Fall 2015 Chair Welcome

Posted: September 30th, 2015

Dept. Chair Mike Antolin on the water in Todos Santos, with Shane Kanatous and Graham Peers photobombing.

Dept. Chair Mike Antolin on the water in Magdalena Bay in Baja California Sur, Mexico,  with Shane Kanatous and Graham Peers photobombing.

Where did the summer go? It’s sometimes difficult to account for all the “free time” we faculty have during summer. Usually our time is used to focus on our research or to travel to conferences.

For me, the summer’s highlight was a trip to Baja California Sur in July, visiting Colorado State’s newly-opened Todos Santos Center (see:http://todossantos.colostate.edu/) to design a marine biology field course for our undergraduates.

Along with biology faculty Shane Kanatous and Graham Peers, we will lead students to explore both coasts of Baja on the Pacific Ocean (Magdalena Bay) and the Sea of Cortez (Isla Espiritu Santo and Cabo Pulmo) with the Sonoran Desert in between. Stay tuned, it begins in May 2016!

DISCOVERY BEGINS HERE!
But keeping busy in summer is only one part of being in biology at Colorado State. Our biggest news is that we have found the team that will complete our new Biology Building. We accepted the bid from Haselden Construction along with Slaterpaull (hord|coplan|macht) Architects, plans are being finalized, and site preparation just east of the Anatomy/Zoology building has begun.

The building will be four stories and 151,560 square feet, accommodating both state-of-the-art life sciences research labs and ample space for new classrooms and teaching labs to serve the >1,400 biological science and zoology majors. We envisioned and designed a campus destination with sunlit seating/study spaces and a glass-wrapped beacon that will welcome all who come to campus.

Official groundbreaking for both the Chemistry Research and Biology Buildings will be 1:30 the afternoon of October 15, as part of Homecoming Weekend. Come see the band, President Tony Frank, and watch our own College of Natural Sciences’ Dean, Jan Nerger, navigate construction equipment and move some dirt!  For more information see: http://www.natsci.colostate.edu/groundbreaking/

STUDENTS GRADUATE, STUDENTS ARRIVE!
Summer is marked by graduation, and this year we saw 254 students being awarded Bachelor of Science degrees as biological science or zoology majors. Thirty-five of these completed Honors Theses and graduated from the University Honors Program. This fall, we’ve seen a record-number 467 new students enrolling with 368 freshmen and 99 transfer students.

Most of these new students have moved into the College of Natural Sciences’ Laurel Village, new college housing along Laurel Street that replaced the small, two-story brick apartment building that you may remember from your days here.  Biology remains the program with the largest number of undergraduate students at Colorado State. We serve as a gateway to the life sciences to many incoming students.  Many who begin with us eventually transfer to other majors when they discover opportunities like microbiology, psychology, or health and exercise science. Like we said: Discovery begins here!

Our graduate programs also continue to succeed, with diplomas conferred to two Ph.D.s (Eva Fischer (major adviser Kim Hoke) and Kevin Wilcox (Alan Knapp), and seven M.S. students (John Dietrich (Melinda Smith), Skyler Griffin (Janice Moore), Clif McKee (Coleen Webb), Erik Mohlhenrich (Rachel Mueller), Keith Post (Diana Wall), Jaiming Wang (Lianne Pilon-Smits), and Alison White (Mike Antolin).

Two current students, Michael Caballero from Gram Peers’ lab and Brian Gil, working with Chris Funk’s, won top awards for research presentations at their scholarly societies’ annual summer meetings. Three of our students were recognized by the National Science Foundation with Graduate Research Fellowships to complete the Ph.D.s: James Craven, May Gamboa, and Annie Kellner.

FACULTY ACCOMPLISHMENTS!
As always, we like to feature the accomplishments of biology faculty:
University distinguished Professor Dr. Diana Wall received the University College of Dublin’s highest honor, the Ulysses Medal, awarded annually to an individual whose work has made an outstanding global contribution (see http://source.colostate.edu/udp-diana-wall-receives-2015-ulysses-medal/).  Diana’s long-term research focuses on the Antarctic dry valley ecosystems and the effects of climate change.

Assistant Professor Dr. Tai Montgomery was named one of this year’s Boettcher Investigators through the Webb-Waring Biomedical Research Awards. This honor recognizes outstanding early-career scholars by the Denver-based Boettcher Foundation and includes three-years of research funding to support his work on the regulation of cellular processes by the recently-discovered micro RNAs.

Associate Professor Dr. Chris Funk was named to the latest cohort of mid-career scientists from across North America for the Leopold Leadership Program which is based at Stanford University’s Woods Institute for the Environment.  This two-year fellowship includes training in communicating science to the public– in Chris’ case, his passion for conservation biology and evolution.

The Department of Biology continues to be among leading programs at Colorado State in securing the research funding critical to our mission as a research-intensive university. Biology faculty have responded with 10 new research grants since May!

INTO FALL!
As we launch into another academic year, we reflect on summer and on what’s to come. Streams of students, special lectures, campus visitors, demonstrations on the Plaza, brilliantly sunny Colorado October days, Rams football and volleyball… all part of the life here in Fort Collins. As for me, my ski pass arrived in the mail yesterday, and I’ve got the blades sharpened and sticks taped for another hockey season. I’m ready to go!

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