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.


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:

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.

A summer internship in dentistry

by Andrew Martinez ’16

I attended a dental internship at Texas A&M Baylor College of Dentistry, where I experienced actual dental techniques, and courses and taught to first year dental students. The program was called Summer Pre-Enrichment Program Collegiate II (SPEPII). SPEP was centered around the Dental Admissions Test (DAT), the instructors wanted students to perform well on the difficult exam. Courses taught were Head and Neck Anatomy, Respiratory Anatomy, Cardiology, and Oral Histology. The course load was huge, on top of studying for the DAT.

Andrew (fourth from the right) with the intern class at the Texas A&M/Baylor College of Dentistry

Andrew (fourth from the right) with the intern class at the Texas A&M/Baylor College of Dentistry

BUT! I had fun along the way. I made 29 new friends interested my end goal—dentistry. The intern class of 30 tugged along for six long weeks and completed the program grateful and ready to tackle the DAT. During the program we had the opportunity to prep and fill a tooth model (typodont) with amalgam and composite fillings. We also got the chance to construct a gold grown from scratch, starting with gold pieces of metal and melting them down to fill a model, which each intern made. Overall the experience was amazing, and I had a blast studying/torturing myself for 6 weeks. We kept ourselves going and motivated by telling ourselves. “Don’t Worry I’m Almost a Dentist!”

Like I said.....Don't worry!!

Like I said…..Don’t worry!!

Summer research in cell biology at the NIH

by Taylor Meinhardt ’16

      This summer I am doing research at the NIH (National Institutes of Health) under post-doc Sricharan Murugesan in Dr. John Hammer’s lab of the NHLBI (National Heart Lung and Blood Institute). My project is tied closely to the primary focus of Dr. Murugesan’s research and is related to a project he brought to Hampden-Sydney while working with Professor Mike Wolyniak’s Molecular Biology class last year.
      Dr. Murugesan is trying to understand the formation and function of actin arcs at the immunological synapse (IS) of T Cells. Branched and linear actin filaments make up the cytoskeleton of cells, which undergoes rapid rearrangement in T Cells upon contact with target cell. These structures are also present in migrating cells, providing the possibility of implications far beyond T Cell biology. Using Structured Illumination Microscopy (a form of super resolution fluorescent microscopy), he has uncovered linear actin filaments that run perpendicular to the plasma membrane, and are embedded in the branched actin network at the periphery of the IS, and reorient into the concentric actin arcs in the interior. They believe these linear actin filaments are nucleated by forming, a class of proteins known to assemble free actin into filaments.
Setting up a sample for microscopy

Setting up a sample for microscopy

        Using a Deltavision OMX microscope, I fluorescently stain the actin within Jurkat T cells, an immortal human cell line, as well as the formins INF2, mDia1, and FMNL1 in order to learn about their localization relative to these concentric, linear actin filaments at the IS. We will also transfect Jurkat cell lines with shRNA plasmids to knock down each of these protein products to observe their effect on the formation of the IS. This will help us infer about their specific roles and relative importance in the formation of this immunological structure.
Using fluorescent markers to observe actin cables in cells

Using fluorescent markers to observe actin cables in cells