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UA Conference for Undergrad Research Celebrates 25th Year
More than 2,000 students have been involved in the program over its history, authoring or co-authoring more than 900 scholarly articles and giving more than 1,000 presentations at scientific conferences.
The University of Arizona's Undergraduate Biology Research Program will hold its 25th annual conference this weekend to showcase student research in areas ranging from cancer to psychology.
More than 2,000 students have been involved in the effort over its history, authoring or co-authoring more than 900 scholarly articles and giving more than 1,000 presentations at scientific conferences.
The participants are given "high-impact educational experiences," said Carol Bender, who directs UBRP as well as its international component, the Biomedical Research Abroad: Vistas Open – or BRAVO! program. "For 25 years, UBRP and BRAVO! have enhanced the learning experience of hundreds of students."
The flagship UBRP program is one example of the UA's commitment to 100 percent student engagement through opportunities that give undergraduates real-world experience via internships, service learning, study abroad and involvement in UA research.
"Our goal is to grow the program to reach even more students in the future," said Bender, also a University Distinguished Outreach Professor and a professor of practice in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology.
During this year's conference, UA alumnus Zeb Hogan, an assistant research professor at the University of Nevada – Reno and host of National Geographic's "Monster Fish" will serve as the keynote speaker for the conference.
A UBRP alumnus and an ecologist and photographer, Hogan was one of only 15 people in the world to be named a National Geographic Fellow in 2011. Hogan earned his undergraduate degree in ecology and evolutionary biology from the UA in 1996, and then went on to study megafish species around the world.
In collaboration with the UA School of Dance, UBRP will host a performance by dance students, led by Anna Keller, a graduate student in the school. The dance, titled “The BioFish Dance,” is inspired by Hogan’s work with very large fish.
Also new this year, the UBRP conference will offer hands-on science activities for children and their families, with partners that include the UA's Insect Discovery and other UA science outreach programs.
"We're hoping to be able to recruit the next generation of UBRP students," Bender said.
The event will include an alumni reception and posters displaying students' research, with other students from Northern Arizona University, DePauw University, Calvin College, Amherst College, Luther College and Miami University also presenting. Some of those students are particiapting in a BIO5 Institute program providing short-term research experiences to students.
UA UBRP students, and their research projects, who are presenting include:
- Biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology major Kevin Carlson, who is investigating a specific class of molecules that regulate apoptosis, or programmed cell death. Problems with apoptosis regulation often result in diseases, including cancer. A hallmark of cancerous cells is their ability to avoid apoptosis, allowing them to form tumors. Carlson, also a UA Honors College student, is studying a specific class of molecules that regulate apoptosis. His work with chemistry and biochemistry professor Indraneel Ghosh’s group involves identifying specific parts of these proteins that can either cause or prevent the molecules from interacting and initialing apoptosis. Determining these interactions is necessary to develop new cancer therapies.
- Darya Anderson, a pre-public health and Honors College student, who has been investigating the microbial communities that live in permafrost thaw, hoping to inform understandings of global climate change. In particular, Anderson, in her work with UA assistant professor and Institute for the Environment member Virginia Rich, has focused on the methane production of such tiny communities, focusing on the changes they experience when permafrost begins to thaw.
- Si'Ana Coggins, a biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology major in the Honors College, who will be sharing information about an ongoing investigation of human colorectal cancer, the second leading cause of cancer mortality in the U.S. Coggins, who works with UA Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine professor Thomas Doetschman, is investigating challenges associated with providing patients with a specific type of chemotherapeutic treatment, specifically focusing on the role of certain enzyme and mutations in cancerous cells. Coggins' work is intended to contribute to improvements in personalized medicine.
- Austin Brown, who investigates the effects of a specific type of fungicide on honeybee health. Given the continued use of insecticides, herbicides and fungicides, Brown hopes to inform crop production processes. Brown, an Honors College student studying biology, neuroscience and cognitive science, works with UA associate researcher and entomologist Gloria Degrandi-Hoffman studying the effects of a specific type of fungicide on honeybee health. Given the continued use of insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides, Brown hopes to inform crop production processes.
- Jordan Brock, whose work involves the Camelina Sativa, or C. sativa, a type of drought tolerant weed. Brock's investigation involves studying other species and the closest relatives of C. sativa, which has been processed for high quality oil in the bioenergy industry. Brock, who is studying plant sciences, works with assistant professor Mark Beilstein of the School of Plant Sciences.
- Jesus Serrano Careaga, who works with UA psychologist Mary-Frances O’Connor, and is investigating the impact of chronic stress induced by longing for a loved one can leave an individual vulnerable to physiological changes that may affect their health. Serrano Careaga, an Honors College student, is studying psychology and sociology.
Another UBRP student and presenter, Shemonti Hasan, is investigating the bacteria that causes gonorrhea. In her work, Hasan is studying how the bacteria uses certain proteins on the host cell's membrane to invade into the cell.
"Not only has it helped me become a more independent thinker, it has also helped me better understand my science course materials because I apply that knowledge to my research," said Hasan, also president of the UBRP Ambassadors, a team of students who represent the program and facilitate activities. "In addition, working on my own project has given me more appreciation and made me more passionate about a career in the sciences."
Matthew Groysman, another UBRP student, also will be presenting his work at the conference this year.
"UBRP has been a fantastic opportunity and the highlight of my undergraduate career," said Groysman, a neuroscience major and UBRP student.
As member of Dr. Jonathan Schatz's research group at the Arizona Cancer Center, Groysman has been investigating the genetic basis of lymphoma, a group of cancers that arise from the immune system. He has specifically been investigating the role of a gene called MYD88.
"A specific mutation of MYD88 has been identified as important in the cause of several types of lymphoma," Groysman said. "Understanding it may offer insight into how some forms of cancer begin."
Groysman said the support of his mentor and the opportunities that UBRP have provided have been especially important to his academic and professional development.
"The program has helped me develop as a student, as a scientist and as an individual," Groysman said. "I would recommend research to any undergraduate as it is truly an enriching experience."
Online registration is available for the event, which is free and open to the public.