The University of Chicago


DAC 2015 :: BSD faculty recognized :: 2015 NSF Graduate Research Fellowships :: UChicago Weekend :: Grad student Andrew Gehrke's research in the news :: Midstates 2014 :: myCHOICE kickoff :: Discover UChicago

2015 Divisional Academic Ceremony

Seventy-three PhD students in the Biological Sciences Division graduated during the academic year 2014-2015. Several events in their honor took place on Thursday June 11, and Friday June 12, 2015.

Martin Chalfie's Public Lecture

Martin Chalfie, PhD, Nobel laureate, Chemistry 2008, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor at Columbia University, delivered the DAC address on Friday, and gave a public lecture titled GFP: Lighting up life the previous day. During the lecture, while explaining the process of discovering the scientific merits of GFP, Chalfie discussed what he thought he knew about science before becoming a scientist, what he has learned about science to date, and how most of those early assumptions, based mostly on popular culture, were false.

He concluded the lecture highlighting how in his experience the most important scientific results are somewhat accidental (here, he quoted Enrico Fermi, "if the result confirms the hypothesis, then you've made a measurement. If the result is contrary to the hypothesis, then you've made a discovery"), and how fundamental is the role of universities in allowing scientists to conduct basic research. In this regard, he quoted Fermilab's first director Robert Wilson, and his answer to a Congress' question on how the new accelerator would affect the nation's security: "It has nothing to do directly with defending our country except to help make it worth defending." 

Chalfie, What my research has tought me Chalfie, Wilson's Quote Chalfie posing with a child and his dad

Left: Chalfie's slide, What my research has taught me

Center: Chalfie's slide, Wilson's quote

Right: Chalfie and two members of the audience, Willard Sharp, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, and his son William Zachary (Zach) Sharp

Dinner at the Drake

A gala dinner honoring the graduates took place on Thursday evening at the Drake Hotel in downtown Chicago. The graduates and their guests, as well as members of the Dean's Council, faculty and administrators, mingled during a cocktail reception, and enjoyed a delicious dinner (the main course was sea bass) in a beautiful ballroom, a well-deserved treat for a major accomplishment.

Dinner at the Drake Group picture at the Drake

Left: Dinner at the Drake

Right: Smiling graduates

The Divisional Academic Ceremony

The actual 2015 Divisional Academic Ceremony (where the hooding occured) took place on Friday June 12, 2015 at the Logan Center for the Arts. The ceremony was opened by Kenneth Polonsky, Dean of the Division of the Biological Sciences, Professor of Medicine, who welcomed the graduates and their guests, and introduced Martin Chalfie's address. Richard Hudson, Professor of Ecology and Evolution, was the 2015 Faculty Marshal, and Victoria Prince, Dean and Director of the Office of Graduate Affairs, Professor of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, announced the graduates with their dissertation titles while they ascended to the stage to receive the blue PhD hood. After Dean Polonsky pronounced the closing remarks, everyone had lunch in the Logan Center court yard, huddled under large, white tents: the rain didn't affect the celebratory mood of the group.

After the DAC ceremony Richard Williams IV and Mark Westneat

Left: After the DAC, in the Logan Center

Right: Spring 2015 graduate Richard Williams IV, Computational Neuroscience, and faculty mentor Mark Westneat, Professor of Organismal Biology and Anatomy

Divisional and Departmental Awards

During the hooding ceremony, several awards were announced. Marcelo Coca Perraillon (Public Health Sciences), Maureen Patricia Cetera (Developmental Biology), Michael Eneo Powers (Microbiology), Steven William Kregel (Cancer Biology), Benjamin Dewart McDonald (Immunology), David Randall Blair (Genetics), and Paul Anthony Volden (Molecular Metabolism and Nutrition) were awarded for outstanding performance in their research fields.

Natasha Bloch Morel (Ecology and Evolution) and Aya Darinka Pusic (Neurobiology) received the 2015 Award for Best Dissertation in the Division of the Biological Sciences. Aya was also awarded the Committee award for outstanding performance in the general field of Neurobiology.

To all our graduates, congratulations and best wishes for your future endevor by the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs: please, keep in touch, we love to hear from our alumni.

Several BSD faculty recognized for their excellence

This year's Distinguished Faculty Award Winners, selected amongst many excellent nominees in seven award categories by the members of the Faculty Advisory Committee, were announced on May 15.

Among the awardees are: Nancy Schwartz, PhD Professor of Pediatrics, as Distinguished Leader in Diversity and Inclusion; Sliman Bensmaia, PhD Assistant Professor of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, and Paul Sereno, PhD Professor of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, as Distinguished Investigators (Junior and Senior awards); and Phoebe Rice, PhD Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, for excellence in basic science education.

Two of the awardees are UChicago alumni: Blasé Polite, MD (AB 1991, AM 1992) received the Distinguished Clinician award, and Alexander Langerman, MD (SM 2015, Public Health Sciences), was selected as Distinguished Leader in Program Innovation.

The accomplishments of the winners were celebrated at the annual awards ceremony and reception, taking place on Monday June 8, 2015 at the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine.

Another BSD faculty has been recently recognized: Ilaria Rebay, PhD Professor, Ben May Department for Cancer Research, has received one of the 2015 Quantrell Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. Established in 1938, the Quantrell Award is believed to be the nation’s oldest prize for undergraduate teaching. Based on letters of nomination from students, the award is among the most treasured by faculty.

Warm congratulations to all the awardees!

Nancy Schwartz Ilaria Rebay

Left image: Nancy Schwartz (right) receives the Distinguished Leader in Diversity and Inclusion award from Harriet de Wit (left) during the annual award ceremony

Right image: Ilaria Rebay, Quantrell awardee, 2015

2015 NSF Graduate Research Fellowships announced


The results of the 2015 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship competition have been announced on March 31st.

Five of our students have been awarded: Anastasia Beiriger (Developmental Biology), Chris Craddock and Ashley Rich (Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology), Katherine Silliman (Evolutionary Biology), and Ayse Tenger-Trolander (Ecology and Evolution).

Five other students have received honorable mentions: Benjamin Blanchard (Evolutionary Biology), Nathan Buerkle (Neurobiology), Andrew George (Integrative Biology), Katherine Leon (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology), and Matt Smith (Ecology and Evolution).

NSF received over 16,000 applications for the 2015 competition, and made 2,000 fellowship award offers.

Congratulations to the awardees and honorable mentions!

GRFP logo NSF logo

UChicago Weekend, March 8-10

Admitted students from diverse backgrounds were invited back to campus to get to know each other, and interact with faculty and current students. The two days were full of science as well as social events, and culminated in the reception on Monday night with keynote speaker Melissa Gilliam, MD, MPH, Professor of Obstetrics/Gynecology and Pediatrics and Dean for Diversity for the Division of the Biological Sciences.

Among other initiatives, BSD admitted students, as well as current students, participated in a Career Panel that included the alumni that are following a very different professional path: Adam Koch, senior scientist at Abbott Laboratories, Wen Lu, postdoc at Northwestern University, Rabiah Mayas, science director at the Museum of Science and Industry, Rada Sarac, associate professor at Purdue University Calumet, and Sean Sheridan, associate principal at Charles River Associates

UChicago weekend career panel

Modern genetics confirm ancient relations between fins and hands

Andrew Gehrke and his lab mates have finally been able to document the evolutionary adaptations necessary for ancient lobe-finned fish to transform pectoral fins used underwater into strong, bony structures.

The research, recently published on PNAS, has received vast media coverage: Andrew has been quoted in The Washington Post and interviewed by NPR's Joe Palca for Joe's Big Idea.

Read more

Autopod-building genetic switches

Midstates Symposium, November 7-8, 2014

Over 100 students and faculty convened to Chicago from around the Midwest in occasion of the 2014 Undergraduate Research Symposium of the Midstates Consortium for Math and Science.

On Friday night, the partecipants enjoyed a mexican buffet-style dinner in the ballroom of the Holiday Inn Downtown Chicago. Dinner was followed by two lectures by key note speakers Cathryn Nagler (UChicago Bunning Food Allergy Professor ), and Phoebe Lostroh (Colorado College professor of Molecular Biology and 2014 Janet Andersen Award Winner).

Saturday events took place in BSLC: research talks and posted presentations by the students were interspersed by occasions to mingle with fellow students, graduate students and faculty during breaks. Two panels occured after lunch, one about graduate school (lead by a panel of current graduate students) and one on careers at liberal arts institutions.

The meeting closed at 5 with final remarks by Elizabeth Grove, professor of Neuroscience and Midstates representative for our university.

Midstates 2014

myCHOICE kickoff, October 13-17, 2014

Our new myChoice program, supported by the NIH Best Award, was launched with a series of exciting talks, such us:

Joseph Moskal, Adventures in Academic Entrepreneurship and Drug Discovery

Philip Clifford, What Got You Here Won't Get You There

Kelly LeMarco, Connie Lee, Fabiola Rivas, Science Communication: From the Front

To learn more about this program, visit:


DISCOVER UCHICAGO October 9-11, 2014

For the first time, prospectives students from traditionally underrepresented populations were offered an expenses-paid opportunity to explore graduate education in the Biological Sciences Division (BSD), and visit our beutiful city and campus. The partecipants, who applied in the summer and were selected by BSD faculty, experienced a weekend of graduate admissions workshops, research presentations, and informal socials with faculty and graduate students.

The initiative was a great success, and will be repeated next year.

To learn more and apply:DiscoverUChicago
Discover UChicago

2015 Application deadline:
August 14, 2015


News Archives 2014

News Archives 2013

News Archives 2012

(back to the top)