Biology students and faculty honored at H-SC Final Convocation

The biology department was well represented at the College’s 2015 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, Davis Carter ’15, has worked extensively with Professor Rachel Goodman over the past two years on research in virology and herpetology and is beginning a research position at the University of Tennessee this summer as the first step towards a career in ecology research.

Davis Carter receives the Hewett Award from Biology Chair Alex Werth

Davis Carter receives the Hewett Award from Biology Chair Alex Werth

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, Travis Goodloe ’16, will undertake research this summer with Professor Kristian Hargadon and will be the co-Editor-in-Chief of the Hampden-Sydney Journal of the Sciences in the 2015-16 academic year.

Travis Goodloe '16 receives the Overcash Award from Professor Werth

Travis Goodloe ’16 receives the Overcash Award from Professor Werth

In addition to the Biology Department awards, James Lau ’17 and Brant Boucher ’17, double majors in Biology and Chemistry, were given the Sophomore Academic Excellence Award for carrying the highest GPAs in the sophomore class.

James Lau '17 receives the Sophomore Academic Excellence Award from Associate Dean for Academic Success Christa Fye

James Lau ’17 receives the Sophomore Academic Excellence Award from Associate Dean for Academic Success Christa Fye

Brant Boucher '17 receiving  the Sophomore Academic Excellence Award from Dean Fye

Brant Boucher ’17 receiving the Sophomore Academic Excellence Award from Dean Fye

 

Finally, Professor William Shear celebrated his retirement at the end of the academic year by receiving the John Peter Mettauer Award for Research Excellence for the fourth time in his 41-year Hampden-Sydney career.  Professor Shear has authored 205 papers on a variety of topics including insect taxonomy and evolution and ranks among the most prolific researchers in the 240 year history of the College.

Professor Shear addresses the crowd after receiving the Mettauer Award

Professor Shear addresses the crowd after receiving the Mettauer Award

Marine biology students visit oyster aquaculture facilities

The students in Prof. Werth’s Biology 343 traveled to the Middle Peninsula of Virginia to check out various sites where farmed oysters are bred and raised at a hatchery and then grown in cages in natural habitats. First they visited the Rappahannock Oyster Company on Locklies Creek in Topping, VA, where student Jamie Howard works with other ROC employees. They toured a facility and spoke with staff who farm Crassostrea virginica, the local oyster, whose populations nearly collapsed in recent decades. Now, baby oysters are placed in cages and grown in various regions where differences in salinity and other aquatic factors cause oysters of each place to develop different tastes. Each year, the Rappahannock Oyster Company grows millions of oysters, selling them locally and shipping them around the world. Students saw the boats, tanks, cages, and other equipment used by the ROC aquaculture operation, and discussed the ecology of the species that so many people like to eat.

Touring the Rappahannock  Oyster Company

Touring the Rappahannock
Oyster Company

Next, the class drove to the Oyster Seed Holding Company on Gwynn’s Island, where sterile triploid oyster embryos are produced from brood stock and where these tiny oysters are raised on different species of “clean” algae that the oysters filter from circulating water. The class discussed many aspects of oyster (and general estuarine) marine biology, particularly the fascinating aspects of algology necessary to grow the algae on which the growing oysters depend. Each year OSH sells millions of spat to companies (like ROC) that culture them until the oysters are large enough to be harvested and eaten. The class learned a lot about the life of oysters and this species’ importance to Virginia science, economics, and the restaurant and aquaculture industries.

Checking out the stock at the Oyster Seed Holding Company

Checking out the stock at the Oyster Seed Holding Company

Professor Werth gives NASA lecture on exobiology and evolution

Dr. Alex Werth gave an invited colloquium lecture to space scientists at NASA-Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt Maryland on evolutionary rates—how quickly or slowly do species evolve, and why?—and the resulting consequences for exobiology (extraterrestrial life). The lecture was spurred by the article Prof. Werth recently published with Prof. Bill Shear in American Scientist on “living fossils.” If life exists within reach of Earth-based probes—for example, on the watery moons of Jupiter and Saturn—would it evolve by the same mechanisms as life on our planet? What are the problems of studying species over long periods of time, and how might this affect our study of potential life on other worlds? The lecture gave Prof. Werth an opportunity to observe facilities for constructing and testing space probes, as well as to visit with two former Hampden-Sydney astronomy professors (Dr. Hans Krimm and Dr. Don Kniffen, both at H-SC in the 1990s) and their families.

Scientists working at the NASA-Goddard Space Flight Center

Scientists working at the NASA-Goddard Space Flight Center

Stephen Woodall ’15 Receives Award for Melanoma Research at National Research Conference

Senior Biology major Stephen Woodall ’15, who presented his Departmental Honors research in March at the 2015 National Meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in Boston, MA, was recently named the recipient of the Thematic Best Poster Award for the conference’s theme on Molecular Mechanisms of Infection and Immunity.  Stephen’s poster was selected by theme organizers from among 84 posters in his category for its outstanding research, which involved the genetic engineering of a mouse melanoma cell line for the purpose of evaluating anti-tumor CD8+ T cell immune responses.  Stephen’s poster was selected from presentations from graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and research scientists from around the world.  Stephen conducted this research in the laboratory of Elliott Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01.  He will be attending N.C. State in the fall for a Master’s in Physiology Graduate Program.

The ASBMB annual meeting is recognized for the breadth of the science covered. Held in conjunction with Experimental Biology 2015, the ASBMB sessions and events at this year’s conference represented an unrivaled opportunity to learn about the latest discoveries in the range of subdisciplines that fall under the biochemistry and molecular biology umbrellas.

Stephen Woodall '15 and his award-winning poster entitled "Genetic Engineering of the Murine Melanoma D5.1G4 to Express a Model Antigen for Evaluation of Anti-tumor CD8+ T Cell Responses"

Stephen Woodall ’15 at the 2015 National ASBMB Meeting and his award-winning poster entitled “Genetic Engineering of the Murine Melanoma D5.1G4 to Express a Model Antigen for Evaluation of Anti-tumor CD8+ T Cell Responses”

 

Travis Goodloe ’15 Receives Sigma Xi Grant for Cancer Research

Travis Goodloe ’15 was recently awarded a Sigma Xi Grant-in-Aid of Research for his summer research project that he will be conducting in collaboration with Elliott Asisstant Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01.  Travis will be developing an assay to measure melanoma cell metastasis to tumor-draining lymph nodes, and he will use this assay to investigate the rate of lymph node metastasis by melanomas of differing tumorigenicity.  Lymph node metastasis is often associated with immune suppression in melanoma patients, and the assay developed by Travis will therefore be a useful system for investigating factors that regulate the spread of melanomas to regional lymph nodes and for assessing the quality of anti-tumor immune responses in tumor-free versus tumor-involved lymph nodes.

The Sigma Xi Grants-in-Aid of Research (GIAR) program has provided undergraduate and graduate students with valuable educational experiences since 1922. By encouraging close working relationships between students and mentors, the program promotes scientific excellence and achievement through hands-on learning.

H-SC Biology at the 2015 Experimental Biology International Meeting

Three Hampden-Sydney seniors, Jay Brandt, Chris Ferrante, and Stephen Woodall, recently presented their research work at the annual Experimental Biology (EB) meeting in Boston.  EB is a federation of six different biological professional societies and is one of the largest scientific conferences in the world.

Woodall, Ferrante, and Brandt at the conference

Woodall, Ferrante, and Brandt at the conference

Chris Ferrante was the first recipient of the Hampden-Sydney student chapter of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s travel award, which is available to a Hampden-Sydney biochemist/molecular biologist each year to defray the costs of attending the meeting.  All three students participated in two poster sessions, one specifically for undergraduates and one for the general meeting.

Ferrante and Brandt presenting at the undergraduate poster session, where over 250 students from across the nation and several countries presented their research

Ferrante and Brandt presenting at the undergraduate poster session, where over 250 students from across the nation and several countries presented their research

To give an idea of the scope of the EB meeting, Chris and Jay’s poster in the general session was sandwiched between posters from Hiroshima University, Japan, and Harvard Medical School while Stephen’s fell between work from the University of Connecticut and Trinity College of Dublin, Ireland.

Woodall at the general session

Woodall at the general session

Stephen after visiting the many, many vendors at the meeting

Stephen after visiting the many, many vendors at the meeting

Stephen’s work with Dr. Kristian Hargadon examined tumor immunology in a mouse model while Jay and Chris’ work with Drs. Mike Wolyniak and Bill Anderson considered the synthesis of polypeptides to create new forms of antibiotics.  All three students plan on attending medical school in the future, with Jay already set to begin at Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) in the fall of 2015 as part of H-SC’s early articulation agreement with EVMS.

On Faneuil Hall with Samuel Adams

On Faneuil Hall with Samuel Adams

It was a big meeting!

It was a big meeting!

 

 

9 Students Inducted into Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society

On March 24, five Hampden-Sydney College and four Longwood University students were inducted into Sigma Xi, the international honorary scientific research society.  Founded in 1886 to honor excellence in scientific investigation and to encourage collaboration among researchers in all fields of science and engineering, the Society now consists of over 500 chapters at academic, industrial, and government research institutions and has nearly 60,000 members in more than 100 countries around the world.  The Longwood University/Hampden-Sydney College chapter of Sigma Xi was reactivated in 2013, and the two institutions now alternate hosting an annual Sigma Xi Research Symposium that features a keynote speaker and student poster presentations highlighting recent research activities on both campuses.

2015 Sigma Xi Initiates. From left to right: Back row - Stephen Woodall II, H-SC '15; Bryan McQueen, LU '15; Davis Carter, H-SC '15.  Middle row - Adam Lynch, LU '16; Aaron Gilani, H-SC '15; Brant Boucher, H-SC '17; James Lau, H-SC '17.  Front row - Sara Jacobson, LU '15; Kelsey Trace, LU '15.

2015 Sigma Xi Initiates. From left to right: Back row – Stephen Woodall II, H-SC ’15; Bryan McQueen, LU ’15; Davis Carter, H-SC ’15. Middle row – Adam Lynch, LU ’16; Aaron Gilani, H-SC ’15; Brant Boucher, H-SC ’17; James Lau, H-SC ’17. Front row – Sara Jacobson, LU ’15; Kelsey Trace, LU ’15.

Six H-SC Students Selected to Participate in New H-SC/Centra Pre-Health Rotational Shadowing Program

Six Hampden-Sydney College students were recently selected to participate in the newly established H-SC/Centra Pre-Health Rotational Shadowing Program.  Benjamin Lam, Brant Boucher, DJ Bines, Jake Farrar, James Lau, and Robert Kerby will begin their rotations this semester and will have the option to continue their shadowing in the Fall 2015 semester as well.  Through this program, these students will be exposed to various fields of medicine as they rotate through departments that include: Family Medicine, General Surgery, Cardiovascular Medicine, Emergency Medicine, the ICU, Gastrointestinal Medicine, OB/Gyn, Radiology, and Pharmacy.  The shadowing experience afforded by this partnership will provide these students with valuable healthcare exposure hours that will increase awareness of potential career paths in healthcare and enhance preparation for graduate and professional programs in medicine and the health sciences.  Together, these benefits will provide H-SC students with a competitive edge as applicants to medical and health professional schools.

The H-SC/Centra Pre-Health Rotational Shadowing Program will be ongoing, and applications will be solicited in the Fall 2015 semester for a new set of rotations to begin the following spring.

H-SC's Spring 2015 students selected to participate in the Centra/H-SC Pre-Health Rotational Shadowing Program.  Pictured left to right: Benjamin Lam '17, Jake Farrar '16, DJ Bines '17, James Lau '17, Brant Boucher'17, and Robert Kerby '17

H-SC’s Spring 2015 participants in the Centra/H-SC Pre-Health Rotational Shadowing Program. Pictured left to right: Benjamin Lam ’17, Jake Farrar ’16, DJ Bines ’17, James Lau ’17, Brant Boucher’17, and Robert Kerby ’17

Hampden-Sydney biology students join undergraduates from across the nation in co-authoring original scientific publication

The Genomics Education Partnership (GEP), a coalition of undergraduate institutions started by Dr. Sally Elgin of Washington University in St. Louis for the purpose of bringing original and authentic research opportunities to all undergraduate students, has announced the acceptance of its latest peer-reviewed publication based on student work. The paper is found in the journal G3: Genes,Genomes, Genetics and has among its authors Greg Robertson ’12, former Hampden-Sydney student Samuel Smith, and Assistant Professor of Biology Mike Wolyniak.  The paper, entitled “Drosophila Muller F elements maintain a distinct set of genomic properties over 40 million years of evolution”, examines how study of the fruit fly genomes can reveal a great deal about how different species develop and evolve over time.  Robertson, Smith, and Wolyniak examined individual sections of genomic sequence from a bioinformatics perspective, annotating the sequence for coding sequence start and stop sites and well as splice sites.

The GEP is one of several initiatives available to Hampden-Sydney biology students as they learn how to conduct real science during their time in Gilmer Hall.

A link to the paper may be found at http://g3journal.org/content/early/2015/03/04/g3.114.015966.abstract

12 new bacteriophages discovered by H-SC Cell and Molecular Biology students

Throughout the Fall 2014 semester, the H-SC Molecular and Cellular Biology class worked to discover and characterize new phages that infect bacteria of the genus Bacillus as part of their original research in conjunction with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) SEA-PHAGES project.  As part of this project, representatives of the class travelled to the University of Mary Washington, a SEA-PHAGES collaborator, to get pictures of their phages on their electron microscope.  The pictures provided the students invaluable insight on the nature of their new discoveries, which have been catalogued with the central SEA-PHAGES lab at the University of Pittsburgh as part of their ongoing work on viral evolution.

TG3 copy

“BlakeE”, as discovered by Travis Goodloe ’16

"HSCtrl", as discovered by Chris Ferrante '15.  Note the DNA spilling out from the capsid head of this sample.

“HSCtrl”, as discovered by Chris Ferrante ’15. Note the DNA spilling out from the capsid head of this sample.

Phage “Archie14″, as discovered by Stephen Woodall ’15, has been sequenced by the University of Pittsburgh and returned to H-SC for analysis.  The next step in the research will be done by students interested in bioinformatics who will thoroughly examine Archie14’s genome for particular genetic features that make it unique from other phages. This project, along with projects in several other H-SC biology classes, is part of an effort in the department to make research a central part of the H-SC biology experience.