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Beth Sorensen
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The M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust has awarded $36,000 to Reed professor of biology Peter Russell for his study on the barley yellow dwarf virus and $26,000 to associate professor of biology Janis Shampay for her study on chromosome ends in the African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis.

Russell’s project is to identify and characterize yeast genes required for the expression of particular genes of barley yellow dwarf virus, a plant virus that can cause extensive destruction of barley and other cereal crops. His molecular genetics lab investigates how viruses interact with the host cells they infect. The lab is studying plant pathogenic viruses and attempting to use yeast as a model organism for experiments on the virus life cycle.

Shampay’s project will continue the investigation in her lab of the structure and behavior of chromosome ends, or telomeres, which are required for chromosome stability and maintenance. Telomeres are replenished by an enzyme called telomerase. In humans this enzyme is absent from most cells of the body but is present in the germ-line cells needed for reproduction and in cancerous cells. Thus, body cell telomeres are shorter than sperm cell telomeres in the same individual. Recently, Shampay’s lab has been characterizing these features in Xenopus in order to study the regulation of the telomerase enzyme and telomere length in aquatically developing embryos. They have found that, in contrast to humans, Xenopus does not shut off telomerase in body cells, and thus length of telomeres in body tissues does not need to become eroded.

Peter Russell, a member of the Reed faculty since 1972, received his B.Sc. from the University of Sussex, England and his Ph.D. from Cornell University. In the past, Russell has supported his research with sizable grants from the National Science Foundation, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Medical Research Foundation of Oregon, and the American Cancer Society. He is the author of numerous journal articles and iGenetics (Benjamin/Cummings), the first integrated, interactive text and CD-ROM with all text, art, and media created from the ground up to provide a comprehensive introduction to genetics. This textbook is a new version of Russell’s Genetics, one of the top genetics textbooks in the nation, in use by more than 150 colleges and universities and currently in its fifth edition. Russell has also made a number of contributions to the Biology Place, a web site that provides high school and college biology classroom activities and information including interactive study guides and research articles on current genetics research papers. Russell is currently working on Essential iGenetics, which is a shorter version of iGenetics. He is also the project director on the $500,000 NSF AIRE award Reed College recently received to support an undergraduate research and peer mentorship program.

Janis Shampay, a member of the Reed faculty since 1990, received a B.A. in 1981 from Northwestern University and a Ph.D. in 1987 from the University of California—Berkeley. She has been program director of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Summer Science Program at Reed for under-represented high school students. She has received grants and awards from Medical Research Foundation of Oregon and Reed College. Shampay’s professional interests include molecular biology and chromosome structure and function. She currently teaches an upper division lecture-laboratory course on genetics and gene regulation, focusing on mechanisms of eukaryotic gene regulation and the experimental approaches used to elucidate them. She also offers two different seminar courses in alternate years, one on human molecular genetics and the other on molecular aspects of chromosome structure and function.

The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust was created by the will of the late Melvin J. Murdock, co-founder of Tektronix, Inc. and resident of Vancouver, Washington. Murdock was an idealist who felt that science was a main source of knowledge and that knowledge was the key to resolving issues. The Trust reflects Murdock's beliefs by providing grants to organizations that seek to strengthen the Northwest region's cultural and educational base in creative and sustainable ways.

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