H-SC biology student research presented at the Virginia House of Delegates

Two Hampden-Sydney students, Brant Boucher ’17 and Jason Halmo ’17, recently presented their ongoing research work at the Virginia House of Delegates in conjunction with the Student Research Showcase at the Capitol event put on each January by the Virginia Academy of Science.  The event is designed to highlight undergraduate student research in the STEM fields to the state legislature and allow legislators to interact with students from across the Commonwealth who are actively working on projects.  Brant and Jason represented 2 of 19 total projects that were presented at the event.  The projects represented all varieties of undergraduate institutions in Virginia, including public and private schools as well as 2-year and 4-year institutions.

Brant presented his work done with Dr. Hargadon on the characterization of methods to combat melanoma.

Brant presenting his research poster

Brant presenting his research poster

Jason’s presentation focused on work being done in conjunction between the Biology and Chemistry departments on the characterization of yeasts used in the production of different types of meads.

Jason listening to questions on his project

Jason listening to questions on his project

Jason and Brant accompanied Biology professor Dr. Mike Wolyniak to the event.  Dr. Wolyniak is the Science Education chair for the Academy and helped to coordinate the event.

Group picture of all student participants

Group picture of all student participants

Brant and Jason valiantly transport the easels and poster backings to Dr. Wolyniak's car in a driving rainstorm

Brant and Jason valiantly transport the easels and poster backings to Dr. Wolyniak’s car in a driving rainstorm

H-SC Biology on the go: presentations in all four corners of the United States

The first two weeks of November saw an unprecedented period of travel activity for the faculty and students of the Hampden-Sydney Biology Department.  Over this period, H-SC biologists attended six regional and national scientific conferences all across the United States and presented the research work they have been doing over the summer as well as the academic year:

American Society for Microbiology Virginia Branch Meeting, Roanoke, VA

At this meeting, Brant Boucher ’17 and James Lau ’17 presented the work they have been doing with Dr. Kristian Hargadon.

Brant Boucher' 17 with his research poster

Brant Boucher’ 17 with his research poster

James has been investigating how the FOXC2 transcription factor regulates the progression of melanoma by comparing gene and protein expression profiles of a wild-type murine melanoma and an engineered variant of this melanoma in which the FOXC2 gene has been rendered dysfunctional by CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing.  Based on the Hargadon lab’s evidence that FOXC2 is critical for promoting melanoma progression, Brant worked with Dr. Hargadon over the summer to develop a tissue-specific gene silencing approach to knock down FOXC2 gene expression specifically in melanoma cells.

James Lau '17 presents his research poster

James Lau ’17 presents his research poster

At this same meeting, Dr. Michael Wolyniak presented the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning keynote address on the development of teaching mentorship networks across the Commonwealth.

American Association of Colleges and Universities STEM Conference, Boston, MA

Dr. Wolyniak presented the same project from the Roanoke meeting at this national gathering of STEM educators in Boston and also participated in a panel discussion about the Project Kaleidoscope Summer Leadership Institute for STEM Faculty, a program in which he participated in the summer of 2013 at the Baca Campus of Colorado College.  Dr. Nicholas Deifel of the Department of Chemistry also attended this meeting.

Southeastern Medical Scientist Symposium, Birmingham, AL

This meeting was a regional gathering of undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows from the Southeast to share research projects and learn about career opportunities in the biomedical sciences.  William Echols ’17, Thomas Vinyard ’17, and Tyler Reekes ’17 presented their work done with Dr. Erin Clabough’s Neuroscience class that has led to a published paper on fetal alcohol syndrome.

Thomas Vinyard '17, Tyler Reekes' 17, and William Echols '17 with their research poster

Thomas Vinyard ’17, Tyler Reekes ’17, and William Echols ’17 with their research poster

Luke Bloodworth ’18 also presented his research based on a Hampden-Sydney- supported summer experience at the University of Alabama-Birmingham based on the development of an effective strategy for CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing in zebrafish.

Luke Bloodworth '18 (right) with Drew Bonner, a student at Auburn University, and Dr. Anil Challa of the University of Alabama-Birmingham School of Medicine

Luke Bloodworth ’18 (right) with Drew Bonner, a student at Auburn University, and Dr. Anil Challa of the University of Alabama-Birmingham School of Medicine

Sigma Xi Student Research Conference, Atlanta, GA

Dakota Reinartz ’18, Traylor Nichols ’17, Joey Tyler, ’17, and David Bushhouse ’19 were accompanied by Dr. Rachel Goodman to the annual national gathering of the Sigma Xi society for scientific research.  This meeting brings together undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows from across the sciences in a celebration of the scientific research enterprise.  Traylor won the Best Poster award for the Environmental Science section of the meeting for his work on developing optimal hops growing practices.

Traylor Nichols '17

Traylor Nichols ’17

Dakota presented research on the development of growth techniques for ramps, a type of wild onion native to Virginia, while Joey presented work preformed with Dr. Goodman on the spread of ranavirus among central Virginia reptiles and David presented his work on the isolation and characterization of a novel bacteriophage, named Thespis, found on the H-SC campus.

Dakota Reinartz '18

Dakota Reinartz ’18

Joey Tyler '17

Joey Tyler ’17

David Bushhouse '19

David Bushhouse ’19

Society for Neuroscience Meeting, San Diego, CA

Tyler Reekes ’17 and Jamie Ingersoll ’18 presented research posters at the 2016 Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego along with Dr. Erin Clabough. Both students gave poster presentations during the undergraduate session (sponsored by Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience) and also presented their work in the general poster symposium session alongside experts in their field.

Jamie Ingersoll '18, Dr. Erin Clabough, and Tyler Reekes '17 with their research posters in San Diego

Jamie Ingersoll ’18, Dr. Erin Clabough, and Tyler Reekes ’17 with their research posters in San Diego

Jamie’s research exploring the way that developmental exposure to ethanol can alter neuroarchitecture in the striatum was presented in the Dendritic Branching poster session, while Tyler presented experimental results from the Spring 2016 H-SC upper level Vertebrate Physiology class showing the long-term effect of fetal alcohol on adult behavior in mice. Dr. Clabough also presented a poster that included Myshake Abdi 16′ as a co-author. Society for Neuroscience Meeting is attended by over 30,000 scientists annually.

A lighter moment at the meeting.....

A lighter moment at the meeting…..

Sitka Whalefest, Sitka, AK

Dr. Alex Werth was a featured speaker at the 20th anniversary Sitka Whale Fest in Alaska, which brings whale researchers and fans from all over the world to learn the latest science and observe whales in their native habitat.

Whale sightings off the Alaska coast

Whale sightings off the Alaska coast

The NSF-funded program emphasizes communication with non-scientists. In addition to giving a formal talk, Werth served as a naturalist onboard whale watching cruises and spoke with several groups of college and secondary students plus teachers and the general public. Many groups of feeding whales were seen, along with seals, sea lions, sea otters, and other marine life.

 

The Hampden-Sydney Biology Department prides itself with providing opportunities for students to work closely with their professors on original research activity.  These meetings provide the opportunity for students to share their work on a regional or national stage and gain valuable scientific communication experience as they hone their career interests.

Biology student research in action: student research on hops development presented at local brewing festival

Over the past couple of years, several students in the Hampden-Sydney biology classroom and laboratory have explored the microbes that coexist on hops plants and how those microbes may help or harm commercial hops yields.  The project has been integrated as an authentic research experience in the Biology Department’s Introductory Biology course and has served as the inspiration for several independent student projects that have taken place both during the academic year and over the summer.  One of the most dedicated students to this project has been Michael Willis ’17, who is looking towards a career in the brewing industry after graduation.  Michael recently took a selection of research posters detailing the work done by Hampden-Sydney students on plant/microbe interactions involving hops and presented them at the Hops and Harvest Festival at Pocahontas State Park in Chesterfield, VA.

H-SC student research in display at the Hops and Harvest Festival

H-SC student research in display at the Hops and Harvest Festival

The Hops and Harvest Festival is the premier craft beer festival in central Virginia, and dozens of visitors took the time to look over the variety of posters detailing how common plant pathogens may be affecting the ability to grow a strong commercial hops crop in Virginia.  This presentation is an outstanding example of how student research at Hampden-Sydney can have real world applications that can benefit the general public.

Welcome Dr. Kristin Fischer to the H-SC Biology Department

Dr. Kristin M. Fischer is very excited to return to her home state of Virginia and be the newest member of the H-SC Biology department. She earned her B.S in Biology at Virginia Tech and her interest in the medical field led her to pursue her graduate degrees from the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences. Dr. Fischer focused on tissue engineering with the goal to replace or repair damaged tissue in the body by creating a scaffold structure for cells to grow on, culturing cells on the scaffold, and implanting a functional, new tissue into a patient.

KFischer

Her graduate work at Virginia Tech and post-doctoral work at Rutgers University focused on creating a scaffold for skeletal muscle cells to grow on and culturing the skeletal muscle cells on it. The image below shows a scanning electron image of the polymeric scaffold on top and skeletal muscle cells fluorescently stained grown on it below. She completed a second postdoctoral position focusing on cardiac muscle tissue engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In addition to her research, Dr. Fischer has previously taught a variety of courses including physiology, tissue engineering, anatomy & physiology, and introductory biology. She is looking forward to teaching in the upcoming school year.

Bio blog -2 (4)

Journal of Biomedical Materials Research Part A, 2011. 99A(3): p. 493-499.

 

“Team Hops:” Summer study on development of optimized central Virginia hops lines

By Michael Willis ’17

“Team Hops” ( Michael Willis ’17, Traylor Nichols ’17, Gannon Griffin ’17, and Drew Elliott ’18) have been researching the hops plant specifically pertaining to downy and powdery mildews. While conducting our research we have run into several road locks where we have not had enough plants or enough growth on the plants to be able to run effective tests on the plants. This has lead us to create the Hop Garden behind Gilmer Hall. Five strains of hops are in the process of being planted in the garden: Zeus, Chinook, Cascade, Centennial, and Mount Hood. There were two sets of trellises that were erected with wire hung between them. From the wire twine was hung down for the plants to grow up on.

Willis, Nichols, and Griffin build the new hops garden and plant experimental lines.

Willis, Nichols, and Griffin build the new hops garden and plant experimental lines.

Currently several of the Chinook, and Cascade plants have climbed most of the way up the twine. After several of the plants were transferred outside we had a problem with a deer coming and eating many of the leaves off of the vines as well as biting through several vines that were climbing up the twine. The Zeus, and Chinook strains were given to us from the Virginia State University we then started to grow the plants in the greenhouse and they quickly started overtaking the light fixture in the greenhouse. Those plants were the first to be moved outside upon completing the first trellis. We then moved several plants that Ms. Jenkins had collected and rooted prior to the research from the greenhouse out into the garden. We are looking to plant more rhizomes into the new soil as soon as possible.

Dr. Laban Rutto, Virginia State University (right), visits Hampden-Sydney and provides Team Hops and Dakota Reinartz '18 (left) advice on their growth experiments.

Dr. Laban Rutto, Virginia State University (right), visits Hampden-Sydney and provides Team Hops and Dakota Reinartz ’18 (left) advice on their growth experiments.

The Hop garden will provide valuable research materials for future summer research projects as well as the Biology 151 lab. The goal is to keep the hops plants in the garden clean from infection of downy or powdery mildew.

Gene editing in zebrafish: a Hampden-Sydney student summer research experience at UAB

By Luke Bloodworth ’18

This summer I have been working with Dr. Anil Challa at the University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) with CRISPR, a new technology for the editing and knockout of genes.  The research we are doing at UAB with genetic engineering, given some training, would be something I would hope to be able to keep doing in Hampden-Sydney’s biology department. Dr. Challa has also expressed interest in helping us set up a zebrafish work bench so we could do our own exploration and research at HSC (He and I will present a joint seminar at H-SC in late January 2017).

The author injecting RNA samples into a polyacrylamide gel

The author injecting RNA samples into a polyacrylamide gel

Injecting fresh Zebrafish Embryos with CRISPR Cas-9 to knockout selected genes

Injecting fresh Zebrafish Embryos with CRISPR Cas-9 to knockout selected genes

So far I have used a cloud based biotech program called Benchling to locate specific spots on the amino acid coding exons of the genes we are knocking out. Taking this information, we used ensemble and CRISPR scanner to cross reference and further determine, hopefully, the proper and best binding sites for the CRISPR. Using this data, we have sequenced the proper sgRNAs (oligos) and created correlating primers for those CRISPRs. The next step will be embryo injections followed by genotyping and phenotyping.

Checking over oligonucleotides for CRISPR gene knockout in zebrafish

Checking over oligonucleotides for CRISPR gene knockout in zebrafish

I am also hoping to do a project on Argonaute (Ago). Ago is a DNA-guided DNA endonuclease, requiring no PAM sequence, and using a 24-nucleotide ssDNA with its 5′ end phosphorylated.

A summer gaining clinical experience as a certified nursing assistant

By Hayden Robinson ’18

This Summer, I have been working as a Certified Nursing Assistant. As a CNA, I have had the opportunity to be actively involved in the treatment of patients in an assisted care facility. This job not only involves basic understanding of biology, but also, an understanding of a variety of both social and scientific issues within the field of medicine. As a Hampden-Sydney Biology major, I am gaining invaluable patient contact experience, as well as a better understanding of the work necessary to monitor and treat patients in a clinical environment. With the ultimate goal of one day becoming a practicing physician, my work as a CNA allows me a very humbled and interesting perspective of the American health care system.

The author in his scrubs and ready to work

The author in his scrubs and ready to work

unPAKing H-SC classroom-based research in Austin

Hampden-Sydney is a charter member of Undergraduates Phenotyping Arabidopsis Knockouts (unPAK), a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded research initiative that seeks to better understand the genetics and ecology of the mouse-eared cress (Arabidopsis thaliana).  A. thaliana is a model plant whose study provides an inexpensive and efficient way to better understand plant biology as a whole.  The work of unPAK is predominantly performed by undergraduates in both classroom and independent research contexts.  The original 2011 network of 4 unPAK institutions (Hampden-Sydney, The College of Charleston, Barnard College (NY), and the University of Georgia) was joined by 8 additional institutions in 2014 (Virginia Tech, Oberlin College (OH), The University of Prince Edward Island (Canada), Tri-County Technical College (SC), Benedict College (SC), Francis Marion University (SC), Santa Rosa Junior College (CA), and The University of Washington-Bothell) upon NSF renewal representing American undergraduate institutions of all sizes and missions.

Hampden-Sydney Associate Professor of Biology Mike Wolyniak recently organized a gathering of faculty and student representatives from all unPAK institutions at the University of Texas-Austin, to coincide with the international joint meeting of the American Society of Naturalists, the Society for the Study of Evolution, and the Society of Systemic Biologists being held in Austin.  The unPAK meeting allowed members of the network to share their work with each other, plan future collaborative activities, and promote student conversations about projects spanning multiple institutions.

The unPAK meeting, UT-Austin

The unPAK meeting, UT-Austin

Hampden-Sydney students Drew Elliott ’18, Traylor Nichols ’17, and Dakota Reinartz ’18 presented their unPAK work from Dr. Wolyniak’s Genetics and Cell Biology course in which they explored the effect of mutations to plant lines to potentially compromise their ability to resist consumption by larvae of the diamondhead moth (Plutella xylostella). The project directly stems from long-term collaboration between Dr. Wolyniak and Dr. Dorothea Tholl of the Department of Biological Sciences at Virginia Tech.

Drew Elliott '18, Traylor Nichols '17, and Dakota Reinartz '18 with their research poster

Drew Elliott ’18, Traylor Nichols ’17, and Dakota Reinartz ’18 with their research poster

Drew discusses the group's work with unPAK conference participants

Drew discusses the group’s work with unPAK conference participants

Projects such as unPAK continue to provide Hampden-Sydney biology students with extensive access to original research experience as a vital part of their undergraduate training.

Three Hampden-Sydney men under the UT-Austin Lone Star flag

Three Hampden-Sydney men under the UT-Austin Lone Star flag

Biology students, faculty recognized for excellence at H-SC 2016 Final Convocation

The biology department was well represented at the College’s 2016 Final Convocation ceremony, held each April to honor the achievements of members of the Hampden-Sydney community over the past year.  The Biology Department gives two awards at this event.  The first, the R.T. Hewitt Biology Award, is given to the graduating senior who has distinguished himself in his work in the classroom and the laboratory over his 4 years at the College.  This year’s recipient, Christopher Hawk ’16, has worked extensively with Professors Ed Lowry and Mike Wolyniak over the past two years on ecological and molecular biological research studying the microbiome of hops.  His work was instrumental in the development in a new research-based introductory laboratory course at Hampden-Sydney.  Chris plans to begin work next year in the field of environmental consulting.

Biology Department Chair Dr. Alex Werth presents the Hewitt Award to Christopher Hawk '16

Biology Department Chair Dr. Alex Werth presents the Hewitt Award to Christopher Hawk ’16

Next, the department presented the Overcash Award, a prize awarded to the top junior in the department who is planning a career in the health sciences.  This year’s recipient, James Lau ’17, was recently named the third Goldwater Scholar in Hampden-Sydney history and will undertake research this summer with Professor Kristian Hargadon ’01 (the College’s first Goldwater Scholar) and will begin study at Eastern Virginia Medical School in the fall of 2017 as part of the early admission articulation agreement between the two institutions.

Dr. Werth presents the Overcast Prize to James Lau '17

Dr. Werth presents the Overcast Prize to James Lau ’17

 

Finally, Professor Kristian Hargadon received the John Peter Mettauer Award for Research Excellence in recognition of his extensive and productive research program on the study of melanoma in a mouse model.

Dr. Kristian Hargaon receives the 2016 Mettauer Award from Dean of the Faculty Mike McDermott

Dr. Kristian Hargadon receives the 2016 Mettauer Award from Dean of the Faculty Mike McDermott

Faculty from the Biology Department have won the Mettauer Award 3 of the last 4 years and 4 times in the past 7 years (Dr. Alex Werth-2010, Dr. Mike Wolyniak-2013, Dr. Bill Shear-2015, Dr. Kristian Hargadon-2016).

H-SC Biology students present research at national conferences coast-to-coast

One of the benefits of getting involved in independent research at Hampden-Sydney is the chance to present the finished product at a national scientific conference.  In the course of a week in early April 2016, six H-SC biology students presented their research on both coasts of the United States!  First, four students made their way to San Diego, California, to attend the 2016 Experimental Biology Meeting.  Travis Goodloe ’16 and Jefferson Thompson ’16 presented work done last summer under the guidance of Dr. Kristian Hargadon while Charlie Kyle ’16 and Jake Rockenbach ’16 showed a poster based on their joint Departmental Honors project advised by chemist Dr. Bill Anderson and biologist Dr. Mike Wolyniak.

Jefferson Thompson '16, Jake Rockenbach '16, Charlie Kyle '16, and Travis Goodloe '16

Jefferson Thompson ’16, Jake Rockenbach ’16, Charlie Kyle ’16, and Travis Goodloe ’16

Jefferson’s work explored the use of CRISPR-Cas9, an exciting new molecular biology technology, to edit a cancer factor in a mouse cell line model.  Charlie and Jake focused on work originally begun by Chris Ferrante ’15 and Jay Brandt ’15 (both of whom are currently in medical school) that attempted to develop novel antibiotics for use on a series of pathogenic bacteria.  Travis’ project looked at ways to use quantitative PCR to identify the presence of cancer progression in melanoma cells.  The Experimental Biology conference brings together thousands of scientists ranging from students to established leaders in fields representing six different professional  societies covering biochemistry and molecular biology, anatomy, physiology, pathology, nutrition, and pharmacology.  The students, accompanied by Dr. Wolyniak, were also able to take in some of the sites of San Diego, including attending part of the San Diego Padres season opening series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Jefferson Thompson '16 explains his project

Jefferson Thompson ’16 explains his project

Travis Goodloe '16 and his poster

Travis Goodloe ’16 and his poster

Charlie Kyle '16 and Jake Rockenbach '16

Charlie Kyle ’16 and Jake Rockenbach ’16

As the San Diego crew was preparing to come home, another group of H-SC biologists set off from campus to present their work at another national meeting.  This time the venue was the University of North Carolina-Asheville, site of the 30th Annual National Conference for Undergraduate Research (NCUR).  The National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) was established in 1987 and is dedicated to promoting undergraduate research in all fields of study by sponsoring an annual conference for students. NCUR welcomes presenters from all institutions of higher learning and from all corners of the academic curriculum. The conference provides a unique experience for all undergraduate students because it supports student achievement in all areas of study through poster, oral, visual, and musical presentations.

H-SC Biology was represented by two students at NCUR 2016.  First, Mason Luck ’16 presented his work on invasive species conducted under the guidance of Dr. Ed Lowry.

Mason Luck '16 presents his project

Mason Luck ’16 presents his project

Also presenting was Christopher Hawk ’16 and his Departmental Honors work advised by Drs. Lowry and Wolyniak and identifying molecular markers for the rapid detection of fungal infection on hops plants.

Chris Hawk '16 and his poster

Chris Hawk ’16 and his poster

The Biology Department is proud of both its California and North Carolina representatives to these prestigious national conferences!