Microbiology Professor Named Board President of National Accrediting Agency

Professor Shauna C. Anderson[Microbiology & Molecular Biology] Shauna C. Anderson, professor in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Biology, was recently elected president of the Board of Directors for the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences.

Anderson directs the Clinical Laboratory Science Program at BYU which trains students to be clinical laboratory scientists/medical technologists in the healthcare profession. BYU is one of 228 accredited CLS programs in the country, and with 98 majors, is one of the largest (half are in hospitals with as few as five students).

"There's a serious shortage of laboratory professionals," Anderson said. "There are about 2,000 bachelor-level CLS graduates each year and the country could use 5,000 laboratory professionals. We have a great program at BYU. The average pass rate for the National Certification Exam is 79%; over the past five years, 100% of BYU students have passed."

Fairbanks New Dean of Undergraduate Education

Professor Daniel J. Fairbanks[Plant & Animal Sciences] Daniel J. Fairbanks of the Department of Plant & Animal Sciences was recently named Dean of Undergraduate Education at BYU. He will supervise and foster the university-wide baccalaureate degree, including General Education, the Honors Program, University Writing and the First-Year Experience, plus Freshman Academy and New Student Orientation.

Fairbanks is a nationally-respected geneticist and is currently the U.S. leader of BYU's international project for the genetic improvement and conservation of quinoa (see cover story). Dan is a noted artist with talents in sculpting, painting, literature and languages.

 A member of the BYU faculty since 1988, Fairbanks has received many commendations from his students and fellow faculty members, including all-university research and teaching awards.

Crayfish Not Endangered After All

CrayfishA population genetics study by a PhD student in the College has confirmed that a rare species of crayfish is not endangered as was perceived, but rather quietly thriving. The crayfish live in caves in the southeastern United States.

By comparing the genetics of the cave species with that of crayfish in streams and rivers, student Jennifer Buhay and her advisor Keith Crandall, professor of molecular and integrative biology, found that the cave dwellers actually have more robust populations than their surface-dwelling cousins, which are considered stable.

"The provocative conclusion of the paper is that the cave species of crayfish, which are seldom seen and therefore considered highly endangered, actually have much larger effective population sizes when measured through population genetics," Crandall said.

"The implications of this type of research are very broad," Crandall explained. The Nature Conservancy decides how and what to protect, and the Department of Interior determines species to be protected under the Endangered Species Act. This type of analysis gives you reliable answers

NIH Provides Grant to Study Nerve Cell Formation

Professor Michael Stark with student Niki Winters[Physiology & Developmental Biology] Professor Michael Stark (Dept. of Physiology & Developmental Biology) has received a five-year $1.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. Stark and his students intend to shed light on how vertebrate life-forms develop from a single fertilized egg into an organism of almost infinite complexity. They are focusing on how some cells signal one another to become nerve or sensory tissues.

"Given recent advances in stem cell and cloning research," Stark said, "it is critical that students with high moral and ethical values be trained to participate in future advances."

 "We're interested in the process that leads cells toward a committed developmental fate," said Niki Winters, one of Stark's ten undergraduate students (shown with Stark above). Niki plans to pursue an MD/PhD program this fall, and has been accepted to many of the nation's top schools.

 Results from Stark's research will be important for future advances in the fields of neuroscience, and developmental and cancer biology.

College Receives $1.4 Million Grant to Study Wildfire Recovery and Prevention

Wildfire[Integrative Biology] Bruce Roundy, professor in the Department of Integrative Biology, and a dozen of his students are part of a $13 million federal research program to study ways to reduce catastrophic wild fires. Roundy will supervise BYU's $1.4 million portion of the grant.

"Over the past century, our fire-fighting efforts have resulted in overgrown wild lands with large amounts of fuel," Roundy said. "We are now at risk for large, catastrophic fires, with weed invasion afterwards."

The Joint Fire Sciences program, administered by the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, National Parks Service and other federal agencies, is designed to help land managers use disturbances like controlled burns and tree-cutting to improve and restore the health of wild lands in the Great Basin and throughout the country.

In addition to impacts on vegetation, the multi-disciplinary team from Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Utah will explore fire's effects on hydrology, birds, insects, economics, and human perceptions and sociology.

College Team Lands $2.1 Million Grant for Biodiversity Research in Patagonia

Patagonia[Integrative Biology] Four professors in the Department of Integrative Biology received a $2.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to study biodiversity in Patagonia, the southernmost region of South America. Understanding factors that shape the region's biodiversity will be crucial to conservation efforts and government policies.

Jerry Johnson, the grant's primary investigator, estimates that about 15 BYU students will be involved each year. "We're excited for our students to join the next generation of scientists in international research," he said. The project brings together more than 100 scientists and students in Chile, Argentina, Canada and the U.S.
Professors Jack Sites, Keith Crandall and Leigh Johnson are co-investigators. Their proposal was one of 12 chosen for funding among 173 submissions from major universities throughout the U.S.