Message from Department Head Gary Sands

president kaler poses with faculty, students in bbe makerspace in fall 2018.UMN President Kaler (back row, third from left) poses with Department Head Gary Sands (right of Kaler), faculty, researchers, and students. Kaler visited the department on October 20, 2017.

Written for the BioBriEf July 2018 issue

Welcome to our new BioBriEf monthly e-newsletter! We hope you’ll like this new format where we plan to bring department news to you on a more regular basis. We will tell you about what our faculty are teaching and discovering, what our students are up to, and more.

Much has happened since our last BioBriEf newsletter: a full academic year has passed and a fresh batch of graduates have been released into the wild, over half of whom had job offers prior to graduation. Thirty BBE students and 11 SSM students received their baccalaureate degrees this spring—congratulations to our graduates! On the other end of the academic spectrum, a promising crop of 80 students enrolled last fall in BBE orientation and 30 in SSM orientation. As of fall 2017, 170 students were enrolled in BBE and 58 students were enrolled in SSM.

We proudly hosted President Kaler for a visit last October for a conversation with our faculty and to tour our labs. President Kaler asked some great questions of our graduate students and was impressed by the breadth of our work in BBE. The tour culminated with a stop at the BBE Makerspace for a photo opp with faculty, students, and staff.

Alumnus Steve Woods ‘86, the director of the Freshwater Society, provided a lively keynote address at our 2017 Fall Showcase Scholarship Luncheon. He encouraged students to “solve problems with their ears,” emphasizing the power of listening in the professional workplace.

It is nice to have the first academic year under my belt as department head! I am very humbled and appreciative of the patience shown by students, staff, faculty, and stakeholders during our leadership transition. My door is always open, and please keep those ideas coming, for helping BBE fulfill its mission of discovery and learning!

Other news in this issue includes the 2017-18 student scholarship awards, faculty changes, research highlights, recognizing students who graduated this year, and faculty and student recognition and awards.

A special BioBriEf magazine will be published around the end of this year, looking back at the year’s notable news and accomplishments in our department. The magazine will be an annual printed publication. If you’d like to receive a copy in the mail, please send your name and mailing address to

I hope you enjoy reading our first electronic issue. Please send comments or questions to

gary sands signature blue ink

Gary R. Sands
Professor and Head

Back to the July 2018 newsletter