Fondren library closed Saturday, September 17th

Fondren Library will be closed this Saturday, September 17th for Game Day. Regular hours will resume Sunday September 18th at Noon. READ MORE 

SMU climbs to 56 in U.S. News & World Report rankings

SMU News

Originally Posted: September 13, 2016

DALLAS (SMU) – SMU rose to its highest ranking among the nation’s universities in the 2017 edition of U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges, released online today.

Among 220 institutions classified as national universities, SMU ranks 56, up from 61 a year ago.

The new ranking again places SMU in the first tier of institutions in the guide’s “best national universities” category. In Texas, only Rice University ranks higher. SMU and the University of Texas-Austin were tied.  Among private national universities, SMU ranks 39.

SMU’s increase was one of the five largest among the top 100 universities. Since 2008, SMU’s 11-point increase is one of the four largest among schools in the top 60.

For the rankings, U.S. News considers measures of academic quality, such as peer assessment scores and ratings by high school counselors, faculty resources, student selectivity, graduation rate performance, financial resources and alumni giving. SMU ranks 24 among all national universities in alumni giving at 25 percent.

In other ranking categories, SMU ranks 32 as one of the best national universities for veterans.

“It is gratifying for SMU to be recognized for its positive movement among the best national universities,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “The ranking is an example of the momentum of the Second Century Campaign and the University’s Centennial Celebration.

“We appreciate external recognition of our progress and believe it’s valid, but we also know that rankings do not portray the whole picture of an institution and its strengths. We encourage parents and students to visit the institutions they are considering for a firsthand look at the academic offerings, the campus environment and the surrounding community to best gauge a university.”

The rankings of 1,374 institutions, including national universities, liberal arts colleges, regional colleges and regional universities, are available now online and on newsstands Sept. 23. Find the “Best Colleges 2017” guidebook in stores Oct. 4. READ MORE


John Ubelaker, Biology, native plants on the Rio Grande

TAOS news

Originally Posted: September 9, 2016

Below is an excerpt from Taos News.

Hike to Williams Lake

Nineteen people joined Dr. John Ubelaker, professor of biology at the Southern Methodist University, on a great hike to Williams Lake Aug. 20. Interesting ferns, trees and flowering plants were discussed all along the way. Ubelaker has a wealth of knowledge on plants, their uses both today and historically – and he shares freely. We learned a great deal about the “Canadian Zone,” which is one of six zones in the state and that extends all the way up to Canada. It is comprised predominantly of three types of trees — spruce, fir and aspen. Above this zone is the arctic-alpine zone, which was beyond our reach on this trip.

To someone newly transplanted from Florida, where Spanish moss abounds — the dripping gray-green hanging from the trees is not a simple air plant like Spanish moss, but a hanging lichen. Ubelaker explained that a lichen is a relationship between an algae and a fungus. The long, grayish green strings are fungus on the outside, with algae cells inside. Fungi are not photosynthetic, therefore they often feed on things like algae. But through photosynthesis, the algae cells make sugars — which they allow to leak out so that the fungus can feed — while the fungus provides a necessary aquatic environment in which the algae cells can live and grow.

It is a unique relationship which enables algae, one of the first forms of life on earth, to live up in a tree. Fungus is the ultimate decomposer in our environment, but now it doesn’t have to feed on the algae. Instead, they exist in a symbiotic relationship — not harming the tree or each other. The fungus will occasionally release spores, which have one algae cell inside, and it will find a new tree. Not only is this fascinating, but since some 50 bird species use lichen as nest material, and elk and other deer eat it, both hanging and rock lichen are an important part of the circle of life in New Mexico.

This fascinating bit of information was given us in the parking lot, before even getting onto the trail. You will not want to miss future field trips with Ubelaker. READ MORE

SMU biochemists and students probe biochemistry of membrane proteins that thwart cancer chemotherapies

Originally Posted: August, 31, 2016

“Recurring cancers have ‘learned’ how to evade chemotherapy by pumping it out of the cancer cells so that only sub-therapeutic concentrations remain in the cell, making the drug useless.” — SMU biochemist Pia Vogel


Each semester, SMU biology professors Pia Vogel and John Wise welcome a handful of dedicated and curious students to their lab in the SMU Dedman Life Sciences building.

The SMU undergraduate students and Dallas-area high school students get hands-on experience working on cancer research in the combined SMU Department of Biological Sciences laboratories of Wise and Vogel.

The researchers and students are working to find ways to treat cancer patients whose cancer has either returned after initial chemotherapy or was initially hard to treat using chemotherapeutics. The research is funded in part by the National Institutes of Health.

Students recently in the lab included Victoria Bennet, Hockaday School, and Shaffin Siddiqui and Robert Luo, both from Highland Park High School. SMU undergraduates included Alexis Sunshine, Clinton Osifo, Stefanie Lohse, Brianna Ramirez, Henry Thornton, Shirely Liu, Justin Musser, Jake Oien and Michael Fowler. Also currently working in the lab are M.S. student Collette Marchesseau (2016 SMU graduate), and Ph.D. students Amila Nanayakkara, Mike Chen, Courtney Follit, Maisa Oliveira and James McCormick.

“Often, recurring cancers have ‘learned’ how to evade chemotherapy by pumping the therapeutic out of the cancer cells so that only sub-therapeutic concentrations remain in the cell, making the drug useless,” said Vogel, a professor and director of the SMU interdisciplinary research institute, the Center for Drug Discovery, Design and Delivery.

The pumps that do the work are proteins that span the cell membranes and use the biological fuel ATP to actively pump chemotherapeutics and other toxins out of the cells. “We like to compare these proteins to biological sump pumps,” said Wise, associate professor.

Wise and Vogel use a combination of computational, biochemical and human cell-based techniques to find new drug-like compounds that inhibit the action of the pumps. If successful, the novel drugs — or derivatives of them — will be given to patients with therapy-resistant cancer together with the chemotherapeutic.

“Since our novel compounds block the pumps, the chemotherapeutic will remain in the cell and kill the cancer that had not been treatable previously,” Vogel said.

The researchers have discovered drug-like compounds that can be modified and developed into medicines that target the protein, called P-glycoprotein.

The SMU researchers discovered the compounds after virtually screening more than 10 million small drug-like compounds made publically available in digital form from the pharmacology database Zinc at the University of California, San Francisco.

Using SMU’s Maneframe high performance computer, Wise ran the compounds through a computer-generated model of the protein. The virtual model, designed and built by Wise, is the first computational microscope of its kind to simulate the actual behavior of P-glycoprotein in the human body, including interactions with drug-like compounds while taking on different shapes.

The promising compounds were then tested in the lab.

“We have been quite successful and already have identified close to 20 novel compounds that block the pumps in our cell-based assays,” said Wise. “In these experiments we culture therapy-resistant prostate or ovarian or colon cancer cells in the lab and then show that we can kill these cancer cells using normal amounts of commonly available therapeutics in the presence of our novel compounds — even though in the absence of our novel compounds, the cancer cells would not be treatable.”

SMU undergraduates and high school students experience world-class research
SMU undergraduate and high school students have been involved in different aspects of the research. Typically the beginning students work together with graduate or advanced undergraduate students to learn techniques used in the lab.

Some perform small research projects. Others have simply learned state-of-the-art techniques and “how science works” in the context of critical human health problems.

“High school student Robert Luo was interested in the computational side of our work, so he’s worked with senior SMU Ph.D. candidate James McCormick on trying to evaluate how strongly one of the therapy-sensitizing compounds we found potentially interacts with the pump protein at different proposed binding sites,” said Wise. “It is actually a significant project and will help with our research.”

The opportunities available for students to learn how science works using high performance computing, biochemistry and cell biology can be valuable even for those who won’t necessarily become practicing scientists, said Wise, citing as an example a recent SMU graduate who previously worked in the lab.

Ketetha Olengue (SMU ’15) is a good example,” he said. “She is now in her second year at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, where she is pursuing her M.D. degree in a novel program with USC Engineering.” Watch Video

Dedman College biology major traveled the world with SMU Global Brigades club

Daily Campus

Originally Posted: August 30, 2016

Stepping out of the cozy, warm environment of your comfort zone to go serve in a foreign country full of poverty and danger can be an overwhelming experience. But for some SMU students, the thrill is what keeps them going back every summer.

Katherine Nelson, a senior biology major, is a member of the SMU Global Brigades club that works throughout the year to raise money for the stimulating summer trip. Every year volunteers travel to different settlements in the Panama area to help the less fortunate get the care they need.

Katherine Nelson volunteering in Panama

Katherine Nelson volunteering in Panama. Photo credit: Katherine Nelson

Nelson said that some days more than 200 people would come in to be treated. She and 13 other SMU students took on this adventure to serve where they were needed, learning in the process.

“I remember thinking ‘dang, if they didn’t have us, this wouldn’t happen,’” said Nelson. READ MORE

We Can’t Resurrect T. Rex and We Don’t Want To

Originally Posted: August 22, 2016

Molecular biology Ph.D. candidate Lauren Ammerman has looked into and Jurassic megafauna would be a megaproblem.

The Jurassic Park franchise, like the dinosaurs it reanimates, won’t be ignored. Michael Crichton’s masterpiece makes a lot of cameos in academic papers. Still, it’s rarely the focus of true inquiry. It is, after all, kind of easy to dismiss. But Lauren Ammerman, a molecular biology Ph.D. candidate at Southern Methodist University, doesn’t want to be dismissive. This is why, as a senior at Baylor University, she authored an honors thesis about what happens when Jurassic gene editing meets the rewilding movement meets the ultimate alpha predator. She made herself — and this is truly awesome — an expert on what would happen if we brought back the Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Inverse spoke to Ammerman, whose work reads like a potential sequel to Jurassic World, about how science and blockbusters can coexist.

Okay, I know we can’t actually resurrect the T. rex — for now. What’s holding us back?

We have one or two complete genes, but they’re not anything important, like dinosaur hemoglobin. And the information we do have is pretty badly damaged so, right now there’s not that much we can do about it. We don’t know enough about these decaying processes to reverse them and determine the original sequence. So the whole Jurassic Park idea of using frog genomes and reptile genomes to supplement it doesn’t really work because we don’t have anything to supplement. Dinosaurs are also actually physiologically different than the reptiles we have on Earth right now. We don’t have a good foundation to build on there.

I didn’t really have the chance to get into this in my thesis and I’ve never seen anyone mention it, but you also have this problem of ‘Okay, it’s in the cell, now what do we do?’ DNA is just one piece of the puzzle. It’s pretty strictly regulated by epigenetic mechanisms, processes that make DNA available or unavailable for gene expression. We have no way of knowing what key points turn it on or off. READ MORE

Oh, the places Dedman College students will go… (after graduation)!

Dedman College graduate employer list

Tips from a Dedman College pre-health, biology major- 10 Things I Learned My First Year at SMU

SMU New Student Orientation

Originally Posted: August 23, 2016

Jaden Amilibia, one of our Orientation Leaders from Flower Mound, Texas, is a sophomore pre-med biology major in the Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. Jaden is here to wish you a fantastic first week of school AND share with you a few things she learned during her first year in college! 

  1. You WILL feel homesick, at one point or another.

It’s a natural feeling. You convinced yourself that after you graduated high school, you would NEVER come back or miss home and that you couldn’t wait to leave the nest. But like all of us, one day you’ll be talking to your parents or even a best friend, and you’ll want that sense of comfort in your everyday life again. It is totally okay!

2. Get out of your comfort zone.

Go out. Get involved. Explore campus with people or by yourself. Just like you, everyone is learning new things about college and are all displaced in some way or another. Don’t sit on the fence and be reluctant to try something. Who knows? You might just meet your new best friend, or find that one club that you absolutely LOVE.  



You know that triangle telling you that you can only choose 2 of 3 aspects of college life? The one between sleep, a social life, and your grades? Yeah, wrong. Learning to manage your time efficiently will help you discover more free time to hang out with friends a little longer, or even dare say, time for a nap. Go to the ALEC for a “Semester At A Glance” page, invest in a durable planner, or learn how to wing it because you do not want to be cramming 3 chapters, 10 or more lectures, and 3 weeks of notes two nights before the exam.  

4. 8ams aren’t the end of the world… and neither are Bs.

We all have that one class that challenges us, both mentally and physically. Even though you may feel constantly defeated by the class, don’t let one subpar grade stop you from fulfilling your goals. Your entire life is not going to be altered and your goals are still attainable. Don’t forget that you are trying, and it’s perfectly acceptable to experience failure every once in a while to keep yourself on track. 

 5. Your “roomie” doesn’t have to be your “froomie”.


You’re living with someone you’ve probably never met before, so it’s natural to not always get along. With any gamble in life, you might luck out, or you might have to completely switch roommates by the end of the first semester.


6. Explore food options on and off campus

The dining halls are wonderful- but there are a ton of options in the Dallas area that are a $5 Uber away from campus! Velvet Taco, Villa-O, Torchy’s, and Café Brazil, just to name a few, are all student favorites if you’re interested! 

7.It’s OK to say no sometimes (or most of the time).

We get it. It’s college. You want to go out and enjoy your weekend, or even each night of the week. We’ve all been there. But it is SO IMPORTANT to say “no” at times. Believe it or not, skipping your 8am the next morning has consequences. Even if your professor doesn’t take attendance, going to class is more beneficial in the long run, and might even be the difference of a half-grade. 

8. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.


GO TO OFFICE HOURS. This cannot be stressed enough. Your professors are there to help you, and are more inclined to do so if they see your face in their office enough.

9. Being undecided is fine, and so is switching your major!

Not everyone knows what he or she wants to major in when they’re 18. Sometimes, neither do 19 or 20-year-olds. It’s normal, and it’s likely that you’ll meet someone that completely changed their minds once they started taking pre-requisite classes.  



10. College is a bigger world than high school, and it’s wonderful.


You’re going to meet some fantastic people, some people you might not click with at first and learn so much about yourself in a few just a few short months.  Be free, open, and learn. And we promise you, it’s going to be great!


Welcome to the Class of 2020

SMU News

Originally Posted: August 22, 2016

Following you will find Class of 2020 PhotoMaking the Class of 2020 PhotoOpening Convocation scenesOpening Convocation speechCamp Corral scenes“Discover Dallas” scenes“Discover Dallas” StorifyCorral Kick-OffMove-In video and scenes, and AARO.

SMU Class of 2020 Photo

SMU Class of 2020