H-SC Biologists at the American Society for Cell Biology Annual Meeting in San Diego

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 12.55.07 PM
Two Hampden-Sydney biology students, Taylor Meinhardt ’16 and Will Echols ’17, and Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Mike Wolyniak recently returned from the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) in San Diego, California.  The ASCB is the world’s preeminent society for cell biologists and attracts thousands of scientists from around the world each December to their annual meeting.  Meinhardt presented his research to the meeting on the molecular activation of T-cells that he performed this past summer at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in conjunction with the Hampden-Sydney Honors Council Summer Research Program.
IMG_1559

Taylor Meinhardt ’16 presents his NIH research poster at the general poster session in the main hall at the ASCB meeting

His mentor at the NIH, Dr. Sricharan Murugesan, visits H-SC regularly and works with Dr. Wolyniak to bring cutting-edge laboratory research opportunities to the College’s biology students.  Dr. Wolyniak is an active member of the ASCB’s Education Committee and presented his work to the meeting on developing the Committee’s mentorship program that, among other things, brought Dr. Murugesan’s research to the H-SC community.  While in San Diego, the H-SC team was also able to catch up with Kris Miller ’13, a staff scientist with Synthetic Genomics, Inc. working on recombinant viral research related to work he originally did while a student in Dr. Wolyniak’s Molecular and Cellular Biology class.  Synthetic Genomics is a company founded by J. Craig Venter of the Human Genome Project whose mission is to develop alternative fuels through the modification or synthetic production of microorganisms.
Associate Professor of Biology and ASCB Education Committee Member Mike Wolyniak, Kris Miller '13, Taylor Meinhardt '16, and Will Echols '17 have lunch on Coronado Island

Associate Professor of Biology and ASCB Education Committee Member Mike Wolyniak, Kris Miller ’13, Taylor Meinhardt ’16, and Will Echols ’17 have lunch on Coronado Island

The ASCB Annual Meeting is an outstanding opportunity for students to interact with peers as well as trained scientists of all levels as they work to discern their future career interests.  Meinhardt is interested in pursuing graduate school in molecular biology while Echols, who performed research in Dr. Wolyniak’s laboratory on characterizing the yeast homolog of a human prostate cancer tumor factor, has already been admitted to the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine as part of the College’s Early Assurance agreement.
After the keynote address

After the keynote address

Watching the sun set over the Pacific in La Jolla, CA

Watching the sun set over the Pacific at La Jolla, California

Travis Goodloe ’16 Receives Award for Cancer Research

Senior Biology major Travis Goodloe was recently awarded 1st Place in the poster competition for research he presented at the 2015 VA Branch Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.  Travis’ research, which he conducted in the laboratory of Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01, involved the development of a quantitative RT-PCR-based assay for detecting metastatic melanoma cells in tumor-draining lymph nodes.  His study provides a framework for future research aimed at investigating factors the promote lymph node invasion by melanoma, and the assay he developed may ultimately provide a useful diagnostic tool for assessing melanoma progression.  Travis’ poster earned the top honor from among 59 research posters presented by both undergraduate and graduate students from colleges and universities throughout the state.  Travis will attend medical school at the University of South Alabama following his graduation in 2016.

Travis Goodloe '16 presenting his award-winning research!

Travis Goodloe ’16 presenting his award-winning research!

Human Evolution/Anthropology class visits Smithsonian, National Zoo

The Human Evolution/Anthropology class traveled to Washington, DC, on Tuesday November 17 to see the gorillas and orangutans inside the Great Ape House as well as in their outdoor enclosures (or brachiating high above along the orangutan “O Line”). Led by Dr. Alex Werth, the class was able to see some interesting behaviors, from locomotion and feeding to chest-pounding, chasing, and other displays of dominance.

H-SC students commune with a National Zoo orangutan

H-SC students commune with a National Zoo orangutan

Next the class took the Metro subway to visit the National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution, particularly the Hall of Human Origins. In addition to the public exhibits, we had a behind-the-scenes tour from the manager and a scientist of the Human Origins Program, checking out skulls, skeletal material, and study skins plus research on core samples revealing the history of the past million years in the Olorgesailie prehistoric site of Kenya, where stone tools and fossils are abundant. It was a long day but a great trip.

Touring behind the scenes at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Touring behind the scenes at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

H-SC Seniors Present Cancer Research at American Society for Microbiology State Meeting

On November 6, 2015, two Hampden-Sydney College senior Biology majors, Travis Goodloe and Jefferson Thompson, presented research they have been conducting on melanoma progression at the annual Virginia Branch Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in Richmond, VA.  Working in the laboratory of Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01, Travis and Jefferson have been investigating factors that regulate melanoma growth and metastasis to regional lymph nodes.  In particular, Travis developed a highly sensitive assay for detecting melanoma cells within lymph nodes draining the skin and lungs, a site to which melanomas frequently metastasize.  In order to understand factors that potentially regulate melanoma growth and metastasis, Jefferson employed a CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing approach to knock out the Foxc2 gene in a mouse melanoma cell line.  FOXC2 is a transcription factor that regulates the expression of other genes within a cell, and this novel melanoma cell line lacking this molecule will be a useful tool for future studies that aim to investigate how the FOXC2 protein promotes tumor growth and metastasis to regional lymph nodes, the latter of which will be studied using the assay developed by Travis.  Both Travis and Jefferson plan to attend medical school.

Travis Goodloe '16 and his poster describing a method he developed for detecting melanoma cells within lymph nodes

Travis Goodloe ’16 and his poster describing a method he developed for detecting melanoma cells within lymph nodes

 

Jefferson Thompson '16 and his poster describing the generation of a Foxc2 knockout melanoma cell line

Jefferson Thompson ’16 and his poster describing the generation of a Foxc2 knockout melanoma cell line

H-SC student researchers attend regional conference to present summer work

On Saturday October 10 a group of 14 Hampden-Sydney students traveled to Lynchburg to present their summer independent research projects at the 17th Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference for Undergraduate Scholarship (MARCUS) meeting hosted by Randolph College.  The meeting brought together undergraduates from Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina to share their research work across all academic disciplines.   Hampden-Sydney’s delegation represented students from the departments of Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics and Computer Science, and Physics and Astronomy and work that the students did both at Hampden-Sydney and off-campus in the summer of 2015.  The subjects of their work included such diverse topics as examination the regulation of genes, developing new chemical structures with industrial and biological applications, and developing new computer programs to accelerate processing of a variety of applications. Biologists in the group included Will Echols ’17, Kyle Grierson ’16, Michael Bouldin ’16, Mason Luck ’16, and Brant Boucher ’17. The vast majority of the projects as well as the costs of attending the MARCUS meeting were financially supported through summer research funding available through Hampden-Sydney’s Honors Council and Office of Undergraduate Research.
IMG_1510 (1)

In the picture from left to right are: Ben Lam ’17, Josh Chamberlin ’17, Will Echols ’17, Conrad Brown ’17, Sam Sheffield ’17, Kyle Grierson ’16, Dane Asuigui ’16, Myshake Abdi ’16, Michael Bouldin ’16, Mason Luck ’16, Branch Vincent ’16, Brant Boucher ’17, William Fitzgerald ’16, and Linh Nguyen ‘16

The same group in their more natural state

The same group in their more natural state

3rd Annual Longwood University/Hampden-Sydney College Sigma Xi Research Symposium a Huge Success!

On September 24, 2015 Hampden-Sydney College hosted the 3rd Annual Longwood University/Hampden-Sydney College Sigma Xi Research Symposium.  The event kicked off with a keynote address by Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer and Professor/Distinguished University Scholar in the Department of Biology at The University of Louisville, Dr. Lee Dugatkin, an internationally recognized expert in the field of evolutionary biology.  Dr Dugatkin’s address, entitled “Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose,” highlighted the captivating and comical tale of Thomas Jefferson’s efforts to disprove the idea of degeneracy in the New World.  The keynote address was followed by a poster session in which Hampden-Sydney College and Longwood University students presented research conducted through Honors/Independent Study Projects and Summer Research Programs.  The work of 39 students ranging from freshmen to seniors was showcased at the event and represented work conducted in various fields of science, including biology, chemistry, and physics.

Sigma Xi, the international multidisciplinary scientific research society, was founded in 1886 to honor excellence in scientific investigation and encourage collaboration among researchers in all fields of science and engineering. The Society 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 Society endeavors to encourage support of original work across the spectrum of science and technology and to promote an appreciation within society at large for the role research has played in human progress.

Keynote Speaker Dr. Lee Dugatkin

Keynote Speaker Dr. Lee Dugatkin

Sigma Xi #4

Mitchell Thomas '17 presenting his research on fungal infection of hops.

Mitchell Thomas ’17 presenting his research on fungal infection of hops.

James Lau '17 presenting research conducted in the Chemistry Department on novel Schiff-base ligands.

James Lau ’17 presenting research conducted in the Chemistry Department on novel Schiff-base ligands.

Travis Goodloe '16 presenting his research on melanoma metastasis.

Travis Goodloe ’16 presenting his research on melanoma metastasis.

sigmaxi0060

Lots of great science!!!

Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01 Receives Science Education Award

Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01 was recently selected the recipient of the 2015 Virginia Association of Science Teachers (VAST) Recognition in Science Education (RISE) Award for the University/College Faculty category.  The award is presented annually to a single university/college science faculty member in the state of Virginia.  Dr. Hargadon’s award resulted from his nomination by former student and research collaborator Osric Forrest ’12, who is now a Ph.D. candidate in the Immunology Graduate Program at Emory University in Atlanta, GA.  The Virginia Association of Science Teachers was formed in 1952 with the mission of promoting excellence in science teaching and learning in VirginiaThe organization continues to thrive today with over 1100 members across the state.

Welcome Dr. Erin Clabough to the H-SC Department of Biology!

Dr. Erin Clabough is a neuroscientist, science writer, and teacher, and is the newest member of the H-SC Biology department. Neuroscience is, by definition, the most interdisciplinary of fields, and as such, Dr Clabough has wide interests in the fields of medicine, basic biology, writing, and psychology.
Dr. Clabough

Dr. Clabough

As a graduate student in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, she researched Huntington’s disease, a neurodegenerative genetic disorder. After receiving her doctorate in neuroscience and molecular genetics, she worked as a medical writer, covering topics ranging from allergies to cancer to Botox®. Her postdoc position was also at UVa, where she worked with adipose-derived stem cells on a project aiming to reverse damage to the eye due to diabetes.
Dr. Clabough's students prep for classwork in neuroscience

Dr. Clabough’s students prep for classwork in neuroscience

She has been teaching full-time at the college level for several years now, and her research focuses on neurodevelopment. She is interested in research-based active course learning, community outreach, and the science behind effective ways of learning. Her neurobiology class spent this week creating models of neurons, drawing shower cap anatomical brain maps, and designing experiments to better understand the effect that alcohol has on neurons in cultures.
Neuroscience comes to H-SC Biology!

Neuroscience comes to H-SC Biology!

Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01, Associate Professor of Biology, Publishes Report on Melanoma Genome Expression Analysis

Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01 recently published research from his laboratory that reveals significant insights into factors regulating tumor growth and progression.  The article, entitled “Whole genome expression microarray analysis of highly versus poorly tumorigenic murine melanoma cell lines provides insights into factors that regulate tumor growth, metastasis, and immunogenicity,” was published in Frontiers in Immunology, the official journal of the International Union of Immunological Societies.  Dr. Hargadon’s study compared the expression of more than 39,000 genes in highly aggressive versus slow-growing melanomas and identified 1,462 genes that are overexpressed and 1,935 genes that are underexpressed in the aggressive form of this cancer.  These findings highlight several critical genes and pathways controlling the behavior of tumor cells that will increase our understanding of tumor progression and potentially identify novel targets for cancer therapy.  Indeed, results from this study are driving current work by Dr. Hargadon and his collaborating H-SC students that focuses on one of the genes (known as Foxc2) found to be overexpressed in aggressive melanoma.    

The Frontiers in Immunology article is available for download at: http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fimmu.2015.00452/full

H-SC biologist part of National Science Foundation-funded undergraduate biology education initiative

Dr. Michael Wolyniak, Associate Professor of Biology, is one of five principal investigators on a $50,000 grant just awarded by the National Science Foundation to develop a national mentoring program for promoting active learning practices among undergraduate faculty in the life sciences.  Dr. Wolyniak’s involvement stems from his work with the Education Committee of the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB).  The ASCB will administer the grant along with the Genetics Society of America (GSA) and the American Society for Plant Biology (ASPB).  The principal investigators on the one-year grant will be representatives of the three societies as well as faculty from Hampden-Sydney, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.

The initiative, Promoting Active Learning and Mentoring (PALM), seeks to promote best teaching practices as recommended by Vision and Change, a 2011 report of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).  PALM will allow faculty and postdoctoral fellows to gain hands-on experience and long-term mentorship (at least one semester) in bringing evidence-based, effective active learning strategies into their own classrooms. PALM Fellows will pair with mentors who have already reformed their classrooms, visit their mentors to observe and participate in redesigned classes, and develop an active learning based model for one of their classes with guidance from their mentors. As a pilot to the PALM network, Dr. Wolyniak hosted Dr. Sricharan Murugesan from the National Institutes of Health in his Fall 2014 Molecular and Cellular Biology class where he engaged Hampden-Sydney students in laboratory work related to his own NIH research on actin cable dynamics in mammalian cells. Dr. Murugesan will return to Hampden-Sydney in Fall 2015 to continue this work with Dr. Wolyniak’s Genetics and Cell Biology class.