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IGBB News & Research Highlights

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July 8, 2016

The IGBB is pleased to welcome two new individuals to its ranks.

Dr. George Popescu (left) has been hired as an IGBB research assistant professor. He is the first IGBB faculty member whose primary discipline is computer science. Dr. Popescu received his B.S. and M.S. in electrical engineering in his home country of Romania before moving to the U.S. He obtained a Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering from Rutgers University, and did postdoctoral research in bioinformatics at Yale University. "Our research at the IGBB has become increasingly focused on bioinformatics and computational biology," notes Dr. Daniel G. Peterson, IGBB director. "We have been looking to grow our computational research endeavors and are thrilled to have George join the IGBB team. He adds tremendous depth to the institute and has an impressive record of conducting inovative research in collaboration with biologists."

Dr. Ramey "Cal" Youngblood (right) joins the IGBB as a research associate. Dr. Youngblood will be stationed in Stoneville, MS where he will work closely with the USDA ARS's Genomics & Bioinformatics Research Unit (GBRU). The IGBB and the GBRU have built a synergistic relationship based on their shared interest in crop genomics, and Dr. Youngblood's presence at the GBRU will strengthen the GBRU/IGBB partnership. Dr. Youngblood is a recent Ph.D. graduate of MSU's Department of Animal & Dairy Sciences. He conducted his dissertation research under the guidance of Dr. Peter Ryan, MSU Associate Provost. "We are extremely excited to have Cal joining the IGBB team," notes Peterson. "Cal has a wide range of skills and a proven track record." Dr. Youngblood will primarily conduct genomics research on plants and animals of importance to Mississippi.

For Dr. Popescu's description of his research objectives, see below:


My research focuses on the use of computational approaches to study biological networks and processes in order to understand evolution and dynamics at the molecular and cellular levels. Using system analysis methods, I seek to analyze the properties of biochemical networks, infer plant protein interactions, and to study the dynamics of signaling networks. My research interest is in developing high-throughput assays for performing large-scale genome and proteome analyses and in designing novel computational modeling and simulation tools for genomics and proteomics studies. One of my key contributions is the discovery of the complex structure of the MAPK signaling networks. I am now pursuing a system analysis approach that combines high-throughput experimental data, mathematical and computational modeling for a comprehensive study of cellular signaling networks.

My recent research has focused on gaining a predictive understanding of cellular decisions during a plant's response to stress. Using high-throughput assays I have recently identified key proteins involved in plant's response to biotic and abiotic stressors, including peptidases, trafficking proteins, and transcription factors involved in immune responses. By developing models of cellular circuits responsive to plant stress factors. I am uncovering the cellular functions of these key cellular components and exploring their roles in redox and immune response pathways.

Another direction of my research concentrates on generating new computational methods for the analysis of genome methylation patterns and the study of chromosomal variations leading to developmental diseases. I have discovered small copy number variations in the human genome and mapped large deletions and duplications associated with developmental diseases. These discoveries were enabled by the genomics tools I have developed: efficient genome sampling methods, whole-genome tilling microarrays, and analytical tools for genomics data analysis.

I am now designing methods for inference of gene regulatory networks by integrating expression variation, transcription factor binding and interactome data with predictions from comparative analysis of conserved sequences of several plant genomes. I am working on developing new analytical tools to infer cis-regulatory networks from conserved sequences, to identify control structures (network motifs) from genomics and proteomics data and to study perturbation of cellular dynamics associated with copy number variations. Looking forward, I would like to focus my research on the study of cellular networks in order to understand their structure, dynamics and evolution.

May 17, 2016

By Sasha Steinberg

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Nearly 60 senior research scientists, postdoctoral fellows and undergraduate and graduate students from Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee institutions of higher learning are gathering Thursday-Friday [May 19-20] at Mississippi State for the 2016 Southeastern Pneumococcal Symposium.

Bringing together nearly one quarter of all of the major pneumococcal research laboratories in the U.S., this year's two-day scientific conference is designed to facilitate discussion and foster new collaborations between labs in an effort to increase funding opportunities for the institutions involved.

Topics of discussion will include host-pathogen interactions, epidemiology, antimicrobial therapies, bacterial physiology, vaccine research and polymicrobial infections.

Occurring in the respiratory tract, pneumococcus is a spherical bacterium that is the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia and also is associated with pericarditis, meningitis and other infectious diseases.

Serving as keynote speaker for this year's symposium is David Briles. A world-renowned Streptococcus pneumoniae biology and pathogenesis researcher, he also is the symposium's founder.

In addition to the American Society for Microbiology, support for this year's event is provided by the university's Institute for Genomics, Biotechnology & Biocomputing, College of Arts & Sciences and its Department of Biological Sciences, and the College of Veterinary Medicine and its Center of Biomedical Research Excellence.

For more information on the MSU-hosted 2016 Southeastern Pneumococcal Symposium, contact biological sciences assistant professor Justin Thornton at 662-325-8020 or

MSU is Mississippi's leading university (see

The image shows Streptococcus pneumoniae in spinal fluid (FA stain; digitally colorized). Photo Credit/Content Providers(s): CDC/Dr. M.S. Mitchell - This media comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Public Health Image Library (PHIL).

April 22, 2016

Kellie Mitchell's scientific prowess and communication skills have distinguished her among her peers. Recently, Ms. Mitchell - a senior in the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology & Plant Pathology (BCH-EPP) - won first place honors at three different events; specifically, the Biology Undergraduate Research Program Symposium (click here for article), the Judy and Bobby Shackhouls Honor College's MSU Undergraduate Research Symposium (best oral presentation), and best undergraduate oral presentation in the Cellular, Molecular & Developmental Biology Section at the 2016 Meeting of the Mississippi Academy of Sciences (click here for more information). Ms. Mitchell has been mentored by Dr. Yuhua Farnell, BCH-EPP faculty member and IGBB affiliate, Dr. James A. Stewart, Jr. of the Department of Biological Sciences, and Dr. Chuan-Yu Hsu, the IGBB's chief genomics scientist. "It takes a 'perfect storm' of events for an undergraduate student to have so much research success," notes Dr. Daniel G. Peterson, IGBB Director. "In this case you had a very bright, well-spoken, and creative young lady with a phenomenal trio of advisors. This is great undergraduate education...great undergraduate research...great mentorship."

The title and authors listed on Ms. Mitchell's winning presentations are as follows:

"Altered clock gene oscillations in cardiac fibroblasts from obesity and diabetic mice"
Kellie Mitchell, Jamie Stewart, Chuan-Yu Hsu, Yuhua Farnell

Ms. Mitchell will graduate in May and will start medical school at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in the fall.

Funding for the research performed by Ms. Mitchell and her advisory team was provided, in part, from awards from the MSU Office of Research & Economic Development and the Mississippi Agricultural & Forestry Experiment Station. Further support was provided by the IGBB.
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