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Grant Gives Students Insight into Biomedical Research

July 16, 2013

Laura Lemire
Communications and Marketing
(603) 641-7242

Saint Anselm students conducting research through the INBRE grantJames Murphy '15 is investigating cancerous cells and the possibility of a curing drug. Stephanie Kearsley '14 is conducting a psychological study on the effects of aerobic and anaerobic exercise on sleep, mood, and pH levels; Benjaman Berube '15 has had the chance to study genetics and the nuances and general guidelines of laboratory protocol.

"Through the INBRE grant, I have been able to immerse myself in the research experience and truly determine my disposition towards this kind of work," says Berube.

This summer 14 Saint Anselm College students are on campus conducting research funded by the New Hampshire INBRE program, which aims to increase biomedical research within the state. While supporting faculty projects, it emphasizes student participation in training, lab work, and independent research.

Through the INBRE grant, Saint Anselm students, ranging in major from biology to nursing to psychology and computer science, are developing their research skills while searching for answers to questions posed by scientists all over the world.

In the LabSaint Anselm students conducting research through the INBRE grant

Murphy, a biology major, is closer to identifying and amplifying a mutation present in certain cells. If this mutation is amplified and understood, this new information could lead to development of an anti-carcinogenic drug.

With the help of biology professor Dr. Dan Broek, Murphy is simulating the single mutation that is present in cancer cells by representing these chromosomal abnormalities on yeast cells. He is trying to isolate the gene and figure out what causes these genetically different cells to continue to exist and grow, similar to cancer cells.

Through the INBRE grant, natural science major Lydia Fortin '13 was given to the opportunity to continue her research after graduation. Throughout her senior year, Fortin engaged in a clinical research study observing macular pigment (in the central retina of the eye), and C-Reactive protein (a bio-marker for inflammation) after a 12 week lutein supplementation.

This research has been conducted with Fortin's advisor Dr. Wenzel and has been mainly done by studying elements of a patient's blood after their blood is drawn.

Fortin's research is focused on decreasing ones' susceptibility to the leading cause of irreversible blindness: Age Related Macular Degeneration. Her research has been successful to the point where Fortin hopes to present her information to a New England Psychological Association (NEPA) conference later this summer.

In addition to studying the causes and combatant drugs to cancer and combating irreversible blindness, students are investigating sleep cycles, genetics, and gaining valuable research skills through training and hands-on experience.

Research Training

Undergraduates learn basic lab skills as they are trained on equipment, terminology, and library resources. Then they work alongside their faculty mentor, asking questions as they go.

In addition to research skills, "young scientists gain and cultivate manifold life skills," says psychology professor Adam Wenzel. Those include oral and written communication, analytical inquiry, self-reliance, and self-confidence.

Fortin attributes her improved communication skills and enhanced abilities in the lab to INBRE. "INBRE has given me the opportunity to learn how to run statistics, present findings at poster sessions, give me more confidence in public speaking, and has sparked my interest in the research world. I am truly grateful for being a recipient of the INBRE grant since last summer."

INBRE's goals bring Saint Anselm College's educational mission to life by creating a partnership that benefits the students first and foremost. "INBRE wants to build and sustain a research culture and we already have that so it enhances our current opportunities," says Derk Wierda, Saint Anselm College's principal investigator for INBRE's research training component.

"As a liberal arts, undergraduate college, we like to train students and give them critical thinking skills through research. INBRE helps us do this while also providing additional tools," says Wierda.

Saint Anselm, in it's third year of a five-year grant, has (to date) benefited 70 students, received each of the three types of grants and also received the Director's Initiative Award.

Biochemistry major, Steven Coyne '14 is in his second summer of working in Dr. Broek's lab. Working under the grant, Coyne has identified a number of mutations in strains of aneuploid yeast through genome sequencing performed at Dartmouth College. Coyne is preparing to apply for a Ph.D. program in the field of biochemistry and attributes the INBRE program for giving him direction.

"I value my undergraduate research experience as the single most critical part of my education here at Saint Anselm College," says Coyne.

"I know that my time in Dr. Broek's lab in conjunction with my coursework here has prepared me very well for anything I might find myself doing in the future."

Story by Ryan Sandford '15