Kansas State University


Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics

What’s in a Name?

K-State Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, The Active SiteThe Department underwent some changes this fall. First and foremost, we welcomed our new Department Head, Phillip E. Klebba, who joined us from Oklahoma. We also began a faculty search and revamped our undergraduate curriculum. Most public change: our new name.

Many professors in the department have diverged into biophysical science in their research. Grad Chair Michal Zolkiewski noted that while the name is new, the research is not. Zolkiewski, a biophysicist himself, described the discipline as “using physical principles to understand how different molecules participate in life processes.” When added to biochemistry, this offers a more complete view of these processes.  Zolkiewski continued, “Biophysics brings new approaches that aren’t available in more traditional biochemistry, it will open opportunities for new collaborations and projects, and potentially some new funding.” Continue reading “What’s in a Name?”

Battling bacteria: Research shows iron’s importance in infection, suggests new therapies

A K-State research team has resolved a 40-year-old debate on the role of iron acquisition in bacterial invasion of animal tissues.

The collaborative research – led by Phillip Klebba, professor and head of BMB – clarifies how microorganisms colonize animal hosts and how scientists may block them from doing so. The findings suggest new approaches against bacterial disease and new strategies for antibiotic development.

The study – in collaboration with Tyrrell Conway, director of the Microarray and Bioinformatics Core Facilities at OU, and Salete M. Newton, K-State BMB research professor – recently appeared in PLOS ONE. It shows how iron acquisition affects the ability of bacteria to colonize animals, which is the first stage of microbial disease.Ferric Enterobactin, 716 Da, Net charge -3

Continue reading “Battling bacteria: Research shows iron’s importance in infection, suggests new therapies”

Where do Graduate Students Come From?

Check out this subject using a search engine. You’ll find that the fraction of PhDs in sciences coming from small liberal arts colleges far exceeds what would be expected based on the numbers of students enrolled there. A big reason is because at those places, undergraduates routinely get to do lab research. Once in the lab, they often get bitten by the research bug, and experience success in making discoveries.

K-State works hard at getting undergraduates into research labs. At minimum, every Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics major has to do a research problem. Many, however, will greatly surpass this minimum before they graduate. Michael Kanost’s research group includes three excellent examples of undergraduate researchers, all supported in part by grants from national agencies. Continue reading “Where do Graduate Students Come From?”

BMB Graduate Student Awards

Adriana Avila Flores (Tomich) and Yue Qi (Zolkiewska) each received a 2011-2012 Excellence in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics Graduate Teaching Award.

Xiangming Li (Wangemann) received the 2011-2012 Excellence in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics Graduate Research Award.

Flores, Qi, and Li will have their names engraved on the respective Graduate Award plaques displayed in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics office in Chalmers Hall.

1st Place Poster Presentation

Sara Duhachek Muggy (Zolkiewska) won first place for her poster presentation, “An essential role of metalloprotease-disintegrin ADAM12 in triple-negative breast cancer,” during the 2012 University of Kansas Cancer Center Research Symposium held at KUMC on November 8, 2012.Collaborating with Duhachek-Muggy included fellow graduate students Hui Li and Yue Qi, and faculty member Anna Zolkiewska.

Science Notices K-State Professor John Tomich

Professor John Tomich received a little more attention than he was expecting when Science featured some of his research this September. Here’s what they had to say:

A coarse-grained simulation of bis(h5)-K-K4 bilayer self-assembly.

“Newly Discovered Molecule Could Deliver Drugs to Treat Diseases”
ScienceDaily (Sep. 24, 2012)

Kansas State University researchers have discovered a molecule that may be capable of delivering drugs inside the body to treat diseases.

For the first time, researchers have designed and created a membrane-bounded vesicle formed entirely of peptides – molecules made up of amino acids, the building blocks of protein. The membrane could serve as a new drug delivery system to safely treat cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.

A study led by John Tomich, professor of biochemistry at Kansas State University, has been published in the journal PLOS ONE in September, and a patent for the discovery is pending. Continue reading “Science Notices K-State Professor John Tomich”

Short List of Accomplishments

Beibei Li (undergraduate, Muthukrishnan)
received the Star Trainee Award
from the Kansas IDeA Network of Biomedical
Research Excellence (KINBRE)
to conduct research on the
role of cuticular proteins with peritrophin
A domains in the red flour beetle.

Sarah Duhachek Muggy (graduate,
Zolkiewska) received the 2010-2011
Biochemistry Graduate Teaching
Award from the department.

Sujata Chaudhari ’11 (Ph.D. Muthukrishnan)
and Sam Molina (graduate,
D. Takemoto) received the 2010-2011
Biochemistry Graduate Research
Award from the department.

Kanost No Longer Department Head, Still Busy

Joining the K-State faculty in 1991, Dr. Michael Kanost is an international authority in insect biochemistry in the areas of innate immunity and synthesis of the insect exoskeleton. He has been the principal investigator of studies supported by more than $15 million in federal grants. He is the author of more than 150 publications and his research has been cited more than 5,900 times in other publications. Kanost also has been the research mentor for 20 graduate students, 17 postdoctoral assistants and 37 undergraduate students, and until recently the Department head for Biochemistry. Continue reading “Kanost No Longer Department Head, Still Busy”

Letter from Phillip E. Klebba, Biochemistry Department Head


Greetings from KSU Biochemistry! I was delighted to accept the position of Department Head shortly before the beginning of the Fall 2012 academic term. I will do my best to meet the high standard of administrative guidance set by Dr. Mike Kanost, my predecessor, over his distinguished 10 years of service as Head of Biochemistry. As you likely know, Kansas State University has ambitious plans for the development of research and education on our Manhattan campus and throughout the State of Kansas. In Biochemistry we are excited to pursue these goals; Continue reading “Letter from Phillip E. Klebba, Biochemistry Department Head”