Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Toxicology graduate conducting chemical defense research for US Army

Heather Bensinger pictured on far left during summer research at Ashland University
Our Toxicology graduates go on to diverse careers in medicine, forensics, bioscience research and environmental science, but recent grad Heather Bensinger '11 is the first to work with the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense.  Heather is researching how the immune system responds to mustard gas exposure in order to discover new therapeutic drugs.

Heather writes that:
The techniques that I use daily I learned at Ashland University in my Biology and Toxicology coursework, which really helped me to see real-world applications.  Some of the specific classes that I liked and where I learned many techniques were Immunology, Genetics, Microbiology and Toxicology.  To someone who is looking to get into the same field, I would stress the importance of hands-on experience and application.  The research I conducted with the professors at Ashland and the internship at WIL Research Laboratories also helped me to gain a thorough understanding and valuable experience.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Environmental Science major benefits from summer job with environmental services company

Mary Cargill (AU’12) is an Environmental Science and Biology major who spent the summer of 2011 interning with EnviroScience, a Stow, OH, based company that offers environmental services throughout the US and Canada. She worked for EnviroScience’s lake management division and was able to travel a lot for the job (Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Maryland, and Ontario)! Mary is very positive about this experience, saying “[o]verall, it was a very fulfilling internship that demonstrated how to apply all the knowledge I had acquired in the classroom... It's also convinced me to seek an environmental consulting position upon graduation.”

There are lots of opportunities in environmental consulting. Mary reports that this particular company has several departments, including “bioassay (water quality lab), commercial diving, ecological restoration, emergency response team, and lake management group. I worked along side aquatic biologists while assisting the lake management division this summer. I primarily assisted with their 'Milfoil Solution' which consists of using a native beetle (Milfoil Weevil) as a native biological control to control the invasive aquatic plant Eurasian Water Milfoil (EWM).”

The work Mary did used lots of knowledge and skills from her training at Ashland University. The milfoil weevils were collected and cultivated in the lab, numbers of eggs and larvae were assessed microscopically, and some statistical analyses were needed to assess these cultures. Before treatment was started at each lake site (for example, see photo of reservoir on Menominee River, WI), Mary and her colleagues had to do visual assessments (while scuba diving!) of Eurasian Water Milfoil density and the percentage of milfoil versus native plants. Next, she would “identify the type of milfoil present [there are several species], look for any visible damage to the plants, and also do a native plant survey... Determining the type of milfoil was essential because milfoil weevils only accept EWM and variable water milfoil as hosts...[Plant] transect [samples] would be brought back to the lab and be analyzed for existing weevil damage, eggs, larva and adults to determine whether or not there was a native weevil population.” After all this, seed population size would be recommended, weevils introduced to each site, and follow-up surveys conducted after a couple of months. And (of course!) “after the follow-up survey was completed I would write a final report.”

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Congratulations Dr. Brauner!

Dr. Soren Brauner, Professor of Biology, was recently recognized for 25 years of service to Ashland University by our President, Fred Finks.  Dr. Brauner joined the Department of Biology/Toxicology in 1986 after earning his BA in environmental science and MA in botany from the University of California at Santa Barbara and his PhD in genetics from the University of California at Davis.  He conducts research with AU students on the population genetics of invasive reed canary grass in the University's Black Fork Wetland Preserve.  Dr. Brauner's lab is currently developing molecular biology techniques for investigating the genetic structure of these grass populations to better understand how they spread in non-native habitats.

In addition to his research and courses in molecular and cellular biology, genetics and botany, Dr. Brauner recently ended a long term as the Director of Ashland University's Environmental Science Program.  He was instrumental in securing significant government and foundation funding for development of our environmental preserves, and planning for our environmental lecture series, which is entering its 20th year.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Chemistry professor spends summer in Australia

Dr. Jeff Weidenhamer, professor of chemistry, was selected for the Fulbright Specialists Program as an agricultural science specialist and spent six weeks this summer hosted by Charles Sturt University in New South Wales, Australia. While in Australia, he presented invited lectures at CSU, in a symposium on root zone interactions at the International Botanical Congress, in a symposium on root-soil interactions hosted by the E.F. Graham Center, and to the Plant Industries group of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) in Canberra, which is Australia's national science agency. His paper at the International Botanical Congress was co-authored by Associate Professor of Chemistry Dr. Brian Mohney. While in Australia, Prof. Weidenhamer and his wife BethAnn were able to take in some of Australia’s amazing flora and fauna including humpback whales (above), many birds (kookaburra, below) and the Minnamura rain forest. Earlier in the summer, Dr. Weidenhamer spent 2 weeks in Germany to visit the lab of Dr. Matthias Rillig at the Free University of Berlin and presented an invited lecture. He and Dr. Mohney have collaborated with Dr. Rillig and his postdoctoral researcher Kathryn Barto on studies of the transport of chemicals released by plant roots in soil.

Biochemistry major spends summer at Marshall University

Marie Southerland, a senior biochemistry major, spent a second summer at Marshall University conducting a research internship. She worked in the microbiology lab of Dr. Hongwei Yu and studied the harmful effects of Pseudomonas aeruginosa on patients with cystic fibrosis. Her project focused on a protein called Pil A. She investigated its phenotype and the effect that it has on the production of biofilm as a protection against the host's immune system as well as antibiotics.

Marie writes: “My experience at Marshall these past two summers are absolutely invaluable. I have been able to take the knowledge I have gained in my Ashland classes and apply them in a research setting. I am now more comfortable in lab and I think that comes from being able to see that mistakes are made by everyone and what matters is how you deal with them. I was also able to write and put together my own poster and present it at the West Virginia Summer Research Symposium. Along with that, I got to take my work from last summer and present it at the Ohio Branch American Society of Microbiology meeting with Dr. Greene. An internship is a great way to gain experience in all aspects that come with research and I would recommend that every undergraduate student participate in one! I never thought I would get the opportunity to go somewhere like Marshall but that just goes to show you really never know what will happen until you apply!"

Big Ten+ Graduate School Expo

If you are considering going to graduate school, but not sure exactly what you want to do, this is a good event to consider. The Big Ten+ Graduate School Expo will be held at Purdue University on September 25-26, 2011. A number of AU grads have pursued graduate study at Big Ten schools, including recent grads David Wilcox, Tricia Matz and Daphne Guinn among many others.

Students will:
Get an inside look at graduate school and the application process
Receive advice about funding opportunities
Network with representatives from more than 50 of the nation’s top graduate institutions
Attend a premier graduate school fair

This two day mini-conference is especially designed for students interested in graduate education in:
Other science-related disciplines.

The Big Ten+ Graduate School Expo awarded more than $30,000 in travel scholarships last year. All students, including women and members of underrepresented groups, are encouraged to attend. Visit www.purdue.edu/gradexpo for more information and to register. The deadline to apply for a travel scholarship is September 7!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Polymer Research continues at AU

During a Spring 2011 study leave and throughout the summer 2011, Dr. Perry Corbin, Associate Professor of Chemistry, continued a collaborative research project with students that is sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation. Dr. Corbin and his students recent research efforts have focused on the synthesis and thermal characterization of four-, six-, and eight- calixarene- and resorcinarene-core star polylactides, as well as the synthesis and characterization of star block copolymers that self-organize into micelles in solution. The polymers being prepared have the potential for use in a variety of biomaterials applications. A manuscript describing recent work is currently under preparation. Three students carried out research with Dr. Corbin over the summer: Anna Falls, a sophomore biochemistry major from Mansfield, Christina Herbst, a junior biochemistry major from Avon Lake, and Mei Li, a senior chemistry major from Shanghai, China.