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.