H-SC Biology Professor Alex Werth recently returned from a June conference with colleagues from around the world, hosted by George Mason University and the Smithsonian Institution, on the evolution of whales and other marine life. He gave a talk on the evolution of filter feeding in whales–the focus of his current research. A highlight of the meeting was spending a day looking through the rare bones and rare books of the Smithsonian’s library collection in downtown DC and the osteological collection in suburban Maryland. There is not enough room for the whale bones to be kept at the National Museum of Natural History. The 7 meter long jaws of the blue whale are the largest individual bones that have ever been on Earth!
The Smithsonian collection of whale bones
Smithsonian research on whale anatomy and physiology
Samples from the Smithsonian library
H-SC Biology professor Alex Werth spent the month of April working at the University of Alaska (UAS) Southeast and the Sitka Sound Science Center on a Scientist in Residence fellowship supported by the National Science Foundation. He got to see gray and humpback whales and loads of other marine life–the number of marine mammal species he has seen so far during his sabbatical year is up to twenty! He saw the most amazing humpback whale breach he has ever seen in decades at sea. He also worked with local high school students (teaching ten classes), judged a middle school science fair, gave a radio interview, did a science cafe, and gave Earth Day and other community science lectures, plus found time to work with UAS scientists on whale feeding.
Prof. Werth is eager to bring this knowledge back to Hampden-Sydney’s marine biology classes, and ideally to bring students up to Alaska so they can see marine mammals for themselves.
Recently, four Hampden-Sydney College sophomores were accepted into medical schools through the College’s Early Assurance Program Agreements with Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and George Washington University (GWU). Travis Goodloe and Jefferson Thompson were both accepted into VCU, and Evan Harris and Jake Farrar were both accepted at GWU. These rising juniors will complete their remaining two years at Hampden-Sydney and then have guaranteed acceptance into these medical school programs. Congratulations to our future doctors!!!
The arrival of summer means the arrival of quiet across most of the Hampden-Sydney campus, but in the biology department this year it means the start of 9 independent student research projects. Students from the department are working on projects ranging from invasive species ecology to tumor immunology to the genetics of behavior. In the next few weeks this space will feature brief reports from our students on the research they are doing both at Hampden-Sydney and at other institutions.
Davis Carter ’15 with Dr. Rachel Goodman working on the effects of ranavirus on turtles
Jay Brandt ’15 and Dr. Kristian Hargadon working on a tumor immunology project
Elliott Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01 was recently awarded a 2-year grant for $125,000 from the Commonwealth Health Research Board to support his research program focusing on immune suppression by melanoma. The aims of this grant are to investigate the nature and mechanism of melanoma-altered dendritic cell function and to explore how melanoma-altered dendritic cells influence the quality of T cell activation. This work builds on previous research conducted by Dr. Hargadon and collaborating students at Hampden-Sydney College that had been funded by a Jeffress Memorial Fellowship from the Virginia Academy of Science. Studies conducted with this earlier funding demonstrated that melanoma-derived factors are capable of altering the functionality of dendritic cells, an immune cell type that plays a critical role in the induction, maintenance, and regulation of T cell responses. Because T cells have the capacity to eradicate tumors, it is important to understand factors that may impact their activation. Funds from this CHRB grant will enable Dr. Hargadon to investigate both how melanoma tumor cells suppress dendritic cell function and how these altered dendritic cells impact the quality of T cell responses. These studies will contribute significantly to our understanding of tumor immune evasion, and they have the potential to identify novel targets for immune therapies designed to prevent melanoma-associated immune suppression and promote robust anti-tumor immune responses. Importantly, this funding will also enable Dr. Hargadon to involve several additional Hampden-Sydney College students in his research program.
The Commonwealth Health Research Board was founded in 1997 with a mission “to promote and protect the health of the citizens of the Commonwealth through human health research.” Since its establishment, the CHRB has funded over $12 million in research grants to institutions of higher education and other organizations that include the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, Eastern Virginia Medical School, George Mason University, the University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Richmond, and William & Mary College, among others. Dr. Hargadon’s grant is the first ever awarded to Hampden-Sydney College.
Daniel Adams J. Drake Bishop David Coe
Walker Cole Zachary Cranston Tom Drury
Meade Edmunds Will Funk Corey Geiger
Carter Guice Jason Haas Jonathan Halmo
Brett Heyder Blake Hutchinson James Hughes
Thomas Isom Nick Kuhlman Christian Lehman
Will Midkiff Hakeem Mohammed Tyler Mullins
Chris Myers Jackson Parker Francis Polakiewicz
Dalton Renick Putney Smith Andrew Sperr
Harry Squire Bryan Talbert Chris Thompson
Gio Torres Will Turner
The 2014 majors as represented on cake
John Dekarske Alan Fish John Fitzgerald
Taylor Redmond David Williams
A special congratulations goes to J. Drake Bishop for winning the Phi Beta Kappa Jones Prize at Commencement. The Jones Prize is awarded to the best academic paper written by a Hampden-Sydney student during the academic year. Drake is the third consecutive Biology Department graduate to receive this prize.
Each year the College holds a ceremony to honor outstanding student achievement over the past academic year. The Biology Department gives two awards at this ceremony each year. This first award, the James R.T. Hewett Award, is given to the graduating senior “…for promise in research and meritorious service to the department.” This year’s award went to J. Drake Bishop ’14, who has served the Biology Department since his first semester on campus in both support and academic capacities:
Dr. Ed Lowry, Assistant Professor of Biology, presents Drake Bishop ’14 with the Hewett Award
The H.B. Overcash Award is given each year to the top premedical student in the rising senior class. This year’s award was split between Chris Ferrante ’15 and Aaron Gilani ’15.
Dr. Lowry with Chris Ferrante ’15
Dr. Lowry and Aaron Gilani ’15
The Biology Department was also proud to witness another of its graduating seniors, Thomas Isom ’14, receive the Student Government Outstanding Club/Organization Award on behalf of Hampden-Sydney’s Baptist Collegiate Ministries.
Damien Sharp ’15 presents the Student Government Outstanding Club/Organization Award to Thomas Isom ’14
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
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!
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
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
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
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
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