Lunch and Learn: Student Research Fellowship Symposium Students

This August, Student Research Fellows presented their research and findings at a Research Symposium. A few of these students were from the Honors Program, so we are having a special Lunch & Learn  presented by three of the Student Research Fellows: Paige Kramer, Tiffany Newman, and Monica Pavlack. This is the first Lunch and Learn of the year and it will be held on Thursday, September 8th from 11:00am to 11:50am in the Pickell Hall Conference Room. These three Honors students will explain a little about the Student Research Fellowship program, how you can participate in the future, and then present their individual research projects and the results. Below are short synopses of each student’s research:

An Arabidopsis Mutant with Drought Hypersensitivity 

Student Researcher: Paige Kramer, Faculty Mentor: Christopher DeFraia, Arts & Science, Biological Sciences

“Water insecurity is a growing problem across the world. Drought stunts the growth and development of plants and reduces agricultural yield. Arabidopsis thaliana is a model organism that can be used to identify genes involved in drought responses. A screen of ~4000 mutated plant lines produced ~30 independent mutants with various defects in shoot development. One of the mutants had slightly elongated and serrated leaves. This mutant was also hypersensitive to drought, yet displayed normal Abscisic Acid (ABA) sensitivity and stomatal function. Future work will focus on identifying the mutated gene, and how this gene confers drought resistance. The development of plants with increased drought resistance can reduce crop loss and increase food security.”

The Assessment of Volatile Organic Compounds in Mecosta County Recreational Waters using GCMS

Student Researcher: Tiffany Newman, Faculty Mentor: Sean McCormick, Arts & Sciences, Physical Sciences

“A study was performed in order to detect the presence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in Mecosta County recreational water sources. VOC’s are low molecular mass compounds (<500Da), many of which have been found to be carcinogenic or otherwise detrimental to health, and therefore it is important to monitor their presence in the environment to ensure that they do not exceed the acceptable limits as determined by the EPA. Mecosta and surrounding counties have experience an increase in activities associated with VOC contamination such as fracking and waste water treatment. In this study, water samples were collected for analysis from nine Mecosta County recreational sources including the Muskegon River, Mitchell Creek, Chippewa Lake, Townline Lake, Canadian Lakes, Jehnson Lake, Clear Lake, and two local ponds. A total of 123 samples were extracted using C18 solid phase cartridges and the extracted samples were then analyzed using GCMS. Concentrations of analytes were determined using standard curves prepared from commercial standards. Of the 51 analytes examined, 21 compounds were detected in at least one recreational water source. These compounds include Benzene, Bromodichloromethane, m-Butylbenzene, sec-Butylbenzene, Chloroform, Chloromethane, Chlorotoluene, 1,2-Dibromo-3-Chloropropane, 1,2-Dibromoethane, 1,3-Dichlorobenzene, 1,4-Dichlorobenzene, 1,1-Dichloroethane, 1,2-Dichloroethane, 1,1-Dichloroethene, p-Isopropyltoluene, Naphtyhalene, Toluene, 1,2,3-Trichloropropane, 1,2,4-Trimethylbenzene, 1,3,5-Trimethylbenzene, and Xylene. The results of this study will be used by future researchers to monitor changes in contamination over time.”

The Assessment of Waterborne Pathogens in Mecosta County Recreational Waters using RT-PCR

Student Researcher: Monica Pavlack, Faculty Mentor: Sean McCormick, Arts & Sciences, Physical Sciences

“In a given year, there is approximately 1.5 million deaths due to waterborne pathogen illnesses, mostly in young children. In a two part study, real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) was used to detect and quantify the relative amounts of 5 common waterborne pathogens and 1 fecal contamination indicator. In part I, the RT-PCR method for pathogens was developed and validated using standardized cell stocks for E. coli to determine the quantitative precision and accuracy of the method. The EC23S287 sequence in E. coli has published genomic copy number of 7.00, and using the method developed the calibrator stocks determined a copy number of 8.08, which is within the EPA validation parameters. Blanks and no template controls were also successfully analyzed. In part II, water samples were collected along with GPS information at various locations along the Muskegon River between Paris and Rogers Dam and lakes surrounding Big Rapids using the bottle sampling technique. Using the methods validated in Part I, samples were analyzed for E. coli, Enterococcus, Shigella, Pseudomonas, Cryptosporidium and the fecal; contamination indicator using bacterosides. E. coli concentrations were analyzed for absolute concentrations all other organisms were discussed in relative terms due to pathogenic handling issued. Future efforts are underway to integrate the quantitative pathogen data with the GPS coordinates in order to examine point source information about contamination. ”

Pizza will be provided for all those who attend but ONLY if you sign up by emailing  before noon on Wednesday, September 7th. Lunch and Learn also count as a cultural event. Space is limited, so reserve your spot now!


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