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2018 K-INBRE Symposium
Speaker Biographies


Prachee Avasthi, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, Kansas

Title: A tale of two actins: Significant functional overlap of divergent actin isoforms in the unicellular green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii

Prachee Avasthi is an Assistant Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology and of Ophthalmology at the University of Kansas Medical Center. She is also founder and organizer for a peer-mentoring community for junior faculty called New PI Slack and serves on the Board of Directors at the open access journal eLife, the preprint advocacy organization ASAPbio, and on the steering committee for Rescuing Biomedical Research. Her lab uses chemical biology, biochemistry, genetics and quantitative live cell imaging to uncover novel mechanisms regulating assembly of the ubiquitous cellular antenna, the cilium. In 2018, she was awarded an NIH R35 Outstanding Investigator Award to advance this work.

James Beck, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Wichita State University, Wichita, Kansas

Title: RADseq techniques can be applied to DNAs derived from plant museum specimens

James Beck is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Wichita State University. He is a botanist and evolutionary biologist, and teaches courses in botany, ecology, evolution, and bioinformatics. His research is focused on accurately establishing plant biodiversity, which involves using morphological and molecular data to determine how many units of biodiversity (species, lineages, populations) are present in a given group of plant individuals. These projects increasingly involve genomic data, and many of his current projects focus on obtaining genomic data from previously collected plant museum specimens. His research has been supported by the NSF, Kansas NSF EPSCoR, and the K-INBRE Bioinformatics Core.

Adam Smith, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas

Title: Wired for social relationships

Adam Smith is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology and Neuroscience Program at the University of Kansas. He received his MA from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and PhD from Florida State University. During his graduate career, he was awarded a number of highly-competitive and prestigious fellowships from the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and American Psychological Association. He conducted research that highlighted the role of neuropeptides in regulating social behavior necessary for social monogamy in primate and rodent species. He also completed a postdoctorate at the National Institute of Mental Health as a Richard J. Wyatt Fellow and developed neurogenetic tools to study cognitive processes associated with close relationships, including social memory and decision making. Now, the Smith Lab studies the neuroscience of social attachment by exploring the natural ecology of the socially monogamous prairie vole to identify the mechanisms underlying social bonding, social conflict, consoling behavior, and social loss.

Congrong "Ron" Yu, Ph.D.

Investigator, Stowers Institute for Medical Research, Kansas City, Missouri

Title: What is critical in the critical period of olfactory system development?

Congrong “Ron” Yu is an Investigator at Stowers Institute for Medical Research. He received his PhD in Cellular, Molecular, and Biophysical Studies at Columbia University, where he worked with Lorna Role on the electrical properties of cells. As a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia, he took the plunge into genetics and molecular biology in the lab of Richard Axel, who cloned the first odorant receptors, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2004. In Axel’s lab he worked on figuring out how pheromones dictate behavior. In 2005 he joined Stowers as an Assistant Investigator, exploring the biology of behavior. One of Dr. Yu’s achievements was figuring out how a pheromone causes an electrical signal to race up to the brain. Currently, his lab is working on tracing the circuit into the brain to understand how information is processed. This will not only explain how chemical signals can lead to specific behaviors, but also help illuminate how the other senses work, which may lead to a deeper understanding of the biology underlying our own desires and actions.