EEB buzz -- alumni news
Archived alumni news
Send your news to firstname.lastname@example.org. We're interested in where you're working, your contact information, new publications, awards, honors. If you have a good story to tell, we'd like to hear your latest adventures. We'll publish some of this information on our website. Don't forget photos!
(Ph.D. EEB 2010)
Zhi Wang is an assistant professor at Arizona State University. He is teaching undergraduate genetics, and some graduate level genomics courses. “My major research area is computational genomics and evolutionary medicine, including network biology, and cancer genomics,” Wang said. Wang's advisor at U-M was Professor Jianzhi Zhang.
(Ph.D. EEB 2008)
Javier Ruiz is director of the Biodiversity Project, Nicaragua, a research initiative conducting research in Eastern Nicaragua, and a visiting scholar at Bluefields Indian and Caribbean University (2008 to present).
Ruiz is collaborating with Professor John Vandermeer, U-M EEB, and Dr. Íñigo Granzow-de la Cerda (University of Barcelona, Spain, a former assistant research scientist at U-M EEB) on the study of the regenerating hurricane forests of Eastern Nicaragua.
They are documenting how tropical rainforests regenerate after hurricanes and the resulting fallen trees in closed forest canopies. Their results can be found in two recent publications: Science Direct and the International Journal of Tropical Biology and Conservation.
Previously, Ruiz was visiting scholar in Professor Rodolfo Dirzo’s Lab at Stanford University from February 2012 to May 2012, where he started a collaborative effort with Dirzo to understand the dynamics of rodent species on emerging infectious diseases in humans in Latin America.
They conducted a literature review that is being submitted for revision, and they are developing analytical models to detect and understand the dynamics of these diseases and the implications for human health. This work was funded by a fellowship from the InterAmerican Network of Academies of Sciences and the U.S. Department of State.
Read more on Ruiz's website.
Undine Jost Zengel
(B.Sc. Biology 1984)
We heard from Undine Jost Zengel who wrote this about an article on the Museum of Zoology move in the September 2012 EEB enewsletter: “Thank you so much for this newsletter! The article on moving the collection is particularly interesting to me as my student job was to check both the fluid and bone collections against the old volumes of data. I also worked on numbering bat bones (they have a lot, and very tiny!) as a student and spent many, many hours in the field museum.”
This email got her back in touch with one of her former professors, Phil Myers, who was excited to reestablish a connection with his former curatorial assistant.
Jost Zengel recalls that Walter Cronkite spoke in the stadium at her graduation from U-M. She earned her MBA and MA from Tulane University, New Orleans. She used to be involved with a U-M alumni group 20 years ago, but it broke apart so she was happy to make a connection with her alma mater again.
Over the years, Jost Zengel has worked for Lykes Brothers, an international cargo shipping company, the state Department of Environmental Quality, and in international industrial marketing for Intralox, a large multinational conveyor belt manufacturer. "For the past 11 years, I've been a full-time mom raising my now 13, 11, and 9-year-olds and managing our family. Our oldest is going into high school next year which is a whole new 'ballgame.'"
(Ph.D. EEB 2011)
Ryan Bebej accepted a position as assistant professor in the Biology Department at his alma mater, Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich. He’ll be teaching courses in anatomy, physiology, and evolution beginning in the fall of 2012. “I plan to continue collaborating with folks in the Museum of Paleontology at U-M and will be getting undergraduate students at Calvin involved in those research projects,” Bebej said.
(M.S. EEB 2010, M.P.H. Epidemiology 2011)
Aley Joseph graduated from the University of Michigan School of Public Health in December 2011 (MPH Epidemiology). She was hired as an epidemiologist in January 2012 for the California Rural Indian Health Board, a health research and consulting company that was founded by and serves rural Native American tribes in California.
“I am coordinating an NIH-funded dental health intervention study right now. It has been great so far," said Joseph.
The California Rural Indian Health Board was formed to provide a central focal point in the Indian health field in California for planning, advocacy, funding, training, technical assistance, coordination, fundraising, education, development and for the purpose of promoting unity and formulating common policy on Indian health care issues.
Alumnus feature on Sophia Holley Ellis
(B.A. Biology and German 1949, M.S. Botany 1950, M.A. German 1964)
Sophia Holley Ellis retired in June 2006 after 56 years as a biology and German teacher in the Detroit Public Schools. Over the years, she has privately funded several students’ college education. Now, through a $25,000 gift creating the Sophia Holley Ellis Scholarship endowment, Ellis will extend her support to students with financial need in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts – with priority given to students from the Detroit Public Schools. The scholarship was established in June 2009 with the first one awarded during academic year 2011-2012.
“The University is the reason I am,” said Ellis. “When I came to campus I had never used a telephone, never seen a movie or been to a restaurant. As a young black girl, if it hadn’t been for the U-M, I wouldn’t have had the chance to do so many things. I hope this scholarship will bring kids like me to Michigan—students who are smart but just wouldn’t have the money to come to our great school otherwise—the kids who are dreamers.”
Antoyrie Green, the first student to receive the Ellis Scholarship said that this award meant so much to her for two reasons: “how much of burden it took off of my parents when I received the scholarship” and “how inspirational Sophia and her story are.”
“I love to compare Sophia and her scholarship to a ram in the bush,” referring to a bible verse. “I didn't know how I was going to get the last bit of money to pay for school, but God blessed me with that scholarship and I will be forever thankful!
“As a black woman on the campus of the University of Michigan, I am inspired to hear stories like Sophia's. Stories of black women who came before me, defied all the odds, and pursued (and reached) their dreams only push me to do the same.
“As for my future, I plan on becoming a clinical psychologist for children, hopefully in Detroit. After learning about Sophia and her career as a teacher in Detroit, I can only image the huge impact she has had on her students. I hope that I am able to impact the life of someone half as much as she did and that one day, my story will inspire someone just as her story has inspired me!”
Through the years, Ellis also taught earth science, horticulture, physical science, and ecology when it was a brand new discipline. Ellis taught in kindergarten classrooms, elementary, middle and high schools up to Wayne County Community College.
The world was a different place when a bright, energetic, young Sophia Holley Ellis was a student at the University of Michigan in the 1940s and 50s. At 85 years young, she has many wonderful memories and stories.
Ellis was the first African American to study at the U-M Biological Station. She recalls her pantomime on skit night when she acted out washing an imaginary grown male African elephant using a stepladder, pail of water, bar of soap and towel. “I thoroughly 'washed' every anatomical part of that elephant and the zoologists roared with laughter,” she recalls fondly.She was a modern dancer and a ballerina at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theater in performances throughout her undergraduate and graduate years, including the Marriage of Figaro, Barber of Seville, Carmen and Coppélia. But her participation was not without some controversy. Theater administration at the time wanted her off the stage because she was black. The coordinator of the dance program, Esther Pease, threatened to take the whole ensemble off the stage. “I really admired Esther for that,” said Ellis.
Even so, the young dancer had to make herself up to look white, with opaque leotards, grease paint on her hands, makeup and even putty on her nose. She didn’t mind – she thought of it as acting. “I felt sorry for people who were racist,” she said. “When churches didn’t allow me in, I knew that God wasn’t there.”
Originally, Ellis dreamed of becoming a world renowned scientist, inventing cures that would eradicate society’s ills and ailments, according to an article in The Michigan Citizen. When she told her godfather, Victor Julius Tulane (U-M M.S., Ph.D. 1932-34) that she wanted to be a research biologist like him, he told her to learn German, get all As and attend the University of Michigan. Her mother searched through static and found the German-American hour on the radio. In that era, the greatest scientists were German.
Her Northern High School counselors couldn’t grasp the idea that a “little black girl” wanted to go to college. Upon graduation they told her they’d find her a job— as a maid. Uninterested in that profession, Ellis attended the University of Michigan on a full academic scholarship where she said “the world opened” and she decided to be a teacher. In 1950s Detroit, black teachers, regardless of what classes they were certified to teach, were confined to certain schools. Ellis remembers being told by school administrators, “It’s best you teach your own kind.”
Ellis has come a long way since those days. She was named the Phyllis Layton Perry Educator of Year in 2006 by the National Council of International Visitors (NCIV), U.S. State Department.In 2012, Ellis was named a Citizen Diplomat by the NCIV, which honors an individual or institution who, motivated by a deep understanding of world issues and a commitment to the exchange of persons and ideas, has achieved a recognized standard of excellence in furthering the cause of international and mutual understanding. She is included in a booklet called “A Tribute to Citizen Diplomats,” in which she is quoted along with famous people such as Dwight D. Eisenhower, Bill Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, Mohandas Ghandi, Roman Herzog, and many more. For her efforts toward improving the U.S.-German relationship, Ellis received the German Federal Republic’s highest citizen award, the Federal Cross of Merit (Bundesverdienstkreuz) in 1995.
Ellis is never bored. Up until recently, she taught German and piano. She’s currently studying Arabic, attends the symphony, loves to read, play the piano, and she even knows a little Russian. And, “all the while, I’ve kept on dancing,” Ellis said.
(Ph.D. EEB 2006)
“I started writing the book as a little side project without much intention of it being anything but a little pamphlet reference to give to undergrads and grad students,” Chakrabarty said. “I wanted to put all the advice I was given by lots of good people (mostly at Michigan) onto paper. I had about 50 or so pages when I was approached by an editor for Wiley at a scientific conference who wanted to know if I had any ideas for books. (He sought me out because of some of the press I was getting during the oil spill in Louisiana.)
"I showed him my draft and he and I hashed out a plan to publish the book once I expanded it to include the entire academic landscape - from undergrad to tenure. I'm happy with the outcome and I think it will help students trying to figure out each step of the academic process from getting into graduate school and doing well there to getting a job in academia. I think students at Michigan will especially benefit since a lot of what I write about happened to me there. Michigan folks like Bill Fink, Jerry Smith, Deborah Goldberg, Marc Ammerlann (and many others) taught me a great deal about the academic process and a lot of their wisdom is on these pages.”His book received a glowing review June 8, 2012, in the journal Science. Chakrabarty is assistant professor and curator of fishes at Louisiana State University, Museum of Natural Science in Baton Rouge.
Mindy (Greenblatt) Streem
(B.S. Biology 2001, B.M.A. Voice Performance 2001, M.S. Rackham Orthodontics)
After her graduation from the University of Michigan, Mindy Streem attended the Harvard School of Dental Medicine and graduated with a D.M.D. in 2005. She then returned to U-M for her residency in orthodontics through the Rackham Graduate School. In 2008, she got her M.S. in orthodontics from Rackham. Since that time, she moved to Solon, Ohio, where she started an orthodontic practice called Streem Orthodontics. She lives in Solon with her husband, Jason, (a 2005 graduate of U-M Dental School and a periodontist), and her son, Sam, who was born in October 2010. She is due with her second child in July 2012. (email)
Richard T. Hanlin
(Ph.D. Botany/Mycology 1961)
After completing his doctoral dissertation in August 1960, Richard Hanlin, professor emeritus, accepted a position as mycologist in the Department of Plant Pathology of the Georgia Experiment Station in Griffin, a unit of the University of Georgia College of Agriculture. Hanlin conducted research on plant pathogenic ascomycetes. In 1967, he moved to the main campus in Athens and added teaching and mentoring graduate students to his research duties. Later in his career, he developed collaborative research projects in Venezuela, Brazil, Mexico and other countries. Hanlin retired in June 2001 after 41 years' service. Since that time he has continued to work as a volunteer in the Mycological Herbarium of the Georgia Museum of Natural History and he regularly attends the Mycological Society of America meetings.
(B.S. Biology 1995)
Maggie Morris received a Junior Faculty Award from the American Diabetes Association for her grant entitled "The role of macrophage 12/15-lipoxygenase in the innate autoimmune responses of type 1 diabetes" in the summer of 2011. “I received this news just one week before the birth of our second daughter,” said Morris. “It's been an exciting summer for me, to say the least! All the best as you lead the EEB into its second decade!” she wrote to Professor and Chair Deborah Goldberg.
Dr. Morris is an assistant professor of research in the Department of Internal Medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School.
Jonathan Nelson Wu
(M.S. Biology 1990)
Jonathan Nelson Wu is assistant dean for academic programs at Temple University, Japan Campus. He teaches introductory courses in biology and mathematics.
Gail L. McCormick
(B.S. Biology/EEB concentration 2010, B.T.A. Theatre Arts)
Gail McCormick is a Ph.D. candidate in the ecology program at Penn State. She also has an unusual artistic flair for paper cutting and all things paper.
According to a blog post on All Things Paper by Ann Martin, McCormick began making collage-like birthday cards while in college and was hooked. This led to more complex designs. “I think it's pretty incredible Gail can capture so much expression by layering cut pieces of paper,” writes Martin.
(former postdoctoral fellow with Professor Mercedes Pascual)
Dr. David Alonso, former postdoctoral fellow in Professor Mercedes Pascual’s lab, was awarded a Ramon y Cajal Fellowship from the Spanish Government in 2010. Alonso is an assistant research professor at the Institute for Advanced Studies of Blanes (CEAB), part of the Spanish Institution of Scientific Research (CSIC). He moved back to Spain in July 2011 to start the five-year position. The CSIC has several ecology centers across Spain; the Biological Station of Donana in Sevilla is best known worldwide. “Blanes is a smaller center with potential to grow,” he said. “I am looking forward to contributing to the findings and research of this center.”
After his postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan, he had a three-year postdoctoral VENI fellowship from the Dutch Institution for Scientific Research (NWO) at the University of Groningen. “While in Groningen, I worked in the Conservation and Community Ecology (COCON) group directed by Dr. Han Olff,” Alonso said. “There I have been involved in a variety of projects involving stochastic descriptions of community dynamics and ecological networks and ranging from large herbivore ecology in savanna ecosystems to the role of natural enemies in the dynamics of biodiversity in rainforests.”
Alonso frequently visits U-M EEB to maintain a fruitful collaboration with Pascual and Professor Annette Ostling.
(M.S. EEB 1981, Ph.D. EEB 1986)
Dr. Judith Bronstein has been selected as a University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona. This is the highest honor awarded by the university to faculty members with outstanding records of creative scholarship and exceptional contributions to teaching, advising and mentoring of undergraduate students. Bronstein’s Ph.D. dissertation was titled “Coevolution and constraints in a neotropical fig-pollinator wasp mutualism.” Her advisor was Professor Beverly Rathcke.