Thursday, December 30, 2010

Investigative biotechnology summer research internship at WKU

Western Kentucky University is hosting a National Science Foundation funded summer research program in Investigative Biotechnology for students with interest in Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics and/or Computer Science.  Students in this program will conduct research with a WKU faculty member, learn science presentation skills and attend workshops on research ethics and preparation for graduate school.  Successful applicants can choose one of 19 potential research projects.

The program gives preference to rising juniors and seniors, pays a stipend of $480 per week (for 10 weeks) and provides free room and board and a travel allowance.  Applications are due February 4th and can be found online.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

AU alum talks about graduate and medical school

Becky Richards graduated from Ashland University in 2004 with a major in Biology.  She is currently in a combined MD/PhD program at Oregon Health Sciences University where she has completed her first two years of medical school and is about to finish her doctoral research.  Becky recently co-authored a paper in the prestigious research journal Science on a difficult to treat family of viruses.

During a recent visit to campus Becky presented some of her doctoral research, and then gave advice for students interested in getting research experience, or with interest in graduate and medical school.  In the 12-minute video below Becky also explains the difference between graduate school, medical school and combined MD/PhD programs, and suggests good courses to take as preparation for medical school.

You can see the research presentation that Becky gave here.  And our AU Wiki has helpful advice on both graduate and medical school, as well as other professional schools.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Summer Research on Sensing and Signaling

The Department of Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is hosting a summer Research Experience for Undergraduates with the theme of “Sensing and Signaling.” It is open to current sophomores and juniors, and priority given to juniors. The program runs from from June 6 through July 29, 2011. A stipend of $3200, housing on campus, and a travel allowance is provided. The deadline for applications is March 29, 2011.

For more information, visit the program website.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Summer ecological research at Harvard

Harvard University will be supporting 30 undergraduate research students this summer at its Harvard Forest field site.  The program runs from May 23rd to August 5th and offers a stipend of $5,280, room and board and travel expenses to the site.  Applications are due February 4th.  You can contact Laurie Chiasson at Harvard Forest if you have questions about the program.

Biology graduate Brady Hardiman ('03) took part in this program while at Ashland.  Brady is currently a PhD student in The Ohio State University's  Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Summer research on Lake Erie

Main building and dock at Stone Labs
Stone Laboratory in Put-In-Bay on Lake Erie is The Ohio State University's freshwater field station, and the oldest freshwater biological field station in the United States.  Each summer the lab offers course work and summer research internships.  By applying for the Lab's summer REU program you can get free tuition for both coursework and research, along with free room and board.  Biology major Katie Huff took part in this program last summer.  You can find more information and application guidelines here.  Applications are due February 23rd.

There are a large number of exciting freshwater and marine biology summer research opportunities around the country.  Check out this post from last year that describes some of these options.

Great Undergrad Research Opportunity in Geology

The Keck Geology Consortium has an array of exciting undergraduate research opportunities in geological/environmental science sub-disciplines (climate, petrology, geomorphology, volcanology, geochemistry, structure, and more), and in a wide range of locations (Peru, Canada, Alaska, Colorado, Wyoming, Connecticut, Iceland, Virgin Islands and even Mars!).

There are 15 slots available for students from non-Keck Member schools. Students need to be current juniors (seniors in 2011-2012) and US citizens or permanent residents. The program includes 4 weeks of summer research (field and/or lab work depending on the project), continuing research during the academic year (jointly advised by a project faculty member and a research advisor at the students home institution), attendance at the annual Keck Geology Consortium Symposium, and a publication in the annual Keck Geology Consortium proceedings volume.

The application deadline is Friday February 4th, 2011. Visit the Keck website for application details.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Aquatic ecology summer research internship opportunity at Auburn University

Science faculty at Auburn University, Alabama, are inviting applications from undergraduate students to participate in a National Science Foundation supported summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program focused on the ecology of southeastern ponds, rivers, reservoirs, and estuaries. Access to safe and abundant potable water is a global issue. In the southeastern U.S. there is growing pressure on aquatic ecosystems due to drought and rapid human population growth and corresponding development. There is a significant need for broadly-trained scientists capable of researching water resources in warm regions of the world.

Participants will work closely with Auburn University faculty mentors to develop a student-driven research project on a variety of disciplines, including community ecology, limnology, evolution, fisheries management, parasitology, conservation, molecular biology, and microbiology. Students will complete their projects and share their research findings in a symposium at the conclusion of the program. The program will run from May 22 to July 31, 2011 (10 weeks).

Undergraduate freshmen, sophomores, juniors or seniors graduating in December 2011 are encouraged to apply. Participants will receive a stipend ($4,000) plus food and housing, financial assistance for travel to and from Auburn, and support for lab and field supplies. For full consideration, on-line applications must be received by 15 January 2011.

Paid internship opportunity for recent and soon-to-be graduates

Applications for the 2011 Conservation and Land Management Internships are now being accepted.

This program is a partnership of the Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Chicago Botanic Garden's Division of Plant Science and Conservation, the National Park Service (NPS) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS).

This is a mentoring program that trains and employs science graduates from a wide variety of fields to assist land managers with their huge task of preserving and protecting our public lands. Internships are located in 12 western states, including Alaska.

There are over 80 paid five month paid internships available to work with professionals in different Federal agencies (BLM, NPS, USFS). This is a rich experience from which to launch a professional career. Interns will complete training workshops in June as appropriate to their specific project (some of the options are Endangered Species Act Legislation, Plant Monitoring & Inventorying, Botany of the West, seed collecting demo & data entry, Wildlife Management, Map/Compass/GPS Skills, Conservation Genetics, and Ethnobotany of the West).

The stipend for the five months is $11,000. Projects may include collecting seed for restoration and data on threatened and endangered species.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Biomolecular science research internship at UNC-Chapel Hill

For the past two summers Ashland University toxicology majors have conducted research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as part of that University's NSF-funded undergraduate research program.  This past summer Daphne Guinn '11 took part in the program, and Phillip Wages '10 was accepted the summer before.  The review of applications for this year's program will begin in early February.

Students in this 10-week program will perform research under the mentorship of faculty and graduate students, present their work at a research seminar, attend workshops on careers in science, and will be exposed to the diversity of research done at UNC.  Our past students have also enjoyed life in Chapel Hill, the chance to visit other areas in the North Carolina Research Triangle and forays to the Atlantic coast.  The program provides a $4,500 stipend, travel funds and free room and board.  This is an excellent opportunity for current Sophomores and Juniors.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Summer Nanotechnology Research Internships

The National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network offers a unique summer research program hosted at 14 different universities covering applications of nanotechnology in chemistry, biology, physics and engineering.  Some features of this opportunity include:

  • One application for research programs at 14 different universities
  • For sophomores and juniors with interest in science careers
  • A joint research meeting at the end of the summer for students from all participating universities
  • Some participants will have the opportunity to perform a 2nd summer of research at universities in Asia and Europe
  • $4,000 stipend, free housing and travel expenses for this 10-week program
Online applications are due February 9th.

Summer Research Opportunities

Here are a couple of summer research opportunities worth checking out:

The Center for Nanoscale Systems (CNS) will offer its ninth Research Experience for Undergraduates Summer Program at Cornell University.

The application deadline is February 9, 2011 and students will be notified about their application by March 3, 2011. For general information such as REU research topics and program organization, visit the CNS website or contact the CNS REU Coordinator Professor Michal Lipson

The University of South Alabama hosts a NSF-REU site to work on various projects in the area of "Protein Structure and Function". In order to apply, students must have completed organic chemistry, have a GPA of 3.0, and be interested in basic research.

The summer program lasts 10 wks (from May 23 to July 29).

Participating students receive a stipend of $500/week, housing and up to $300 to cover travel expenses. The application deadline is February 25, 2011. For more information:

Monday, November 29, 2010

Toxicology major wins national award from Pfizer

Toxicology major Phillip Wages
Phillip Wages, a senior toxicology major at Ashland University, has just received one of only five national student travel awards from the pharmaceutical company Pfizer to present his research on the toxic effects of pesticides and herbicides at the 2011 meeting of the Society of Toxicology in Washington D.C.

The Pfizer Undergraduate Student Travel Award will provide funding for Phillip's travel, housing and registration at the meeting, and provides the opportunity to interact with Pfizer scientists at an award ceremony.  Phillip will also be paired with a Pfizer scientist as a mentor during the meeting.

Phillip has been involved in multiple undergraduate research projects while a toxicology major at Ashland University, including a National Science Foundation-funded summer research internship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and National Institutes of Health-funded research on zebrafish development at Ashland University.  At the SOT meeting Phillip will be presenting data from his honors thesis work using larval zebrafish to test the toxicity of common pesticides and herbicides.  Phillip designed this project to take advantage of the zebrafish as a new model system for toxicological studies.  After graduating this Spring Phillip plans to pursue a PhD in Toxicology.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Summer research internship in bioenergy

The University of Nebraska in Lincoln has a new NSF funded research program in bioenergy, the use of biological material such as algae to produce energy.  The program provides a $4,635 stipend for students to conduct research from June 6th to August 10th in a number of research areas, including:
. . . the study of non-food crops for biomass production, metabolic engineering of oilseed biosynthesis, green algae as liquid biofuel production systems, microbial carbon sequestration, biochemical pathways of lignocellulose conversion, and system engineering of microorganisms for biomass conversion.
Applications can be submitted as early as December 8th, with a final deadline of March 1st.  You can find more information here.  This is a great opportunity to develop research skills, as well as learn about a growing area in biotechnology.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Doctoral program in computational biology

Are you interested in integrating math and computer sciences with the study of biology, chemistry or neuroscience?  Then check out the Computational Biology Doctoral Program at New York University.  This program provides research training in bioinformatics/genomics, biomolecular modeling, and computational neurobiology and physiology that prepares students for careers in academia and private industry.

Along with your doctoral research and coursework there are opportunities for research internships.  All students accepted into this program are guaranteed a stipend and free tuition for five years.

Contact the program's director Dr. Michael Shelley at NYU for more information, or go to their webpage.  Deadline dates for application vary depending on the specific department you apply to, but most are in mid-December for the Fall 2011 semester.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Summer 2011 Research Opportunities

The Department of Energy Scholars Program offers summer internships with stipends of up to $650 per week depending on academic status to undergraduates, graduate students and post graduates at accredited institutes of higher education. Majors accepted include: engineering; physical sciences; environmental sciences; computer science and information technology; physics; program management; math; statistics; safety and health; accounting and finance; law; and other related discipline areas. The deadline for applications is Jan 31, 2011.

Requirements include: U.S. Citizenship; 18 years of age or older; and a cumulative GPA of 2.90/4.00. For more information:

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Scholarship Program

This scholarship program supports students interested in pursuing the basic science and technology innovations that can be applied to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security mission. The program is available to undergraduate students who are US citizens. Other details:

* Funding available for fall 2011
* Full tuition and monthly stipends
* Includes 10-week summer internships at federal research facilities or DHS Centers of Excellence
* Application Deadline: January 5, 2011

Complete information is available online at

Questions regarding the DHS Scholarship Program can be sent via e-mail to

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ashland Alum Pursues Successful Medical Practice in Endocrinology

Dr. Brian Burtch is one of many Ashland alums who has successfully gone on to practice medicine. Brian graduated from Ashland University in 1998 with majors in biology and chemistry, and obtained his M.D. from the Medical College of Ohio in 2002. He completed his internship/residency in Internal Medicine at University Hospitals of Cleveland/Case Medical Center, and from 2005-2007 completed fellowship training in Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism at University Hospitals of Cleveland/Case Medical Center

Since 2007, Dr. Burtch has practiced as an Endocrinologist in the Cleveland area at Your Diabetes Endocrine Nutrition Group, Inc. He works with patients who have diabetes, thyroid disorders, and various other hormonal problems, and also conducts clinical research on new medications. He is active in the community and has developed and volunteers regularly at a free diabetes clinic held at the Lake County Free Clinic. Medical students and nurse practitioner students do rotations in his group’s office, and Brian is active speaking in the community about different topics in endocrinology.

Brian comments that "the friendly environment and personal touch that AU science professors gave me have helped me to excel in my medical career. I left AU with a real sense of accomplishment and respect for the science courses/professors that taught and mentored me."

For more information on Ashland’s pre-professional programs in the sciences, check out our website and video at If you have questions about our programs, please contact Dr. Mason Posner, Chair of Biology/Toxicology, or Dr. Jeff Weidenhamer, Chair of Chemistry/Geology/Physics.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Biology major awarded competitive research grant

Congratulations to Wendy Dria (AU'11), a biology major working with Dr. Andrew Greene. Wendy has been awarded a $500 research grant by the Beta Beta Beta Research Foundation. This competition is open to students who are active members of Beta Beta Beta Biological Society and doing research. Wendy says that she "would encourage students to do (this). Applying for this grant was not only a great opportunity, but it also provides experience for graduate school and future careers."

Wendy's project is titled "Confirmation of circadian rhythms in protein expression in Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus nidulans." Wendy explains that "circadian rhythms are daily oscillations in behaviors such as spore formation in fungi. These rhythms can free-run in the absence of temporal cues with approximately 24-hr periods, and they are controlled internally by protein-based oscillators. Circadian rhythms have been extensively studied in the fungus Neurospora crassa, and in N. crassa, whose rhythms are dependent on the FREQUENCY protein. Aspergillus sp. exhibit circadian rhythms in spore development and gene expression, however, no detectable ortholog of the FREQUENCY protein exists in the sequenced genomes of Aspergillus sp."

Wendy, Andrew Greene, and Dr. Becky Corbin, Dept. of Chemistry, "have previously identified fluctuating proteins using 2D gels and MALDI analysis." That work was supported by a grant from the Merck/AAAS Undergraduate Science Research Program. Now, their "main focus is to confirm the cycling of these proteins and identify if they are oscillator components." The funding from this grant will be used to purchase supplies needed to do this. "Confirmation of expression levels will be accomplished by examining transcript levels by real-time PCR, or by non-radioactive Northern blotting. Confirming these oscillations will allow us to identify interesting genes to knock out so that we can determine function in generating circadian rhythms. Once these proteins in Aspergillus are identified we will be able to address further how circadian clocks evolved in the fungal kingdom."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Biochemistry Major Explores New Treatments for Microbial Pathogens in Summer Research Internship

Marie Southerland, a junior Biochemistry major, spent her summer conducting research in an internship program at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.

Marie writes that this “was definitely a great learning experience for me. I was nervous at first but everyone in the lab that I worked in and also the coordinators of the program were always there if I needed anything. I was able to work on my project alongside my mentor’s Ph.D. student who gave me great insight into what it is like to be in grad school. The project that I worked on was titled ‘An analysis of the bacteriophage E79tv-2 in conjunction with current antibiotics to treat Pseudomonas aeruginosa’. Everyday I was in the lab working on this project and I learned more and more each day! By the end of my internship I was surprised to realize that I was totally working on my own! I never imagined that I would be comfortable enough in a lab to not have someone looking over my shoulder to make sure I was doing everything right. I think that small boost of confidence has definitely come with me back to Ashland where I feel much more comfortable in class labs now. I was also able to attend many lectures and workshops on different topics including bioinformatics, chemical safety, radiation safety, and many others. In addition to those workshops, I got to network with professionals and I was able to meet some great people. Overall, my experience in the program was great and I would recommend it to anyone!”

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Biology Major Benefits From Summer Research Internship

While 13 science majors stayed on campus this summer to experience full-time research, many AU students take advantage of off-campus internships. Katie Huff (AU'11) is a Biology major (and a member of AU's chapter of Beta Beta Beta, the biology honorary) who spent the summer at OSU’s Stone Laboratory on Gibraltar Island near Put-In-Bay, Lake Erie, Ohio. Katie was an REU student at Stone Lab (NSF’s Research Experience for Undergraduates), so she took a class (Introduction to Ecology) and did research with a faculty advisor, Dr. Thomas P. Simon. “I learned about this opportunity through the Science News Blog...(along with) several other opportunities... I was lucky enough to have a great professor, Dr. Mason Posner, who advised me to try to find an internship...Through conducting more research on the possible places I could apply, I found that Stone Laboratory sounded like it would fit me the best.”

Katie’s research project was about “about the distribution of crayfish around the Bass Islands of Lake Erie. We sampled many different sites around North Bass, Middle Bass, South Bass, Gibraltar, and several of the smaller Bass Islands, as well as some of the mainland rivers to determine which species of crayfish were where. The last distribution studies in the area were done in the 1960s and have not been updated since...My advisor is a former EPA employee and has over 100 published research papers, not only about crayfish but about fish as well...We wanted to look at whether any distributions have changed or if they had remained the same...I learned the importance of taking detailed information about each of the sites,...time management and patience (during field work),... of planning ahead before going to different sites... (for example) we had to take a boat to each of the islands so times had to be arranged for the drivers to take us to certain places. Communication was key throughout the whole research project.”

Katie lists a few more benefits of her summer research experience. “This experience not only helped me to learn valuable research techniques, it helped me with my public speaking as well. Each week we met with a group of people, including a new guest speaker and the director of Stone Lab. During these meetings we would have to give a brief synopsis of the research that we were participating in. At the end of our time at Stone Lab, we also had to present our findings in a 15 minute presentation to all of the students, faculty, and staff of the lab... presenting something that I was very knowledgeable about helped me to become a little more at ease in front of my peers. I will also be writing a research paper to go along with my findings and will be trying to get it published...”

Time to look for summer research opportunities

Biology major Charlie Davis at the
research bench in summer of 2010
As we approach the first anniversary of this blog, it is a good reminder that now is the perfect time to start looking for summer research internships.  Research is an important part of any undergraduate science experience, no matter if you are interested in graduate school, professional schools in medicine or other health areas, or just want a job when you graduate from AU.  And we started this blog a year ago in large part to help students find these opportunities.

Many Universities get National Science Foundation funding to support summer undergraduate research.  You can find a listing of these opportunities here.  You can also click on the "summer research internships" tag link to the right to see all previous listings from last year.  Most of these programs will continue this year, so these old posts are still very helpful.  These programs pay you to conduct research and provide free room and board.  Why not get paid to learn and ad to your resume?  You can read stories about our students who did summer research right here on this blog.

We will also be posting new opportunities in the coming weeks, so check back to this blog often.  You can also register to receive email alerts to new posts to the right, or follow us on twitter.

Most summer research programs have application deadlines in February.  That makes the holiday break a good time to complete and submit applications before the spring semester begins.  You will typically need one or two letters of recommendation, so talk with professors to line those up before the holiday break.

And as always, talk to your faculty advisor if you need help or have questions.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Science scholarship students attend technology entrepreneurship event

Pictured from left to right: Anna Falls, Meredith Liedtke, Alecia Myatt,
Jessica Dunkle, Tyler van Horn, Nader Shihada, Dr. Steve Fenster,
Jared Baisden, Josh Allman and Zach Weilnau
Nine students in Ashland University's Choose Ohio First science scholarship program recently served as mentors for Northeast Ohio high school students learning about science and technology entrepreneurship in the region.  Our students and the scholarship program's faculty director, Dr. Steven Fenster, heard presentations by industry leaders, including John Dearborn, the President of Jumpstart, an entrepreneurship support organization.

The goal of Ashland University's Scholarship of Entrepreneurial Engagement program is to educate Ohio's high school students about the importance of entrepreneurial thinking, and to engage them with the State's growing science and technology industry.  Our scholarship students led groups of high school attendees through brainstorming sessions to develop potential science-based innovations that incorporated the many ideas presented by area entrepreneurs.

We are currently taking applications for our incoming class of Choose Ohio First scholars.  This is a $4500 additional scholarship on top of other awards available from Ashland University, and supports students majoring in biochemistry, biology, biotechnology, environmental science and toxicology.  You can find information about the program and application materials on our COF website.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Biology major benefits from summer internship experience

While 13 science majors stayed on campus this summer to experience full-time research, many AU students take advantage of off-campus internships. Rachael Glover (AU'11) is a Biology major (and this year's historian for AU's chapter of Beta Beta Beta, the biology honorary society) who spent the summer at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster, Ohio. She found out about this after "hearing Dr. Parwinder Grewal talk at SEE-STEM last year, and ... classmates had interned there the summer before."

Rachael's internship project focused on urban ecology in Cleveland. "My group was concerned with analyzing the physical and chemical health of soil sampled from vacant lots in an impoverished neighborhood in Cleveland. Our hope for these lots was that they would be healthy enough to convert into Community Gardens, and in the long-run make the community more self-sustaining as far as food resources."

There were several benefits of this experience, Rachael says. "I really benefited from working in a group. I gained valuable field and lab experience, and I learned many new techniques. We were also required to write a proposal, a final research paper, and do presentations. This was very helpful for me to get up in front of people and talk about the project we were working on. From doing this internship, I was able to narrow down my career goals to something more ecological, and I have a new found interest in researching sustainability."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Toxicology major benefits from summer research internship

While 13 science majors stayed on campus this summer to experience full-time research, many AU students take advantage of off-campus internships. Daphne Guinn (AU'11) is a Toxicology major (and this year's secretary for AU's chapter of Beta Beta Beta, the biology honorary society) who spent the summer at The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She found out about this NSF-funded REU Program in Molecular Biosciences from Philip Wages (AU'11), who participated in Summer'09, and then looked into the program some more on-line.

There were several benefits of this experience. "The program allowed me to explore my interests in the biomedical research field," says Daphne. "During my research experience, I became familiar with many different techniques commonly used in biochemistry and genetics, such as PCR and Western blotting. It allowed me to work with a diverse group of scientists in different stages of their graduate and post-doctoral careers. It gave me perspective on the work and dedication that goes into biomedical research and it solidified my decisions on pursuing biomedical research as a life-long career. Outside of the lab, I participated in weekly journal clubs and seminars geared toward graduate school application prep and learning about future careers. I also was able to socialize and spend a summer getting to know new people from different places in the country.

The research project that Daphne worked on "...focused on understanding the role of histone modification on transcription and replication. The basis of the project stemmed from the fact that when transcription moves through an origin of replication, replication does not occur. This mechanism is not well understood, but one hypothesized mechanism is that post-translational modification to unstructured histone tails can alter the chromatin environment and disrupt replication. My focus for this project was the post-translation modification that occurs at histone H3 at lysine 36 mediated by the methyltransferase, set2. By working with Saccharomyces cerevisiae, I was able to get experience in cloning yeast strains. The new strains were used to analyze the affects of the post-translational methylation events and ensure that global perturbation of the chromatin environment was not the cause of the replication defect."

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Biology grad completing a PhD in environmental toxicology

Erin Allen (Gagan) is researching the effects of pesticides on the nervous system for her doctoral studies at the University of Iowa's College of Pharmacy.  A 2006 graduate with a major in Biology, Erin plans to complete her PhD in 2011 and is currently exploring post-doctoral positions where she can pursue her interest in how pesticides and other environmental toxins interact with the human nervous system to cause diseases like Parkinson's.

Erin has earned a number of honors in graduate school, including multiple outstanding presentation awards at scientific conferences, an American Foundation for Pharmaceutical Education Predoctoral Fellowship, and an honorable mention for the Women in Toxicology Student Achievement Award.  Erin also serves as a graduate student representative for the Central States Society of Toxicology and has already published two papers from her dissertation research.

At Ashland University Erin conducted undergraduate research with Biology/Toxicology professor Dr. Doug Dawson on the toxicity of chemical mixtures while also pursuing minors in Chemistry and Music.  Ashland University has one of only a handful of undergraduate Toxicology programs in the country, providing students with a rare opportunity to get experience in this growing and diverse field.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Purdue Univ. Interdisciplinary Life Science Ph.D. open house

If you are a junior or senior thinking about graduate school, this is worth checking out:

The Purdue University Interdisciplinary Life Science Ph.D. Program ( is hosting an open house for undergraduate students interested in graduate school programs on November 5th, 2010 from 10:00 AM to 3:30 PM

Activities include an opportunity to meet program faculty, have lunch with current students, and tour the lab facilities.

All students admitted to PULSe receive paid tuition and an assistantship for the entire first year of study to allow them to complete core requirements and participate in laboratory rotations. The level of support in subsequent years will meet or exceed the level of support provided in the student’s first year.

RSVP and any inquiries should be directed to Dr. Colleen Gabauer at or 765-494-9256.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Environmental Science Award presented for work at the Black Fork Wetlands Preserve

The ongoing work of the AU Environmental Science Program at the Black Fork Wetlands Preserve was praised at the Richland Soil and Water Conservation District (RCSWCD) Annual Meeting held September 2, 2010. The award cited “Leadership, Dedication, and Protection” and was based on the program’s work at the Black Fork Wetlands Preserve and the Black Fork Wetlands Environmental Studies Center. The program was cited for including public access to this important natural area and for contributing significantly to watershed conservation and habitat preservation.

Dr. Soren Brauner (photo, center) and Dr. Dick Stoffer (photo, left), both Professors of Biology and members of the AU Environmental Science Program, accepted the award from Charles Winger (photo, right), representing the Board of Supervisors for the RCSWCD. Drs. Brauner and Stoffer spoke to the group about the mission of the Black Fork Wetlands Preserve, and answered questions from the audience. Dr. Brauner was director of the Environmental Science Program from 1999 to 2010, and Dr. Dick Stoffer serves as Preserve Manager for the five AU preserves.

The RCSWCD exists to help residents “protect and improve” the natural resources of the area. They specialize in networking, education, planning, and technical help. Try this stormwater management quiz, or have a look at the Black Fork Watershed in Richland County. Conservation Districts operate in each county in Ohio and most counties across the nation. Ohio districts operate within the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and receive State funding. All districts are linked with the National Association of Conservation Districts.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Biology professor recognized with book award

Dr. Fenster with the Biology Department's
real-time PCR machine
Dr. Steve Fenster, Assistant Professor of Biology, recently heard that a book he contributed a chapter to, Current Protocols Essential Laboratory Techniques, was recognized with a PROSE award for excellence in biology and life sciences writing.  Dr. Fenster's chapter was co-authored with colleagues Dr. Dean Fraga from the College of Wooster and Dr. Tea Meulia from the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, and describes a technique called real-time PCR that is used to measure levels of gene expression.

Individual chapters of the book can be separately purchased, and according to Dr. Fenster the publisher told him that his chapter "was one of the most downloaded chapters in the book, so this was a nice surprise."

Dr. Fenster is a neurobiologist who studies the development of cell-to-cell connections in the brain and a form of autism found in young girls.  He is the Director of Ashland University's Choose Ohio First Scholarship Program and co-directs our Biotechnology program.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Science Alum Directs National Center on Neuroanatomy

(This is the first of several posts that will highlight members of our Science Advisory Council, a group of alums and supporters that provides valuable guidance for our science programs. Dr. J. Patrick Card (class of 1972) is Professor of Neuroscience and Co-Director of the Center for Neuroanatomy with Neurotropic Viruses at the University of Pittsburgh.)

I firmly believe that success derives from commitment, curiosity, ethics, and a strong foundation. Ashland provided the solid foundation and ethics that have allowed me to prosper as a scientist and educator. Particularly important in that regard is the well-known philosophy of the institution to place “accent on the individual”. I chose Ashland because of that philosophy and am convinced that the subsequent growth and success of the university is directly related to its unwavering belief in the importance of that educational approach.

I attended Ashland from 1968 through 1972 as a science major. I took essentially every science course that was offered and, through interactions with my professors, discovered a fascination with the scientific process. Convinced that my future lay somewhere in the scientific enterprise I sought further experience through graduate study, successfully pursuing Masters and Doctoral degrees at Wright State and Wayne State Universities, respectively. Subsequently I embarked upon a career in research in both academic and industrial settings.

My first position was as a Research Assistant Professor at SUNY Stony Brook, a position that I held for four years. I followed that with a seven-year period of research in industry in the Central Research & Development Department at DuPont, where I rose to the position of Senior Research Scientist. In 1992 I accepted my current position at the University of Pittsburgh.

My research program is devoted to increasing understanding of the identity, organization, and function of neural systems that control behavioral state (sleep-wake cycles) and autonomic function. I am particularly interested in how neural systems that govern emotion influence the activity of each of those systems and how stress can compromise function in disorders of the nervous system such as posttraumatic stress disorder. Toward that end my laboratory has contributed to the development of technology using viruses to define neural circuit organization. Currently I am Co-Director of an NIH supported national center whose mission is to develop this technology and make it available to other neuroscientists who would like to use it in their research. Viral transneuronal tracing technology is integral to the research conducted in my laboratory.

Teaching is also a valued component of my professional responsibilities. My first experience was as a biology instructor to support myself during graduate studies at Wright State University. I enjoy teaching immensely and have actively sought out teaching experiences throughout my career. During my period in industry I was able to pursue this interest through an Adjunct Appointment as a neuroanatomy instructor in the Veterinary School at the University of Pennsylvania. Although research is my primary responsibility at the University of Pittsburgh, I teach an advanced elective and an honors course each year in the neuroscience curriculum.

Louis Pasteur is attributed with the quote “Chance favors the prepared mind”. I have collected quotes over the years but this is the one that seems to stick with me. I feel very fortunate to have enjoyed an interesting and engaging research career and to have been able to “give back” through teaching. I am particularly blessed by the active learning that is a characteristic feature of my career choice and that enriches my existence each and every day. The “prepared mind” that Ashland helped me to develop during my undergraduate studies has been foundational in allowing me to be successful in these endeavors.

-- Dr. Pat Card

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Using zebrafish to study the expression of genes involved in human disease

Amy Drossman
The beginning of the Fall semester has slowed our news updates.  And while our summer research program has ended, students are back in lab continuing with projects started over the summer months.  Biology major Amy Drossman is continuing with her honors thesis project on the expression of the vertebrate stress protein alpha B-crystallin.

Alpha Bb-crystallin is a protein that is found throughout many different tissues within the body and is known to be involved in fiber cell differentiation in the lens. It also plays a protective role in demyelinating diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis and when malfunctioning is known to be involved in several different cancers. It is important to understand what is regulating the expression of alpha Bb-crystallin in order to find treatments and cures for the diseases it is known to be involved in.  Alpha Bb-crystallin is located in a head-to-head manner with another gene within the zebrafish genome and my focus is on the 6,000 base pair (6kb) promoter region between these two genes that is known to regulate expression and function in both. In order to determine what portions of the 6kb region are involved in regulating when and where alpha Bb-crystallin is expressed, serial truncations are carried out in order to amplify only a certain region of the entire promoter. These portions (1kb, 2kb, 3kb, 4kb, and 5kb) can then be attached to a green fluorescent protein (GFP) reporter gene and injected into zebrafish embryos. When visualized under a fluorescent microscope, the fish will glow green in regions where the portion of the promoter is regulating gene expression. A similar promoter region for alpha B-crystallin is found in mammals, making zebrafish a model organism for this study. Since the zebrafish embryo is transparent, changes in expression can be easily visualized in the living embryo whereas in a mammalian organism, the embryo has to be sacrificed in order to visualize expression since the embryo is not transparent.
- Amy Drossman

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Current student and two alumni present research findings at the 2010 meeting of the Ecological Society of America, Pt. 2

One current student and two alumni presented their research findings at the 2010 meeting of the Ecological Society of America, held August 1-6 in Pittsburgh, PA.

Brady Hardiman (AU’03, Biology, top photo) is now a Ph.D. student at The Ohio State University, Department of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology. Brady presented some results of his research into the factors controlling growth and yield of forest trees in the upper Midwest. He is trying to understand what happens as forests age and species composition changes.

Brad Pickens
(AU’00, Environmental Science/Biology, bottom photo) is currently a Ph.D. student at Louisiana State University Agricultural Center. Brad presented some of his work on a habitat-mapping project for birds that depend on Louisiana and Texas coastal marshes. This work will contribute to pending management plans in agricultural areas of that region. Brad obtained an M.S. in Biological Science from Bowling Green State University in 2006. Brad has extensive experience with environmental/outdoor education and he has contributed to numerous research projects studying how species respond to management.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Toxicology Alum Pursues Graduate Study in Epidemiology

Tricia Matz, a 2010 Toxicology graduate, has been accepted into the Ohio State University graduate program in public health. She plans to complete a masters of public health degree with a focus on epidemiology. Tricia hopes to eventually work as an epidemiologist particularly focusing on areas where the environment may be polluted with disease causing contaminants.

During her time at Ashland, Tricia conducted research with Profs. Jeff Weidenhamer and Brian Mohney on analytical methods for compounds secreted by plant roots, and presented a poster on her work at the 2009 meeting of the Phytochemical Society of North America and was co-author of a paper featured on the cover of the Nov. 2009 Journal of Chemical Ecology. She was one of two recipients of the Biology Department's senior research award.

Current student and two alumni present research findings at the 2010 meeting of the Ecological Society of America, Pt. 1

One current student and two alumni presented their research findings at the 2010 meeting of the Ecological Society of America, held August 1-6 in Pittsburgh, PA.

Rachel Day (AU'11, Biology, center of picture) presented her work on a new method for improving the visibility of a group of very small aquatic crustaceans. The overall goal of this part of the project is to be able to study the movement of these animals in response to chemical signals in tank experiments. The method is being developed in collaboration with AU biology and environmental science faculty, Dr. Andrew Greene and Dr. Patty Saunders, who were co-authors on the presentation. In addition to her studies and directed research project, Rachel is the 2010-2011 President of AU's biology honorary (Beta Beta Beta).

Friday, August 6, 2010

Environmental Science Major Awarded Competitive Scholarship by Ohio Academy of Science

Karie Charlton (AU'11) is an Environmental Science/Biology double major. She has just been awarded a $3,350 Environmental Science and Engineering Scholarship for her senior year by the Ohio Academy of Science.

"I still can't believe I actually got that call!" says Karie. She is one of 16 students in the state to be awarded this scholarship in 2010. Karie plans to work in interpretation as a naturalist or park ranger.


Monday, August 2, 2010

Ashland Biology alumni pursue careers in anesthesiology

We have posted a number of stories this summer on our undergraduate research students and their projects. There is still more summer student research news to post, but in the following weeks we plan to give some updates on what our science alumni are doing.  A number of our science alumni have gone on to careers in medicine, and two recent Biology graduates in particular are starting careers in anesthesiology.

Will Finn '09
Will Finn '09 will be working as an anesthesia technician at the Cleveland Clinic for a few months before entering the Master of Science in Anesthesia program at the University of Missouri at Kansas City.  After this two-year program Will will be certified as an Anesthesiologist Assistant and will work with Anesthesiologists and other AAs in administering anesthesia to patients in the operating room.

Mike Danko '04
Mike Danko '04 completed his MD at the Ohio State University and is currently a second year resident in Anesthesiology at the University of Cincinnati.

Check back for more news about AU science alumni.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Successful Summer of Research Draws to a Close

Thirteen AU students – an all-time high for our programs – have participated in research with AU science faculty this summer on a variety of projects. Pictured above are (standing, left to right): Megan Liggett, Phillip Wages, Zachary Il'Giovine, Jacqueline Skiba, Charles Davis, Rachel Day, and Torrie Goudy; and (kneeling, left to right): Tricia Matz, Nicole Genco, Amy Drossman, Heather Bensinger, and Wendy Dria. Not pictured: Jennifer Miller. Funding for this research has come from a variety of sources including grants from the Merck Foundation, National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and the Dr. Scholl Foundation.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Using zebrafish to study the effects of urban pesticides

Ashland University has one of only a handful of undergraduate Toxicology degree programs in the United States. One of our current Toxicology majors, Phillip Wages, is working on his honors thesis in collaboration with two professors: Dr. Andy Trimble, a toxicologist specializing in the effects of urban pesticides, and Dr. Mason Posner, a physiologist who studies the evolution and function of the vertebrate eye.

Phillip Wages in our zebrafish aquarium facility
Pesticide use is a common way to eliminate pests for optimal crop growth; however, their misuse or over use can be harmful to non-target organisms and possibly even consumers. Toxicity testing of pesticides is not a new thing, but the incorporation of pesticide mixtures and the use of a versatile model organism will hopefully form a more complete description of the effect pesticides have on the environment. Both atrazine and permethrin are commonly used on crops together to eliminate unwanted weeds and insects respectively, but after it rains both of these commonly end up in streams and lakes and could potentially disrupt these ecosystems. For this reason, zebrafish become ideal model organisms because they can be used to understand the basic toxicity of these pesticides and hormonal and protein disruption with relative ease. This approach to understanding the effects of pesticide could ultimately change the outlook of how pesticides are administered and regulated.
-Phillip Wages

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Evaluating the threat from cadmium in jewelry

Jennifer Miller is next in our series of profiles on summer undergraduate research students. She is working with Dr. Jeff Weidenhamer on a project funded by a grant from the Dr. Scholl Foundation.

Young girls love to wear jewelry. Bejeweled hearts, butterflies, angels, peace signs, ladybugs and ballerinas may look appealing, but if made of the toxic metal cadmium, they can be deadly. We used a method called X-Ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy to screen these jewelry items for cadmium levels; items with unusually high concentrations are marked for further analysis. Since the vast majority of these jewelry pieces appeal to children, further testing is preformed to model feasible contact a child may have with the cadmium-based charms. These tests simulate the exposure that a child might get by mouthing or swallowing a charm, along with a total cadmium analysis of each piece. Exposure to cadmium is cause for concern because cadmium bio-accumulates, meaning that the body cannot cleanse itself of this toxin. Over time cadmium builds up and can cause adverse health effects including kidney failure, cancer and osteoporosis. Exposure to high cadmium jewelry items adds to the total cadmium accumulated in day to day life, mainly from eating food as cadmium is present in the soil and is taken up by plants. Our research has contributed to three recalls of jewelry items for cadmium contamination by the Consumer Products Safety Commission, which is currently working on a proposal for the regulation of cadmium in children’s jewelry.

- Jennifer Miller

Monday, July 19, 2010

Finnish Scientist Visits AU to Conduct Ecological Research

Dr. Jeff Weidenhamer is hosting a visiting scientist this summer from the University of Helsinki, Prof. Aki Sinkkonen. They are conducting collaborative experiments on how the growth responses of plants to environmental toxins are modified by plant density, as well as exploring new approaches to data analysis from plant growth experiments. During his Ph.D. research, Dr. Weidenhamer discovered that because plants compete for toxins the way they do for nutrients, plants growing at low densities suffer greater growth reductions because they receive a larger dose of the toxins. This phenomenon has relevance to studies of phytoremediation – the use of plants to detoxify soils contaminated with high concentrations of heavy metals such as lead or cadmium, or organic toxins such as creosote. Prof. Sinkkonen has extended this concept to develop mathematical models of plant growth in the presence of toxins, and has applied these models to the analysis of experimental data from plant growth studies. The results of the experiments that Prof. Sinkkonen is conducting with Dr. Weidenhamer may help in the development of bioassays to determine pollutant impacts.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Neurobiology and biochemistry collaboration studies brain function

Next in our series of profiles on summer undergraduate research students is Charles Davis, who is working with Drs. Steven Fenster and Becky Corbin as part of our Merck/AAAS Foundation summer research program.

The central nervous system (CNS), which includes the brain and spinal cord, functions like a network receiving and relaying messages back and forth from different parts of the body. Cells called neurons form the functional architecture of the CNS and regulate neuronal communication in the nervous system. My research focuses on the analysis and function of the protein Neuronal Interleukin-16 (NIL-16). NIL-16 is a protein expressed exclusively in neurons of the CNS. Two specific areas of the brain in which NIL-16 protein is highly expressed are the hippocampus and cerebellum, which are associated with learning and memory, but are also vulnerable to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease. NIL-16 is a multi-domain scaffolding protein capable of organizing signaling complexes in neurons. These neuronal signaling complexes are critical for efficient communication between neurons. Understanding how signaling complexes form in neurons is significant to our understanding of how the brain works. The long-term goal of this research is to identify proteins that interact with the NIL-16 protein. In order to identify the unknown proteins we used MALDI (TOF) analysis, which is a state of the art biochemical technique. MALDI (TOF) analysis uses a laser beam to cause ionization of the protein sample, which produces a mass spectrum. This mass spectrum allows for the unknown protein to be compared to a standard and accurately identified. Identifying unknown protein complexes that interact with NIL-16 will contribute toward understanding how the brain works and will also provide improved diagnosis and treatment of nervous disorders.

- Charles Davis

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

How can fungi help to understand human sleep disorders?

Biology major Wendy Dria has been performing independent research with AU Microbiologist Dr. Andrew Greene for the past year and is continuing her work this summer into the internal clock mechanism that maintains biological rhythms.

"The project that I am working on is the identification of circadian clock-associated proteins in the fungi Aspergillus nidulans and Aspergillus flavus.  Circadian rhythms are ~24 hr long cycles of behavioral processes that occur throughout the day that can be monitored or set using light/dark or temperature cycles. We are using the fungus Aspergillus as our model organism because its circadian rhythm cycles can easily be monitored.  Fungal circadian rhythm research can be applied to human sleep disorders because the properties of the clock are similar. I have identified many proteins involved in the circadian rhythm clock and I am currently trying to confirm their identity and cycling using real-time PCR."
- Wendy Dria 

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Biochemistry major designing drug delivery devices

Over the next few weeks we will profile some of the students participating in our summer undergraduate research program.  Each will be explaining their research in their own words.  First is Zach Il'Giovine, a rising senior Biochemistry major and varsity soccer player.

"One limiting factor in medicine today is the inability of certain drugs to be successfully delivered to different parts of the body. As biodegradable polymers are developed as a means of drug transport, certain challenges have been met that require novel solutions. Many pharmaceuticals are not soluble in water, making it difficult to implement them in the body. The development of a drug-delivery molecule with both water loving and water hating portions will make the system readily compatible with the water-based human body. It has been my undertaking to couple a water-hating (hydrophobic) polylactide chain with a water-loving (hydrophilic) block of polyethylene glycol. Over the course of the summer, I have been making and analyzing these molecules, as well as exploring different reactions to identify the most efficient pathway." 
- Zach Il'Giovine

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ashland Science Summer Research Program kicks off

The Ashland Science Summer Research Program had its official start with our first afternoon social.  We have 13 students and 10 faculty members conducting research this summer supported by funding from the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Merck/AAAS foundation and the Scholl Foundation.  Our students were able to meet and a learn a little bit more about each other this past Friday during a game of Science Bingo:

Monday, June 14, 2010

Physics Grad Honored

May 2010 graduate and AU swimmer Sean McGraw has been named a first team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America. McGraw is part of the 2010 men’s at-large team. The team was selected by sports information directors from around the country. Sean graduated with majors in Physics and Mathematics, and has also received a $7,500 scholarship for postgraduate study from the NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship Committee. Sean has been accepted into the Ph.D. program in physics at Ohio University, and has been awarded a teaching assistantship. Sean is one of many athletes who have successfully combined science majors and participation in varsity athletics at Ashland University. Other 2010 graduates who were student athletes include Nick Bellanco and Katie Moga.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ashland students present research at national meetings

Several of our undergraduate students were recently on the road at national science conferences giving presentations on their research projects.  Toxicology major Jackie Skiba and Biology major Amy Drossman have been working with Dr. Mason Posner to better understand the function of an eye lens protein that prevents cataracts, one of the leading causes of blindness in humans.  In May Jackie and Amy presented this work at the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Opthalmology (ARVO) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  They are currently continuing their study as paid research assistants in Dr. Posner's lab, and will be co-authors on a science paper announcing their results later this summer.

Biology alum Amy Breslin '09 recently attended the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in San Diego, California with her faculty mentor Dr. Andrew Greene to present her independent research on bacterial contamination in honey.  Amy says that:
"as a direct result of my poster presentation, I was able to interact with and make connections with several experts within the world of microbiology, such as members of the FDA, CDC, and St Jude Research Hospital. It was an EXCELLENT experience, and I am very grateful to Dr Greene for helping me to achieve so much as an Undergraduate."
Amy's research was funded by a student fellowship from the ASM, and she credits her research at Ashland for helping her secure her current position in the Microbiology Lab at Sherwin-Williams.  Amy also writes a science blog on diseases and global health.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

AU Research Supports Recall

Analyses conducted by AU Chemistry professor Jeff Weidenhamer were cited in a New York Times article about the recall of 12 million Shrek-themed glasses by McDonald's on Friday. Dr. Weidenhamer was assisted by AU senior Jennifer Miller, who is working with him this summer to characterize the hazards of inexpensive jewelry items containing high levels of cadmium. This research, which has prompted three recalls of jewelry for cadmium contamination, is supported by a grant from the Dr. Scholl Foundation.

Analysis of the paint on two of the Shrek glasses showed that the soluble cadmium content exceeded 750 ppm. This is more than ten times the limit for paint on children's toys, but there are not currently any standards which apply to products such as these glasses. Cadmium bioaccumulates throughout one's lifetime and the primary risk of chronic exposure is kidney damage. Recent evidence also supports a role for trace levels of cadmium in the development of some breast cancers.