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Students present research at biology conference in New Orleans

Three of professor Katie Staab’s Biology students recently presented their student-faculty collaborative research findings to the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology’s (SICB) annual conference in New Orleans.

McDaniel Biology professors and students at the SICB conference in New Orleans

McDaniel Biology students presented their papers at the SICB conference in New Orleans.

Three of professor Katie Staab’s Biology students recently presented their student-faculty collaborative research findings to the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology’s (SICB) annual conference in New Orleans.

The experience of presenting their research on the connective tissue in the jaws of several fish species to experts and peers alike was new to seniors Courtney Bohn of Mt. Airy, Md., and Adelle Laniyan of Baltimore and junior Riley Palmer of Nashville, Tenn., and they were more than a little nervous about it.

Courtney Bohn in front of her poster.

Courtney Bohn

But the result was exactly what their professor predicted it would be — all three returned to campus with new potentially professional connections, heightened enthusiasm for research and confidence in their ability to communicate complex scientific ideas in an interesting and authentic way.

“The experience of doing research and presenting it as an undergrad teaches discipline, independence, problem-solving skills, resilience — grit,” says Staab, who also engages students in the grant application process, including proposals to the National Science Foundation, so the students see how science is funded, how to write persuasively and how their projects fit into the bigger picture. “Performing research as an undergraduate teaches students not what to think but rather how to think.”

Adelle Laniyan in front of her poster.

Adelle Laniyan

Also during the five-day conference, Staab presented her teaching methodologies and fellow Biology professor Molly Jacobs presented her work with postlarval and juvenile lobsters. Her lab’s research interest focuses on connective tissue in fish, which have at least a dozen different types of cartilage as compared to three types in humans. All three students researched connective tissue and its function in the jaws of fish. Palmer looked at goldfish, Bohn at large mouthed bass and Laniyan at mosquito fish.

“Geeking out and talking with everyone at the conference made me even more interested in doing research and presenting my work,” says Laniyan, who plans on going to medical school. “It’s great to have the opportunity to do this level of research as an undergrad.”

Bohn, who has her career sights set on pharmacy, talked with the Brown University professor — a leader in the field of integrative and comparative biology — who inspired her research and presentation.

Riley Palmer in front of her poster.

Riley Palmer

“Even though I was really nervous, presenting my work made me even more excited about writing the paper about my research,” she says.

Palmer, who hasn’t yet decided on career path, plans to pursue more opportunities involving research and presentations, possibly in organic chemistry.

“More experiences in different areas give me an idea of what I want to go into after college,” she says.

Biology professor Katie Staab (left) with research students Riley Palmer, Adelle Laniyan, Courtney Bohn and Biology professor Molly Jacobs take time before the SICB conference to see New Orleans.