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Undergraduate Research

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Student Research Spotlights

Emily Krosschell '14, Biology

I am working with Dr. Scott Gabriel, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, and several other students on a project for which the ultimate goal is to discover the function of several genes in a section of the bacteria Bacillus subtilis's genome. My part in this project focuses on a gene known as ydfL. We speculate that this gene region codes for a protein that controls another gene known as ydfM.

To test this hypothesis, I am using several molecular biological techniques including PCR, gel electrophoresis, and transformation to purify the protein produAbbrced from the ydfL gene. Once the protein has been isolated, I will be able to use gel electrophoresis to determine whether or not the ydfL protein binds to the ydfM region of the B. subtilis genome. If our hypothesis is supported, the gel should indicate that the protein is binding to the ydfM gene region, and may mean that ydfL protein is responsible in part for controlling the expression of the ydfM gene. If our hypothesis is not supported, the gel will indicate that the protein is not binding to the ydfM gene, and does not have a direct role in the control of ydfM expression.

At this point, I am working on transforming the ydfL gene into E.coli so that the E.coli will manufacture the ydfL protein for me. I am expecting the process to take a few weeks, and I hope that my first attempt in this transformation is successful.

Mindy Hoffman, '13, Biology with Sports Science Emphasis and a Minor in Psychology

This summer I got the wonderful chance to work with Dr. Jones and a few other students on his ongoing research involving cell inhibition using experimental fungi. My hypothesis was that my experimental fungi, named F307, would shut off the ability of Jurkat cells to produce an immune response initiated by cell activators, but would not kill the cells in turn. This is important in cases such as tissue transplant, in which you want the body to not reject new cells, but also not kill them. To test my hypothesis, I set up a side by side experiment: an ELISA to measure the response, and a cell viability test to measure the quantity of cells still alive. To this date, not enough adequate data has been collected, but based on previous results, we can conclude that F307 has the ability to inhibit cell response.

After graduation I will be attending UW-Madison for physical therapy. Hoping to stay in the Midwest after completion, working with children.

Alex Hefner, '14, Criminal Justice

This past summer I conducted research with Dr. Marlene Fisher, Associate Professor, Sociology, Social Work, and Criminal Justice. We explored how college students' values change over the course of their college career. Specifically, we looked at how their religious and political views changed from before they began college, to how their beliefs are now. We also looked at how the change in values influenced their relationship with their parents.

To do this we first conducted an extensive literature review, looking for other studies related to our topic. We found that there was very limited research going on in this area. While this intensified our interest, it also left us without much guidance in how to conduct our study. We ended up creating a survey asking questions about students' political and religious beliefs about a variety of topics including immigration, church attendance, and gay marriage before college and currently. We also asked how they believed both of their parents would respond to each of the same questions. Also on the survey we had questions asking how much they talked to their parents about the same issues, if they consciously avoided talking about them, and if they had been the cause of any disagreements or fights between them. We left many of these questions open ended. Seeing the responses was my favorite part of conducting the research, the responses were widely varied and very entertaining in some cases.

Data collection and analysis came next and was the most challenging part of the process. We had to code the responses into SPSS Statistics in order to analyze them and find any trends. This was incredibly time consuming but essential to finish our study. Upon the completion of our analysis we found that our hypotheses of increased liberalism and decreased religiosity were supported, however we would need to conduct further research to completely confirm them.

Doing Summer Research was a fantastic experience. Dr. Fisher was incredibly helpful and very fun to work with. I would recommend it to anyone with and interest in research or continuing to graduate school.