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2019 K-INBRE Symposium
Speaker Biographies


Prachee Avasthi, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, Kansas

Title: A tale of two actins: Significant functional overlap of divergent actin isoforms in the unicellular green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii

Prachee Avasthi is an Assistant Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology and of Ophthalmology at the University of Kansas Medical Center. She is also founder and organizer for a peer-mentoring community for junior faculty called New PI Slack and serves on the Board of Directors at the open access journal eLife, the preprint advocacy organization ASAPbio, and on the steering committee for Rescuing Biomedical Research. Her lab uses chemical biology, biochemistry, genetics and quantitative live cell imaging to uncover novel mechanisms regulating assembly of the ubiquitous cellular antenna, the cilium. In 2018, she was awarded an NIH R35 Outstanding Investigator Award to advance this work.

James Beck, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Wichita State University, Wichita, Kansas

Title: RADseq techniques can be applied to DNAs derived from plant museum specimens

James Beck is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Wichita State University. He is a botanist and evolutionary biologist, and teaches courses in botany, ecology, evolution, and bioinformatics. His research is focused on accurately establishing plant biodiversity, which involves using morphological and molecular data to determine how many units of biodiversity (species, lineages, populations) are present in a given group of plant individuals. These projects increasingly involve genomic data, and many of his current projects focus on obtaining genomic data from previously collected plant museum specimens. His research has been supported by the NSF, Kansas NSF EPSCoR, and the K-INBRE Bioinformatics Core.

Scott McVey, DVM, PhD, DACVM

Center Director, USDA ARS Center for Grain and Animal Health Research, Manhattan, Kansas

Title: Vaccines: There and back again

Dr. McVey is the Center Director for the USDA ARS Center for Grain and Animal Health Research in Manhattan, Kansas. He is a Supervisory Veterinary Medical Officer and member of the USDA Senior Science and Technology Service. He was Research Leader for the Arthropod Borne Animal Disease Research Unit in Manhattan, KS from 2011 through 2016. Dr. McVey is also an Adjunct Professor of Immunology in the Department of Diagnostic Medicine, and Pathobiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University. He is also a Fellow of the Biosecurity Research Institute at Kansas State University. Dr, McVey also holds an adjunct appointment as Professor of the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology, Arusha, Tanzania. Dr. McVey’s research interests include comparative immunology of infectious diseases, vector transmission of arboviruses, arboviral ecology and associated control measures. He has published numerous research papers and was a co-editor of Veterinary Microbiology, 3rd Edition. Dr. McVey has leadership and experience in basic research, commercial vaccine research and development, corporate leadership, diagnostic medicine, and graduate and veterinary professional education. Dr. McVey was recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine in 2007. He also has been President of the American College of Veterinary Microbiologists and has also a served on the Blue Ribbon Panel for Counter Measures for Terrorist Threats to Agriculture for the President of the United States (2003-2004).

Adam Smith, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas

Title: Wired for social relationships

Adam Smith is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology and Neuroscience Program at the University of Kansas. He received his MA from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and PhD from Florida State University. During his graduate career, he was awarded a number of highly-competitive and prestigious fellowships from the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and American Psychological Association. He conducted research that highlighted the role of neuropeptides in regulating social behavior necessary for social monogamy in primate and rodent species. He also completed a postdoctorate at the National Institute of Mental Health as a Richard J. Wyatt Fellow and developed neurogenetic tools to study cognitive processes associated with close relationships, including social memory and decision making. Now, the Smith Lab studies the neuroscience of social attachment by exploring the natural ecology of the socially monogamous prairie vole to identify the mechanisms underlying social bonding, social conflict, consoling behavior, and social loss.

Jeffrey Thompson, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, Kansas

Title: A statistical approach to determining equivalent functional genomic differences across experiments

Jeffrey Thompson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biostatistics in the School of Medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center. He teaches courses in data science and statistical learning. Dr. Thompson’s research focuses on developing methods of integrating and understanding biological data that provide a more holistic view of disease outcomes and etiology. In part, this involves building predictive models leveraging data from multiple sources, such ‘omic and clinical data, to better support predictions. He also works on methods of functional analysis that identify biological processes that are similarly disrupted across multiple experiments. As co-director of the Curated Cancer Clinical Outcomes database at the University of Kansas Cancer Center, he leads an initiative to provide informatics solutions that facilitates recruitment to clinical trials and supports research into cancer prevention and risk prediction.

Congrong "Ron" Yu, Ph.D.

Investigator, Stowers Institute for Medical Research, Kansas City, Missouri

Title: What is critical in the critical period of olfactory system development?

Congrong “Ron” Yu is an Investigator at Stowers Institute for Medical Research. He received his PhD in Cellular, Molecular, and Biophysical Studies at Columbia University, where he worked with Lorna Role on the electrical properties of cells. As a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia, he took the plunge into genetics and molecular biology in the lab of Richard Axel, who cloned the first odorant receptors, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2004. In Axel’s lab he worked on figuring out how pheromones dictate behavior. In 2005 he joined Stowers as an Assistant Investigator, exploring the biology of behavior. One of Dr. Yu’s achievements was figuring out how a pheromone causes an electrical signal to race up to the brain. Currently, his lab is working on tracing the circuit into the brain to understand how information is processed. This will not only explain how chemical signals can lead to specific behaviors, but also help illuminate how the other senses work, which may lead to a deeper understanding of the biology underlying our own desires and actions.