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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

"BMB 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 this year’s K-State BMB acceptance rate of 100% was well above the norm. (Read full pdf article.)

Faculty Achievements

  • 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)
  • Anna Zolkiewska received a Fall 2017 Johnson Cancer Center Innovative Research Award for "The role of Protein ADP-ribosylation in Anti-tumor Immunity" ($31,000)

Student Awards and Scholarships

  • 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
  • Eric Aube, James Houghton, and Hannah Schauf (BMB undergrads) were seleceted as 2017-2018 members of Mortar Board Senior Honor Society. announcement
  • Tate Gilchrist, Faith Rahman, and Hannah Schauf (BMB undergrads) were inducted into Phi Beta Kappa academic honor society. Spring 2017 announcement
  • Nicole Green (grad, E. Geisbrecht) received a Sarachek Scientific Travel Award ($2000). announcement
  • Vaithish Velazhahan (BMB undergrad, Schrick - Biology) named 2017 Barry M. Goldwater Scholar. announcement
  • Erianna Basgall and Emily Turnquist (undergrads, Finnigan) received K-INBRE awards ($3,600) for the 2017-2018 academic year.
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"


  • 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.
  • John Tomich gave an oral presentation, "Peptide Bilayer Delimited Nano-Capsules: A Robust Intracellular Delivery System," on November 16 at the Fall Retreat for the External Advisory Committee for the Nebraska Center for Integrated Biomolecular Communication COBRE (NIH) at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, November 15-17.
  • Maureen Gorman gave an invited seminar, "Iron transport in insects," on November 10 at Metropolitan State University in Denver, CO.
  • 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.
  • Lawrence Davis was a lead trainer for Environmental Analytical Chemistry at J.E. Purkinje University,
    Usti nad Labem, Czech Republic, Nov 7-9. In addition he was a consultant for their reaccreditation of their PhD program in Environmental Analytical Chemistry. The topic of Davis’ talk was “Sources of Error and Value of Replications: history and current practice.” Ganga Hettiarachchi was also a trainer at this event. The program is sponsored by NATO’s Science for Peace grants program. Participating universities are located in Ukraine, Croatia, Kazakhstan, Czech Republic, and Kansas (K-State). The grant is specifically focused on clean-up of contaminated, current and abandoned, military lands.
  • 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.
  • Maureen Gorman presented a talk, "Functional and Phenotypic Analysis of Transferrin from Drosophila melanogaster," on November 7-8 at Entomology 2017: Ignite. Inspire. Innovate. in Denver, CO.
  • Mark Boatwright (grad, Tomich) gave a talk, "Quantitative Chemical Imaging of Individual Heterogeneous Flour Streams and Their Weight Combinations within a Thumbnail Field of View," on October 10 at the 2017 meeting of the American Association of Cereal Chemists International in San Diego, CA, October 8-11.

Research and Exhibitions

  • Anna Dykeman (undergrad, Davis) will present "Fatty Acid, Phospholipid and Sterol Composition of Salt Cedar (Tamarix spp.) Roots" at Undergraduate Research Daay 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.