2011 in Biochemistry

Jan 4th, 2012


2011 in Biochemistry



The start of the New Year saw Dr. Phil Davis step back into a job that he was familiar with as he became Acting Head of Department following Dr. Martin Mulligan whose term as Head had ended.  We also welcomed new graduate student, Kayode Balogun.



The Department was saddened to learn of the passing of one of our undergraduate students, Deborah Fowler, on Feb 02.  Deborah was awarded her B.Sc. posthumously at Fall Convocation.



Dr. Paola Marignani, from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Dalhousie University, was finally able to visit the department and present a seminar on her research into Estrogen Receptors.  Winter weather in February had forced a postponement to her trip.



On the first of April, Dr. Mike Hayley started his appointment as Adjunct Professor.

Dr. Craig McCormick from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Dalhousie University visited the department and presented a seminar on his research into Autophagy and Senescence.

The Biochemistry Society held a very successful end-of-year formal one week later than originally planned – our never-ending winter weather this year was responsible for the delay.

An international potluck dinner was held to recognize Dr. Mulligan’s service as Head of Department from 2004-2010.  Dr. John Robinson “toasted” Dr. Mulligan; Anne, Betty Ann, and Christine recited a poem composed for the occasion; and Dr. Mulligan was presented with a gift from members of the department.



At the University Service Awards Ceremony on May 19, two members of staff were recognized: Barry Walters was recognized for 25 years, and Henry Murphy (retired) was recognized for 30 years at Memorial University.  In addition, Dr. Dave Heeley was recognized for 20 years of service as a faculty member.

The big event in May was Convocation as we said goodbye to 18 B.Sc.(Hons.) graduates, 55 B.Sc. graduates, and 16 students with Minors.  We also said goodbye to Mitch Browne and Varatharajan Vamadevan who received their M.Sc. degrees.  Joy Zhong was awarded the Governor General’s Gold Medal at this session of Convocation (she received her degree in Fall 2010).  Other awardees at Convocation were: Victoria Linehan (the University Medal for Academic Excellence in Biochemistry, the University Medal for Academic Excellence in Behavioural Neuroscience, and the Captain Robert A. Bartlett Science Award); Michael Davis (the Grace Morgan Prize in Biochemistry (Nutrition)); and, Omar Abdel-Razek (the Society of Chemical Industry Merit Award (Biochemistry)). 

George Furey was a double degree conferee.  In addition to his B.Sc in Biochemistry, he was also conferred with a B.A. in Political Science, and he was awarded the University Medal for Academic Excellence in Political Science, the Chancellor’s Undergraduate Award, and the Fry Family Foundation Undergraduate Leadership Award.

At the department’s annual Convocation Reception, the Head’s Prize was awarded to Omar Abdel-Razek and Lesley McIntyre, the Brosnan Prize was awarded to Victoria Linehan, and the Mookerjea Prize was awarded to Michael Davis, Victoria Linehan, Francis Mackey, Lesley McIntyre, Jonathan Mong, Sandeep Muram, Megan Richards, and Daniel Wadden.

Convocation week also saw visits to the department from two distinguished speakers.  Dr. Marcus Clark (Department of Medicine at The University of Chicago) delivered a seminar on Genetic and Epigenic Regulation of B Lymphopoiesis.  Nobel Laureate and Honorary Degree recipient Dr. Sidney Altman (Sterling Professor of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at Yale University) delivered a lecture on the Origin of Life.



Once again the department participated actively in the Campus Food Bank’s 12 Days of Giving Annual Food Drive.   For the fifth year in a row, we earned the top total points and were rewarded with a coffee break donated by the food bank.



The Department participated in the Meet Memorial program for the first time.  The event was organized and run by staff members Donna Hunt, Marie Codner, Barry Walters, and Craig Skinner.  Visitors were able to observe the isolation of DNA from strawberries, see a demonstration of the power of soap to cover a liquid surface, tour the Communal Research And Instrumentation Group room, and watch presentations on plant sterols in food by graduate student, Zhuliang Tan.

Dr. Valerie Booth was re-appointed to her Canada Research Chair as of the beginning of the month. 



The Department of Biochemistry was greatly saddened by the sudden and unexpected death on August 9 of graduate student, Nancy Camarillo Sepulveda. 

The first Biochemistry Summer Symposium, which was organized by our Graduate Student Society, was held on 18 August 2011 at the Fluvarium.  Nine talks by graduate students and 5 posters from undergraduate summer students were presented.  James Pius took first prize for the best graduate student talk with Nicole Smith as runner-up; Timothy Hynes took first prize for the best undergraduate poster with Luke MacMillan as runner-up.  Dr. Simon Sharp – who graduated from the department with a B.Sc.(Hons.) in Biochemistry/Cell Biology, and who is now Canada Research Chair in Molecular Structure and Function at the University of Toronto – gave the keynote address to conclude the Symposium.



September brought some changes to the personnel in the department.  Dr. Bud Hulan retired as of the start of the month after 22 years at Memorial.  While a member of the department, Dr. Hulan took leave to lead the Provincial Task Force on Agrifoods, and later to serve as MHA for St. Georges (1993-96), during which he was appointed the Province’s Minister of Fisheries, Food and Agriculture (1994-96).

We welcomed seven new graduate students: Craig Ayre, Shemul Dev, Quanquan Li, Jonathan Moulton, Nishani Perera, Maaran Suntharamoorthy, and Yanbo Yang. 

Dr. Valerie Booth was promoted to Associate Professor at the start of the month.



The Faculty of Science held its annual awards and recognition ceremony on October 5.  Among those named to the Dean’s List during the ceremony were 51 Biochemistry majors.  Biochemistry students who received the Lou Visentin award, which recognizes outstanding students named to the Dean’s List for four consecutive years, were: Michael Davis, Sarah Dinn, Victoria Linehan, Francis Mackey, Noelle Marsh, Lesley McIntyre, Jonathan Mong, Sandeep Muram, Megan Richards, and Daniel Wadden.  The Dean of Science Book Prize, which is awarded on the basis of academic excellence to a student in each department, was presented to Maria Powell.

Dr. Krista Power, a graduate of the Biochemistry Department  (B.Sc. (Hons.) ’00) received the Horizon Award at this year's Alumni Tribute Awards Ceremony for exceptional achievement under the age of 35.  She is currently a research scientist with Agriculture and Agrifood Canada and adjunct professor at the University of Guelph and at the University of Toronto.

At the Fall session of Convocation, Anoma Chandrasekara and Zhuliang Tan were each conferred with their PhDs, and Mahzad Sharifahmadian was conferred with her M.Sc. 

As part of Memorial University's I Love MUNdays celebration, we contributed to the Community Youth Network's Street Reach program by raising approximately $150 in toiletries and personal care items for at-risk youth.  We also raised funds for the Alzheimer Society through participation in the annual Alzheimer Society Coffee Break and by way of Dr. John Robinson’s participation in his third annual Cape-to-Cabot run.

The month ended with a first ever Hallowe’en Photo Scavenger Hunt organized by our Graduate Student Society.  The event was capped off with a treats and coffee slide-show to review the results.



Dr. Richard Lehner from the Department of Pediatrics and the Department of Cell Biology at the University of Alberta visited the department and presented a seminar on his research into the Regulation of Lipid Metabolism.

The department was saddened to learn that our colleague, Sailen S. Mookerjea, passed away in his sleep on 18 November 2011.   Dr. Mookerjea was recruited to Memorial University in 1976 and served as Head of Biochemistry from 1978 until 1986. He received the award of University Research Professor in 1987.  He retired in 1996 and was subsequently appointed Professor Emeritus in the department.

Throughout the month, three of our graduate students (Craig Ayre, Jason Robinson, Bimal Tenakoon) got into the Mo-vember spirit by growing moustaches to raise awareness for prostate cancer.  They raised over $300 for their team and for the cause.



As always, December was a quiet month!  Until the end, that is.  For the first part of the month exams were being written and then they were being marked.  To celebrate the end of all this and the start of the holidays, department members held a festive party for the season on Dec 22, during which our second annual White Elephant gift exchange took place.