HESTEC Community Day
This important activity is held in our department every year to engage the community to enjoy our biological displays. More than one thousand people were able to see our exhibits and interact with faculty members, graduate and undergraduate students as well as staff. Here are some images of the event held in the Science Building (Edinburg campus) on Saturday, October 10 from 4:30 to 8:00 pm.
We welcome Diana Womble our new Administrative Assistant
Born in the Rio Grande Valley, raised in Northwestern Illinois, returned to Texas by way of San Antonio and settle in the Mid-Valley for the last fifteen years. I have over twenty years’ experience in the corporate world as office manager, five years’ experience with UTPA in the Occupational Therapy Department, and I now have the privilege of working with the Biology Department at UTRGV as an Administrative Assistant I. I have an Associate’s degree in Interdisciplinary studies, a BFA degree in Art, and I am currently earning a MFA in fine arts. My interests gravitate towards the arts, theatre, music, painting, sculpting, I have a love for the outdoors, and I treasure God, family and friends.
Jorge Cantu, student of Dr. Alexis Racelis, has been involved in an interesting project with local city of Edinburg authorities. The story has been fully narrated in our city newspaper, The Monitor.
Visiting Scholar from China
Dr. Wei Yunlin, professor of molecular microbiology from the University of Kunning has joined Dr Anxu Kuang and Dr. Luis Materon research labs, to undertake research on diversity of cold-adapted bacteria and quorum sensing involved in phage infection. He will stay in our labs for a period of one year. We wish Dr. Wei Yunlin a fruitful stay and a pleasant interaction with our faculty and staff.
Ms. Diana Ocañas a new staff member that is bringing a vast experience on administrative matters from both the university and the private sector has joined our department. She has been transferred from the Department of Business where she served for 11.5 years. We welcome her and wish her a fruitful and successful interaction with faculty, staff, and students of our department.
Appointment to New Academic Program
We are pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Frank Dirrigl as the Edinburg Associate Director for the School of Multidisciplinary Sciences and Program Director for the Environmental and Earth Sciences (EES) academic unit. His combined 25 years’ experience related to environmental science in academia, federal and state government, NGOs, and industry make him an ideal candidate for this position.
We take this opportunity to congratulate Dr. Robert Edwards for being the Program Director since 2009 to 2015 and Dr. Frank Judd for all his efforts with him at establishing the Environmental Science Program..
Biology Department Secretary Leaves
Sandra Montalvo has announced that she will be leaving her position as secretary of our department effective today (June 24/15). She has been working with diligence and tenacity in the last ten years. Sandra has dealt daily with faculty, staff, and students in an efficient and cordial way. As she moves to greener pastures within the university, we take this opportunity to express our deepest gratitude for her services, and wish her success in her new job. We will miss you.
2015 Minority-Serving Institution Faculty Scholar in Cancer Research Awards
Megan Keniry, Ph.D, assistant professor in our department, was recently acknowledged with a prestigious award by the American Association for Cancer Research. "My goals include directing a meritorious cancer research program, training the next generation of scientists, increasing the recruitment of Hispanic students into biomedical research careers and serving the scientific community. I recently started an independent research program at the University of Texas-Pan American that aims to elucidate oncogenic roles and regulatory mechanisms for FOXO transcription factors. My teaching program includes courses in cell biology as well as training graduate and undergraduate students in laboratory research. " Abstract 2207: Elucidating mechanisms employed by NFIL3 to impact cancer cell survival Poster Session: Transcriptional Deregulation #18. Congratulations Dr. Keniry!
Dr. Zen Faulkes, invertebrate neuroethologist, has been cited in articles in Nature and in The New Scientist
An article in a recent issue of Nature entitled "Fruit-fly paper has 1,000 authors' indicates that Dr. Faulkes was among the authors while an undergraduate student. It stresses that putting together the efforts of many people allow us to do good projects. In another recent issue of the New Scientist on the discovery of a rare blue crayfish species (Cherax pulcher) discovered in Indonesia, Dr. Faulkes commented: "We have got this beautiful species that people are harvesting for the trade, and it may be from this tiny location, and it could be wiped out before we know anything about them".
An Exceptional Paper Published
In 2013 the Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry Society (ET&C) began presenting an annual “Best Paper Award” to the most outstanding paper published in the prior calendar year. Dr. Kathryn Perez presented an article entitled “Embryonic exposure to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin impairs prey capture by zebrafish larvae” that was selected among the top 5 nominated articles based on scientific impact, public and professional interest, comprehension, and experimental design and quality. The ET&C will be publishing a list of the top 5 exceptional papers, as well as a piece on the Best Paper winner, in the July 2015 issue.
Retirees visit UTPA
Recently a group of retirees visited our greenhouse to see and discuss research on organiic farming. The attached article describes the visit, and it is complemented with photographs. See article here.
Awards to Graduate Students
The Subtropical Agriculture and Environmental Society presented awards to graduate students who are doing excellent research. Our department won second place with Jorge Trujillo and third place to John Brush. Both working with Dr. Anxiu Kuang and Dr. Alexis Racelis. We extend our congratulations.
International Conference on Mitochondria, Metabolism, and Heart Failure
Assistant professor Robert Gilkerson (Biology and Clinical Laboratory Sciences) presented research from his laboratory at the Keystone Symposium on Mitochondria, Metabolism, and Heart Failure, Jan. 28-Feb. 1 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This international conference brought together basic and clinical researchers to discuss the role of mitochondrial bioenergetics as a critical mechanism of heart failure and metabolic disease. Dr. Gilkerson presented research involving UTPA students Norma Gaytan, Edith Jones, Iraselia Garcia, and Alan Herrera, as well as collaborating investigator Dr. Wendy Innis-Whitehouse (Edinburg RAHC, UTHSCSA) as a poster entitled "Mitochondrial fusion requires a sharply-defined threshold of transmembrane potential". This research was supported by a grant from the Diabetes Action Research and Education Foundation, as well as UTPA's NIH RISE and HHMI undergraduate research training programs.
The Biology Department Leader in Agroecology Research
The University of Texas - Pan American has recently established a research and teaching program in Agroecology. Agroecology is the study of ecological processes that operate in production systems. A deep understanding of the ecological implications of the ways we produce our food, fuel, and fiber is required to effectively manage these systems in ways that are more environmentally sustainable. The Agroecology program at UTPA combines research, education, and community engagement in various projects to address locally relevant issues that affect agroecosystems in South Texas, including in sustainable agriculture, community supported agriculture, urban forestry, and sustainable food systems.
On Organic Farming Research
A new greenhouse was inagurated near the main Biology building on the UTPA campus Friday Oct. 10,2014. The Agroecology program at UTPA combines research, education, and community engagement in various projects to address locally relevant issues that affect agroecosystems in South Texas. Research is being funded by a grant from the USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (Subtropical Organic Agriculture Research Partnership, #2013-03943). Dr. Alexis Racelis is the principal investigator who is having the support of his graduate students for his research.
A Press Release
Byrnes JEK, Ranganathan J, Walker BLE, Faulkes Z. 2014. To crowdfund research, scientists must build an audience for their work. PLOS ONE 9(12): e110329
Students win Research Awards
Two UTPA Biology students recently won awards for their research presentations at the national SACNAS Meeting held in Los Angeles, CA from October 16 – 19, 2014. SACNAS is the Society for the Advancement of Hispanics/Chicanos and Native Americans in Science. There were more than 1,100 presentations at the conference; our students out-competed students from several Tier-1 research universities.
Maurine Ramirez received an undergraduate research award for her presentation, “GROWTH, ABUNDANCE, AND CHARACTERIZATION OF ANAEROBIC, THIOSULFATE-REDUCING MICROORGANISMS ISOLATED FROM A SALT LAKE, LA SAL DEL REY, IN DEEP SOUTH TEXAS” in the Microbiology category. Maurine works in the research lab of Dr. Kristine Lowe.
Ramiro Patino Jr. received an undergraduate research award for his presentation “RATE OF INFECTION IN VECTORS OF TRYPANOSOMA CRUZI IN SOUTH TEXAS” in the Zoology/Entomology category. Ramiro works in the laboratory of Dr. Teresa Patricia Feria. Congratulations to Maurine and Ramiro for their excellent presentations and representation of the UTPA Department of Biology!
HESTEC COMMUNITY DAY CELEBRATED AT THE BIOLOGY DEPARTMENT
The Department held a biology exhibition on Saturday, October 11, 2014 More than a thousand visitors had the opportunity to visit our exhibits that included a variety of biological displays from cells, snakes, bacteria, planting seeds, models, microscopes, cockroaches, electron micrographs among others.
Dr. Maria Pereyra
The University of Texas Pan American and the College of Science and Mathematics faculty and student community are saddened to report that Dr. Maria Pereyra, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology, passed away on Wednesday August 27, 2014 at McAllen Medical Center. Dr. Pereyra joined the faculty at UTPA in fall 2012. Prior to coming to UTPA, Dr. Pereyra was a faculty member at the University of Tulsa and adjunct professor at Occidental College in California. Dr. Pereyra was the author of numerous publications and presentations focused on the physiology and ecology of birds and other animals. She taught Anatomy & Physiology as well as Mammalian Physiology while at UTPA. At the request of the family, no formal services were held for Dr. Pereyra. The Department of Biology held an informal memorial for her on Friday September 5, 2014 and made a donation in Dr. Pereyra’s honor to the Nature Conservancy, an organization she and her husband supported. Dr. Pereyra is survived by her husband Dr. Martin (Marty) Morton, stepsons, and other family members.
Interim College Dean
Dr. Mohammed Farooqui, Professor of the Biology Department, has taken the position of Interim Dean of the College of Math and Science. We wish him all the success in this temporary important administrative post.
A Welcoming Note for our New Faculty Members
The faculty members of the Biology Department welcome our new colleagues, and wish them success and a fruitful association with our Department. They are: Dr. John Trant (former Dean of Math and Sciences), Dr. Christopher Taylor, a marine enviromentalist located at the Coastal Laboratory, Dr. John Thomas, a virologist with a wide experience in animal viruses, Dr. Kathryn Perez, an expert in Evolutionary Biology, Dr. Jesse DeLeon a bilogy lecturer, and Dr. Abdulah Rahman located in the Coastal Lab.
A New Book on Tortoises
Dr. Francis L. Rose (Texas State University) and Dr. Frank W. Judd (UTPA) are authors of a book titled “The Texas Tortoise: A Natural History” which is published by the University of Oklahoma Press. It is Volume 13 in the Animal Natural History Series. The book is cloth bound and contains 188 pages, 34 black and white illustrations, 34 color illustrations, 11 tables and 3 maps. Remnants of an ancient lineage, tortoises date back to the Eocene. Today there are only 5 species of living tortoises in North America. The smallest and most sexually dimorphic species (Gopherus berlandieri) occurs in southern Texas and northeastern Mexico. The authors draw upon decades of their research in producing this first comprehensive account of the biology of the species. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department lists Teas Tortoises as threatened and Rose and Judd call on the federal government to do the same. It is illegal to collect or possess a Texas Tortoise without the proper permit. For those that have a permit, this book advises how to care for the animal. Throughout, Rose and Judd write eloquently about the threats to the species’ survival, reflecting deep concern about its future protection.
We wish a healthy, prompt, and steadly recovery to Drs. Kristine Lowe, Dr. John Taylor, and Dr. John Thomas. We hope that your health problems will be clear soon. We also wish a prompt recovery to Sandra Mondalvo, our departmental secretary.
The Chili Annual Event
A number of faculty members, staff, and graduate students of the Biology Department and the Dean of the S&M College, participated in an annual get together event for the traditional chili competition. Selections were made on the 'best' and the 'hottest' chili preparations. Dr. and Mrs. Christopher Vitek won the first prize for the 'best' and Dr. Maria Pereyra won the 'hottest' category. Click her to see images.
The Department of Biology was represented in the HESTEC Community Day event. Faculty members, staff, undergraduate, and graduate students participated in this particular activity held on Saturday, October 12, 2013. Hundreds of people from the community visited our displays. Click here to see images.
Dr. Christopher Vitek has been appointed Assistant Chair to the Department of Biology. We wish him a fruitful and productive association in his new assignment.
We congratulate Dr. Kenneth Summy for his promotion to the rank of Full Professor as of September 1, 2013.
New Members of Faculty
We welcome the new full-time faculty members to our Department. They are Dr. Megan Keniry, assistant professor, who will start research on cell biology and will teach the cell biology course. Dr. Mirayda Torres-Avila, lecturer, who will teach basic biology courses as well as Ms. Diana Hinojosa, lecturer, who will also be teaching basic biology courses as of September 1, 2013. We also welcome part-time lecturer of biology, Dr. Edwin Tamayo who is joining our department as of September 1, 2013.
New DNA sequencer
An award has been made to the Department of Biology from the National Science Foundation to acquire a next-generation DNA sequencer to advance and promote biological research. Next-generation sequencing refers to DNA sequencing techniques and analyses that are faster and more robust than the traditional Sanger Method for sequencing DNA. Next-generation sequencing allows for thousands to billions of short sequencing reactions to occur simultaneously and large amounts of sequence data to be generated. The research team will include a diverse group of faculty (tenured and tenure-track) from complementary biological disciplines that will incorporate next-generation sequencing into their research to address major biological questions in microbiology, plant science, zoology, genetics, physiology, ecology, and for educational purposes in laboratory classes.
Texas Academy of Sciences Annual Meeting
The UTPA Biology Department was well represented by both students and faculty at the 116th Texas Academy of Sciences Annual Meeting held in Kerrville Texas Feb 28-March 2, 2013. Thirty of us attended and many more were represented in the oral and poster presentations that were delivered. Our presentations took place in the Cell and Molecular Biology, Environmental Science, Freshwater Science, and Marine Sciences sessions.
The Texas 2013 Environthon
The Biology Department has been selected by the UTPA Administration to host the Texas 2013 Environthon for all the high school groups in the state on March 6-8, 2013.The Environthon is an event where different high school student teams prepare throught the year to participate in a true field biology/natural history test of knowledge. Drs. Hudson DeYoe and Frank Dirrigl are the organizers of this event that will be held at the Echo Hotel (Edinburg) and Conference Center.
A Faculty Member Research Work in National Geographic
Dr. Hudson DeYoe To Teach in Costa Rica
A Study Abroad course on coastal ecology is being offered by Dr. Hudson DeYoe at the renowned Las Cruces Field Station in Costa Rica for the summer session I of 2013
Biology Faculty Elects New Chair
The faculty of the Department of Biology have elected Dr. Frederick Zaidan III as the new Chair of our Department replacing Dr. Mohammed Farooqui who recently took a position as Associate Dean.
We all wish Dr. Zaidan a successful career as the leader of our Department and extend our congratulations and best wishes in his new post.
Workshop for Graduate Faculty and Students
Drs. Robert Gilkerson, Anxiu Kuang, Jamila Banu and Luis Materon attended a workshop entitled "Change your World -Development Successful Mentor Relationships" held at the Education Department on November 30, 2012. A number of our graduate students participated in this workshop.
Reception for Dr. Mohammed Farooqui
The Faculty and Staff members of the Department of Biology offered a reception for Dr. Mohammed Farooqui who accepted a position of Associate Dean for the College of Science and Mathematics. The reception was held at the Maths building on the 20th of November, 2012. He was presented with some gifts and cards as tokens of our appreciation for serving as a Chair for more than a decade.
SACNAS National Meeting Attendance and Awards
The Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) held its national meeting in Seattle, Washington from October 10 – 15. Eight (8) students from the Department of Biology presented their research at the event which featured presentations from more than 1300 students from universities across the USA. The UTPA Biology students were: Edelio Bazan, Peter Cerda, Thomas A. Eubanks, Miraslava Garza, Ramiro Garza, Julian Gonzales III, Brittany Peña, and Janet Ruiz. Most of the students are participants in the NSF-sponsored Undergraduate Research and Mentoring Program (URM) directed by Dr. Kristine Lowe. Brittany Peña won an award for her presentation entitled, “Arsenic-tolerant fungi improve the growth of corn (Zea mays) in soils impacted by arsenate”. Ms. Peña works in the lab of Dr. Lowe and her collaborator Dr. A. Elizabeth Arnold at the University of Arizona. In addition to the conference, the students had the opportunity to tour the campus of the University of Washington and take a field trip to Mount Rainier National Park. For more information regarding the SACNAS conference awards, please go to http://sacnas.org/about/how-we-work/honors/presentations
DR. MOHAMMED FAROOQUI BECOMES ASSOCIATE DEAN
Dr. Mohammed Farooqui has served as a Chair of the Department of Biology during the past 13 years. Dr. Farooqui will be joining the Dean's Office as an Associate Dean for the College of Science and Mathematics as of November 1. We appreciate the excellent leadership and service given to our department during his tenure as Chair and wish him success in his new post. As of November 1, Dr. Frederic Zaidan III will act as an interim Chair.
THE ANNUAL CHILI EVENT OF 2012
The 9th annual chili cook off was a rousing success this year. Hosted by Dr. Christopher Vitek, departmental faculty and graduate students sampled seven different homemade chili recipes, ranging from the mouth burning heat to sweet pork chili to heart healthy chili (with no fat). Edwin Quintero was the winner for the hottest chili with his secret blends of spices and peppers (which he refused to reveal) while Yessica Cerino and Maria Pereyra tied for the best tasting chili recipe. Numerous side dishes and appetizers were also provided by chefs reluctant to try their hand at making a chili recipe.
LUNCHEON FOR MENTORS
The Office of the Provost for Academic Affairs offered a luncheon to new faculty members and their mentors at the International Building on Tuesday, October 16/12. Drs. Robert Gilkerson and Maria Pereyra, new Biology faculty members, attended the event as well as Drs. M. Farooqui (Chair), F. Zaidan, K. Summy, and Luis Materon who are serving as mentors.
The Biology Department participated in the UTPA Annual Majors Fair event held on October 9. 2012. The Department received a trophy for best display for the last year event. Several faculty members participated and interacted with future biology students. In this image, from right to left, are Drs. Hudson DeYoe, Andrew McDonald and Luis Materon.
HESTEC COMMUNITY DAY
The Department held a biology exhibition on Saturday, September 29/12. More than a thousand visitors had the opportunity to visit our exhibits.
An Effective Case of UTPA/RAHC Cooperation
Mr. Mario Martinez obtained his masters degree in August 2012. He worked under the direction of Dr. Luis Materon. He had the opportunity to conduct his research at the Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC) at Dr. Subramanian Dhandayuthapani (Dr. Pani) on the characterization of serine/threonine phosphatase of Mycoplasma genitalium. Mario represents the first graduate student who conducted his research in cooperation with the RAHC, a branch of the UT Faculty of Medicine of San Antonio, TX.
UTPA Biology Department Wins Awards
Students of the UTPA Biology Department won awards for their presentations at the 115th Annual Meeting of the Texas Academy of Sciences held at Sul Ross University, Alpine, Texas, March 1-2, 2012. Rebecca Hernandez and Mayra Rangel , mentored by Dr. Brian Fredensborg (Biology), won 1st and 2nd Place for their oral presentations, "Are highly specialized parasites limited to only one host?" and "Suitability of trematodes in snails as indicators of coastal bay health in South Texas." Amanda Cavazos mentored by Drs. Frank Dirrigl (Environmental Science Program) and Juan Gonzalez (Geology) received an Honorable Mention for her oral presentation "Nutrient and metal transport and fate in water, pore-water, sediments, and selected biota of the Laguna Madre, Texas. Overall, the Biology Department was well-represented at the meeting with 12 oral and 7 poster presentations in the Environmental Science, Freshwater Science, Marine Science, Systematic and Evolutionary Biology, and Terrestrial Ecology sessions. Professors mentoring students and/or attending included Drs. Hudson DeYoe (Chair Marine Sciences), Frank Dirrigl (Chair Environmental Science), Robert Edwards, Patricia Feria, Brian Fredensborg (Vice Chair Marine Sciences), and Kristine Lowe (Vice Chair Environmental Science) and Christopher Vitek. The venue of the Texas Academy of Science meeting is perfect for students who have the opportunity to meet other students from around Texas, gain valuable experience and confidence presenting their work, and participate in the student competition. But, this year’s location in Alpine also provided time to search for the Marfa lights and explore the natural history of Big Bend National Park.
The Department of Biology hosts First Meeting in Subtropical Biology organized by the Center for Subtropical Studies
On Friday January 13th the Department of Biology and the Center for Subtropical Studies (CSS) hosted a meeting in Subtropical Biology to promote the CSS and to enhance collaboration on environmental issues in South Texas. The meeting included 38 oral presentations and 26 posters, and was attended by 103 researchers and students representing 19 affiliations in the South Texas region. The meeting also received local media attention and received airtime on the local station News Center 23. We thank everyone who contributed to a very successful first meeting. May there be many more to come.
Dr. C. Vitek's student wins an award at the annual Entomological Society of America
A University of Texas Pan American Biology Department student won a second place award at the most recent annual meeting of the Entomological Society of America. Ms. Julia H. Potocnjak won the 2nd place award for undergraduate students in the Systematics, Evolution and Biodiversity subgroup with her poster “What’s for Dinner? How Novel Prey Phenotypes Can Influence Prey Selection in Assassin Bugs (Hemiptera: Reduvvidae)”. This marks the second successful scientific presentation for Ms. Potocnjak, who also won the first place award in the 2011 HESTEC Conference Biology Department Posters. It also marks the second year in a row an undergraduate from Dr. Vitek’s Medical Entomology laboratory has won an award at the annual Entomological Society of America.
First graduates in Environmental Science
The Environmental Science Program in the Department of Biology celebrated its first three graduates in the program at the May 2011 UTPA commencement ceremonies. Pictured left to right are Dr. Frank J. Dirrigl Jr., assistant professor of environmental science; and graduates Jacqueline D. Munoz, Samantha E. Benson, and Elizabeth A. Gonzalez. There are currently 30 students in the program which began in 2009 at the University.
Research of Dr. Robert Edwards recognized by Secretary of the Interior, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico and Mexico's Secretary of the Interior
Appointment and Research News on Dr. Teresa Feria
Congratulations to Dr. Teresa Feria who has been appointed Vice-President of CIPAMEX, a Mexican organization for the preservation and studies of birds.
Dr. Feria and Dr. Brian Fredensborg have been recently acknowledged in the local newspaper on their work on the insect vector that causes of the Chagas dise
Remembering the 8th Annual Biology Chili Cook Competition
HESTEC activities (Saturday, October 1, 2011)
Weather station up and running at UTPA
See details at: http://www.utpa.edu/news/index.cfm?newsid=4428
The 114th Annual Meeting of the Texas Academy of Sciences (March 2011)
The Department of Biology participated in the 114th Annual Meeting of the Texas Academy of Sciences. The Department participated greatly in this event with its 33 presentations (21 Poster Presentations and 12 Oral Presentations) in 7 Sessions (Environmental Science, 12; Freshwater Science, 2; Marine Science, 14; Terrestrial Ecology, 1; Botany, 2; Cellular and Molecular Biology, 1; and Conservation Biology, 1). This represented the work of 56 students and 10 Department faculty. Nine faculty members attended the meeting and also served as Chairs/Vice Chairs of the Marine Science Section (Dr. DeYoe, Chair and Dr. Fredensborg, Vice Chair) and Environmental Science (Dr. Summy, Chair).At the meeting, Drs. Dirrigl and Lowe were elected to serve as Chair and Vice Chair of the Environmental Science Section. The Department of Biology has a long standing history in participating in the Texas Academy of Sciences and its meetings. Drs. DeYoe and Judd both were past Academy Presidents, and Dr. Edwards was a past Editor of the Texas Journal of Science. In 2005, the 108th Meeting of the Academy was held at The University of Texas-Pan American and hosted by the Department of Biology. At this meeting, Dr. Judd was named as a Texas Distinguished Scientist
Dr. Tim Brush visits Mexico and Turkey
Dr. Tim Brush (ornithologist) visited the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and northeastern Turkey during the summer break. In May 2011, along with his son John, he gathered data on nesting associations of Altamira Orioles, Orange Orioles, and Rose-throated Becards, and how they defend their nests against Bronzed Cowbirds (brood parasites). In July and August, the Brush family gathered data on migratory shorebirds and other birds inhabiting poorly known wetlands and forests areas of extreme northeastern Turkey. Data gathered on the trips will be used to support nature protection, as well as for scientific publications.