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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics

Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics
141 Chalmers Hall
1711 Claflin Rd.
Manhattan, KS 66506
785-532-7278 fax

Biotechnology Core Facility
206 Burt Hall
785-532-6297 fax

Biomolecular NMR Facility
37 Chalmers Hall

Recent Department Achievements

"First Graduating Class of BMB Medical Biochemistry Majors Achieve 100% Acceptance to the University of Kansas School of Medicine"

Image of six students accepted to KU from left to right: Natalie Ost, Matthew Brettmann, Samuel Broll, Tate Gilchrist, Mackenzie Wahl, and Garrison Olds.

Photo by Maxwell Braasch

The Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics is pleased to report that all of its undergraduate majors who applied to the 2021 Class of the University of Kansas School of Medicine were accepted. The students are in order left to right: Natalie Ost, Matthew Brettmann, Samuel Broll, Tate Gilchrist, Mackenzie Wahl and Garrison Olds. All six of these seniors participated in the recently developed Medical Biochemistry track, which BMB created in 2013 for its undergraduate students. This curriculum allows biochemistry students who desire a career in medicine or other health-related fields to both prepare for entrance exams and focus their classroom study on subject matter that will comprise their first year of medical, veterinary or nursing school. In 2016, the overall acceptance rate for US applicants to in-state medical schools was 60.6%, so K-State BMB's 2017 acceptance rate of 100% was well above the norm. (Read full pdf article.)

Alumni Note

  • D. Fernando Estrada (B.S. 1999) was featured in ASBMB Today, a publication of the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, as the Research Spotlight on May 1.

Faculty Achievements

  • John Tomich is featured in K-State news as Phoreus Biotechnology licenses his team's bio-delivery technology known as BAPCs. K-State Today.
  • John Tomich and Gerald Reeck recognized for their work in developing "nanomaterial that delivers targeted, lethal rations to insect pests." K-State Today.
  • Gregory Finnigan received an NIH Kansas-INBRE grant for "Molecular analysis of septin function during MAPK-mediated cellular transitions", May 1, 2018 - April 30, 2020. ($218,042)

Student Awards and Scholarships

  • Simranjot Bawa (grad, E. Geisbrecht) received a Graduate Student Council Travel Award ($450) to attend the Society for Developmental Biology 77th Annual Meeting in Portland, OR, July 20-24.
  • Yanan Xhou (BMB grad, Yang - Biology) received a Graduate Student Council Travel Award ($400) to attend ASV 2018, the American Society for Virology 37th Annual Meeting, at the University of Maryland in College Park, July 14-18.
  • Erianna Basgall (undergrad, Finnigan) was awarded the American Society for Microbiology Undergraduate Research Fellowship ($6000) for summer 2018.
  • Wolf Blaser, Samantha Goetting, Ethan Kallenberger, Haley Lindell, Mackenzie Penny, and Marta Stetsiv (BMB Undergrads) received Junior Merit Awards from Gamma Sigma Delta the Honor Society of Agriculture.
  • Micah Meyer (BMB undergrad) was selected as a member of the Chimes Junior Honorary for 2018-2019 school year. announcement
  • James Houghton (BMB undergrad) received the $1000 Michael E. Brown Alpha Tau Omega Mortar Board Leadership Scholarship. announcement
  • Michelle Coca Mora (undergrad, Gorman) received the James R. Coffman Award of Excellence in Research Honorable Mention for first year students in the Developing Scholars Program.
  • Carolina Fonte, Reina Garcia, Sarah Gillaspie, and Madeline Woodard (BMB undergrads) have been elected to the Kansas State University Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa academic honor society. Spring 2018
  • Bailey Porter (BMB undergrad) selected for the Staley School of Leadership Studies 2018-2019 class of Snyder Leadership Legacy Fellows. announcement
  • Vaithish Velazhahan, (BMB undergrad, Schrick - Biology) was the first K-State student and one of 35 US students to receive the Gates-Cambridge Scholarship in 2018. This scholarship covers the full cost of studying at Cambridge while pursuing a full-time postgraduate degree. announcement
  • Nicole Green (grad, E.Geisbrecht) was featured in Genes to Genomes, a blog from the Genetics Society of America, as an Early Career Scientist Leadership Spotlight on February 13.
  • Madison Schrock (BMB), Rachael Giersch (Biology), and Megan Goeckel (microbiology) in Finnigan's lab, have received Arts & Sciences Undergraduate Research Awards for Spring 2018.
  • Simranjot Bawa (grad, E. Geisbrecht) received the Heart Research Award ($5000) from the Johnson Cancer Research Center for "Defining the role of Drosophila dTRIM32 in cardiac muscle development".
  • Vaithish Velazhahan, (BMB undergrad, Schrick - Biology) named finalist for Marshall scholarship. announcement
  • Vaithish Velazhahan, (BMB undergrad, Schrick - Biology) received an OURCI Undergraduate Research Award ($1000). announcement
  • Alexandria Bontrager (microbiology, E. Geisbrecht) won SPARK Tank for an OURCI Undergraduate Research Award ($1000). announcement
Fall 2017 K-State Johnson Cancer Center Undergraduate Cancer Research Awards

Announcement. BMB undergraduate and mentor unless otherwise noted.

  • Eric Aube – Mentor: Katsura Asano (Biology) - "Translational control of mRNA bearing AAACA motifs by translation factor eIF3, an essential multi-subunit protein involved in tumorigenesis"
  • Alexandria Bontrager (Microbiology) - Mentor: Erika Geisbrecht - "Towards understanding how NUAK influences the balance between insulin signaling and cancer"
  • Yusuf Ciftci – Mentor: Revathi Govind (Biology) - "Deciphering SinR-SinR' interactions in Clostridium difficile"
  • Jennifer Coats (Chemical Engineering) – Mentor: John Tomich - "Altering the assembly protocol of peptide nano-capsules to facilitate the intra-cellular release of encapsulated cargo"
  • Kelsey Ferguson – Mentor: Ryan Rafferty (Chemistry) - "Unlocking blood-brain barrier transport –Treatment of brain cancers"
  • Sarah Gillespie – Mentor: Katsura Asano (Biology) - "Translational control of repeat-associated non-AUG translation by 5MP, an emerging oncogenic protein"
  • Micah Meyer – Mentor: Chingakham Singh (Biology) - "Adeno-associated virus control of host translation through eIF5-mimic protein"
  • Seth Peery – Mentor: Kathrin Schrick (Biology) - "Origin of flavonoid anticancer compounds in charophycean green algae"
  • Emily Roggenkamp - Mentor: Gregory Finnigan - "Development of CRISPR/Cas gene editing tools to study the cell cycle in a yeast system"
  • Marta Stetsiv - Mentor: Erika Geisbrecht - "Identifying targets of conserved microRNAs that are misregulated in cancer"
  • Vaithish Velazhahan – Mentor: Kathrin Schrick (Biology) -"Role of flavonoids in modulating transcription factor activity involved in cancer progression"
  • Kyler Weingartner – Mentor: Kathrin Schrick (Biology) - "Rhamnose synthase and its role in glycosylating flavonoids that are anticancer compounds"
  • Emily Wessel – Mentor: John Tomich - "Selective delivery of fungicides using branched amphipathic peptide capsule"


  • Nicole Green successfully defended her doctoral thesis, "The biological ‘Six Degrees’ of muscle and immunity: using Drosophila to uncover new intersections in tissue maintenance," on May 3, 2018. Major professor: Dr. Erika Geisbrecht.
  • Michal Zolkiewski gave an invited seminar, "Molecular Chaperone ClpB: Protein Disaggregase Becomes a Novel Antimicrobial Target" on April 3, 2018 at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA.
  • Ho Leung Ng gave an oral presentation, "Identifying drug binding sites on proteins from surface conservation and fragment docking" on March 19 at the 255th American Chemical Society National Meeting in New Orleans, LA. March 18-22, 2018.
  • Nicoleta Ploscariu successfully defended her doctoral thesis, "Novel Staphylococcal Inhibitors of Neutrophil Granule Enzymes," on April 5, 2018. Major professor: Dr. Brian Geisbrecht.
  • Brandon Garcia gave an oral presentation, "Molecular Mechanisms of Classical Pathway Complement Evasion in Borrelia Spp." on January 23 at the 2018 Biology of Spirochetes Gordon Research Conference in Ventura, CA. January 21-26.
  • Mark Boatwright successfully defended his doctoral thesis, "Near infrared quantitative chemical imaging as an objective, analytical tool for optimization of the industrial processing of wheat" on December 1, 2017. Major professor: Dr. John Tomich. Supporting Professor: Dr. David Wetzel, Grain Science.
  • Susan Whitaker successfully defended her masters thesis, "Dynamics of peptide capsules in saline solutions" on November 30, 2017. Major professor: Dr. John Tomich.
  • Yan Shipelskiy successfully defended his doctoral thesis, "Gram-positive heme acquisition," on
    November 17, 2017. Major professor: Dr. Phillip Klebba.
  • Randi Wise successfully defended her doctoral thesis, "The Role of the Secretory Pathway and Cell Surface Proteolysis in the Regulation of the Aggressiveness of Breast Cancer Cells," on November 9, 2017. Major professor: Dr. Anna Zolkiewska.
  • Simranjot Bawa successfully defended her masters thesis,"Exploring the molecular mechanisms of Drosophila dTRIM32 implicated in pathogenesis of Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy 2H," on
    November 7, 2017. Major professor: Dr. Erika Geisbrecht.

Research and Exhibitions

  • Maureen Gorman presented a poster, "Characterization of Transferrin-1 from Drosophila melanogaster," April 21-25, 2018 at ASBMB '18 in San Diego, CA.
  • Anne Dykeman (undergrad, Davis) will present "Fatty Acid, Phospholipid and Sterol Composition of Salt Cedar (Tamarix spp.) Roots" at Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol in Topeka on February 14. announcement
  • Timothy Durrett presented a poster, "Targeted metabolic engineering of Camelina sativa to synthesize high levels of industrially useful lipids," by Jose Aznar-Moreno, Linah Alkotami, Cathering Kornacki, Tam Tran-Nguyen, Shahna Campbell, and Timothy Durrett, on January 12 at the USDA-NIFA Annual Meeting in San Diego, CA.
  • Michal Zolkiewski presented a poster, "Interaction of Substrate-mimicking Peptides with the AAA+ Atpase ClpB from Escherichia coli," by Chathurange Ranaweera, Przemyslaw Glaza, and Michal Zolkiewski, on January 13 at the Midwest Stress Response and Molecular Chaperone Meeting in Evanston, IL.
  • Ho Leung Ng presented a poster, "Computational tools for discovering allosteric Ras inhibitors," December 6-8 at The Second RAS Initiative Symposium in Frederick, MD.