At their May meeting, University of Michigan Regents approved the promotion of MCDB Associate Professors Amy Chang and Erik Nielsen to Professor of Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology, effective September 1, 2021.
Professor Chang is a cell biologist and an expert in the study of protein folding and response to stress in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Her research uses the brewer’s/baker’s yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae as a model for ER function, which is highly conserved from fungi to mammals. Recently, she discovered that cells respond to ER stress by adjusting the metabolic rate of their mitochondria. She has extended these findings to mammalian cells and this research has the potential one day to lead to treatments for conditions such as diabetes, asthma. and neurodegenerative diseases.
Recently, she has been teaching an innovative introductory laboratory course (Biology 173) as part of the Authentic Research Connection, where she leads students through a project related to her own research. She has also provided valued service to the department, university, and wider academic community, and currently co-chairs the Department’s admissions committee.
Professor Nielsen is a plant cell biologist studying polarized cell growth in the flowering plant Arabidopsis. He has pioneered the use of live imaging to study intracellular transport of plant proteins, and his research program also uses genetics and biochemical approaches to understand how specialized plant cells— pollen grains and root hair cells, extend membrane protrusions. Because the cellulose-rich cell walls that surround plant cells are normally very rigid, cells undergoing shape changes must have mechanisms for remodeling this barrier in a dynamic fashion. His lab has made fundamental discoveries in the role of small GTPases in transporting materials in extending and dividing cells and has provided definitive evidence that a family of proteins called CSLDs are enzymes that synthesize cellulose components in cells with dynamic cell walls. He is considered a world authority on small GTPases in plants.
Professor Nielsen is a passionate educator who co-developed a new course, Fundamentals of Cell Biology (Biology 272), which bridges the gap between introductory and upper-level cell biology courses. Among his noteworthy service to the field, for the last six years he has been the Associate Chair for Facilities, including during the complex move of the department to the Biological Sciences Building.
Adapted from Regents Agenda, May 20, 2021