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    Hello! Welcome to Breakthroughs, a site devoted to sharing with you the latest, greatest advancements from the College of Science at Oregon State University. From breakthroughs in research to transformational philanthropy to interesting tidbits from the daily life of the College, we'll post frequently to keep you up-to-date. Please visit often and absolutely let us know what you might like to learn more about. Enjoy, and of course, GO BEAVS!
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Archive for the ‘Biochemistry & Biophysics’ Category

Holding Out Hope

Posted by The College of Science at OSU on May 28, 2011

Holding Out Hope: A tenacious scientist’s quest for the causes of Lou Gehrig’s disease

David Stauth
terra Magazine

Doctors do not know for sure what causes ALS. They don’t know how to slow its progression. They certainly don’t know how to cure it. Researchers debate among themselves and trade theories in science literature. Dedicated doctors, nurses, therapists, aides and especially family members work to reduce suffering and treat symptoms, but the disease is debilitating, progressive and terminal.

In the middle of this quandary is Joe Beckman, an Oregon State University professor of biochemistry, holder of the Ava Helen Pauling Chair in the Linus Pauling Institute and director of the widely recognized OSU Environmental Health Sciences Center.


Posted in Biochemistry & Biophysics, Linus Pauling Institute | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

“I love what I do”

Posted by The College of Science at OSU on October 30, 2008

Co-winner of the 2008 Beaver Champion Award for outstanding effort and achievement of the highest quality, Ahern blends a zest for life with modern technology to help students overcome their fears of biochemistry and, at the same time, find their passions.

“I want them to feel hopeful,” said the Midwest native who made a conscious choice to teach and not to research when he earned his doctorate from OSU in 1986. “I work at getting them over the hump of fear and foreboding and into the lab, investigating new stuff. That’s exciting, that’s cool.”

Read the whole article at Life@OSU

Posted in Biochemistry & Biophysics | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

OSU Receives Grants to Study Cellulosic Ethanol

Posted by The College of Science at OSU on August 19, 2008

The USDA and Department of Energy recently announced plans to award 10 grants totaling more than $10 million to accelerate research in biomass genomics to further the use of cellulosic plant material for bioenergy and biofuels. Scientists at OSU are to receive two of the grants, totaling $2.4 million.

Assistant Professor of Botany, Todd Mockler says:

“Ethanol made from cellulose, instead of a food crops such as corn, is clearly one direction the future of biofuels is headed. These projects will all lay the groundwork for applied studies in this field, and give us the fundamental knowledge we need to make cellulosic ethanol more efficiently and help it become a working reality.”

Posted in Biochemistry & Biophysics, Botany & Plant Pathology | Leave a Comment »

Where’d I Put My Keys? The Dog Might Remember.

Posted by The College of Science at OSU on March 24, 2008

Associate Professor Tory Hagen studies mitochondria, stress response mechanisms and aging. He’s a biochemist in our Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, and is also a member of the Linus Pauling Institute. With colleagues from the University of Toronto, University of California/Berkeley, Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, and Juvenon, Inc., he has discovered that nutritional supplements successfully improve the memory, ability to learn and cognitive function of old dogs – and might be able to do the same thing with humans.

Click here for the full journal article:

Faculty from a few departments in the College of Science are members of the Linus Pauling Institute. The relationship between the two units is so close that our new science center, the Linus Pauling Science Center, will be home to LPI, some of the department of chemistry as well as life science instructional facilities. The building will house equipment used by both units, as well as colleagues across campus. Here’s a bit more info on LPI, including a link to subscribe to their newsletter:

The Linus Pauling Institute’s mission is to:

  • Determine the function and role of vitamins and essential minerals (micronutrients) and chemicals from plants (phytochemicals) in promoting optimum health and preventing and treating disease
  • Determine the role of oxidative and nitrative stress and antioxidants in human health and disease
  • Help people everywhere achieve a healthy and productive life, full of vitality, with minimal suffering, and free of cancer and other debilitating diseases.

Posted in Biochemistry & Biophysics, Linus Pauling Science Center | Leave a Comment »

Yet Another Coup for Biochemistry and Biophysics

Posted by The College of Science at OSU on March 12, 2008


Congratulations to Kevin Ahern! And great news for all of the students who have the good fortune to work with him…

Kevin, a senior instructor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, received the Mentor Award from the Medical Research Foundation of Oregon in November, 2007.

“Kevin has touched the minds and souls of thousands of OSU students, helping them to develop and pursue careers in medicine and biomedical research,” said Dr. John Fitchen, chair of the Medical Research Foundation Committee.

Click here to read more!

Posted in Biochemistry & Biophysics | Leave a Comment »

Beaver Nation, Wa-hooo!!

Posted by The College of Science at OSU on February 16, 2008

Tari Tan, one of our very best and brightest, was named a member of the All-USA College All-Stars this week.

Tari is a biochemistry/biophysics student. We are veeeery proud of her.

 Go Beavs!

Posted in Biochemistry & Biophysics | Leave a Comment »

Vitamin E trials not so much

Posted by The College of Science at OSU on January 18, 2008

Balz Frei, the Director of the Linus Pauling Institute (which will share the new science center with our chemistry faculty), and a member of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, has this to add to the ongoing debate on the efficacy of Vitamin E:

Posted in Biochemistry & Biophysics | Leave a Comment »

Revealing how life works at the molecular level

Posted by The College of Science at OSU on January 17, 2008


The Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics faculty (BB is fun!)
Below, Dr. Andy Karplus, new department chair.

Here are a few thoughts from Andy on the department, whose mission is Revealing How Life Works at the Molecular Level:

karplusMy name is Andy Karplus and my research specialty is protein crystallography—figuring out the three-dimensional structure of proteins and from those structures deciphering how they carry out their specific functions. My current projects include work on the enzyme causing Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and pursuing our “floodgate” hypothesis describing how one enzyme family helps regulate cell growth and development through controlling intracellular hydrogen peroxide levels. I received my PhD at the University of Washington in 1984, completed a four-year postdoc in Freiburg, Germany, and then was on the faculty at Cornell University for ten years before choosing to move my program to Oregon State in 1998.

The Department attracted me from Cornell in 1998, and from where I sit as the new chair, I can tell you this is an amazing time and place. As research into the molecular aspects of life becomes increasingly important to breakthroughs in human health, agriculture, environmental sciences, and even engineering and nanotechnology, so does the mission of our department. Our two-fold goals of educating students and carrying out forefront research in Biochemistry and Biophysics have never been more important to the success of Oregon, the nation, and the world.

Our students give friends and alumni much to be proud of:

  • Students in the Biochemistry and Biophysics (BB) major at OSU pursue one of the most challenging scientific programs in the College of Science. Spanning both the physical sciences (chemistry and physics) and the biological sciences (biology, genetics, and microbiology), the program provides our students with broad and yet rigorous training for careers in biomedicine.
  • As the number of students at OSU has grown from about 14,000 students to 18,000 in the past ten years, the number of BB majors has grown even faster, nearly doubling from about 70 majors to approximately 130 today.
  • BB majors are campus leaders and represent the best and brightest students in the state of Oregon. They enter OSU with average SAT scores that are 160 points above the University average, and compete with the very best in the nation.
  • From the years 2004-2006, five of the six Goldwater scholars in the entire Oregon University System were BB majors from OSU.
  • BB majors have also performed superbly in achieving their career goals. Each year, at least 50% graduate with the distinction of cum laude or higher, and of the last 37 BB majors to apply to medical school, 35 have been accepted, with the other two still in the application process.
  • In addition to the training of our BB majors, we educate over 1000 students per year in general biochemistry.

In other highlights, BB faculty maintain active research programs that brought in $2.5 million in external funding last year. Areas of focus include revealing the mechanisms that allow cells to move during wound healing, the relationships between oxidative stress and cancer, the structure and function of a motor protein that is required for cell division and development, the regulation of the production of the building blocks of DNA, and the biochemistry of chromatophores and camouflage. Our newest assistant professor, Michael Freitag, is revealing how chromosomes are recognized for proper cell division, and our research program has been greatly strengthened through the addition of Linus Pauling Institute faculty Balz Frei, Tory Hagen, and Joe Beckman with research programs focussing on micronutrients and health, aging, and neurodegenerative disease. Having faculty doing cutting-edge research and a vibrant PhD program strengthens our undergraduate program both because faculty are not just teaching from the textbooks but from the current advances, and because our undergraduates then can personally participate in research as part of their training.

Posted in Biochemistry & Biophysics | Leave a Comment »