New faculty bring cutting-edge research from around the world
Monday, October 11, 2004
By Roger Scime
Three new faculty bring a wealth of expertise to three of the college's departments: Natural Resources and Environmental Science, Animal Biotechnology and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
Sudeep Chandra, ecosystem restoration
Although only at the college less than two months, Sudeep Chandra, assistant professor in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science, is already on his way East—far East—toward Mongolia and the farthest regions of Russia.
After earning his doctorate at U.C. Davis, Chandra developed an interest in taimen—a species of salmon that can grow to more than 6 feet in length and weigh more than 200 pounds. It is highly endangered and today can be found only in Lake Baikal, on the Russia-Mongolia border.
As scientific advisor for the non-profit Taimen Conservation Fund, as well as the Tahoe-Baikal Institute, in South Lake Tahoe, Chandra will be studying the taimen with a $250,000 grant from the Global Environment Facility of the World Bank.
After he returns from Russia, Chandra will be diving into three research projects much closer to home. One will deal with the restoration of native cutthroat trout to Lake Tahoe and Fallen Leaf Lake, while a second will examine non-native bass invaders in Tahoe. His most challenging project, however, will be the Tahoe fisheries restoration project at Pyramid Lake, which he will be working on in partnership with the Paiute Indian tribe.
“It’s all about what I call ‘ecosystem restoration,’” he explains, “restoring the food-web linkages.”
Chandra’s research was recently featured in National Geographic News.
Jeff Harper, cutting-edge research
Jeff Harper, a new associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry, joined the college in June from the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, where he taught and conducted research since 1991. After earning his PhD in cell biology from Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., Harper did post-doctoral work in Regensburg, Germany, and at the Carnegie Institute in Baltimore, Md.
Although his primary research goal is developing an improved soybean for cultivation in climates similar to Nevada’s, Harper’s research involves the genetics of Arabidopsis, a member of the mustard family. He is also pursuing biomedical applications. For example, one current project has to do with malaria—a disease that kills 2 million people per year.
“Current remedies are becoming less effective,” he says, “and, it turns out the parasite that causes the disease has a similar genetic makeup to Arabidopsis.
“It’s cutting-edge research.”
Harper recently co-authored a paper that appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and will be chairing a session of the American Society of Plant Biologists in October. Harper brings with him seven federal grants worth more than $4 million.
Luis Gomez-Raya, animal genomics
Luis Gomez-Raya brings an international flavor to the university as the new associate professor in the Department of Animal Biotechnology, specializing in animal genomics. A native of Spain, he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Madrid, and his doctorate in animal breeding at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, before moving to Norway to work on salmon breeding. After seven years, he returned to Spain and took a position at the Governmental Institution in Catalonia. He came to the college in July.
Gomez-Raya is working on two research projects. One involves sheep, on which he is working closely with animal biotechnology Professor Hudson Glimp at the Rafter 7 Ranch. The other project deals with cattle and will be located at ranches throughout the state. Both projects are aimed at improving the animals’ genetic characteristics to create ‘range ready’ cattle. He is awaiting approval for a third project that will investigate melanoma in pigs—using them as a model for humans.
Gomez-Raya will be teaching animal genetics in the spring semester.