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Biology and Biochemistry students to present research projects

Biology professor Randy Morrison and Biology major Julie Broussard examine a leaf tail gecko.
April 09, 2013

McDaniel’s senior Biology and Biochemistry majors showcase their senior capstone research April 15-19 in Eaton Hall in a poster session that includes projects reflecting such topics as creating a genetic knock-out of an amoeba gene, the effects of various insulin injection methods on blood glucose control in diabetes, the background matching capabilities of Henkel’s leaf-tailed gecko, and studies related to Alzheimer’s disease, pollution, Ebola virus, and cardiovascular response to exercise.

Biology and Biochemistry students will discuss their projects at 4-6 p.m. April 15 on the first and second floors of Eaton Hall. The poster session is free and open to the public.

Kirsten Bickford of Sykesville, Md., and Catherine O’Keeffe of Tuckahoe, N.Y., working with mentor assistant Biology professor Susan Parrish, were able to remove a gene from the genome of the amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum, also known as slime mold. The students’ 10 weeks of summer research was supported by The Mayetta Hawkins Boyer Student-Faculty Research Fund and The Richard Singer Student Research Fund.  

“Since a gene encodes a protein, when you remove a specific gene, the protein encoded by that gene cannot be made,” says Parrish. “You can then look at what happens to the organism when this gene is removed to determine the function of the protein under normal circumstances.”

Students at McDaniel collaborate with their professors on more than 300 research projects a year across all disciplines – and students are frequently co-authors of professional papers even before they receive their degrees.

“We are a college that is actively engaged in research,” says Parrish, who received a Student-Faculty Collaborative Summer Research award to support her summer work with students. 

In Biology professor Randall Morrison’s lab – the college’s greenhouse in Lewis Hall of Science – senior Juliana Broussard of Hagerstown, Md., studied the background matching capabilities of male and female Henkel’s leaf-tailed geckos on high contrast checkerboard patterns.

“We are really excited about these results,” says Morrison, who plans to follow up on the study with wild-caught lizards this summer in Madagascar. “Julie found that the lizards seem to have fixed patterns – a banded pattern in females and a spotted pattern in males – but as the background contrast increases (smaller checkerboard pattern) the lizards increase their contrast. The light areas get lighter and the dark areas get darker which allows them to blend in to the background better.”

Senior Luke Schmidt of Red Lion, Pa., was one of 23 students selected for the Student Training and Research Program (STAR) to participate in a nationwide research project at the Georgia Health Sciences University (GHSU).

“A hallmark of diabetes is vascular dysfunction and two major conditions characteristic of diabetes include high blood pressure and high glucose,” Schmidt says, adding he worked in the vascular physiology lab with people from all over the world. “I chose to investigate the role of high glucose and the activation of TLR2 (a toll-like receptor) in vascular function. It was a great opportunity to learn about different cultures while getting some research done.”

The 22 students showcasing their research at the poster session and the titles of their projects are:

  1. Kristen Bickford of Sykesville, Md.
    Transformation and gene knock-out of the putative mRNA decapping enzyme DDB_G0283315 in Dictyostelium discoideum.
  2. Juliana Broussard of Hagerstown, Md.
    The background matching capabilities of Henkel’s leaf-tailed gecko, Uroplatus henkeli, on high contrast checkerboard patterns.  
  3. Kerry Campbell of Gaithersburg, Md.
    The role of S100A1 and the PI3-K/AKT in Alzheimer’s disease pathology.
  4. Patricia Chilinski of West Hartford, Conn.
    Assessing the correlation between differences in sequence of Toll-like receptors and resistance to pathogens in various types of livestock.
  5. Megan Cook of Monkton, Md.
    The role of surface interactions in insulin amyloid fibril formation.
  6. Alec Farrell of Westlake Village, Calif.
    Phytoremediation on hard metals, inorganic, and organic pollutants in plants, trees, and other hyperaccumulators located in marine and terrestrial contaminated environments.
  7. Carolina Gomez of Silver Spring, Md.
    The positive contribution of wild yams Dioscorea villosa to the female reproductive system.
  8. Aerielle Harris of Owings Mills, Md.
    Factors that affect gigantism in deep sea invertebrates.
  9. Rebekah James of Mount Airy, Md.
    Exploring Ebola glycoprotein monoclonal epitopes.
  10. Christen Johnson of Baltimore, Md.
    Detection method variation of human malaria infections.
  11. Melissa Jones of Hanover, Pa.
    Restoration efforts for the American chestnut Castanea dentate following introduction of the Cryphonectria parasitica blight fungus.
  12. Robert Kapp of Westminster, Md.
    Environmental factors important to recirculating aquaponic systems and the physiologic factors driving them.
  13. William Neutzling of Crofton, Md.
    Potency of Cry toxins and development of Bacillus thuringiensis resistance in the agricultural pests Heliothis virescens and Helicoverpa armigera.
  14. Catherine O’Keeffe of Tuckahoe, N.Y.
    Creation of a genetic knock-out of the Dictyostelium discoideum DDB_G0278957 gene, encoding a putative mRNA Nudix decapping enzyme.
  15. Maria Osso of Eldersburg, Md.
    The effect of a BRAF kinase inhibitor, PLX-4032, on primary and established melanoma cell lines.
  16. Ashlynn Parker of Monkton, Md.
    Cardiovascular response to high-intensity aerobic and anaerobic exercise.
  17. Luke Schmidt of Red Lion, Pa. (with Maria Alicia Carrillo-Sepulveda, Kenia Nunes, Kathryn Spitler and R Clinton Webb)
    Toll-like recptor-2 mediates augmented vascular contractility in diabetes.
  18. Rebecca Shuford of Monrovia, Md.
    Developing an animal model for insulin injection mediated amyloid deposits.
  19. Blair Undem of Bel Air, Md.
    Parainfluenza-3 respiratory viral infection-induced increase in reflex cough and bronchoconstriction.
  20. Carolina Marques dos Santos Vieira of Ourem, Portugal
    Acquistion, consolidation and retrieval of olfactory and courtship memory in Drosophila melanogaster using conditional training.
  21. Ethan Wilson of White Hall, Md.
    The effects of ebb and flood tides on zooplankton distribution in estuarine environments of the Chesapeake Bay.
  22. Zach Woods of Reisterstown, Md.
    Malaria vaccines: a near impossibility.
 
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