A number of our undergraduates participate in research projects in our department. Read about their experiences below.
Jessie is a senior in microbiology with an eye on graduate school. Looking for an undergraduate research experience to help prepare for that step, she was happy to find that there were opportunities in VMS. She was able to identify a research project that fit her schedule and gave her the experience she needed. Jessie is working with Dr. Berry and Dr. McEvoy on a virus that could be described as “a parasite of a parasite”. Cryspovirus is a Partitiviridae family member associated with the protozoan parasite, Cryptosporidium parvum. The goal of Jessie’s project is to identify roles for the Cryspovirus during the life cycle of C. parvum. In pursuit of this goal, Jessie is gaining valuable experiences in cell culture, molecular biology, bioinformatics, virology, parasitology, and the scientific method. Bring on graduate school!
Breanne Steffan is a junior from Fargo majoring in Microbiology. During her years at Oak Grove High School, Breanne was involved in National Honor Society, swimming, and the Justice League (a student group advocating for social justice around the world). At NDSU she has been very involved in the VMS department and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. She has recently joined the Schuh lab as a laboratory assistant and undergraduate researcher. Breanne is the primary caretaker of the immunology vivarium (mouse colony) that the Schuh lab uses in studying allergies and asthma and does much of the day-to-day maintenance for the lab. This summer she participated in a research project to optimize a protocol for Laser Capture Microdissection (LCM). Using a laser to isolate a specific area from a thin slice of tissue, the technique that Breanne worked on will allow researchers to analyze the expression of genes of interest. After graduating, Breanne plans to attend graduate school and to work in infectious disease research.
When Laura Nessa joined the Pruess lab this past summer, she was not quite sure about herself, but very sure about one thing: she wanted to do research. And she was looking for that precise opportunity. Together with her advisor, they had a summer of scientific discovery, self-discovery, personal growth, and just sheer fun. Very eager to learn, Laura grew bacteria, froze bacteria (for storage), nurtured bacteria, killed bacteria, and watched bacteria form biofilms. Biofilms are communities of bacteria that form on surfaces, are extremely difficult to remove, and cause a myriad health problems, against which there is no current cure. Working on a high profile, well-funded research project, she took electron microscope images of such biofilms, comparing them between different strains of the intestinal bacterium E. coli. She discovered that a regulator that was previously not connected to the formation of biofilm may have an effect on biofilm amounts.
Laura was particularly excited about the opportunity to combine two of her passions, science and computer images, by spending her weekend with coloring the otherwise black and white images. Her advisor was immediately fascinated with the outcome. While one of these images was published in a recent Forum article, several others are currently on display in the NDSU gallery. This is a fun side line of a research project that may someday protect patients from biofilm associated infectious diseases. Altogether, Laura was able to make her first contribution to science, while learning multiple techniques that will be beneficial to her future career, and finding out more about where and how she wants to pursue her career once she is graduated from NDSU with her B.S. Microbiology degree.