Biology Announcements

The following is a list of the latest news from the Department of Biological Sciences. For more general stories or announcements, please visit the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science homepage, the Jupiter Life Science Initiative webpage, and the Owl Research & Innovation Magazine.

February 17, 2017

Crab clones its allies by ripping them in half. Dr. Randy Brooks lends insight into the relationship between sea anenomes and other animals.

Springtime is shark time in coastal Florida waters. Dr. Stephen Kajiura’s study records weekly shark density.

Dr. Jeanette Wyneken weighs in on the use of satellite tags for sea turtles.

OURI Hosts Statewide Undergraduate Research Conference.

Cavefish may help humans evolve to need very little sleep. James Jaggard (IB-N PhD) and Alex C. Keene, PhD, have published their findings in the Journal of Experimental Biology. Watch the livestream of the cavefish here.


February 8, 2017

Dr. Kate Detwiler collaborates with the Lukuru Foundation TL2 Project to bring the first video footage of a monkey population nearing extinction.


January 25

IB alumna Melissa Borgen along with Drs. Rod Murphey and Brock Grill published “The PHR proteins: intracellular signaling hubs in neuronal development and axon degeneration” in the journal Neural Development.


January 4

FAU's Florida Center for Environmental Studies' video highlights Rindy Anderson’s IB-ES Ph.D. student Joe Niederhauser's research on the Bachman's sparrow.


January 23

IB alumni Kim Rowland, Melissa Borgen, and Brandon Lloyd, along with Jana Boerner and Aruna Khan under the guidance of Dr. Rod Murphey, have published in the journal Genetics. Their paper is entitled “Axon Termination, Pruning, and Synaptogenesis in the Giant Fiber System of Drosophila melanogaster Is Promoted by Highwire.”  


January 20, 2017

Applications available for the 2017 Nambu Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates. Full-time research opportunities await undergraduate students this summer (May 15 – July 21, 2017). These are exciting and once-in-a-lifetime chances to perform research in sophisticated neuroscience and behavior-oriented labs while expanding your scientific expertise. Please visit our web site to find a professor whose research interests you. The successful undergraduate candidates will work full-time in the lab and spend at least one hour per week with the fellow undergrads in the program and Dr. Cathy Trivigno as a mentor. Students often complete a thesis through the program. The program runs full-time during the summer, with the option of continuing research into the academic year. A summer stipend is included.  Sophomores and Juniors are especially encouraged to apply. In order to submit your application: complete the second and third pages and forward with your CV, personal statement and (unofficial) transcript to Dr. Cathy Trivigno at by March 1, 2017.


January 9, 2017

A new study from The Condor: Ornithological Applications shows that traffic noise makes birds less responsive to alarm calls that would otherwise alert them to dangers such as predators.  "Gall and Damsky's experiment helps us understand how human-caused noise can interfere with the transfer of information among animals in social groups," according Florida Atlantic University's Rindy Anderson, an expert in vocal communication in birds who was not involved with the study. "It's interesting that the birds' foraging behavior was not affected under any of the playback conditions, which suggests that the behavioral effects were due to the call playbacks being masked by noise, rather than the noise being simply aversive." Learn more about Dr. Anderson’s work here.


December 14, 2016

Biomaterials: Sharks shift their spine into high gear. The languorous undulation of a shark cruising along a reef gives little hint of the fish's potential to unleash a burst of high-speed movement when pursuing prey. Writing in the Journal of Experimental Biology, Porter et al. reveal how the structural properties of the non-bony, cartilaginous skeleton of the spiny dogfish shark (Squalus acanthias) allow this fish to shift seamlessly between low-speed cruising and high-speed swimming.


December 16, 2016

Four PhD students were hooded at the graduation ceremony on December 16th. 


December 9, 2016

A study on fear memory by Robert Stackman, Ph.D., professor and interim chair of the Department of Psychology, and Joan Lora, a doctoral student in Integrative Biology - Neuroscience, was recently published online in the journal Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging. Collaborators include Sathyanarayanan (Sathya) V. Puthanveettil, Ph.D., associate professor at Scripps, who led the study. Previous work defined a role for the prefrontal cortex in consolidation of fear memory. However, the involvement of this brain region in encoding new long-term memories had not been determined.


December 5, 2016

The biology department recently awarded more than $34,500 in scholarships to 21 graduate students.  Additionally, 18 biology graduate students received Fellowships from the FAU Graduate College for the 2016-2017 academic year. Please join us in congratulating the following students:  


Narcissus Smith (Baldwin; Hughes)


Chelsea Bennice (Brooks)


Stephanie Kelly (Dawson-Scully)

Saheed Oseni (Kumi-Diaka)

Melissa Slocumb (Keene)

Paveena Vichyavichien (Zhang)


Jessica Dell (Benscoter)

Sergio Gonzalez (Dorn)


Karim Dawkins (Esiobu)


Lauren Kircher (Baldwin)

Marisa Martinez (Gawlik)


Lisa Celano (Salmon)

Christina Coppenrath (Milton)

Danielle Ingle (Porter)

Rachel Bladow (Milton)

Alexandra Lolavar (Wyneken)

Jacob Lasala (Wyneken)

Boris Tezak (Wyneken)

Sarah Hoffmann (Porter)


Erick España (Esiobu)


Priyanka Kakad (Godenschwege)


December 1, 2016
FAU Brain Institute Designated ‘Nikon Center of Excellence’. Florida Atlantic University’s Brain Institute in Jupiter is now home to a Nikon Center of Excellence, making it one of seven designated centers in the United States and 17 worldwide. Drs. Rodney Murphey and Ken Dawson-Scully were instrumental in developing this strategic partnership between Nikon and FAU. 


November 30, 2016

Congratulations to Florida Atlantic University's inaugural Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) Championship winners! Three students from the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science placed in the Championship Heat. The IB PhD program took the 2nd and 3rd place positions in the Graduate College’s inaugural Three Minute Thesis Competition this last month.  Stephanie Kelly (Dawson-Scully) and Keith Murphey (Dawson-Scully/Ja (Scripps)) took 2nd and 3rd place respectively.

Championship Winner ($2,500) Mickelene Hoggard, Doctoral candidate, Chemistry

Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. "Snail Spit to Medicine." Advisor: Dr. Mare Cudic & Dr. Tanja Godenschwege

First Runner-Up ($1,500) Stephanie Kelly, Doctoral candidate, Integrative Biology

Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. "Of Flies and Men: Insights from an Age-Related Stress Tolerance Assay" Advisor: Dr. Ken Dawson-Scully

  Second Runner-Up ($1,000) Keith Murphy, Doctoral candidate, Integrative Biology

Charles E. Schmidt College of Science "Postprandial Sleep Mechanics in Drosophila." Advisor: Dr. Ken Dawson-Scully & Dr. William Ja

Following eight 3MT Heats comprised of nearly 90 graduate students representing each college and a range of disciplines, 17 graduate students advanced to compete at the Championship.  A number of our PhD and MS students placed and/or won People’s Choice throughout the 3MT heats.  We’d like recognize the following students for representing our department.

  Christina Coppenrath (Baldwin)

Douglas Holmes (Esiobu)

Kyle Newton (Kajiura)

Betsy Evans (Gawlik)

Victoria Erb (Wyneken)

Alexandra Lolavar (Wyneken)

Carlie Perricone (McCarthy)

Michael Studivan (Voss)

Alberto Padilla (Hartmann—Spring 2017 IB admit)


November 29, 2016

Dr. Ken Dawson-Scully’s company Neuro Pharmalogics participated in the Tech Runway program and has just entered into a licensing agreement with FAU. Neuro Pharmalogics is a biopharmaceutical company focused on developing and commercializing innovative therapies for patients with rare neurological diseases. Read more here: and here.


November 23, 2016

Keith R. Murphy (IB-N PhD) is the primary author of a paper about how different foods can play roles in the immediate effects of sleep titled, “Postprandial Sleep Mechanics in Drosophila.” Researchers at FAU, Scripps Florida Research Institute, and Bowling Green State University have discovered evidence for “food comas”, the sleepy-like stupor that comes after eating a large meal. The study has gained national press this Thanksgiving, including articles in the Huffington Post and Fox news. Drs. Ken Dawson-Scully and Alex Keene and IB student Maria Yurgel are co-authors on the paper. Read the study here:


November 11, 2016

FAU Drug Study Proposal Selected by National Institute on Aging Interventions Testing Program. The National Institute on Aging’s (NIA) Interventions Testing Program (ITP) recently approved a proposal by two Florida Atlantic University faculty members to test the known anti-inflammatory drug sulindac in a pilot study for life span extension. Distinguished Research Professor Herb Weissbach, Ph.D., and Shailaja Kesaraju Allani, Ph.D, research assistant professor- both of FAU’s Center for Molecular Biology and Biotechnology in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science- based the proposal on years of research conducted at FAU on the drug, which revealed other unique biological properties that protect normal cells against oxidative damage that occurs after traumatic events such as heart attack and oxidative damage to the retina. Additionally, they have shown that sulindac can make anti-cancer drugs more effective in killing cancer cells. For more information, contact Weissbach at


November 11, 2016  

The Neuroscience Student Organization Hosted Kick-Off Event. Graduate students interested in brain sciences and brain health at FAU launched the group Neuroscience Student Organization (NSO) with an event held in downtown West Palm to network and hear TED-style talks focused on key facets of the graduate experience, from the perspectives of senior neuroscientists. The speakers included Tanja Godenschwege, Ph.D., associate professor, biological sciences, FAU, Robert Stackman, professor & interim chair, psychology, FAU and David Fitzpatrick, scientific director & CEO of Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience


October 6, 2016

Jennifer Krill (IB PhD) is the primary author of a paper entitled “cGMP-Dependent Protein Kinase Inhibition Extends the Upper Temperature Limit of Stimulus-Evoked Calcium Responses in Motoneuronal Boutons of Drosophila melanogaster Larvae. 


October 2016

Worm Holds Key to Treating Epilepsy and Rapid Drug Discovery. IBAN student Monica Risley and researchers from FAU, in collaboration with The Scripps Research Institute, have opened up the possibilities for rapid drug screens to treat seizures in the near future by using a microscopic nematode worm. Current methods to control epilepsy, which affects 1 in 26 Americans, are not only inefficient but have not improved in more than 150 years when the first anticonvulsant drug was developed. 


October 2016

Congratulations to Brittnee McDole, a Graduate Student in the Integrative Biology Ph.D. Program for receiving one of the 2016 Society for Neuroscience Travel Awards from the FAU Brain Institute. Recipients receive up to $1000.00 toward reimbursable expenses to attend the SFN meeting in November 2016.


October 2016

The John Nambu Scholarship for Molecular Biology was established in memory of the late and great Dr. John Nambu, Professor of Biology at Florida Atlantic University (FAU). After his passing, this scholarship fund was created to help continue keeping his passion alive by supporting students studying molecular biology.


September 2016

Monica Risley (IB-N) and Stephanie Kelly (IB) have co-authored a study entitled ‘Modulating Behavior in C. elegans Using Electroshock and Antiepileptic Drugs.”


September 2016

Nathalia Gazaniga, a recent graduate from FAU High and the Honors Thesis Program has accepted an internship at the National Institute of Health. She is a part of the National Institutes of Health Postbacculaureate Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA) program. This program allows recent college graduates to obtain research experience at the NIH while applying to graduate and medical school programs. Nathalia is currently working in the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases in the Translational Immunology Section and is specifically focused on auto inflammatory diseases.

Nathalia is also featured in a video by the American Association of Immunologists:


Octopus research performed by Integrative Biology PhD candidate Chelsea Bennice is featured on WPBT2's television series "The Changing Seas."

Published Wednesday, October 19, 2016


Timely work by Dr. Rindy Anderson and colleagues, "How Voice Pitch Influences Our Choice of Leaders,"  is featured on the cover of "American Scientist."

Published Friday, September 2, 2016


Biology students receive Graduate Fellowships for 2016-2017 academic year from FAU's Graduate College.

Published Thursday, August 18, 2016


Drs. Dale Gawlik (FAU Biology Professor) and Dennis Hanisak (FAU Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Research Professor) interviewed by New Scientist on algal bloom-related state of emergency in southern Florida.

Published Monday, July 18, 2016


Integrative Biology and Neuroscience (IB-N) student publishes in the journal Nature Neuroscience. Daniel E. Wilson had his work published titled, "Orientation selectivity and the functional clustering of synaptic inputs in primary visual cortex," in Nature Neuroscience. Wilson collaborated on the study with colleagues at the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience, including David Fitzpatrick, Ph.D., CEO of the institute.

Published Friday, June 24, 2016


Eight FAU IB Ph.D. students have been awarded Graduate Diversity Fellowships

Published Friday, May 6, 2016


Kuo-Sheng Lee, a student in the FAU IB-N and IMPRS programs, has published his first paper in the high impact journal Nature. The work uses high tech imaging tools to record simultaneously from large numbers of cortical neurons to show how visual information from the retina is analyzed in the visual cortex. The work brings a new view to the 1981 Nobel Prize winning studies of Hubel and Wiesel and elaborates on the half century of work that followed those early studies.

Published Tuesday, May 3, 2016


Dr. Tanja Godenschwege (FAU Biology Associate Professor) was invited to serve on an NIH Special Emphasis Panel to review R15 grant applications

Published Tuesday, April 26, 2016


Dr. Ramaswamy Narayanan (FAU Biology Professor) was interviewed by MedChemNet, UK on his Zika virus work

Published Tuesday, April 26, 2016


Drs. Alex Keene (FAU Biology Associate Professor) and Bob Stackman (FAU Psychology Associate Professor) are newly-appointed co-directors of FAU's Neuroscience and Behavior B.S. degree program

Published Tuesday, April 26, 2016


Michelle Cavallo (Biology Graduate Coordinator) was presented the “Jeffrey Gabor Exemplary Employee Award” by FAU President Kelly

Published Friday, April 22, 2016


Biology Honors Thesis Defense  held on Friday, April 22, 2016 from 9:00 am-1:30 pm

Published Thursday, April 21, 2016


Biology wins at FAU northern campus achievement awards, April 2016

Published Thursday, April 21, 2016


NIH funds FAU undergraduate student in Greg Macleod’s lab

Published Wednesday, April 20, 2016


Congratulations to Biology’s winners at FAU’s 6th Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Published Thursday, April 7, 2016


Tevin Ali (FAU Undergraduate Biology Major) is selected for STEMconnector internship in Washington, DC and receives three scholarships: Verizon Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Scholarship, the Senator Bill Nelson STEM Innovation Scholarship and the Florida State TWC Scholarship.

Published Thursday, April 7, 2016


Melissa Borgen (FAU IB-N Ph.D. alumnus and Scripps Florida postdoc), Rod Murphey (FAU Biology Professor) and Brock Grill (Scripps Florida Associate Professor) review the PHR proteins and the signaling pathways that they regulate in neuronal development and axon degeneration.

Published Tuesday, April 5, 2016


Ramon Garcia-Areas (FAU IB Ph.D. student) is featured as a Graduate Research and Inquiry Program (GRIP) grant recipient.

Published Friday, April 1, 2016


Kazuma Murakami, Maria Yurgel and Wesley Bollinger (FAU IB-N Ph.D. students), Bethany Stahl (FAU postdoc), Alex Keene (FAU Biology Associate Professor) in collaboration with Bill Ja (Scripps Florida Associate Professor) and others identify new gene that modulates sleep in response to metabolic changes.  

Published Thursday, March 31, 2016


William Hill (FAU M.S. student), Xiao-Lu Jin (FAU Visiting Scientist) and Xing-Hai Zhang (FAU Biology Associate Professor) demonstrate that an arctic plant chickweed protein makes tobacco plants more tolerant to salt, osmotic and freezing stresses.

Published Thursday, March 31, 2016


FAU Biology graduate students shine in Lima, Peru winning three awards at the 36th Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation

Published Thursday, March 17, 2016


Undergraduate researchers excel at FSU Ecology Conference

Published Wednesday, March 9, 2016 


Sun Ye (FAU IB-N Ph.D. student) combines two cutting-edge techniques in ambitious graduate research project

Published Friday, March 4, 2016


Alex Keene (FAU Biology Associate Professor) wins 2016 IBANGS Young Scientist Award

Published Wednesday, March 2, 2016


FAU's Max Planck Scholars to present research at SYNAPSE

Uploaded Wednesday, March 16, 2016