IIGB Plant Biologists Dominate at the Western ASPB Conference

The University of California, Riverside Department of Botany & Plant Sciences swept multiple Graduate and Undergraduate Award categories at the most recent American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) Western Section Conference on Saturday, February 3, 2018.

Pablo Martinez (Carolyn Rasmussen lab) was awarded Best Graduate Student Talk for his work using a single-molecule approach to determine how the microtubule-binding protein TANGLED influences the dynamics of cell division.

Rounding out the Best Graduate Student Talk category, Danielle Garceau (Linda Walling lab) received an Honorary Mention for her research using RNA sequencing to elucidate the cassava’s defense-signaling to identify its whitefly-resistance genes.

Irma Ortiz, also in the Walling lab, brought home the Best Graduate Student Poster Award for her use of proteomics-based technologies to characterize the function of LAP-A to control wounding signaling in tomato.

Not only did UCR sweep the Graduate Student Award categories, it also carried the Best Undergraduate Poster Award. Jocelyne Aranda (Rasmussen lab) was recognized for her use of mathematical cell-shape modeling to determine whether a mutant with defects in division plane orientation initiates divisions in predicted locations.

In a tie, Claudia Sepulveda, of the David Nelson lab, was also honored with the Best Poster Award for her research using gene editing technology to characterize the function of KUF1, a gene upregulated by the smoke-derived germination stimulants karrikins.

Founded in 1924, the ASPB is a professional society devoted to the advancement of the plant sciences. It publishes two highly-cited journals and organizes conferences and other activities that are key to the promotion and growth of plant science, including molecular and cellular biology.

Drs. Nelson, Rasmussen, and Walling are all members of UCR’s Center for Plant Cell Biology (CEPCEB), in the Institute for Integrative Genome Biology, which addresses significant questions in plant biology on a molecular level to meet global challenges such as improved nutrition, increased crop yield, resistance to pests, and sustainable biofuels.

Distinguished Professor Named Interim Editor-in-Chief of PNAS

Natasha V. Raikhel, Distinguished Professor Emerita of Plant Cell Biology and former director of the Institute for Integrative Genome Biology (IIGB), has been named interim editor-in-chief of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS). Established in 1914, PNAS is one of the world’s most-cited multidisciplinary scientific journals, spanning content in the biological, physical, and social sciences, with nearly half of all accepted papers coming from authors outside the United States. With PNAS’ selection, Raikhel joins a distinguished line of former editors, including Nobel Prize winners Linus Pauling and Randy Schekman and is only the second woman to serve in this capacity in the journal’s over 100 year history (she is preceded in service by Maxine Singer).

During her time as IIGB director, Raikhel led the initiative to form the Center for Plant Cell Biology (CEPCEB) with the goal of developing a modern biotechnology hub within IIGB which would include bioinformatics, proteomics, chemical genomics, and advanced microscopy core facilities. These UCR core facilities remain the cornerstone of IIGB’s multidisciplinary research focus and are available to scientists both on- and off-campus.

Raikhel’s research is centered on the study of endosomal and vesicular trafficking to the vacuoles, using the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Her study led to a better understanding of the basic biology of endomembrane trafficking, and on the strength of her research findings, Raikhel was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2012.

Still an active member of the UCR, IIGB, and CEPCEB research communities, Raikhel’s legacy was most recently recognized through IIGB’s establishment of the Natasha V. Raikhel Award in Research Innovation and Science Leadership, with the inaugural award just bestowed in December 2017 to Thomas Girke, professor of bioinformatics and director of UCR’s High Performance Computing Center.

The election of Raikhel as interim editor-in-chief of a multidisciplinary journal covering a majority of topics beyond her scientific expertise of plant biology is a great testament to Raikhel’s academic standing. In addition, this honor serves as further acknowledgment of the caliber of the greater UCR and IIGB research communities, whose scientific influence has secured such profound recognition.

Thomas Girke receives inaugural Natasha V. Raikhel award

The Institute for Integrative Genome Biology at the University of California, Riverside awarded its inaugural Natasha V. Raikhel Award in Research Innovation and Science Leadership to Thomas Girke, Professor of Bioinformatics and Director of UCR’s High Performance Computing Center. Announced during the Center for Plant Cell Biology’s 15th Annual Symposium and Awards Ceremony on December 8, this award honors the legacy of previous Center Director Natasha Raikhel in recognizing Thomas’ outstanding leadership in computational biology and the life sciences. Not only did Thomas receive the great pleasure of having Natasha in attendance for this special commendation, but he was also heartily congratulated by Dame Caroline Dean OBE of the John Innes Center, who served as the Symposium’s Distinguished Noel T. Keen Lecturer.