Fascinating insights into how an inorganic compound found its way into human microbial systems provide the background of this new study authored by microbiology doctoral student Stephen LaVoie :
Published in December in the Journal of Biological Inorganic Chemistry, the research looked at how inorganic and organic mercury affected specific molecular processes.
Inorganic mercury from the ore cinnabar was used for centuries against infections; in modern times, humans synthesized organic mercurials as antimicrobials, such as merthiolate.
"Today, most human exposure to inorganic mercury is from dental fillings, and organic mercury exposure is from methylmercury in fish," said study co-author Anne Summers, a microbiology professor in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.
Organic mercury exposure is associated with neurological disease, LaVoie explained, whereas inorganic mercury is known to cause neurological, kidney and autoimmune diseases. However, the molecular basis for their distinct toxicity profiles was not understood.
Owing to concern about fish consumption, most research has emphasized organic mercury, assuming it was more toxic, LaVoie said. But comparing them on key cellular processes, he found that inorganic mercury "caused more damage at lower concentrations than organic mercury."
This work is separate though also of a piece with other recent important work at UGA on bacterial organisms. The thorough-going impact of the microbiome - whether human or deep ocean - on the health of our world and our bodies is all but certain. How it begins to affect our interactions with our ecology and our biology is yet to be determined, but the work of microbiologists is central to determining how that action proceeds. Following work like this, even for a layperson, you get the sense that scientists are gaining a better focus on the bigger picture. Exciting stuff, slowly unfolding through tireless work in the labs. Congratulations to LaVoie on this work and lead authorship on this publication.
Jorge Escalante of the department of microbiology conducts an extensive research operation into one of the most complex challenges in health science - biosynthesis of the coenzyme B-12. The National Institutes of Health, longtime supporters of his investigations, this fall renewed a prestigious long term commitment to this important research:
The MERIT, Method to Extend Research in Time, award is an extension of $2.1 million to an initial five-year award announced in 2010. It will support Escalante's research through 2020.
One of the most complex coenzymes in nature, B-12 is an essential human nutrient that is produced by many, but not all, microorganisms. Its impact on human health ranges from the development of the nervous system in infants to the prevention of diseases related to the metabolism of fats. Human pathogens such as salmonella require B-12 to establish intestinal infections.
"Our coenzyme B-12 work benefits from important collaborations with structural biologists and spectroscopists. Such collaborations allow us to look in detail, from a biophysical and structural standpoint, into how the proteins involved in the assembly of B-12 work. We are trying to learn how the organisms synthesize this very complex molecule, which is the focus of the grant," said Escalante, a UGA Foundation Distinguished Professor in Microbiology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.
Because Escalante's laboratory in the department of microbiology focuses on one of the most fundamental questions of biology, the investigations provide extraordinary training opportunities for developing scientists even as they seek solutions to basic questions.
A truly important important last point that we were glad to learn about. Not only are Escalante's research endeavors showing real progress, as acknowledged by NIH; they are also providing critical training ground for the next generation of research scientists. There is perhaps no better situation than learning from a tenacious researcher who believes in his science and in sharing his knowledge. Great opportunitities for our students, including undergraduates, who consistently find slots in his lab. This another example of leading edge research attracting some of the best young scientists in the world while at the same time advancing the capabilities of medical science. Congratulations to Dr. Escalante, his team and to our department of microbiology.
Image: Jorge Escalante, right, works at a lab enclosure with his senior graduate student Norbert Tavares. (Credit: Robert Newcomb/UGA)
Augusta native and double Franklin major (A.B. economics, B.S. biology) has been involved in research, as well as many other activities, since he started at UGA:
Since my first semester here at UGA, I have been involved with the Roosevelt Institute, a national student policy think tank with chapters at over 100 universities across the country. Working with Roosevelt, I have conducted policy research with faculty members in a variety of disciplines, including public health, economics and education. I’ve conducted research on the economic feasibility and public health implications of a large-scale implementation of needle exchange programs to address Russia’s HIV epidemic, presenting this work at the UGA CURO Symposium in the spring of my freshman year. My sophomore year, I focused on something closer to home: the educational disparity between English learners and native English speakers in Georgia schools. My policy solution was that Georgia should subsidize the implementation of dual-language immersion programs in public schools in districts with a large percentage of English learners. This policy research was then published in the national 10 Ideas for Education journal, in which the top 10 policy ideas from college students around the country are published.
Continuing to explore my interests in public health and policy, the summer after my sophomore year, I had a two-month stint as a health policy intern at the Chicago Department of Public Health. My work at the Department of Public Health was a perfect overlap of all of my interests: medicine, economics and public policy. After working with health economists, physicians and public health officials that summer, I know that being a physician and public health policymaker is a career I want to pursue.
A young man with heart and a conscience to go along with a wonderfully blooming intellect. Read his responses in the rest of the Q & A and you realize how UGA inspires people who are already very motivated. A great message for our campus, not to mention the future. Congratulations Rahul and thanks for helping make the university even more amazing.
Spoiler alert: No spoilers herein about the new film whatsoever.
A 40-year-old essay with nearly 9,000 citations on Google scholar is the focus of a series of articles in the Chronicle of Higher Ed that, taken together, present an affirmative case for the humanities, and for understanding how popular art reflects our mores can introduce fascinating revelations that support positive individual and societal change:
40 years later, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" still resonates with students, and still resonates with me. Men and women remain unequal in their relationship to vision, visibility, and action. Reductive models of sexual difference continue to relegate the amazing variety of what people actually do, think, and feel to the shadowy realm of the exception.
"Visual Pleasure" sometimes seems to reproduce the normalization it describes because it focuses on a very conventional form. The essay’s limitations are real, but they also reflect real limitations; four decades later, we cannot celebrate the essay’s anniversary by declaring it an artifact of a distant, bygone era. But we can celebrate by returning to the essay itself. I think you will find, as I did, that just as lived experiences of masculinity and femininity are much weirder than the Hollywood versions, so too is this subtle essay richer and stranger than the image we have made of it.
What will critical, scholarly reactions to the new Stars Wars film tell us about present society - our fascination with science fiction, violence and video games, virtual reality, fear of the future and each other? Look to your friendly fillm studies department, comparative literature colloquium, English department brown bag lunch discussion. It's not that all the answers are there, but the free-question zones in our humanities and arts classrooms strike up the band in the hearts and minds of students, brings us closer to who we are, why we like what we do and where we're going and who we want to be.
May the Force Be With The Humanities.
From a Red & Black article on how graduating in December provides a leg up in beginning careers:
“I am at somewhat of an advantage because when I start in my position in December, I will be one of two people entering the firm that early," she said. "I will stand out in the work force because there is not a wave of candidates coming in with me in May.”
Webb reminded students who are on track to graduate early that they do not have to end their college careers once they reach 120 credit hours.
“If you finish classes early, take a trip abroad and explore other programs,” Webb said. “If you have time to fill, fill it with all that UGA has to offer.”
That is advice that we fully endorse and echo without reservation: get everything you can out of your university experience (emphasis on universe). That word has been utilized for centuries to describe this educational context for a reason and not a coincidence. During thier time on campus, students are building something magnificently their own and UGA provides as many tools as they need to make the journey as great as they want it to be.
Congratulations December graduates.
Image: Spring 2015 commencement photo, via the R & B.
Oysters in Georgia (Geoysters?) have a healthy past and now their future is also looking strong, thanks to the efforts of UGA Marine Extension:
Marine Extension has opened the state's first oyster hatchery, which is expected to revive the once-thriving oyster industry in Georgia.
The hatchery will help establish an oyster aquaculture industry in Georgia, allowing harvesters to farm single oysters that can be sold on the half-shell, a lucrative market fueled by rising restaurant and consumer demand. Located on Skidaway Island, the hatchery is expected to produce between 5 million and 6 million spat, or baby oysters, per year by 2018. Experts at the UGA Shellfish Research Laboratory have calculated that these oysters will be worth an estimated $1.6 million when harvested.
Funded through 2016 by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Coastal Management Program, the hatchery emerged from a collaborative effort between UGA Marine Extension specialists, resource managers with the DNR, the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the Georgia Shellfish Growers Association.
"I'm incredibly proud of our first-ever oyster hatchery in the state," said Mark Risse, director of UGA Marine Extension, a unit of the university's Office of Public Service and Outreach. "We hope to grow the oyster industry and allow farmers to produce oysters in a faster, more cost-effective way."
An engineering faculty member and expert in soil and water conservation, Risse is among UGA's best teachers, researchers and leaders. His involvement at the helm of this outreach and economic development project provides more rich perspective on the impact of the university beyond the classroom. Very good work all around and we look forward to this bounty for many reasons but most of all: we love Geoysters!
On Friday morning and afternoon, more than two thousand undergraduate and graduate students will walk in the fall UGA Commencement ceremonies:
The undergraduate Commencement ceremony is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. in Stegeman Coliseum, and tickets are required. The graduate ceremony will follow at 2:30 p.m.
Donna W. Hyland, president and chief executive officer of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, will deliver the fall undergraduate Commencement address.
Madeline Hill of Decatur will be the student speaker during the undergraduate exercises. She is receiving a bachelor's degree in sociology with honors from the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.
The university's graduate Commencement will feature Cheryl Davenport Dozier, the 13th president of Savannah State University. In her current role, Dozier has worked to expand the institution's global engagement, foster community partnerships and improve customer service. Under her leadership, enrollment has reached an all-time high.
We are especially happy to welcome Dr. Dozier back to UGA, where she spent so much of her career prior to becoming president of SSU. We are very proud to be the academic home to Madeline Hill as she represents her graduation class with remarks from the stage. To the 300 doctoral candidates and 765 students receiving their master's or specialist's degrees, we offer hardy congratulations on a job well done. Our very best to all the graduates and their families this Friday on this very special time in their lives and in the life of the University of Georgia.
WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE now enjoys a new adventure in classical Latin, courtesy of Franklin Professor of Classics Emeritus, Rick LaFleur.
The new first-ever translation into Latin of the beloved book by LaFleur, UBI FERA SUNT was published by Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, Inc. in December 2015. LaFleur will hold a book signing on Wednesday Dec. 16 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. at Avid Bookshop in Athens.
The lively translation faithfully recasts Sendak’s writing into classical Latin. It includes the beautifully re-mastered images employed in the fiftieth anniversary edition.
First published in 1963, WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE has sold more than 20 million copies to date and inspired the creation of a host of offspring, including children's toys, dolls, and puppets, board and video games, a 1980s children's opera, co-scripted by Sendak, as well as other musical compositions, and the much praised 2009 feature film adaptation, directed by Spike Jonze. The book has earned countless recognitions, including the 1964 Randolph Caldecott Medal for "the most distinguished American picture book for children."
It has been translated into numerous other languages, including French, German, Spanish, Hebrew, and even Finnish, but never until now into classical Latin.
“I hope that Mr. Sendak would have considered this modest Latin rendering of his perpetually charming classic to be a compliment, as it is most certainly intended, and also that lovers of what I affectionately dub "The Mother Tongue" will cherish this volume just as so many readers have enjoyed the Latin versions of such other children’s classics as Winnie Ille Pu (Winnie the Pooh), Cattus Petasatus (The Cat in the Hat), and Alicia in Terra Mirabili (Alice in Wonderland),” LaFleur said.
The community of microorganisms in the world's oceans turn out to be the most important control mechanisms of how the Earth functions. Understanding their function and behavior will leverage our grasp on how the Earth will adjust to broad environmental changes, says Mary Ann Moran in a review article in the journal Science:
The ocean microbiome covers the majority of the Earth's surface, extending an average of more than 2 miles deep to the sea floor. Made up of an extraordinary diversity of microorganisms, the ocean microbiome was one of the first microbiomes to be studied. As its distribution and makeup become better understood, questions about its functional capabilities under stress have grown.
"Marine microbes make up a vast biological network," said Moran, a Distinguished Research Professor in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. "Microbes are responsible for virtually all the photosynthesis that occurs in the ocean, as well as the cycling of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and other nutrients and trace elements. They literally run the oceans."
The article recounts the history of investigations into the microbial communities that populate the ocean—and, critically, help supply a large proportion of the oxygen in the atmosphere.
"A consistent link is emerging between ocean temperature and both the composition and productivity of microbes inhabiting surface seawater," she wrote in Science. "Earth's changing climate will affect characteristics of the ocean microbiome."
Investigations of the ocean microbiome already have a rich history, which has presented breakthroughs and far-reaching epiphanies. But just like our understanding of the role of microorganisms in the human body, the mysteries of the ocean microbiome continue to reveal implications and connections that permit a deeper understanding of the system, its capacities and how it works in concert to achieve health and balance. Hopefully this expanded knowledge begin to affect human behavior and the consideration we give to our interactions with these broad, overarching systems. By all accounts and especially Dr. Moran's in this important publication, it's an exciting time to be a marine scientist.
Image: Mary Ann Moran off the coast of Sapelo Island. (Credit: Peter Frey/UGA)