund was fully endowed in January of 2012. These are the first recipients of the awards. Dr. De La Cruz's commitment and goal is summed up in his statement, "My personal wish is to encourage, motivate and help students attend meetings and present their research work." Congratulations to Giuliano, Dayna, and Connor. Thank you Dr. De La Cruz for your dedication and commitment to the students of Mississippi State University!

(2012-10-30) Jacob Stout, junior Microbiology major, is the recipient of the Biological Sciences Department's Scott Ferguson Memorial Fund Scholarship and John C. Longest Pre-Med Scholarship, and a College of Arts & Sciences H. Dean Andrews Endowed Scholarship.

(2012-10-10) Dr. Lisa Wallace, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences, was named a College of Arts & Sciences Dean's Eminent Scholar for Fall 2012. This is a 3-year award given to "acknowledge and retain exceptionally meritorious faculty who have achieved national recognition and enhanced the quality and stature of academic programs in Arts & Sciences."

(2012-09-20) Mr. Giuliano Colosimo received a Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Grant of $5000 to study the genetic structure of the Andros Island Iguana in the Bahamas. Giuliano's work will allow identification of "source" populations that can be prioritized for conservation management planning. Co-PI's on the grant are Drs. Welch and Wallace of Biological Sciences and Dr. Charles Knapp of the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

(2012-08-31) Dr. Vincent Klink and his students study diseases of soybean with many of those diseases being very important and impactful to Mississippi agriculture. One of the diseases that Dr. Klink and his students study is the plant parasitic nematode, a tiny microscopic worm-like organism that attack the roots of many different types of plants as well as some marine algae. During the process of infection, the nematode makes a feeding site (see image) from which it controls plant growth and its metabolism. The infection benefits the nematode at the expense of the plant. Recently, Dr. Klink, along with his graduate student Prachi Matsye, published the identification and demonstration of how a gene called alpha-SNAP (alpha soluble NSF attachment protein) located within the major resistance locus, rhg1, is responsible for resistance. The gene is well known to play very important and central roles in the cell biology of organisms including humans, mice, fruit flies, free-living nematodes, as well as yeast. However, nothing was known about its role in plant disease. Future experiments aimed at identifying other genes that are important to how plants defend themselves against plant parasitic nematodes are underway. The goal is to determine the basic mechanism and cell machinery that underlies the process of resistance of plants to parasitic nematodes.

(2012-08-13) Jake Read, Biological Sciences major, is working with animals at Seaview Lion Park near Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Follow the link for the story.

(2012-08-10) Armed Rasberry conducted field research during Spring Break 2012 for Dr. Mark Welch's lab. Follow the link for the article.

(2012-07-26) At its annual convention, AIA Mississippi awarded Eley Guild Hardy Architects the prestigious AIA Merit Award for the Harned Hall Renovations. The AIA Mississippi Design Awards Program seeks to encourage excellence and elevate the quality of architecture by recognizing and honoring works of distinction by its members and bring to public attention outstanding examples of architecture and design. Harned Hall, home of the Department of Biological Sciences, was originally constructed in 1921. The building is an architecturally and historically significant structure, and was designated a Mississippi Landmark Building in 1990 by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. *AIA (American Institute of Architects)

(2012-07-19) Dr. Vincent Klink, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, was recently awarded a 12-month, $73,000 research grant entitled "Utilization of Genetic Mechanisms Against Parasitic Nematodes of Cotton." Cotton Incorporated, established in 1970, was created in response to The Cotton Research and Promotion Act of 1966 (for the purpose of conducting a wide scale effort to recapture cotton's market share which was down and declining). Cotton Incorporated was created to combat loss of market share due to consumers’ infatuation with synthetic fibers. By 1983, the corporation had succeeded in curtailing share decline, and a long steady period of increasing consumer popularity and share growth resulted. Today, cotton can be found on store shelves everywhere in most products categories and cotton share is more than 60% of the marketplace. The company sponsors research in the areas of Product Development and Implementation, Agricultural Research, and Fiber Competition.

(2012-07-09) follow this link for the story

(2012-06-27) A mini-grant funded by the Office and Research and Economic Development at MSU is back for a second year after a productive launch to the program last fall. The cross-college grants are designed to bring together researchers from throughout campus and across academic disciplines to foster collaboration. Two Biological Sciences faculty members are part of this effort: Dr. David Chevalier, "Year 2: Understanding Heat Stress and Foliar Bleaching Mechanisms," and Dr. Job Lopez, "The Ecology of Relapsing Fever Spirochetes."

(2012-06-27) Dr. Christopher Brooks ($3,032-Braun & Gresham, Attorneys at Law); Dr. Vincent Klink ($97,124-MS Soybean Promotion Board); Dr. Job Lopez ($3,638-Braun & Gresham, Attorneys at Law; $162,000-National Institutes of Health); Dr. James Stewart ($261,712-American Heart Association); and Dr. Mark Welch ($10,000-Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund).

(2012-06-27) Years after sleeping in hammocks in the wilds of Peru and Panama, collecting hundreds of thousands of samples of colorful insects, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, Dr. Brian Counterman, is now helping unlock a very difficult puzzle. The challenge has involved a secret of the Heliconius butterfly, the orange, black, yellow, and red insect that has not easily communicated how all its radiant colors came to be. (above is from Spring 2012 Maroon Research Magazine) Dr. Counterman has been part of an international team using field experiments, genetic mapping, population genetics, and phylogenetics to study the biology and history of Heliconius. The team recently uncovered the gene responsible for the different red wing patterns. Lean more about this significant research in the Science magazine article at

(2012-06-15) Dr. Yolanda Leon, visiting professor from INTEC (Santo Domingo Institute of Technology) in the Dominican Republic, recently conducted research on iguana conservation genetics in Dr. Mark Welch's lab for several weeks in May and June. Rosanna Carreras, a student working with Dr. Leon in the Dominican Republic, accompanied her and assisted with the research here at MSU. Subsequently, Ms. Carreras has committed to joining the Biological Sciences Department as a graduate student to be supported on a Fullbright Fellowship starting Fall 2012.

(2012-06-15) Sara Lynch, a student from the School of Veterinary Medicine at LSU, is here this summer working in Dr. Job Lopez's lab as an intern under the Summer Scholars Program through MSU's College of Veterinary Medicine. Jiten Gosai, a senior at Emory University, and Valerie Graham, a junior at Mississippi University for Women, received 2012 MS-INBRE Research Scholar Awards to support their summer research in the lab of Dr. Donna Gordon.

(2012-05-31) Dr. Diana Outlaw, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, is the recipient of a Spring 2012 Henry Family Research Funds Award. The award of $5000 will be used for Dr. Outlaw's research on the avian host's immune response to infection with malaria parasites.

(2012-05-16) Robert (Rob) Outlaw was awarded a $1900 Graduate Student Research Award from the Society of Systematic Biologists to assist with expenses associated with his research in systematic biology.

(2012-05-15) Congratulations to HURP recipients Tyler McLaurin (Dr. Janet Donaldson's lab); Jessica Martin and Brooke Bivens (Dr. Mark Welch's lab); Kayla Fast (Dr. Diana Outlaw's lab); Chris Cerovsky, Rushil Randive, and Zehra Syed (Dr. Jamie Stewart's lab); Perceus Mody and Kelly Callahan (Dr. Justin Thornton's lab); and Perry Morgan 9Dr. David Chevalier's lab).

(2012-05-03) Dr. Mark Welch, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, received the College of Arts & Sciences Researcher of the Month Award for April. Dr.Welch's current areas of research include molecular mechanisms that hasten evolutionary rates in sunflowers, and factors that govern the survival of small populations of iguanas. He was recently notified that he will be awarded an NSF grant (approximately $370,000 over 3 years) to fund his proposed sunflower research. Dr. Welch is also extremely interested in providing undergraduate students with research experiences. Since his arrival at MSU in 2007, he has had 15 undergraduate students work in his lab. These students have received a combined total of more than $15,000 in grants, scholarships and awards for research, and six have been co-authors on refereed journal articles. He is a founding member of the Biology Undergraduate Research Program (BURP) and has coordinated this program since its inception 5 years ago.

(2012-04-20) Lavanya Challagundla, Ph.D. student in Biological Sciences, recently received the Biological Sciences Department 2012 Ph.D. Teaching Assistant of the Year Award as well as the MSU 2012 Donald Zacharias Graduate Teaching Assistant of the Year Award. Ms. Challagundlas's Major Professor is Dr. Lisa Wallace.

(2012-04-20) Andrea Rodgers, Biological Sciences Master's student, was recently awarded the Spring 2012 MSU Women's Club Scholarship. The award goes to female masters and doctoral students who demonstrate records of excellence in academics, leadership and service.

(2012-04-20) Steven Shaak, Biological Sciences Master's student, is the recipient of the Biological Sciences Department 2012 Master's Teaching Assistant of the Year Award. Mr. Shaak's Major Professor is Dr. Brian Counterman.

(2012-04-20) Prachi Matsye, Biological Sciences Ph.D. student, is the recipient of the Biological Sciences Department 2012 Research Assistant of the Year Award. Ms. Matsye's Major Professor is Dr. Vincent Klink.

(2012-04-18) Biological Sciences students Hanna Dorman and Jessica Martin placed First and Second in Poster Presentations at the MSU Spring Undergraduate Research Symposium hosted by The Shackouls Honors College. Undergraduates involved in faculty-guided research this academic year were invited to participate in the symposium.

(2012-04-13) The Biological Sciences Department's Biology Undergraduate Research Program (BURP) hosted the 2012 Annual Research Symposium on April 13 in Harned Hall Atrium. There were nineteen undergraduates as well as departmental Faculty and graduate students that presented posters describing their research in biological sciences. Three undergraduate researchers were presented the Downer Undergradute Research Award: First Place-Adam Cassella; Second Place-Hanna Dorman; Third Place-Whitney Wilson. Dr. Don Downer, for whom the award is named, was present for the event and presented the awards along with Dr. Mark Welch, Faculty Advisor for BURP, and Dr. Nancy Reichert, Department Head. Pizza was provided for all participants as well as a T-shirt, framed certificate, and custom-designed flashdrive.

(2012-04-10) Mary Celeste (MC) Reese, Biological Sciences Instructor, is the Faculty recipient of MSU's 2012 Irvin Atly Jefcoat Excellence in Advising Award. The awards ceremony will be held Tuesday, April 24 at 2 p.m. in the John Grisham Room of Mitchell Memorial Library. Ms. Reese also received the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) Outstanding Advising Award (Faculty Academic Advising) in late April. This award honors individuals and institutions making significant contributions to the improvement of academic advising.

(2012-04-03) Alexandra (Alex) Ruhl of Gulfport received a Student Leadership Award from The President’s Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW). Ruhl is a microbiology major and Dean's List Scholar and also works for the department.

(2012-03-30) On March 30, 2012, MSU's College of Education hosted Dr. Martha Kanter, Undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Education as the keynote speaker for the 5th Annual Research Forum. Benjamin Elam presented a poster of the work performed in the lab of his research mentor, Dr. David Chevalier, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences. Dr. Chevalier's research focuses on the molecular mechanism of regulation of the cell-to-cell signaling mechanism in plants using Arabidopsis Thaliana as a model system. Mr. Elam is an undergraduate student double majoring in Biological Sciences and Secondary Education (Biology concentration). He is a recipient of a Teachers for a Competitive Tomorrow Baccalaureate grant offered through the U.S. Department of Education to encourage the growth of high quality science teachers in high-needs high schools. Visit for information about the "Creative Research-Based Science Teachers for a Competitive Tomorrow" program at Mississippi State.

(2012-03-20) Dr. Lisa Wallace, Assistant Professor and Herbarium Curator, is the recipient of the "2012 Arts & Sciences Research in the Natural and Physical Sciences and Mathematics & Statistics Award."