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Marshall University - Biological Sciences Newsletter
Aug./Sept. 2014

Please Welcome Dr. Jennifer Mosher and Dr. Herman Mays

    Dr. Jennifer Mosher hails from NE Ohio and received her BS in Biology from Florida Atlantic University. She earned her MS in Biology from Youngstown State University, addressing the effects of organic pollutants (PAHs and PCBs) from the steel industry on riverine microbial communities. She performed her PhD work in Biology at the University of Alabama, focusing on the role of geological formations on shaping microbial communities in streams. She then worked as a Post-doctoral Research Associate at Oak Ridge National Lab studying microbial-mediated metal reduction, microbial community response to mercury contamination in stream sediments, and the effects of hypoxia in on bacterial and archaeal communities in the Gulf of Mexico. She next went to Stroud Water Research Center for two years, supported by a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, where she studied the influence of terrestrially-derived dissolved organic matter on the structure and function of streambed bacterial communities. Dr. Mosher is looking forward to starting her research program at Marshall, and will focus on aquatic microbial communities and biogeochemistry in the Ohio River basin.

    West Virginia is not altogether unfamiliar to Dr. Herman Mays, whose family history in WV and Eastern KY dates to least the mid-19th century. Born in Cincinnati, OH, he grew up in Lexington, KY. The family regularly visited his grandparents in Logan, WV, and he grew to love Southern Appalachia for both its people and its biodiversity. Dr. Mays earned a BS with a major in Biology and a minor in Anthropology from the University of Kentucky (UK). After a brief stint as a laboratory technician, he then attended graduate school at UK, where he received his PhD in Evolutionary Ecology in 2001. He next became a NSF post-doctoral researcher at Auburn University, until he was hired as faculty at Georgia Southern University. Feeling too far from extended family in KY, in 2007 he accepted the curatorial position in zoology at the Cincinnati Museum Center, where he managed a zoological collection of approximately 200,000 specimens and established the museum’s first molecular genetics laboratory. He was also adjunct faculty at Thomas More College, Xavier University, and the University of Cincinnati, where he taught undergraduate courses in general biology, genetics, and evolution. The common thread throughout his research program has been the application of molecular genetic tools to answer basic questions about animal behavior and biodiversity. He's happy at the lab bench and in the field, and the current core of his research program is uncovering the evolutionary history of the birds of East Asia, while remaining involved in collaborative research projects on everything from freshwater stingrays to penguins to salamanders to rhinoceroses. Dr. Mays welcomes students interested in employing molecular genetic tools to peer into the evolutionary history of wild organisms at the levels of genes, populations and species.

Stuffed Cells by Zedmalia Wolfe
The scientifically-correct adventures of an archaean, a plant cell, and an animal cell.

Stuffed Cells cartoon

BSC and Med School Faculty Members Invent New Chemo Assay

    BSC's Dr. Jagan Valluri and MU School of Medicine's Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio have developed ChemoID, a new diagnostic test that helps doctors determine which kind of chemotherapy drug is best suited for each patient. Tumor cells removed from a patient are treated with several different standard of care chemotherapy drugs to determine which drug will kill not only the bulk of the cancer tumor but also the cancer stem cells (CSCs) that are known to cause cancer to recur. Targeting of CSCs alongside the bulk of other cancer cells is a new paradigm in cancer treatment. This not only allows the most effective drug to be chosen for each person's cancer before treatment begins, but it also exposes the patient to fewer, potentially less-effective drugs. Beginning September 1, the ChemoID test will be available to be performed at Cabell-Huntington Hospital's Edwards Cancer Center on cancer samples sent in by doctors nationwide.

What Are They Doing Now? Update on BSC alumna Tashina Savilla Elswick

    Tashina (Savilla) Elswick, from Cabin Creek, WV, earned her BSC BS in December 2007, and a BSC MS in December 2009. Her MS research examined how often dogs are infected with one of four common intestinal parasites, yet show no symptoms. She also explored whether these parasitic infections in dogs resulted in infections in humans. Her research resulted in the publication "Tashina M. Savilla, James E. Joy, Jeffrey D. May, Charles C. Somerville, Prevalence of dog intestinal nematode parasites in south central West Virginia, USA, Veterinary Parasitology 178(2011):115-120." After completing her MS at Marshall, Tashina was accepted into the College of Veterinary Medicine at Mississippi State University in Starkville, MS, where she worked hard and took as many externships as possible, in order to get hands-on experience with all kinds of animals. She graduated from that program in May 2014, having passed the Board exams to become Dr. Elswick! In June, Tashina joined a private veterinary practice in Biloxi, MS, and she and husband Tommy moved to nearby Gulfport.

Sigma Xi Grants-in-Aid Available

    The Sigma Xi research society sponsors research experiences for both undergraduate and graduate students by awarding grants of up to $1,000. Funding may be used to support travel expenses to a research site, or for the purchase of necessary research equipment. The fall application deadline is October 15. For complete information on this opportunity, visit Sigma Xi's website.

Brag Box An abbreviated list of recent BSC student and faculty accomplishments:
  • Alexandria Brannick completed her BSC MS in May under the direction of Dr. Robin O'Keefe. Her research assessed size and shape differences through time in dire wolf jaws recovered from the Rancho La Brea tar pits, located in Los Angeles, CA. Alex has now joined Dr. Greg Wilson's paleontology lab at the University of Washington, in Seattle, for research that will examine possible paleoecological changes in early mammals across the Cretaceous-Tertiary time boundary.
  • Welcome Back! We hope you've had an enjoyable summer!

    Selected BSC Contact Information

    Dr. David Mallory, BSC Chair S-350 (304) 696-2353
    BSC Graduate Program Information   (304) 696-2427
    BSC office, TA applications, various forms S-350 (304) 696-3148
    Susan Weinstein, BSC News S-204 (304) 696-2428


    Download pdfs of this or any past issue of the Biological Sciences Newsletter by clicking on the archive links to the right.

Department of Biological Sciences | One John Marshall Drive | Science Building 350 | Huntington, WV 25755 | (304) 696-3148