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Scott Peck Receives Mumford Award for Outstanding Faculty as Part of 2022 Celebration of Excellence

Scott Peck, professor of biochemistry and member of the Interdisciplinary Plant Group (IPG), received the 2022 Mumford Award for Outstanding Faculty during CAFNR’s Celebration of Excellence ceremony held April 19.

Peck’s research focuses on plants’ recognition and response to bacterial pathogens, as well as how plants adapt to grow under drought conditions. He was named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2018 and CAFNR Distinguished Researcher at the 2019 Celebration of Excellence.

“Over the past two years, the Biochemistry Department has engaged in a substantive revision of its undergraduate curriculum. Scott has been part of a small group of faculty who have been engaged with the process every step of the way. His investment in the undergraduate major is substantial,” says Peter Tipton, professor of biochemistry.

Peck has mentored numerous undergraduates, grad students and postdoctoral fellows in his lab over the years. He supports and promotes the successes of his lab members and students by actively engaging in their research efforts, and providing advice for their future careers.

“Although actively engaged in the day-to-day activities in the lab, Scott was never overbearing, nor did he demand results. Rather, he motivated me and others through his enthusiasm for research, as well as through his sincere interest in the success of each person and their project in the lab,” says Jeffrey Anderson, associate professor of botany and plant pathology at Oregon State University.

“In sum, Scott is a highly supportive mentor who promotes the success of lab members through active engagement and setting a high bar for excellence in research.”

Antje Heese Receives 2021 Outstanding Undergraduate Advisor Award at Celebration of Excellence

Antje Heese, associate professor of biochemistry, received the 2021 Outstanding Undergraduate Advisor Award as part of CAFNR’s Celebration of Excellence. She was honored at the 2022 in-person ceremony Tuesday, April 19.

Heese received her master’s degree in plant physiology and biochemistry from Ruhr-Universität in Germany and her PhD in botany and plant pathology from Michigan State University. She joined the University of Missouri as an assistant research professor in 2006.

“Professor Heese builds personal connections with her students, such that they are empowered to broach difficult topics related to their academic standing, physical or mental health,” says Michael Chapman, director of the Division of Biochemistry.

“This is attested by many students, Younis Dabbagh reporting: ‘Dr. Heese was someone who helped me find my own way in life… In April of 2019 two of my closest friends passed away unexpectedly. Dr. Heese was there for me, to remind me that you don’t have to be tough all the time. She pushed me to seek help even though I wanted no part of it, knowing that in the long run that I would be eternally grateful for it. Two years later, I’m in a much better state than I have ever been… graduated from Mizzou and landed an incredible full-time job. Dr. Heese is someone who shows an undying compassion to the students she looks out for.’”

Numerous students recall their time as Dr. Heese’s advisees to be life-changing personal investments of her time. Her colleagues expand upon her willingness to put the time and effort into ensuring each of her students’ academic success.

“Antje is an advisor in the true sense of the word,” says Shari Freyermuth, director of undergraduate education and advising, and associate teaching professor in biochemistry. “At whatever level students come to her and with whatever concerns, she works to guide them to find their own definition of success.”

Marie Dickerson Receives Outstanding Staff Award as Part of 2022 Celebration of Excellence

Marie Dickerson is the 2022 recipient of the Outstanding Staff Award, presented by the CAFNR Staff Advisory Council as part of CAFNR’s Celebration of Excellence April 19. Marie, a research specialist senior, has worked in the Division of Biochemistry for 10 years.

Since 2015, she has served as building coordinator for buildings managed by Biochemistry, as well as supported undergraduate teaching laboratories with preparation for faculty-designed activities. She is the departmental liaison to MU Environmental Health and Safety, a critically important job when each lab has safety protocols that must be meticulously followed and kept up to date.

Marie serves as point person for maintenance and repair of scientific instruments, as well as for infrastructure needs. She served as departmental liaison to the campus COVID-19 team, helping develop procedures and protocols for re-occupation of labs and common-space instrument rooms in summer 2020, in addition to ensuring lab equipment remained functioning when campus was closed.

“The work she does assists faculty, staff and students alike,” her nominators said. “She had the foresight to research and order KN95 masks for all of CAFNR so our students could come back in-person to labs, farms and other experiential learning opportunities. In short, she was the single person most responsible for the Department fulfilling its responsibilities in teaching and research through the pandemic.

“She does all of this with no fanfare. She does tasks without having to be asked; she can sense what will be in the best interest of others and takes the initiative to do it. She goes above and beyond daily to ensure the safety and security of the work environment for all of Biochemistry.”

Three IPG Faculty Listed Among 2021 Highly Cited Researchers

Ron Mittler, professor of plant science and technology; Bing Yang, professor of plant science and technology; and Shuqun Zhang, professor of biochemistry; all part of the Interdisciplinary Plant Group (IPG) at the University of Missouri, have been recognized by the Web of Science list of Highly Cited Researchers for 2021. 

This list recognizes world-class researchers selected for their exceptional research performance, demonstrated by production of multiple highly cited papers that rank in the top 1 percent by citations for the field and year.

Biochemists Receive New TRIUMPH Funding Initiative Through MU School of Medicine

A new pilot grant program led by Senior Associate Dean Bill Fay announced 30 awards to School of Medicine (SOM) investigators, including multiple awards to MU Biochemistry faculty. Four biochemists are principal investigators on a TRIUMPH award, and four others are co-investigators. This program is part of the SOM’s initiative to transform research at MU by promoting advances in translational research and precision medicine. An additional key aim of TRIUMPH is to promote the success of the NextGen Precision Health Institute, scheduled to open in fall of 2021. The awards were announced March 2021.

The maximum size of the awards is $100,000, covering a period of two years. The Biochemistry-associated faculty and award titles are:

  • Lesa Beamer (PI); John Tanner (co-I). Unified view of inherited metabolic diseases: enzyme dysfunction phenotypes.
  • Mark Hannink (PI); Gary Weisman (co-I). Molecular Mechanisms of Drug Resistance in Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma.
  • Xiao Heng (PI); Xiaoqin Zou (co-I). A novel platform for peptide design with applications to targeting antibiotics resistance.
  • Thomas Quinn (PI); Gary Weisman (co-I). Novel use of P2X7 receptor antagonists to protect salivary glands in PSMA-617 targeted radiotherapy for prostate cancer.
  • Lixing Reneker (PI, Ophthamology); Dennis Lubahn (co-I). The estrogen’s role in age-related dry eye disease (DED).
  • Olga Baker (PI, Otolaryngology). Building a better saliva substitute.

Roberts, Spencer Named Society for the Study of Reproduction Distinguished Fellows

Two University of Missouri faculty were among 15 individuals recently named Society for the Study of Reproduction (SSR) Distinguished Fellows. R. Michael Roberts, Chancellor’s Professor with appointments in animal sciences and biochemistry, and Thomas Spencer, Curators’ Distinguished Professor of Animal Sciences, were both honored. This is the inaugural year of the program.

From the SSR press release about the Distinguished Fellowship honor: The SSR Distinguished Fellowship is one of the highest professional scientific honors awarded for outstanding contributions to the scientific discipline of reproductive biology. The SSR Distinguished Fellowship recognizes the impact of active SSR members and their outstanding contributions to the field of reproductive biology and to SSR. Fewer than two percent of the entire SSR membership have earned the distinction of Distinguished Fellow.

CAFNR Office of Research Recognizes Drivers of Distinction

The CAFNR Office of Research recently recognized 10 faculty members as Drivers of Distinction. The honor was given to the faculty members, listed below, who had the highest total shared credit research expenditures over the past 10 years (2011-20).

  • David Diamond – director, Missouri Resource Assessment Partnership (School of Natural Resources)
  • Felix Fritschi – C. Alice Donaldson Professor in Bioenergy Crop Physiology and Genetics (Division of Plant Sciences)
  • Shibu Jose – associate dean, CAFNR Office of Research; professor (School of Natural Resources)
  • Henry Nguyen – professor (Division of Plant Sciences)
  • Craig Paukert – cooperative professor (School of Natural Resources)
  • Randy Prather – Curators’ Distinguished Professor (Division of Animal Sciences)
  • Gary Stacey – Curators’ Distinguished Professor (Division of Plant Sciences and Department of Biochemistry)
  • Gary Weisman – Curators’ Distinguished Professor (Department of Biochemistry)
  • Kevin Wells – associate professor (Division of Animal Sciences)
  • Pat Westhoff – director, Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (Division of Applied Social Sciences)

Each Driver of Distinction will receive a trophy and certificate from CAFNR Vice Chancellor and Dean Christopher Daubert.

IPG PhD Students and Postdocs Selected for Webinar Series

Six University of Missouri Interdisciplinary Plant Group (IPG) PhD students and postdocs have been selected for “Summer CROPS Talks,” a webinar series for plant science researchers. This new series extends from a developing cooperation between the Center for Plant Science Innovation at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the Plant Sciences Institute at Iowa State and the IPG. The series provides a great opportunity for graduate students and postdocs to engage with their peers at the other institutions.

The platform provides an opportunity to share graduate student and postdoc research with the plant science community. The format will be a 20-minute Zoom presentation with 10-minute question and answer session.

The Mizzou students who will participate:

Vivek Shrestha

June 23, 2020 (11:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.)

Division of Biological Sciences

Advisor: Ruthie Angelovici

Jian Kang

June 30, 2020 (11:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.)

Division of Plant Sciences

Advisor: Bob Sharp

Alani Antoine-Mitchell

July 7, 2020 (11:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.)

Department of Biochemistry

Advisor: Antje Heese

Kelly Mason

July 14, 2020 (11:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.)

Department of Biochemistry

Advisor: Antje Heese

Sidharth Sen

July 21, 2020 (11:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.)

MU Institute for Data Science and Informatics (MUIDSI)

Advisor: Trupti Joshi

Shannon King

July 28, 2020 (11:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.)

Department of Biochemistry

Advisors: Scott Peck, Bob Sharp, Felix Fritschi

Korasick Awarded USDA Postdoctoral Fellowship to Pursue Research on Soybean Cyst Nematode Infection Resistance

David Korasick (Tanner Lab) was recently awarded a United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA) postdoctoral fellowship to pursue his research on the molecular basis of soybean cyst nematode infection resistance. Korasick’s work is supervised by Jack Tanner, professor of biochemistry, and Melissa Mitchum (University of Georgia), his mentor and co-mentor, respectively. Soybean cyst nematode (SCN) is the most detrimental and costly pathogen that affects soybean production in the U.S.; more than $1 billion is lost annually due to SCN infection. The project focuses on the soybean metabolic enzyme serine hydroxymethyltransferase 8 (SHMT8), and how changes in SHMT8 from an SCN resistant plant line confer pathogen resistance. Korasick combines protein biochemistry, protein biophysics and X-ray crystallography approaches to tackle this problem. Korasick stated, “Our goal is to gain the information through these studies necessary to engineer a new line of soybeans with durable resistance for use in agriculture.”

Biochemistry Researchers’ Work Featured as Molecule of the Month

Work of former graduate student Tara Marcink and Steven Van Doren, professor of biochemistry, is featured as the “Molecule of the Month” in this month’s issue of PDB-101. The molecule featured is a nanodisc, which is used to conveniently package a small piece of membrane for experimental studies. This important molecule is playing a big role in a recent revolution in structural biology. PDB-101 is the educational portal of the Protein Data Bank.