Roy J. Carver Department of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology

Nikolau Group - News Archive

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News & Updates Archive

NSF-JST Review
December 6, 2016
Nikolau group members Alexis Campbell and Basil Nikolau participated in the NSF-JST assessment held December 2 at NSF headquarters. NSF-JST is a joint program between the National Science Foundation and the Japan Science and Technology Agency whose purpose is to study metabolomics for a low carbon society.

Click photo for larger image.

New Plant Journal article
September 2, 2016
Congratulations to Luda Rizhsky, Adarsh Jose and Basil Nikolau on their new Plant Journal article, Integrating metabolomics and transcriptomics data to discover a biocatalyst that can generate the amine precursors for alkamide biosynthesis, epublished ahead of print on August 6.

Nikolau presents at international lipids symposium

June 13, 2016; updated June 15, 2016

Basil Nikolau was an invited speaker at the International Symposium on Lipids Science and Health held May 26-27 at the Oil Crops Research Institute of Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science (CAAS) in Wuhan, China.

His presentation addressed recent advances in identification and characterization of plant cell biocatalytic components that comprise fatty acid synthase, and illustrated how these catalytic machines can be bioengineered to impact global sources of dietary fats and oils and improve human health.

The meeting culminated in the signing of a statement of multi-lateral international collaboration among fourteen institutions in six countries, including Iowa State University, focusing on joint research and capacity building. Collaborative efforts will encompass joint application for research support, and technology transfer, encouragement of joint research activities in lipid science, exchange of scientific staff and students, exchange of information and materials, and co-organization of academic conferences.

Click photo for larger image.

Undergraduate wins award
May 10, 2016
Kudos to Hannah Loghry, a Nikolau Group undergraduate researcher, who won the Science with Practice (SWP) Poster Award for "Outstanding Performance in the SWP Poster Presentation." Great job, Hannah!

BBMB Department awards announced
April 22, 2016
Congratulations to Nikolau group members selected by the BBMB Awards and Scholarship Committee:

Good job, Liza, Drew and Michael!

Former REU student named Goldwater Scholar
April 1, 2016
Kevin Tenny, a former CBiRC REU student in the Nikolau lab, has been named a 2016-2017 Goldwater Scholar. Selection for this prestigious award is based on "demonstrated potential for and commitment to a research career in mathematics, the natural sciences or engineering, and outstanding academic performance."

Of his experience with the Nikolau group, Kevin says "My time at the ISU REU was very unique because it was right after my freshman year and I had no research experience coming in. However, I was mentored by Liza Alexander and really learned the ropes on how to work in a lab and thrive in the environment. This experience was very inspirational to continue research during the rest of my undergraduate career and pursue graduate school."

Kevin's ultimate career goal, after earning a Ph.D. in chemical engineering, is to conduct research in electrochemical fuel cells and teach at the university level.

Congratulations and all best wishes, Kevin!

Alexander named NSF Fellow
March 9, 2016
PhD student Liza Alexander has been selected to participate in the U.S. National Science Foundation's East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes (EAPSI) 2016 fellowship program. She will conduct research in Dr. Kazuki Saito's lab at RIKEN-Yokohama in Chiba, Japan, under the guidance of Dr. Yozo Okazaki.

Garg accepts new position
January 26, 2016
Congratulations and all best wishes to Shivani Garg, who has accepted a new postdoctoral position in Dr. Ramon Gonzalez' lab at Rice University, Houston, TX. At Rice, Shivani will work on engineering methanotrophic bacteria to convert methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into useful liquid fuels, such as butanol. The Nikolau group honored Shivani at a farewell potluck on January 25.

Postdoc joins Nikolau group
January 26, 2016
A big welcome to postdoc Ryan Sturms who has joined the Nikolau research group. While here, he will work on an Iowa Energy Center funded project focused on characterizing the lubrication properties of omega-hydroxylated fatty acids.

New PhD student
January 26, 2016
We welcome PhD student Sara Hazinia to the Nikolau group. Sara, whose research interests include plant metabolomics and biochemistry, is in the Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology (MCDB) interdisciplinary graduate program. Welcome, Sara!

New Plant Journal article
September 28, 2015
Congratulations to Xin Guan and Basil Nikolau on their new Plant Journal article, A phosphopantetheinyl transferase that is essential for mitochondrial fatty acid biosynthesis, epublished on September 24.

CBiRC funding extended
September 4, 2015
The National Science Foundation has awarded the Center for Biorenewable Chemicals (CBiRC) an additional three years of funding. Full story.

Goodlaxson rejoins Nikolau group
September 1, 2015
Kenna Goodlaxson rejoined the Nikolau Research Group at the beginning of Fall semster as an interdepartmental genetics MS student. She previously worked with the group as an undergraduate research assistant. Kenna's graduate research project involves exploring genetic redundancies in plants by bioengineering a system in yeast for the production of designer chemicals. Welcome back, Kenna!

Showman appointed to Metabolomics Research Lab
September 1, 2015
Nikolau group postdoc Lucas Showman recently was named assistant manager of the W.M. Keck Metabolomics Research Laboratory at Iowa State University. Congratulations, Lucas. We wish you all the best in your new position!

Associate scientist accepts new position
April 14, 2015
Congratulations and all best wishes to Zhihong Song, associate scientist and assistant manager of the W.M. Keck Metabolomics Research Laboratory, who has accepted a position with the Food and Drug Administration in Washington, DC. The Nikolau research group honored Song at a farewell potluck on April 7.

Plant Lipids Conference
February 9,2015

Click photo for larger image.

Nikolau Research Group members Liza Alexander, Alexis Campbell, Jennifer Chmliewski, Kayla Flyckt, Xin Guan, Adarsh Jose and Basil Nikolau participated in the "Plant Lipids: Structure, Metabolism & Function" Gordon Research Conference held February 1-6 in Galveston, TX.

Stephanie Ikediobi joins Nikolau group
February 9, 2015
Stephanie Ikediobi joined the Nikolau Research Group at the beginning of Spring semster. Stephanie is an interdepartmental genetics MS student, whose research interests include epigenetics, nutrient-gene interactions and metabolism. Welcome aboard, Stephanie!

Yandeau-Nelson promoted to Assistant Professor
September 22, 2014
Marna Yandeau-Nelson was recently promoted to Assistant Professor in the Department of Genetics, Development and Cell Biology. Along with assuming teaching duties, she has established her own independent research group. Yandeau-Nelson had previously served as Associate Scientist with the Nikolau reasearch group. Congratulations, Marna!

Postdoc accepts new position
June 23, 2014
Congratulations and all best wishes to postdoc Wenmin Qin, who has accepted a position as technical account manager with GenScript in Nanjing, China. In her new position, Wenmin will serve as the primary technical source supporting regional sales. The Nikolau research group honored Wenmin at a farewell potluck on June 19.

NSF award announced
May 28, 2014
Congratulations to Libuse Brachova and Fuyuan Jing on being awarded a National Science Foundation grant for their project "SBIR Phase I: Novel enzymes for producing homogeneous preparations of individual, monounsaturated industrial fatty acids." The six-month award will provide $150,000 in support for their start-up business, VariFAS Biorenewables LLC.

Plant Physiology publication
May 15, 2014
Plant Physiology has published a research paper based on a new metabolomics database developed in collaboration between Iowa State University and the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science of Japan. The paper, titled "Metabolomic Characterization of Knock-Out Mutants in Arabidopsis - Development of a Metabolite Profiling Database for Knock-Out Mutants in Arabidopsis (MeKO)," was authored by Atsushi Fukushima, Miyako Kusano, Ramon Francisco Mejia, Mami Iwasa, Makoto Kobayashi, Naomi Hayashi, Akiko Watanabe-Takahashi, Tomoko Narisawa, Takayaki Tohge, Manhoi Hur, Eve Syrkin Wurtele, Basil J. Nikolau, and Kazuki Saito.
Plant Physiol. pp.114.240986; First Published on May 14, 2014; doi:10.1104/pp.114.240986

Former REU student awarded prestigious NSF fellowship
April 2, 2014
Riley Brien, a former REU student with the Nikolau research group, has been awarded a fellowship by the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). Fellows receive a three-year annual stipend of $32,000 plus a $12,000 cost of education allowance, and are free to conduct their own graduate research at their U.S. institution of choice. Out of a field of 14,000 applicants, only 2,000 were selected as GRFP fellows. Congratulations, Riley!

Loomis Lecture & Mini Symposium April 25
March 24, 2014
Details have been announced for the 2014 Loomis Lecture and Mini Symposium Perspectives in Plant Biology be held April 25.

New Professional Award to Marna Yandeau-Nelson
March 17, 2014
Marna Yandeau-Nelson, an associate scientist with the Nikolau research group, was presented this year's New Professional Award at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Spring Convocation held March 12. "Along with mentoring students, she has developed an independent research program to integrate biology and engineering, based on her expertise in maize genetics." Congratulations, Marna!

CALS Dean Wendy Wintersteen presenting award to Marna Yandeau-Nelson

Basil Nikolau with Marna Yandeau-Nelson

Welcome back, Geng!
March 11, 2014
The Nikolau Group is happy to welcome back Geng Ding, who has rejoined the research group after recently returning to the U.S. Geng and her family spent the past two years in Schwetzingen, Germany, where her husband was on overseas assignment with John Deere.

Shivani Garg featured in ISU Foundation Forward magazine
March 3, 2014
In its Winter 2014 issue of Forward magazine, the ISU Foundation features Shivani Garg in the cover article "Entrepreneurism," as well as in an accompanying online video. Shivani, co-founder of start-up company OmegaChea, is a postdoctoral research associate in the Nikolau research group.

Nikolau group welcomes new member
February 27, 2014
Xinyu Fu, a PhD student in the Interdepartmental Plant Biology program, will begin work with the Nikolau research group next week. Xinyu's research interests are the biochemistry and physiology of plant metabolism. Welcome, Xinyu!

Xin Guan to present BBMB seminar
February 3, 2014
Nikolau group PhD candidate Xin Guan will present this week's BBMB seminar, Why does the catabolic organelle, mitochondrion, keep fatty acid biosynthesis? at 4:10pm in 1414 Molecular Biology. Refreshments will be available in the atrium preceding the presentation.

Naazneen Sofeo joins Nikolau group
December 30, 2013
A big Nikolau Group welcome to newest member, Naazneen Sofeo. Naazneen is a biochemistry PhD student, whose research interest is protein structure and function.

Successful PhD defenses
November 22, 2013
Congratulations to Fuyuan Jing, Daolin Cheng and Shivani Garg who successfully completed their defenses during Fall semester and will be awarded PhD degrees in December.

OmegaChea secures business development grant
July 24, 2013
Start-up company OmegaChea has been awarded a $225,000 Small Business Technology Transfer Phase 1 grant by the National Science Foundation. The award will help the company commercialize its biorenewable technology. Congratulations to the OmegaChea team: Shivani Garg, Luda Rizshsky, Marna Yandeau-Nelson, Peter Keeling, and Basil Nikolau. Full story

MS defense
July 24, 2013
Congratulations to Jason Hart for his successful MS defense on July 15. Hart will enroll in the biochemistry PhD program at Colorado State University in Fort Collins this fall.

Nikolau Group photos
July 9, 2013
Nikolau Group members were captured recently during a gathering honoring Huanan Jin. Click for larger images. Photos by Le Zhao.

Nikolau Group photo June 2013
Nikolau Group in the MBB Atrium

Nikolau Group photo June 2013
Huanan Jin & family with Dr. Nikolau

NSF award received
June 28, 2013
Congratulations to Luda Rizshsky and Shivani Garg on receiving NSF funding for their project "STTR Phase I: An Advanced Biomanufacturing Platform Focused on Producing Sustainable Bio-based Commercial Chemicals." The grant provides $225,000 in support for Garg's start-up business, OmegaChea Biorenewables LLC.

Visiting faculty
June 6, 2013
Dr. Tyrell Carr has joined the Nikolau group for the summer as a visiting faculty research intern. While here, he will work with other group members on the hycrocarbons project, which is investigating how maize plants coat their surfaces with cuticle lipids. Carr, who is an assistant professor in the department of biology and physical sciences at Chowan University in Murfreesboro, NC, earned his MS and PhD in interdepatmental genetics at Iowa State.

Postdoc accepts faculty position
June 4, 2013
Effective July 1, Huanan Jin will begin his new position as associate professor at Huazhong Agricultural University in Wuhan, China. Jin has held a postdoc position with the Nikolau research group since completing his PhD in May 2010. As professor, Jin will teach and conduct research on soybean oil biosynthesis and secondary metabolism. Congratulations, Professor Jin!

Grad student launches biorenewables business
May 20, 2013
Congratulations and all best wishes to Shivani Garg, PhD student in the Nikolau research group, on launching her new business, OmegaChea Biorenewables LLC. Read all about it here.

Pappajohn Competition winner
May 8, 2013
Congratulations to grad student Shivani Garg whose business plan was one of three winners at the May 3 finals of the statewide Pappajohn New Venture Student Business Plan Competition. The competition included 14 finalists from ISU, the University of Iowa, the University of Northern Iowa, Drake, and North Iowa Area Community College. Seed grants of $5,000 each were awarded to the top three competitors. Garg's OmegaChea Biorenewables LLC plans are to commercially produce sustainable, bio-based raw materials for detergents, lubricants and polymer manufacturing.

REU students present special seminar
May 7, 2013
On April 22, fourteen REU students who spent spring 2013 semester in the Nikolau lab presented a special seminar program on Fats and Oils. The seminar was the capstone of the students' participation in BBMB 490. More...

Metabolites journal publication
November 9, 2012
The article Medicinal Plants: A public resource for metabolomics and hypothesis development has been accepted and will appear soon in the online journal Metabolites [publication link updated 12/2/12]. Congratulations to authors Eve Syrkin Wurtele, Joe Chappell, A. Daniel Jones, Mary Dawn Celiz, Nick Ransom, Manhoi Hur, Ludmila Rizshsky, Phillip Dixon, Jia Liu, Mark P. Widrlechner and Basil J. Nikolau.

NSF-JST Workshop
October 19, 2012

Click photo for larger image.

Nikolau Research Group members Alexis Campbell, Xin Guan, Lucas Showman and Basil Nikolau spent the past week participating in theNSF-JST Workshop at the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in Ardmore, OK. NSF-JST is a joint program between the National Science Foundation and the Japan Science and Technology Agency whose purpose is to study metabolomics for a low carbon society.

Busy REU summer
August 17, 2012
The Nikolau lab hosted a record number of REU students this summer. Congratulations to Mericia Boutchee, Riley Brien, Reid Claussen, Colin Hueser, Ray Liu, Sara Pederson, Thomas Pires, Yiqun Qiu, Joshua Scaralia and Ryan Wissman on a job well done! And special thanks to REU mentors Libuse Brachova, Alexis Campbell, Jennifer Chmielowski, Fuyuan Jing, Luda Rizshsky, Jennifer Robinson, Lucas Showman and Zhihong Song.

Journal of Bacteriology publication
August 16, 2012
Congratulations to Huanan Jin and Basil Nikolau, whose article "The role of genetic redundancy in Polyhydroxyalkanoate Polymerases in PHA biosynthesis in Rhodospirillum rubrum" is scheduled to appear in issue 20 of the Journal of Bacteriology.

Sam Condon is named Goldwater Scholar
April 2, 2012
Sam Condon, an undergraduate researcher with the Nikolau group, has been awarded a prestigious Goldwater Scholarship for 2012. Sam is a senior majoring in biochemistry at Iowa State. Congratulations, Sam!

NSF awards I-Corps grant to Nikolau team
March 31, 2012
A team made up of Basil Nikolau (PI), Shivani Garg (entrepreneurial lead) and Peter Keeling (mentor) recently learned that they have been selected for an Innovation Corps (I-Corps) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

I-Corps' purpose is to "bring together the technological, entrepreneurial, and business know-how to bring discoveries ripe for innovation out of the university lab."

ISU's project, Novel Bio-Based Chemical Feedstocks for the Polymer Industry, will explore the potential of developing a marketable innovation based on the use of 3-ketoacyl ACP synthase III (KASIII) enzymes.

New members join the Nikolau group
January 19, 2012
The Nikolau group welcomes new graduate students Kiran-Kumar Shivaiah and Bryan Gontarek. Kiran is a first year biochemistry major who joined the lab in January, and Bryan is an interdepartmental plant biology major who is doing a rotation with the group.

The group also welcomes undergraduates Kelsey Schieltz (ChemE) and Garrett Smith (Genetics). Kelsey will be working with Zhihong Song, and Garrett with Alexis Campbell.


New Plant Journal article
January 6, 2012
Congratulations to Geng Ding, Ping Che, Hilal Ilarslan, Eve Syrkin Wurtele and Basil Nikolau on their new Plant Journal article, Genetic dissection of methylcrotonyl-CoA carboxylase indicates a complex role for mitochondrial leucine catabolism during seed development and germination.

November 15, 2011
The National Science Foundation (NSF) and Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) have awarded a "Metabolomics for a Low Carbon Society” Program grant to an international group of researchers headed by Lloyd W. Sumner of the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation and Kazuki Saito of the RIKEN Plant Science Center. ISU’s Basil Nikolau is a co-PI on the project, which will characterize metabolites related to plant biomass and oil production. This is one of four projects funded under the first program ever fully jointly coordinated by NSF and JST. The project will provide research funding for three years, with possibility of a two-year extension.
Link to 12/05/11 ISU News Service story

Article Published
November 14, 2011
Preeti Bais, Stephanie Moon-Quanbeck, Basil Nikolau and Julie Dickerson have received notice from Oxford Journals that their article Plant mass spectrometry-based Arabidopsis metabolomics — database and tools update has been published in Nucleic Acids Research. Congratulations!

November 14, 2011
A big welcome to Kevin Potter, who is doing a research rotation with the Nikolau Research Group. Kevin is a first-year student in the MCDB graduate program.

October 5, 2011
Congratulations to Stephanie Moon Quanbeck on her appointment as Research Associate with the Molecular Characterization, Regulatory group at Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc.
The Nikolau Group honored Stephanie at a send-off party on October 1. All best wishes to Stephanie as she begins her new adventure!

August 24, 2011
Congratulations to Nikolau group members Alexis Campbell and Xiaobin Zheng on successfully defending their theses as the final step in completing their graduate work. Alexis (PhD in plant biology) and Xiaobin (MS in biochemistry) both will continue research with the Nikolau Group. Kudos to Alexis and Xiaobin!

A Busy Summer in the Nikolau Lab
August 24, 2011
The Nikolau group enjoyed a full and productive summer hosting participants in the CBiRC Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program and Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program.

REU student Julia Petrullo, a chemical engineering major at the University of Buffalo, was mentored by graduate student Lucas Showman. Graduate student Shivani Garg provided guidance for REU student Morgan Becker, a biology and mathematics major at Iowa State.

RET program participant Chris Trueba, who teaches biology and chemistry at Los Lunas High School in Los Lunas, NM, was guided through her research project by graduate student Bryon Upton.

Xun Wang Accepts New Position
February 21, 2011
Congratulations to alumnus Xun Wang (PhD Biochemistry, Summer 2003) who recently was appointed vice president of research and development at Sapphire Energy, Inc, in San Diego, CA. The company focuses on green crude production.

Plant Physiology Article Published
February 21, 2011
The Nikolau group article titled Reverse genetic analysis of the two biotin-containing subunit genes of the heteromeric acetyl-CoA carboxylase in Arabidopsis thaliana indicates a unidirectional functional redundancy was published last month in Plant Physiology, and is available online.

Plant Physiology Accepts Manuscript
October 29, 2010
The Nikolau group received notice this week that Plant Physiology has accepted an article for publication. The article, titled Reverse genetic analysis of the two biotin-containing subunit genes of the heteromeric acetyl-CoA carboxylase in Arabidopsis thaliana indicates a unidirectional functional redundancy will appear in an upcoming issue to be announced. Congratulations to authors Xu Li, Hilal Ilarslan, Libuse Brachova, Hui-Rong Qian, Ling Li, Ping Che, Eve Syrkin Wurtele and Basil Nikolau!

Welcome to Prashant (Krishna) Ambilwade
October 29, 2010
The Nikolau group welcomes Krishna Ambilwade, a first-year student in the MCDB graduate program, who began a lab rotation with the group on October 15. Krishna comes to ISU from Mumbai, India, which he affectionately calls "a land of Saints and Gurus."

Journal Article Accepted
September 22, 2010
Congratulations to Ann Perera, Wenmin Qin, Marna Yandeau-Nelson, Li Fan, Philip Dixon and Basil Nikolau on the Nikolau group's most recently accepted article, Biological origins of normal-chain hydrocarbons: a pathway-model based on cuticular wax analyses of maize silks. The article will appear in a future issue of Plant Journal, but you can get a sneak peek of the abstract here.

Dr. Nikolau Invited to International Lipids Conference
August 31, 2010
Basil Nikolau has been invited to present at the 51st International Conference on the Bioscience of Lipids to be held September 7-11, 2010, in Bilbao, Basque Country, Spain. He will chair the September 11 session on Microbial and Plant Lipids, which will include his presentation entitled "An integrated strategy for generating lipid-based biorenewable chemicals: Diversifying fatty acid synthesis with polyketide synthesis biocatalysts."

Welcome to Adarsh Jose
August 29, 2010
A big welcome to Adarsh Jose, the newest addition to the Nikolau research group. Adarsh, who is a second year PhD student in the Bioinformatics and Computational Biology program, comes to us from Kerula, India, by way of Akron, Ohio. Meet Adarsh here.

CBiRC Young Engineer to present
July 27, 2010
Jarmila Tvaruzkova, a participant in CBiRC's Young Engineers Program, will present her research at the regularly-scheduled Nikolau group lab meeting at 10am, July 27. See an interview with Jarmila.

REU presentations
July 22, 2010
CBiRC REU students Emily Lin and Kim-Xuan Nguyen will present the results of their summer research projects at 2pm, July 28, in 1344 Howe Hall. Emily and Kim-Xuan have spent the past several weeks in the Nikolau lab exploring mutagenesis under the guidance of Ph.D. students Shivani Garg and Fuyuan Jing.