Category: biology

Amazing student Omar Martinez-Uribe


omar_martinezUribe.jpgMeet Amazing UGA student Omar Martinez-Uribe:

a senior biology major from Fayetteville, GA, Uribe has been volunteering in the community, working with student organizations, conducting undergraduate research and representing his college throughout his UGA career. The next step for this avid Bulldog fan is medical school.


University highlights, achievements and awards:

After my first semester at UGA I entered the Honors Program through collegiate entry. I began volunteering for the Thomas Lay after-school program my freshman year and tried to make connections with many of the children from Clarke County.

The summer after my freshman year I worked at the UGA-Griffin campus with Patrick McCullough in the crop and soil sciences department. He was a great mentor. I really enjoyed getting to see a different type of scientific work and his experience made my time worthwhile. I even got to translate a few publications into Spanish.

During my sophomore year at UGA I was inducted into Alpha Epsilon Delta, the premedical honor society. I also began working with MEDLIFE. This is an amazing organization that aims to provide medicine, education and development to low-income families. I think it is important for minority students to serve in this type of organization because it is a way to serve as a representative. I enjoyed being a family head with this organization which entailed working with a wonderful group of students dedicated to their community and showing compassion to others.

In addition, I began working with the Student Academic Honesty Council my sophomore year. I believe that a degree from UGA is incredibly valuable, and I work to make sure students know the rules and regulations about academic honesty.

Before my junior year, I began working in the Infectious Disease Department with Julie Moore. I have been moving around on several different projects regarding the mechanisms behind placental malaria. I plan on writing a senior thesis next semester and hopefully can include all of my different projects in this paper!

I have been incredibly fortunate to become a part of the Franklin College ambassadors. We have an amazing coordinator, Roslyn Raley, and such cool student representatives. I have enjoyed many meetings with Dean Dorsey, and I have worked to make sure Franklin’s donors see what an amazing impact they make on all of UGA’s undergraduates. I’ve even had the opportunity to meet President Morehead and a few of Georgia’s lawmakers!

One of the latest things I am incredibly proud of is my participation in the Summer Educational Enrichment Program through Georgia Regents University. I was very fortunate to have been selected to spend seven weeks shadowing and learning from faculty and staff of GRU. I was able to see so many different types of surgeries and procedures, and I really enjoyed my experience. I have made lifelong friends, and I hope to see them as my colleagues in the future.

Fantastic. Read the whole profile.

Discover UGA Abroad - Austraila


man jumping on rocksIt is the time of year when so many of our students are expanding their academic horizons around the globe. From Costa Rica to Zanzibar, our classrooms are taking the shape of the world. Just yesterday, I ran into a colleague who had just returned from teaching in one of our programs and he was excited about maymester in Australia:

The program begins with several days in Sydney, considered one of the world’s best cities to live and play, taking classes and local field trips with UGA faculty and Australian experts. In Sydney, we visit iconic places including the Opera House, Harbor Bridge, and Darling Harbor, head to Bondi or Manly beach to explore heritage and tourism conservation, as well as take a free day for independent exploration. We then head north to Queensland for our field trips: We stay on an isolated island eco-resort on the Great Barrier Reef, travel to Noosa and the Sunshine Coast to explore sustainable development and ecotourism issues, visit the Outback at Carnarvon Gorge, and travel to the Gondwanaland rainforest at Lamington National Park. We finish the program in Brisbane, one of Australia’s most vibrant and modern cities. One of the unique features of the program is the activities we have along the way: Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, experience Aboriginal bush life, discover koalas and kangaroos, and hike tropical rainforests, as well as receive guided tours of Sydney and Brisbane.

This sounds like a great experience blending travel with learning - one open to all students, with opportunities for undergraduate, graduate and honors students in Anthropology, Biology, Ecology, Forestry and Natural Resources, Foods and Nutrition, Geography, International Affairs, and Recreation and Leisure Studies. Discover UGA in Australia. 

Developing general education skills


brickman, head shotIn our contemporary campus culture, broadly construed, developing a well-rounded general education can be quite elusive. Though a broad educational experience is a perennial touchstone in strategic plans and commencement speeches alike, pressures for more narrowly defined jobs and career paths upon graduation create a tendency to whittle away at the very broadness we cherish and that we recognize as important.

On Thursday Nov. 7 at 10 am in the Thomas Reading Room of the MLC, one of the leading teachers in the UGA professoriate, Peggy Brickman, will present a public lecture on Scientific Literacy and how university courses help students build it within themselves as a part of their degree programs:

“Individuals use scientific information in many real world situations beyond the classroom, ranging from evaluating sources of evidence used in media reports about science to recognizing the role and value of science in society. Consequently, achieving scientific literacy for all is a core rationale for science coursework as part of general education (Gen Ed) requirements for undergraduates. But, how do we go about helping students develop those skills? Are courses chock full of content a mile wide and an inch deep helping to produce student with these real life skills? Or do they produce students with a false view of science as a grab bag of facts to be memorized and experiments that reconfirm existing ideas? I’m interested in teaching students to use biology in their own lives, and for the rest of their lives. I’m also interested in finding ways to measure students’ scientific literacy so I can demonstrate the value added to spending a semester in a Core General Education Science Course.”

Emphasis mine. These are extraordinarily important tenants of a healthy society. Even as we put graduates on the path to particular careers, we remember that all of our courses should also be built with the idea of training an engaged citizenry that will face many complex decisions, both personal and societal. Part of the university experience is to help prepare them for this challenge. One challenge for higher education is to strike a balance with these non-competing interests.

Image: Peggy Brickman, courtesy of UGA Photographic services.

Faculty in the News, September '13


Schermafbeelding newspaper pageHere's a sampling of Franklin College faculty writing and quoted in the media this month:


“The secret bromance of Nixon and Brezhnev” – Posting by associate professor of history Stephen Mihm in Bloomberg News, picked up by the History News Network.

Museum of Natural History adds to its collection


The Georgia Museum of Natural History is a unit of the Franklin College that links collections, research, public service, and education through programs designed for a diverse audience. Many Franklin faculty also serve as museum personnel and board members. Faculty, staff, and students from across campus have built significant collections in natural history through their research that, together, represent the most comprehensive in Georgia. These collections play an important role in the teaching mission of the University as well as in public service and outreach. 

In May 2013, the museum added hundreds of specimens of marine mammals and other animals to its research collection from the Northeastern University Vertebrate Collection in Nahant, MA.. These specimens include skins, skulls, postcranial skeletons, and fluid-preserved materials. The United Parcel Service played a crucial role in the shipping of this newest part of the collection, and made this terrific promotional video touting the transfer.




Origin of Life


origin of life cartoon depictionThe Origins Lecture Series continues next week with the Origin of Life by series founder and chair of the division of biological sciences, Mark Farmer:

The origin of life remains one of the great unsolved mysteries in all of science.  Late in life Charles Darwin speculated that life may have begun in “a warm little pond” but today we think it more likely that the earliest life forms emerged in the dark depths of the early Earth’s oceans.  Even the simplest of cells is marvelously complex and for this reason there are those who feel that such complexity could not have arisen from natural processes.  In this lecture we will explore the transition from complex biochemistry to simple cells and offer explanations as to how the first free-living life forms emerged to eventually give rise to the riot of complex organisms we find today.

 7 p.m., Wednesday the 20th. These have all been a hit so far and this one promises to be no different. Get to the chapel early.

Origins Lecture Series


convection.jpgThe Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and the the division of biological sciences will host a new lecture series on the UGA campus this spring: The Origins Lecture Series

Since mankind’s earliest days the story of our origins has been one of fascination and inspiration.  In an effort to share that story six of UGA’s leading scientists have come together to present the latest scientific findings on everything from our humble beginnings on the plains of east Africa to the formation of the universe itself.  The Origins Lecture Series is intended for the entire Athens community.  In clear and plain language these talks are geared for those who want to know more about who we are, how we got here, and possibly, where we are going.

We'll have much more to say about this in the coming weeks, including a preview of the first lecture in the series by Loris Magnani of the department of physics and astronomy on the Origin of the Universe on Wednesday, January 23. Congratulations and thanks to Mark Farmer, chair of our biological sciences division, for bringing this important lecture series to fruition.

Study sees coevolution between invasive, native species



Coevolution is the change of a biological object triggered by the change of a related object. And up until now there has been little evidence of it driving changes in Earth's history, though that, too, seems to be changing:

A new University of Georgia study shows that some native clearweed plants have evolved resistance to invasive garlic mustard plants—and that the invasive plants appear to be waging a counterattack. The study, published in the early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is thought to provide the first evidence of coevolution between native and invasive plant species.

"The implications of this study are encouraging because they show that the native plants aren't taking this invasion lying down," said study author Richard Lankau, assistant professor of plant biology in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. "It suggests that if you were to take a longer view—a timescale of centuries—that exotic species could become integrated into their communities in a way that is less problematic for the natives."

Kannan receives NSF Career award




Congratulations to Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scholar Natarajan Kannan, whose work tracing the origins of a protein family that plays a key role in communicating environmental signals in the cell has been recognized by the National Science Foundation:


[Kannan]will use $969,822 provided by the NSF CAREER Award program over the next five years to gain an in-depth understanding of the evolution of kinases, a protein that controls cellular signaling pathways. The results could help researchers develop new strategies for treating a variety of diseases.

Predicting risks of extinction



Brachiopods are marine shell fish that have hard "valves" (shells) on the upper and lower surfaces. The Ordovician is a geologic period and system, the second of six of the Paleozoic Era, and covers the time between 488.3±1.7 to 443.7±1.5 million years ago. Both are crucial to understanding a new study from Franklin scientists:

A team of scientists analyzed more than 46,000 fossils from 52 sites and found that greater numbers did indeed help clam-like brachiopods survive the Ordovician extinction, which killed off approximately half of the Earth's life forms some 444 million years ago. Surprisingly, abundance did not help brachiopod species persist for extended periods outside of the extinction event.

Study co-author Steven Holland, a professor of geology in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, said the seemingly paradoxical finding suggests that predicting which species are at risk of extinction is an extremely dicey endeavor.

"This study shows that extinction is much more complicated than generally realized," said Holland, whose findings appear in the current issue of the journal Paleobiology. "It turns out that a lot of extinction events are idiosyncratic; there are a specific set of circumstances that come together and dictate whether something goes or doesn't."