Elliott Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01 Publishes Editorial

Elliot Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01 recently published an editorial article entitled “The Role of Tumor/Dendritic Cell Interactions in the Regulation of Anti-tumor Immunity: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” for a Research Topic in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Immunology.  Following his publication of an article in Cellular Immunology on melanoma-associated suppression of dendritic cells, Dr. Hargadon was approached by Frontiers in Immunology and asked to serve as Guest Editor for a special issue on tumor/dendritic cell interactions.  This special issue includes 17 articles from leading tumor immunologists around the world who are researching the interactions between tumors and dendritic cells, a cell type of the immune system that regulates anti-tumor immune responses.  In addition to his Editorial article, Dr. Hargadon published his own review article on tumor-altered dendritic cell function in 2013 as part of this Research Topic.  Other contributors to this special issue include Rolf Zinkernagel (the 1996 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine) and investigators from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, the University of Virginia, and oncology/hematology/tumor immunology research centers in Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, and Italy.  Frontiers in Immunology is the official journal of the International Union for Immunological Societies, and this special issue is sure to bring focused attention both to recent advances in our understanding of tumor/dendritic cell interactions and to questions that remain to be answered in the field as these and other investigators aim to improve the quality of dendritic cell-mediated immune responses in cancer patients.

The Editorial for this Research Topic may be accessed at: http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fimmu.2014.00178/full

Two H-SC Biology Majors Secure Prestigious Summer Heart Institute Internship

Aaron Gilani ’15 and Evan Harris ’16, two Hampden-Sydney Biology majors, recently secured summer internships at East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine and Honors College Summer Heart Institute.  These students will work alongside Dr. Ranny Chitwood, an H-SC alumnus (class of 1968) and now Chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery and Sr. Vice Chancellor at ECU.  Dr. Chitwood is recognized as the first heart surgeon to perform robot-assisted heart valve surgery in the United States.  Congratulations to Aaron and Evan on their selection to this prestigious summer program!

2014 Biology Honors Projects

This year, the H-SC Biology Department is proud to recognize 5 of its graduating seniors for their departmental honors research work.  J. Drake Bishop ’14 completed a project on tumor immunology and will attend Eastern Virginia Medical School in the fall.

J. Drake Bishop '14

J. Drake Bishop ’14

Brett Heyder ’14 investigated the identity of bacterial strains responsible for epidemics of dysentery in 17th century England.  He will attend Eastern Virginia Medical School in the fall.

Brett Heyder '14

Brett Heyder ’14

James Hughes ’14 worked on the genomics of a strain of mycobacteriophage isolated and characterized at Hampden-Sydney as part of a national Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) student research initiative.  He will attend the Mercer University School of Medicine in the fall.

James Hughes '14

James Hughes ’14

Christian Lehman competed a project involving the cloning of bacterial genes that could be used to develop a long-term treatment for lactose intolerance.  Christian will be applying to Ph.D. programs in molecular biology this fall.

Christian Lehman '14

Christian Lehman ’14

Francis Polakiewicz ’14 worked on the development of mathematical models that could predict the spread of disease through a given population.  He is deciding between masters degree programs in biomathematics for this fall.

Francis Polakiewicz '14

Francis Polakiewicz ’14

H-SC Biology Student Accepted to Summer Pre-Med Preparatory Program

Myshake Abdi ’16 has been accepted to the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP) at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio for the summer of 2014.  The Case Western Reserve SMDEP works “….. to identify, recruit, and assist in preparing as many highly talented, committed, and hard-working minority and economically disadvantaged students as possible for careers in dentistry and medicine. We hope to imbue our students with the confidence and skills necessary to allow them to return to school better prepared to perform well in more rigorous basic science and math classes.”  Acceptance to an SMDEP program is competitive and is offered to students who have shown great potential for a successful future in the biomedical sciences.

Myshake Abdi '16

Myshake Abdi ’16

 

An update from Dr. Werth

Dr. Alex Werth has been on sabbatical for the 2013-14 academic year, focusing on his research on feeding in baleen whales.  His work has recently been featured on a pair of websites dedicated to marine science.  The first, found at http://deepseanews.com/2014/04/why-do-beluga-whales-have-love-handles, describes work Dr. Werth did in 2012 to establish how beluga whales use abdominal fat pads to stabilize themselves.  The second, http://www.wildinblue.com/featured.html, comes from a website that bills itself as “Wikipedia meets TED talks” and features an interview with Dr. Werth describing his use of 3D printing with collaborators in The Netherlands to simulate baleen. Dr. Werth will spend April in Alaska working on his research and will return to full-time duty at Hampden-Sydney in the fall.

Wednesday afternoon at the Biology Department

Wednesdays are busy at the Biology Department on the first floor of Gilmer Hall–five laboratories are running concurrently. At the east end of the hall, Dr. Lowry’s ecology students are getting their hands dirty collecting the rhizomes of hops (Humulus lupus) plants from the pots in which they have spent the winter. The hops plants will be used in Dr. Lowry’s breeding program to develop a vigorous hops that will grow in this area and can be used to brew local beers. Just across the hall, Dr. Shear’s biodiversity students are constructing Baermann Pans they will use to extract meiofauna from samples of soil and moss. Later, they will spend most of the afternoon on a detailed dissection of a squid, an animal with a body plan radically different from our own. A little further down, Dr. Gorski is running a lab full of introductory students getting their first exposure to restriction enzymes and electrophoresis through a simulation of DNA forensics. Meanwhile, Dr. Wolyniak has his genetics class working with their laptops to find homologous sequences of a gene they are studying on BLAST in order to trace its evolution. At the west end of the hall, Dr. Hargadon’s  immunology lab works to purify RNA from dendritic cell lysates.  The lysates came from the spleens of mice that had received different treatments.  Over the next few weeks, the students will perform reverse transcription and real-time PCR to quantify the expression of the IP-10 chemokine gene.

Our department believes in giving undergraduate students a broad background in all areas of biology, as well as providing stimuli that will raise questions among students and encourage them to embark on their own research investigations.  A typical Wednesday afternoon is just one example of how we do this!

H-SC Students, Faculty Inducted into Sigma Xi

On Tuesday, March 18, five H-SC students and two H-SC Biology professors were inducted into the Longwood University/Hampden-Sydney College Chapter of Sigma Xi, the international honorary Scientific Research Society!  These new members were recognized for their excellence in scientific research and their ongoing commitment to foster collaboration and communication among the scientific community.  The new initiates pictured below from left to right are: Giovanni Torres ’14, Dr. Ed Lowry, Christian Lehman ’14, Lee Ayscue ’15, Dr. Rachel Goodman, Emily Whitman (Longwood University), Heaven Cerritos (Longwood University), and Dr. Dale Beach (Longwood University).  Not pictured are John Dekarske ’14 and Dane Asuigui ’16.  Congratulations to our newest members of Sigma Xi!

Sigma Xi Initiates 2014

Spring Break in the Okefenokee Swamp

Dr. Shear took a four-day trip over spring break to collect millipedes for his MITS grant research in southeast Georgia. Included in visits were the Okefenokee and Cumberland Island Wildlife Refuges and Crooked River State Park. Canoeing through the Okefenokee for six hours resulted in observations of many birds, such as wood storks, egrets and herons, and abundant sightings of alligators basking on the mudflats. An unusual habitat at Crooked River is the Maritime Deciduous Forest, isolated here by wide expanses of Longleaf Pine Forest. The MDF, very likely a primary forest at this site, consists of live oak, hickory and cherry, with an understory of holly, turkey oak and buckeye. The trees were immense, the largest hickories we have ever seen. The forest grows on a huge shell midden–a pile of oyster shells that accumulated over the 4000-year-long occupation of the island by the Timucua tribe. On Cumberland Island, the Maritime Forest has a different expression, consisting almost entirely of live oak, but dwarfed by the constant winds from the sea and salt spray. The trees are only about 20-30 feet tall but their interlocking horizontal branches spread out more than twice that. In both forests, the litter layer is very sparse due to the rapid biological turnover in this warm climate, consisting of just a skim of leathery live oak leaves over sandy, black, organic-rich soil.

Not a particularly good habitat for millipedes, but two rare species were collected and preserved for transcriptome and DNA-barcoding work: Stelgipus serratus and Dicellarius okefenokensis. Both have very narrow distributions centering on SE Georgia and adjacent Florida.

Cooperation with Brazilian ecologists reveals “missing link” in millipede evolution

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A photo of the new millipede species from Brazil

A photo of the new millipede species from Brazil

Cooperating with ecologists at the Universidad Federal de Lavras in Brazil, Dr. Shear is working on a description of a “missing link” species of millipede. We’re calling it such because it potentially combines the characters of two quite different groups of millipedes previously thought to be unrelated. The new species belongs to the Order Polydesmida, but has nearly twice as many body segments as other members of that order. Specimens of the millipede were recovered from an unusual habitat, an iron-ore cave. Most caves are found in limestone or marble, or result from “lava tubes” in volcanic areas, but these unique Brazilian caves have resulted from the erosion of iron ore deposits. The millipedes may have occupied the caves for millions of years, and are white and eyeless as a result.

H-SC Immunology Students Use New Flow Cytometer to Study Dendritic Cell Maturation!

Students in Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon’s Biology 323 – Immunology class recently began utilizing the Biology Department’s new flow cytometer in their laboratory projects.  Flow cytometry is a powerful fluorescence-based detection system with numerous applications that include immunophenotyping, cytolysis assays, cell cycle analyses, gene expression studies, cellular proliferation assays, etc. (just to name a few!).  Students enrolled in Immunology this semester are using this cutting-edge technology to study the maturation of dendritic cells in response to several stimuli.  Dendritic cells are key regulators of host immune responses, and their maturation is critical to the effective induction of immunity to foreign pathogens and tumors.  In previous weeks, students have isolated dendritic cells from the spleens of mice and cultured these cells with various maturation stimuli, including Toll-like receptor ligands and CD40L, either alone or in combination.  Just this week, these students utilized flow cytometry to measure the cell surface expression of two important immune stimulatory proteins, CD80 and CD86, that are upregulated on dendritic cells during their maturation.  Using this approach, students were able to analyze the expression of these molecules on tens to hundreds of thousands of cells in less than 1 minute!  The H-SC Biology Department is so excited about training our students to utilize this technology, and we will be incorporating flow cytometry into several of the Department’s laboratory course offerings!

Cory Geiger loading samples into the flow cytometer as Stephen Woodall and John Collie look on with anticipation and excitement to come about the data!

Cory Geiger loading samples into the flow cytometer as Stephen Woodall and John Collie look on with anticipation and excitement to come about the data!

Christian Lehman, Daniel Osarfo-Akoto, and Bryan Talbert collecting and analyzing their samples.  Yes, flow cytometry is indeed THAT fun!

Christian Lehman, Daniel Osarfo-Akoto, and Bryan Talbert collecting and analyzing their samples. Yes, flow cytometry is indeed THAT fun!