Monday, April 30, 2012

Two Biology majors co-author a new research paper on lens protein evolution

Jackie Skiba and Amy Drossman
Biology majors Amy Drossman ('11) and Jackie Skiba ('10) recently published a portion of their undergraduate research in the journal PLoS One.  Their project, mentored by Professor of Biology Mason Posner, provides new insights into the function of a protein involved in preventing diseases as diverse as Alzheimer's, cancer and lens cataracts.  The Ashland University research team collaborated on this newly published work with scientists from the National Eye Institute and Miami University of Ohio.

The Antarctic toothfish was used to study
how a human protein could be modified
to better prevent disease
The protein at the center of this new paper, alpha crystallin, is a member of the small heat shock protein family, which is used in most tissues of the human body to prevent the clumping of proteins that could lead to multiple types of diseases.  While most research on these protective proteins is done in mammals like mice or humans, the Ashland University research team used six species of fishes to examine how alpha crystallin has evolved to function at different body temperatures.  This unique approach allowed the researchers to identify small changes in the protein that increased its protective ability.  Similar changes engineered into human versions of alpha crystallin could potentially enhance the body's ability to protect itself against disease.

Amy and Jackie previously presented their findings at an international vision research meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 2010.  Amy is currently attending the Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago and Jackie is working as a quality control technician in the coffee division of the Smuckers Corporation.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Area High School Students Learn About Environmental Science at AU

After her presentation, Dr. Melissa Schultz, College of Wooster, addressed
a series of great questions from area high school students.

In mid-April, the Environmental Science Program hosted 59 high school students from programs at Ashland High School, Black River High School, and Hillsdale High School.  These students and their teachers were on-campus for the annual "Lunch and Lecture" for science students.  This year's presenter was Dr. Melissa Schultz, Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the College of Wooster, Wooster, OH.  Dr. Schultz presented a talk titled "Clean and Happy Fish (And the Other Effects of Consumer Products on Non-Target Organisms)."

Dr. Schultz’s area of research is the fate and transport of consumer products in the environment. Personal care products in general are widely introduced into aquatic environments via releases from municipal waste water treatment plants (WWTP).  The presence of these chemicals in the tissues of fishes downstream from WWTP supports the idea that these facilities are serving as a point source. The impact of these pollutants on the lives of downstream organisms is only partly understood, and is an important area of current study.  Regional differences in the impact of these pollutants depends on frequency of human use, the transport distance and behavior of specific chemicals in nature, and local and regional human population size.  This talk discussed the origins and what is known about the impact of some consumer products on downstream organisms.

The goal of the "Lunch and Lecture" is to encourage interest in science and open up new ideas for career tracks for high school students to consider.  Other recent speakers in the high school series have included Dr. John Chick, Director of the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center (invasive Asian carp and the Great Lakes) and Richard Moseley, Retired Director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Natural Areas and Preserves (the history, diversity, and mission of Ohio's preserve network).  The "Lunch and Lecture" is a part of the community-wide AU Environmental Lecture Series, just about to start up its 21st year!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Chemistry Students and Faculty Present Papers at National ACS Meeting

The Spring 2012 National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) was held in San Diego, California from March 25-27, 2012.  Among those in attendance were AU Chemistry Professors Rebecca and Perry Corbin and chemistry students Mei Li and Anna Falls, who presented results of their research and scholarship. 

Both Anna and Mei presented posters on their research on polymer synthesis with Dr.Perry Corbin.  The title of Anna’s poster was "Synthesis and Characterization of Eight-Armed Calixarene-Core Polylactide Star Polymers", and Mei's title was "Synthesis and Characterization of Four- and Six-Armed Calixarene-Core Polylactide Star Polymers".  This research has been funded by the National Science Foundation.  In addition to these research presentations, Dr. Rebecca Corbin presented a poster on a new course she has developed for AU’s Core Curriculum, titled “Development of an energy-themed chemistry course for non-science majors.”

Dr. Perry Corbin stated that “attending and presenting research at an ACS meeting is not only an excellent opportunity for students to participate in a professional scientific conference/exposition, but it also offers the opportunity to hear cutting-edge research presentations from some of the top scientists from around the world.”  This year’s meeting theme was the “Chemistry of Life”.  This theme was highlighted in the opening plenary session that featured presentations by Nobel laureate Roger Tsien, National Medal of Science winner J. Craig Venter, and the prominent chemists Laura Kiessling and Samuel Stupp.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Marine Biology class makes it to North Carolina

You can follow the exploits of our marine biology class (11 students and 3 faculty) as we explore the outer banks of North Carolina over the next three days on Twitter at #aubio412.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Chemistry Professor Honored for Teaching Excellence

Dr. Perry Corbin, associate professor of chemistry, is the 2012 recipient of AU’s prestigious Taylor Excellence in Teaching Award. AU Provost Dr. Frank Pettigrew presented the award at the Academic Honors Convocation on Sunday. The award, first presented in 1997, was endowed by Jeromesville residents Edward and Louaine Taylor to support high quality teaching at Ashland University. Following presentation of the award, Corbin delivered an address titled “Good Chemistry.” Professor Corbin, who teaches organic chemistry and has supervised more than a dozen students in research projects on polymer synthesis, is highly regarded by both colleagues and students for his excellence in and dedication to teaching.

Corbin is the second AU science faculty member selected for this award. Dr. Mason Posner, Professor and Chair of the Department of Biology and Toxicology, received this honor in 2009.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Students get first-hand experience with prairie burn

Ashland University science majors and faculty spent a couple of hours in early April doing a planned burn at the Rupp Preserve. This restored prairie has had sections burned twice before, and this year's section was ready for its turn.  Periodic fires in prairie ecosystems recycle mineral nutrients, favor growth of fire-adapted prairie species, and suppress growth of woody plants.  Dick Stoffer, Professor of Biology and AU Environmental Preserve Manager, was in charge of the burn, while several students and a few other faculty participated.

 Desi Kierner (AU'13, Environmental Science/Biology), Shawn Probst (AU'13, Biology), and Cassie Nix (AU'14, Environmental Science/Biology/Toxicology) get their back-pack water supplies ready to work
Dick Stoffer starts extending the tail fire along the southern edge of the quadrat, while Chris Bierman (AU'14, Biology) and Cassie Nix watch for small fires outside the plot boundaries

Cassie Nix puts water on a hotspot at the SE corner
The head fire (traveling with the wind) did not last long.
The burn site when finished.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Biochemistry major selected for Chester Summer Scholars Program

Daiva Gerbec, junior Biochemistry major, has been selected as one of 15 undergraduate students to participate in the Edward M. Chester, MD Summer Scholars Program at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, OH. Student in this program spend ten weeks over the summer in clinical laboratory research settings.

Established in 1981, the Chester Summer Scholars Program is an opportunity for pre-medicine and scientifically-oriented students to explore the potential for a career in medical research or academic medicine. This innovative program has become nationally recognized with students from more than 40 colleges and universities across the United States having participated.
Scholars are assigned to a MetroHealth medical staff researcher who has developed the project on which the scholar will work and who will supervise the progress of the scholar's learning experience.

Scholars spend the better part of each weekday participating directly in the research project activity. There are also opportunities for observation of surgery, hospital rounds, and other experiences at MetroHealth that are an integral part of the program. At the end of the ten-week experience, the scholars are required to prepare a project report for presentation.

Gerbec, a member of the AU Women’s Basketball team, plans to attend medical school following graduation from AU.

Geology/Environmental Science Major selected as Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholar

Ashland University sophomore Mitch Ramsey has received the prestigious 2012 Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship that is offered through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Ramsey is the first Ashland University student to be selected as a Hollings Undergraduate Scholar. This scholarship program provides academic assistance for two academic years beginning September 2012 through May 2014 and a summer internship in 2013, subject to academic performance.

“Mitch will receive a mentor when he is in Washington, D.C., in May and they will discuss the best placement for his internship for the summer of 2013, which could be in the U.S. or international,” said Dr. Michael Hudson, associate professor of geology. “In September, he will be notified of the specific possibilities for summer placement and in October, he will make his selection.”

According to Hudson, the scholarship carries with it substantial monetary value, approximately $25,000 counting two years of scholarship money, his summer paid internship and a variety of travel and accommodation expenses.

“Mitch was one of approximately 100 individuals worldwide selected for this award out of an applicant pool of at least 900,” Hudson said.

Ramsey hopes to pursue graduate training in the atmospheric sciences.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Students present research at University symposium

Senior Charlie Davis presenting research at our College symposium

Five students from the Department of Biology/Toxicology recently presented results from their independent research projects at the 3rd annual Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Symposium.  This event is put on each year by the College of Arts and Sciences at Ashland University to give students from the College's 17 departments the opportunity to present their independent scholarship to the University community.  The Symposium is chaired by our very own Dr. Andrew Greene.

This year's presenters included:

  • Junior Lindsey Knapp researching brain development with Dr. Steve Fenster
  • Senior Charlie Davis, also working with Steve Fenster
  • Sophomore Cassie Nix examining the toxicity of Jimsonweed with Dr. Andy Trimble
  • Junior Zach Haley studying gene regulation in a small heat shock protein with Dr. Mason Posner
  • Junior Evan Dort researching the population genetics of invasive grasses with Dr. Soren Brauner

Junior Lindsey Knapp
Junior Zach Haley
Junior Evan Dort
    Sophomore Cassie Nix