NASA Fellowships awarded to promising undergraduates

Two undergraduate studeDial, Mason_undergradNASA2015nts in Marshall University College of Science are working in Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program laboratories with funding from one-year NASA Fellowships. Mason Dial, who is majoring in chemistry, is working on examining
interventions to reduce the adverse effects of cisplatin in the lab of Monica Valentovic, PhD. The freshman scientist has worked in the lab since this past summer, and as part of his Fellowship requirements, will present a poster at the Sigma Xi ReseaNolan Nick_undergradNASA2015 (2)rch Day at the end of the spring semester.

Nicholas Nolan, a sophomore biological sciences student, is working with Piyali Dasgupta, PhD.

Dr. Dasgupta explains: “Cancer cells have the ability to penetrate the extracellular matrix, launch themselves into circulation and travel to distant organs ( a process termed as metastasis). The invasion of cancer cells is a key step of their metastasis. The long-term goal of my laboratory is to identify nutrition-based therapies to combat the invasion of human lung cancers. Our studies show that capsaicin (the spicy component of chili peppers) suppresses the invasion of human lung cancer. However, one of the drawbacks of capsaicin is that it has a pungent flavor and induces stomach cramps, pain and irritation in the gastrointestinal tract. Nick’s project involves investigating the anti-invasive activity of two non-pungent capsaicin-like compounds namely capsiate and capsiaconiate in human lung cancer. Capsiate and capsiconiate are capsaicin-like compounds found in certain varieties of chili peppers. The identification of capsaicin-like compounds that suppress the invasion of human cells could lead to improved treatments for this lethal disease.

Our laboratory has an excellent track record of undergraduate student research. We hope that by providing meaningful research experiences to undergraduates we are training the next generation of cancer-biologists and physician-scientists who will perform outstanding research in the field of cancer.”Piyali Dagupta, Ph.D., and Monica Valentovic, Ph.D.

Nick is very excited about recieving the NASA Fellowship and states, “My future plans are to become a physician and perform research in the field of cancer biology. My research experience in Dr. Dasgupta’s lab has provided me with several research skills to realize my career goals. Receiving the NASA fellowship has given me the opportunity to continue my work with Lung Cancer; as well as present the results of that work at the Experimental Biology (EB) Conference 2016. The EB conference is a world-renowned science conference, with about 20,000 scientists attending from all over the world. I am excited to interact with my peers, and I look forward to receiving their valuable feedback about my research project.”

Several other MU undergraduate students were awarded the NASA Fellowship to work in other labs on campus:

Amber Kuhn, a senior in biotechnology, is working with Elizabeth Murray, PhD, on the quantification of the mitochondrial DNA contained in human hair shafts.

Amanda White, a senior in biology, is working with Derrick Kolling, PhD, on using directed evolution to increase lipid formation in Chlorella vulgaris for use in biofuels.

Brandon Murdock, junior in biochemistry, is working with John Rakus, PhD, on the investigation of the enzymatic mechanism of the C-Mannosyltransferase DPY-19 L1.

Benjamin Williams, senior in biochemistry, is working with Leslie Frost, PhD, on the differential expression of serum peptides and proteins in septic rats.

Clarissa Schauseil, senior in  biomedical sciences, is working with Marty Laubach, PhD, on Appalachian culture and STEM.

Maya Menking-Hoggatt, junior in biological sciences and Spanish language, is working with Nadja Spitzer, PhD on the effects of silver nanoparticles on the wnt pathway in adult neural stem cell differentiation.

Seth Baker, a junior in computer science, is working with William Ford, PhD, on low-cost wireless sensor network monitoring of freshwater bodies.

Zach Jones, a junior in computer science, is also working wiht William Ford, PhD, on the Rapid Response Chemical Concentration Prediction Tool.

For more information on these fellowships, please see: NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium, 

Area high school students perform award-winning research with Dr. Collier

From left to right: David Neff, Dr. Simon Collier, Nathan Wang, and Jared GallowayTwo area high school students are receiving national recognition for their research working in the lab of Dr. Simon Collier, Chair of the BMS program’s Neuroscience and Developmental Biology research cluster.

The students, Nathan N. Wang and Jared M. Galloway, are seniors at Fairland High School in Proctorville, Ohio. They have been working in Collier’s lab since summer 2010 with Marshall graduate student David Neff on a project to explore the function of a rubber-like protein, resilin, in insect flight.

Research in Collier’s lab focuses on the genetic control of the basic developmental processes of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. According to Collier, Drosophila has been studied for more than 100 years because the organism has many genes and genetic pathways similar to humans. Collier is considered a pioneer in the field.

Neff, who is overseeing the students’ research, said, “This is an important project because not only has it increased our understanding of insect flight, it also has potential implications for the design of biotechnological devices and possibly tissue implants, which could employ molecularly engineered protein sheets.”

Wang and Galloway were nationally recognized for their research in October, when they were named semifinalists in the 2011 Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology. The highest science honor awarded to American high school students, the award is sponsored by the Siemens Foundation. Their project was one of only three from Ohio to reach the national semifinals.

Earlier this year, their project earned them superior ratings at the Fairland Schools Local Science Fair, the Ohio Academy of Science District 14 Science Day and the Ohio Academy of Science State Science Day, where they were recognized with the Sigma Xi Interdisciplinary Research Award presented by the Ohio State University chapter of the scientific research society.

Collier said, “Nathan and Jared are indeed outstanding young students with very bright futures ahead of them. They are doing exemplary research in our lab and I’m looking forward to watching where their academic careers take them.”

The research was supported with funding from the National Science Foundation and the NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium.