Our department is committed to the development of new scientists and researchers. The faculty are internationally recognized researchers who work at the cutting edge of science, maintaining externally funded laboratories that investigate an array of exciting questions. We have both a strong undergraduate major and a thriving graduate program in Biochemistry, and many of our significant discoveries are being made by undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral researchers working closely with our faculty. We invite you to explore what we have to offer, bring us your curiosity and your talent, and join us in our search for answers.
Here are a few areas in which we are making an impact:
► Biochemistry Education
► Metabolism and Metabolic Engineering
► Structural and Chemical Basis of Protein Function
► Molecular Mechanisms of Disease
► Plant and Microbial Biochemistry and Biotechnology
Biochemistry Department Highlights
"Creating Reactions, Forming Bonds"
Weeks named a National Academy of Inventors fellow
Donald Weeks, professor of biochemistry, has been named a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors. He will receive the honor on March 7, 2014.
December 10, 2013 -- Donald Weeks has been named a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, an honor given to esteemed innovators and inventors.
Weeks, the Maxcy Professor of Agriculture and Natural Resources, was recognized for distinguished contributions in plant and algal biotechnology and efforts to translate research discoveries into solutions that benefit society.
Election as an NAI fellow is a high honor bestowed on academic inventors who have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating inventions that have made an impact on quality of life, economic development and welfare of society. The 143 people elected 2013 NAI fellows represent 94 universities and governmental and nonprofit research institutions. Together, they hold more than 5,600 U.S. patents.
Internationally known for developing a novel approach to engineering herbicide-resistant crops, Weeks’ research will significantly impacted agricultural productivity in Nebraska and worldwide. He identified a soil bacterium that breaks down dicamba, a common herbicide used to control broadleaf weeds. By isolating the gene that inactivates dicamba and inserting a genetically engineered version of the gene into the plant chromosome, his team developed dicamba-resistant soybean plants, giving producers another important tool for controlling weeds, including several that are resistant to the widely used herbicide, glyphosate.
Weeks’ discovery led to an exclusive licensing and research agreement that has supported work to develop other dicamba-resistant crops, including cotton, corn and tomato plants.
Weeks holds 10 United States patents and 22 international patents. A UNL faculty member in the Department of Biochemistry since 1989, Weeks was named an American Association for the Advancement of Science fellow in 2009.
Weeks and other 2013 fellows will be inducted March 7 at the NAI’s third annual conference in Alexandria, Va.
Weeks’ selection marks the second year UNL faculty members have been named NAI fellows. The 2012 charter class included Brian Larkins, associate vice chancellor for life sciences and professor of agronomy and horticulture; Prem S. Paul, vice chancellor for research and economic development; and James Van Etten, William Allington Distinguished Professor of Plant Pathology and co-director of the Nebraska Center for Virology.
A complete list of 2013 fellows and their biographical information is available at http://academyofinventors.com/search-fellows.asp.
Ashley Washburn | Research and Economic Development
Two Biochemistry Faculty named AAAS Fellows
November 25, 2013 -- Congratulations to Drs. Concetta DiRusso and Charles Wood, members of the Department of Biochemsitry faculty, who were named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The press release can be found at http://newsroom.unl.edu/releases/2013/11/25/6+UNL+faculty+named+AAAS+fellows
UNL Biochemistry Club Science Day at UNL Daycare Center
November 18, 2013 -- Twelve University of Nebraska-Lincoln Biochemistry Club members visited the UNL Daycare Center to show basic scientific experiments. It's always good to get young minds to think about science.
Latifa Obaidi (Senior, Biochemistry major)
Hands-on experience with UCARE gives senior confidence
November 15, 2013 -- A white flower in an otherwise deeply pigmented population offers another clue for UNL student Latifa Obaidi, a veteran of UNL’s Undergraduate Creative Activity and Research Experiences program, which enables students to assist with faculty research and launch independent projects that prepare them for work or graduate school.
The senior biochemistry major from Lincoln studies how mutations in two genes, chalcone flavonone isomerase (CHI) and dihydroflavonol 4-reductase (DFR), affect certain pigments in Iochroma, a genus of flowering plants, trees and shrubs. A white flower instead of blue, purple or red indicates a mutation in the genetic pathway.
She is comparing CHI, located higher in the pathway, and DFR to determine whether their locations within a pathway influence the rate of DNA changes. These genetic changes, and the speed at which they occur, can explain how traits like flower color evolve.
Obaidi was among several UNL researchers featured in the annual UNL Research Report, published this month. The 40-page report highlights key research at the university.
Understanding the relationship between gene mutation and evolution has applications beyond plant science, including human health. For example, cancer often begins with a “mistake” in a cell’s DNA. Knowing where the mutation occurred and how that may affect the entire gene sequence could provide important clues about how cancer cells behave.
“Many of the same molecular activities occur in both plants and humans. They just have slightly different rules,” Obaidi said.
She has gained real-world genetics research experience working for two years alongside Stacey Smith, her project adviser and assistant professor of biological sciences, and now conducts her own independent research.
Obaidi said she has developed valuable expertise from designing experiments and learning to interpret data, and the confidence to pursue her goal of becoming a physician and scientist after graduation in 2014. She’s interested in genetics and oncology.
She also is a UCARE ambassador, encouraging other students to participate. Now in its 13th year, UCARE has become a national model for undergraduate research programs.
Obaidi is a “natural and patient mentor” to other students, Smith said. “I predict the growing number of outstanding students that participate in research at UNL will be one of the biggest contributors to our visibility as a research institution in the coming years.”
Ashley Washburn | Research and Economic Development