NIH backs Slusky research with prestigious New Innovator Award

Posted on Oct 5, 2017 in Campus News and News

NIH backs Slusky research with prestigious New Innovator Award | Kansas Alumni magazineJoanna Slusky, a KU assistant professor of computational biology and molecular biosciences who won a Moore Inventor Fellowship for her work designing a protein that could help stem antibiotic resistance, was named today as the recipient of a $2.3 million New Innovator Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Slusky’s work in protein design, the subject of a cover story in the current issue of Kansas Alumni, led to her involvement in the University’s successful 2016 bid to land an $11 million, five-year NIH grant that established the KU Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE): Chemical Biology of Infectious Disease. Asked to contribute research on antibiotic resistance, Slusky turned to a protein she’d invented—dubbed S1245—and stored in a freezer in her lab. After initial tests proved encouraging, she expanded the research to focus on E. coli bacteria with funding from the $825,000 Moore Fellowship.

The New Innovator Award, part of the NIH’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research program, supports exceptionally creative early career investigators who propose innovative, high-impact projects. Slusky says the grant will allow her to expand her focus from E. coli to other bacterial infections which have similar methods of antibiotic resistance.

“The Moore project is really focused on, ‘Let’s make something,’” Slusky says. “The way that this New Innovator Award is structured, it gives me the ability to really explore the science that’s causing this to happen, so that we can use it potentially for other things as well. The science behind this kind of protein-protein interaction should be useful for other inventions that would be against antibiotic resistance, specifically other inventions that might be useful for other types of bacteria, for other types of antibiotic resistance that we could expand into.”

The increasing resistance of harmful bacteria to antibiotic drugs is a growing problem worldwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 2 million people in the United States become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year, and 23,000 die from these infections. Worldwide, the death toll from drug resistance in illnesses such as bacterial infections, malaria, HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis is 700,000. A 2014 British study projected that by 2050 10 million people will die each year because of increasing resistance to antibiotics and other antimicrobial drugs, surpassing the death rate from cancer.

The scientists behind that study also compiled a list of the 10 most dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and Slusky has theorized that six of the 10 should be susceptible to a protein like S1245. “So far, with the Moore work, we’ve only been playing with one of the six,” Slusky says. “Now we can say, let’s try to generalize this so that we could see if we can impact six of ten.”

—Steven Hill

Can a professor’s invention turn the battle against antibiotic-resistant bacteria? Read “The Protein in the Freezer,” a feature story on Joanna Slusky’s research from Kansas Alumni magazine, issue no. 5, 2017.

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What’s cooking in Kansas

Posted on Dec 2, 2016 in Campus News and News

Back in 1989, when Frank, c’75, and Jayni Carey published The Kansas Cookbook: Recipes from the Heartland, people who grew their own vegetables, bought meat from a local rancher or favored the village diner over corporate chain restaurants most likely weren’t called locavores or foodies. A lot has changed since then, and in their long-awaited follow-up, The New Kansas Cookbook: Rural Roots, Modern Table, the Careys share 220 recipes that highlight this “new twist on the way we cook.”

The New Kansas Cookgood: Rural Roots, Modern TableReflecting the growing popularity of “farm-to-table” and local, seasonal cuisine, The New Kansas Cookbook updates traditional homemade favorites like vegetable beef soup, chicken and noodles and apple strudel while also tapping the expertise of the growing ranks of Kansas chefs, bakers and brewers with dishes that showcase local products. Standouts include Vanilla Bean Buffalo Sweat Maple Bread (it features a popular beer from Manhattan’s Tallgrass Brewing Company, not bison perspiration) and Chestnut Cornbread Dressing, which uses as its chief ingredient the distinctive nuts grown by Chestnut Charlies of Lawrence.

Whether drawn from chefs or home cooks or from the Careys (who together published two other cookbooks; collaborated on Jayni’s local television cooking show, “Jayni’s Kitchen”; and contributed a feature story to the summer food issue of Kansas Alumni), the recipes show how today’s Kansas cooks embrace ethnic cuisines, sophisticated cooking techniques and ingredients both exotic and local. A particularly apt example is Grandmother Quillec’s Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Prunes, which adapts a family recipe from the Provence region of France that has long been a staple of Café Provence, a Kansas City bistro named one of the Top 100 restaurants in the United States by OpenTable and best overall restaurant in Kansas City by Zagat. Pork tenderloin, a Midwestern staple, combines with Port wine and special French prunes in a dish inspired by family tradition and refined by the creativity of a respected chef. Mix that inclusive approach to cooking with the lively features on Kansas people and foodways that the Careys sprinkle throughout, add a heaping helping of artful illustrations drawn by Kansas artist Louis Copt, ’96, and you have a recipe for a delightful cookbook that serves up a full menu of delectable dishes, from every-day to special occasion.

—Steven Hill

The New Kansas Cookbook, by Frank and Jayni Carey with illustrations by Louis Copt, is published by the University Press of Kansas and is available for $29.95.

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Houston ’Hawks aid leukemia patient in need

Posted on Nov 22, 2016 in Campus News and News

When a Houston woman needed white blood cells to help her complete an intense round of chemotherapy, her family and friends put out a plea for donors. Answering the call were members of the Alumni Association’s Houston Network, who rallied to her aid after a notice was posted to their Facebook group by alumna and family friend Natalie Bogan Morgan, j’06.

Lois Coots, a former Kansan who lives now in Houston, was diagnosed in 2009 with a form of myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) that later developed into leukemia. While at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston undergoing an intensive 30-day round of chemotherapy in October, Coots developed an infection and learned that she needed white blood cells before she could finish the treatment.

“It was an emergency situation,” says Morgan, who lived in Houston before recently moving to Overland Park. “She has two daughters, and they figured they’d donate and drum up other people and it would be fine. But one by one people just kept getting rejected.”

White blood cells have a short shelf life and donors must meet strict matching requirements. Doctors told the family they needed to line up 10 donors, but after exhausting their personal contacts they had found only one match.

Jayhawk calls for help

Watching the health crisis unfold from Kansas, Morgan—a close friend of Kyra Coots, Lois’s daughter—posted a heartfelt plea for donors on her Facebook page. Longtime friend Nick Kallail, assistant vice president of alumni programs and career services for KUAA, saw the message and suggested that she post it to the Houston Network’s Facebook group.

“I was like, Nat, you’ve got a built-in family who love you; blast that Houston group and they’ll jump on it,” says Kallail, d’04, l’07, who was a Houston Network volunteer before joining the Association staff. “It’s a great group and everyone’s always willing to help. It’s just a great combination: You’ve got Jayhawk family and Houston hospitality.”

“That was the tipping point,” Morgan says. “People who didn’t know this family just dropped what they were doing and called to set up appointments. I put the call out on a Thursday night, and several Jayhawks were there by 11 a.m. the next morning going through the screening. It was so uplifting.”

Sorority members step up

Among those responding was a group of Alpha Delta Pi alumni led by Jane Johnston Mumey, j’86, a Houston attorney. Less than 15 minutes after Morgan’s post hit the Houston Network page, Mumey wrote to say that she and her sorority sisters could report to MD Anderson immediately, because they are already screened white-cell donors.

“This was perfect for us, because so many of our members are pre-screened for the Ronald McDonald House,” Mumey says. Alpha Delta Pi’s Houston alumni group volunteers extensively at the city’s Ronald McDonald House, which supports families of critically ill children, donating blood, white cells and platelets when needed. “Within hours we had four women from our group who were already pre-screened” and ready to donate, Mumey says. “It’s an amazing feeling to be able to do that.”

Only days after Morgan posted her request with the Houston Network, the family lined up the needed 10 donors. “It would not have happened if so many Jayhawks had not jumped in to do it,” Morgan says. “Six or seven of the donors that we knew of were Jayhawks. The family was just blown away. I think it just says a lot about the University and it just says a lot about the Jayhawk family after you graduate.”

Mumey seconds that notion.

“I knew Jayhawks would do that. We’ve all stuck together. And to be far away from campus, to have that feeling that this happened, when we’re all the way down here—I don’t think all groups respond like that. We really have a lot of spirit and it doesn’t stop when we graduate.”

A happy outcome

Thanks to the donated cells, Kyra Coots says, her mother was able to finish her chemotherapy and return home. She returned for a second round of chemo last week, and Kyra says the family takes comfort in knowing that—should complications arise again—they’ve got a list of willing donors who have their back.

“Before Natalie started helping me, we only had one person confirmed,” Kyra says. “It was a low point, because you’re thinking to yourself, How am I going to find nine people if the dozens and dozens of people who said they’d do it were turned away? I myself was turned away. It’s a very helpless feeling, knowing you can’t do anything.

“When Natalie’s friend suggested she post it on the Jayhawk board, I was like, Wow, that’s a great idea. These people definitely don’t know my mom, they may not even know Natalie, but we’ll see if they respond. The response was overwhelming. You can’t put into words—you want to thank all these people, you want to hug them, you want to get to know them and say thank you, but I just think they’ll never realize the magnitude of how it touched our family and how it saved her life.”

—Steven Hill

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Alumna wins O’Connor Prize

Posted on Sep 22, 2016 in Campus News and News

Becky Mandelbaum | photo by Anna Hurst

Becky Mandelbaum, c’13, is the winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, the University of Georgia Press announced this week.

A graduate of the KU English department and winner of the Lawrence Arts Center’s Langston Hughes Creative Writing award in 2013, Mandelbaum will receive $1,000 and have her short story collection, Bad Kansas, published by the press in fall 2017.

Established in 1983 to bring the work of gifted emerging writers to a national readership, the Flannery O’Connor Award is regarded as a major showcase for short story writers. Previous winners have included alumnae Antonya Nelson, c’83, (The Expendables, 1989) and Kelly Wells, j’86, c’89, (Compression Scars, 2002). The award is named for the late fiction writer Flannery O’Connor, a Georgia native.

“This shows major promise in her career, and I think to many of us at KU it’s not a surprise,” says Laura Moriarty, s’93, g’99, associate professor of English, who taught Mandelbaum in her graduate-level writing workshop while Mandelbaum was still an undergraduate. “We knew she was going places and an award of this magnitude shows we were right. She worked with a lot of people and has many, many fans in the KU English department, and we were absolutely thrilled that she got this kind of award. It’s a huge honor.”

“What’s most impressive about this collection of stories, in which Kansas is as much a metaphor for dislocation and disconnection as it is a state, is that Ms. Mandelbaum has us fretting about matters worth the bother,” says fiction writer Lee K. Abbott, Flannery O’Connor series editor. “What lines we dare not cross, how deep love can cut, what to stop wishing for, when to worry that the world is wobbling out of round, and why we tell the lies we must. Hers are characters riven by need, kids and adults about to go which-away toward a betimes terrible self-knowledge. Bad Kansas is so good it hurts.”

Photo by Anna Hurst

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Food favorites from Kansas Alumni

Posted on Aug 9, 2016 in Campus News and News

Kansas Alumni magazine

Putting together an entire magazine devoted to food and drink has been great fun for us at Kansas Alumni, and we’ve heard (through the grapevine, mostly) that our look at cuisines past, present and future in issue No. 4 has been a big hit with readers as well. We’d love to hear that feedback directly from you: If a story from the current issue jogged a food memory or whetted your appetite for more culinary adventure, email us a note at kualumni@kualumni.org.

Of course, culinary topics have long been an abiding interest of ours. The adventure, passion and life’s work that food so often inspires seems to produce a cornucopia of fascinating characters and tasty storylines, which we’ve happily celebrated in our pages over the years. Here are a few of our food favorites from issues past. Enjoy!

 

“Brew Master” by Steve Hill (Issue No. 2, 2010)

The craftsman behind Kansas City’s hometown beer honed his eye for artistry on the Boulevard in Lawrence.

Profile: Michael Bauer, by Tom King (Issue No. 4, 2012)

San Fran diners rely on Bauer’s refined tastes.

“Holy Cow!” by Chris Lazzarino (Issue No. 4, 2002)

Bill Bunyan’s drive through Kansas is a (medium) rare feat.

“It’s All Good” by Chris Lazzarino (Issue No. 4, 2007)

Cook it, study it, sauce it, smoke it, grill it, have a contest over it and make new friends with it; just don’t forget to eat the savory sensation of the new American summer, barbecue.

Profile: Brent Joseph, by Jennifer Jackson Sanner (Issue No. 4, 2009)

Pride in family, hometown adds zest to business.

“The Tater-Mater Man” by Steve Hill (Issue No. 4, 2013)

Tom Wagner earned his stripes the old-fashioned way—by cultivating a lifelong fascination with the art and science of plant breeding.

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From scratch

Posted on Jul 18, 2016 in Campus News and News

Rick Martin
Rick Martin, award-winning head chef and co-owner of Limestone Pizza Kitchen and Bar, dishes on his introduction to cooking, his food philosophy and the secret behind the pizza voted Best In Lawrence two years in a row.

Watch our new video to learn more.

 
Click here to read more on Martin in a free preview article from the latest issue of Kansas Alumni magazine.

KU Alumni Association members can log in here to access the full version of the magazine.

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Kansas City’s Boulevard tops craft beer list

Posted on Sep 1, 2015 in Campus News and News

Boulevard Brewing Company | photo by Steve Puppe
Boulevard Brewing, the Kansas City, Missouri, brewery started in 1989 by KU alumnus John McDonald, tops the “Best craft beer breweries in America” list compiled by Time Out New York in August. The magazine calls Boulevard “the biggest star in the America craft beer scene” and singles out Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale for its “legendary status among the country’s tap fiends.”

In a 2010 article in Kansas Alumni, McDonald, a painting and printmaking major, described how he discovered the European craft-brewing tradition during a trip to Paris. “It was a real eye-opener,” McDonald said. “That’s when I first thought, ‘Wow, why can’t we have something like this in the United States?’”

McDonald launched the company in a Southwest Boulevard warehouse that once housed his father’s industrial supply business and built it into the largest craft brewery in the Midwest before selling it to Belgian beermaker Duvel Moortgat in 2013. Once a regional brand, Boulevard is now available in 32 states and England, France, China, the Nordic States and Belgium.

—Steven Hill

Photo by Steve Puppe

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Employees recognized for years of service

Posted on May 5, 2015 in Campus News and News

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KU’s annual event honoring faculty and staff for their years of service to the University will be held on Wednesday, May 6, at 1:30 p.m. in the Kansas Union Ballroom.

Service pins are given to 5, 10, and 15-year honorees, and service pins and gifts are given to employees with 20, 25, 30, 35, 40 45, and 50 years of service.

Attendees are invited to celebrate at a reception immediately following the ceremony.

We’re thrilled that eleven KU Alumni Association staff members will be honored at tomorrow’s ceremony, including Tim Brandt, who was director of the Adams Alumni Center for ten years before retiring two weeks ago.

Honorees include:

Stefanie Shackelford, vice president for alumni and membership records, 25 years
Marcia Wilson, office assistant, 25 years
Susan Younger, creative director, 20 years
Chris Lazzarino, associate editor, Kansas Alumni magazine, 20 years
Mike Wick, webmaster, 15 years
David Johnston, vice president of marketing and internet services, 15 years
Steven Hill, associate editor, Kansas Alumni magazine, 15 years
Mike Davis, senior vice president for donor relations, 15 years
Tim Brandt, recently retired director of the Adams Alumni Center, 10 years
Danny Lewis, director of alumni programs, 10 years
Tegan Thornberry, assistant director of membership, 10 years

Congratulations to our staff members and thank you for your dedication! We’ll honor their service again at our own employee recognition festivities next week, where each one—along with five-year student employee A.J. Templin— will be treated to the traditional poetic tributes our staff has come to know and love. You can find short biographies of our staff members on the staff directory page.

See a full list of  honorees at the 2015 Employee Recognition Ceremony here.

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Memorial Unions ends Jaybowl’s seven-decade run

Posted on Apr 15, 2015 in Campus News and News

The Jaybowl, the Kansas Memorial Union bowling alley that has been a campus fixture since 1953, will close May 9 and its first-floor space will be converted to a venue for live entertainment.

jaybowl_logoKansas Memorial Unions announced the move in an April 13 media release, citing “growing losses, escalating down time and new space needs” as the reason for the decision.

“We’ve had decreased usage, because the world has changed,” said Claudia Larkin, g’00, director of marketing for KU Memorial Unions. “Ten years ago, usage was around 35,000 annually; now it’s at approximately 21,000. We haven’t been able to break even when we average our expenses over the last five years.” The Jaybowl has lost an average of $17,000 per year over that period, Larkin said.

KU Memorial Unions, a non-profit affiliate of KU, and its Memorial Unions Corporation Board, composed of KU student leaders, faculty members, alumni and Union staff members, in fall 2013 began looking into a project that would extensively redesign large portions of the Kansas Union. A committee composed of student members of the Corporation Board conducted focus groups involving 89 students and 59 faculty and staff members to gauge potential changes. Among renovations discussed to several floors of the Union is a proposal to convert the Jaybowl space to a pub and grill, according to Larkin. Those plans—which could include a proposal to serve alcohol—“will of course have to go through University channels for approvals,” she said.

KU Memorial Unions is currently targeting fiscal 2018 as the start date of that larger renovation, but declining usage and financial losses contributed to the decision to close the Jaybowl now rather than later.

“That, with the student input on the kinds of things they’d like to see out of the Union, is creating the change,” Larkin said.

Kyle Rosberg, president of the KU bowling team, challenged the notion that student interest in bowling has declined.

“Go up to Royal Crest Lanes on Sunday night,” Rosberg said. “They have a Sunday fun day and it’s packed with college students.”

A senior who has competed for the KU bowling team for four years, he said the Jaybowl’s small size, antiquated equipment and a limited snack bar that doesn’t serve alcohol put it at a competitive disadvantage with larger alleys like Royal Crest.

“There you can eat, drink, bowl and have a good time,” Rosberg said. “Here you’ve got limited options on what you can do.”

A 2004 renovation that upgraded the Jaybowl did little to address issues with aging equipment. Both Larkin and Rosberg noted that nearly half the alley’s 12 lanes might be out of order at one time. That ongoing state of disrepair, Rosberg said, not student disinterest, is the reason for declining usage.

“If you go bowl and halfway through your game you have to move to a different lane because yours turned off, less and less people will go back,” he said. “But to fix it up would not be cheap, because the lanes are pretty bad from a competitive bowler’s standpoint. They’d need to do a lot of work on lanes and machines.”

Indeed, the Jaybowl’s pinsetter equipment was purchased used in the early 1960s, Larkin noted. “It’s difficult to maintain those lanes because the pieces and parts to that very nostalgic bowling alley aren’t available,” she said.

Current members and alumni of the KU bowling team, which won a national championship in 2004, are disappointed they weren’t consulted in the decision to close the Jaybowl, Rosberg says. “We have alumni who pretty much spent their four years of college between class, Jaybowl and home. They’re really saddened that it’s gone.” But the team’s future, he notes, is secure. They may have lost their on-campus home, but they plan to field a full team and play a full tournament schedule next year.

“Our main concern right now is there’s a lot of team trophies there, stuff like that,” Rosberg said. “We just want to make sure that all gets taken care of, not lost or thrown away somehow.”

The summer renovation plans call for mounting display cases outside the Jaybowl entrance for a commemorative tribute. An interior space now used as a party room will be renamed the Spare Room and will be decorated with bowling mementoes, Larkin said, including bowling team trophies and other Jaybowl memorabilia.

The Jaybowl’s final frame May 9 will feature a private gathering of KU bowling team players and alumni from 1 to 4 p.m.; a farewell fling from 8 to 10 p.m. with free bowling and free hotdogs, popcorn and soda; and cosmic bowling starting at 10 p.m. The Jaybowl’s 62-year run will end with a ceremonial “last strike” sendoff at 12:55 a.m. Pins will be set on all lanes, according to the KU Memorial Unions release, “and brushed into eternity by a sequential sweep of the pins starting on lane 1 and ending on lane 12.”

Anyone wanting a piece of the campus alley can buy bowling shoes, shirts and pins at the Jaybowl counter from May 4 to 9, or until supplies run out.

-Steven Hill

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“Genius Grant” winner helps celebrate February Sisters anniversary

Posted on Feb 13, 2015 in Campus News and News

Sarah Deer, KU alumna and MacArthur Foundation fellowSarah Deer, a professor at the William Mitchell College of Law and the recipient of a 2014 MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” for her work on sexual violence against native women, visited campus Thursday to help celebrate the 43rd anniversary of the February Sisters movement at KU.

Deer, c’96, l’99, was the featured speaker at an event sponsored by the women, gender and sexuality studies department, the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, the School of Law and the Institute for Policy and Social Research to commemorate the group of 30 women known as the February Sisters. On Feb. 4, 1972, they occupied the East Asian Studies building until KU administrators agreed to hear their demands.

A list of six demands included a call for free day care for students with children, the hiring of more women for faculty and administrative jobs, stronger recruitment of female high school graduates and the creation of a women’s studies department “controlled and chiefly taught by women.” KU’s women’s studies program, launched in 1973, and Hilltop Child Development Center, started in 1972, grew out of the group’s protest and subsequent work to see the changes through.

Deer—a Wichita native who earned her bachelor’s and law degrees from KU—welcomed the chance to return home and acknowledged feeling a personal connection with the group.

“In particular, 1972 is the year of my birth,” she said. “I will be turning 43 this year, and it’s special to have that connection with the February Sisters … to know that that generation of women, my mother’s generation of women, stood up for so much and took so many risks to make change. That’s so inspiring to me, and I think you’ll see how some of that plays out in the work that I do today.”

In her presentation, “Sovereignty of the Soul: Native Feminism and Violent Crime,” Deer spoke of her work on behalf of native women, who experience rates of sexual violence 2.5 times higher than the national average. Federal data shows that 34 percent of Native American Indian and Alaska Native women will be raped at some point in their lives. Having traveled extensively to tribal lands, Deer said, “My experience is that this data is an understatement; that in fact, the rate is much, much higher.”

After outlining the jurisdictional restrictions that limit tribal nations from prosecuting crimes on their lands, the MacArthur winner noted the passage of two laws that have strengthened the rights of native women: The Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 and the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

“I was privileged to be in the room for both signings,” Deer said, before sharing with her KU audience video clips of the moving stories told at each signing ceremony by women who had been victims of sexual assault. “Both were special moments.”

In response to a question about her plans to more broadly share her views on the issues touched on in her talk, Deer noted that she has a book coming out in October called The Beginning and End of Rape In America: Confronting Sexual Violence In Native America.

“I wanted to call it Sovereignty of the Soul, because that’s my thing,” Deer said, but she agreed to her publisher’s wishes for a stronger, more provocative title. “It’s nerve-wracking to have a book coming out with that title. Like I think I have all the answers. I’m more about posing questions.”

For more on Sarah Deer, see the current issue of Kansas Alumni.

—Steven Hill

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