Summer Research Fellows for Summer 2017

Student Research

Student Research

The Student Research Fellowship (SRF) program supports collaborative research projects between faculty and students at Ferris State University. It is intended to increase on-campus summer research, contribute to the professional development of faculty, and provide Ferris students with another mechanism to gain research experience. Student fellows will work full time on a research project with a faculty mentor for a 10 week period over the summer.

Results of their work will be shared with the University community at the Summer Research Fellow Symposium on Wednesday, August 23 at 2:00PM in SCI 126.

Please join us in congratulating the five Honors students that were chosen as 2017 Summer Research Fellow recipients and check out their hard work on Wednesday!

Faculty mentor: Dr. Claire Saadeh, Pharmacy, Pharmacy Practice
Project: Medical Marijuana Use in a Community Cancer Center
Student Research Fellow: Danielle Rustem, Pharmacy

Marijuana is currently the most popular illicit drug in the United States. It is commonly used for both medicinal and recreational purposes. Patients with cancer may use marijuana to help manage their cancer symptoms, while others state that they use it to treat their cancer. With an increasing number of patients using marijuana, it is becoming more apparent how little is known about the use of this drug in a clinical setting. We created a survey and recruited patients from the Herbert-Herman Cancer Center to collect information about whether or not patients use marijuana and any symptoms they are experiencing. Our primary goal was to compare the incidence of marijuana use in patients with early versus advanced stage cancer. In addition, we also looked at any differences in drug-drug or drug-disease interactions. We found that overall 18.3% of patients in the Cancer Center use marijuana; however, there was not a significant difference in the incidence of marijuana use between patients with early versus advanced stage cancer (19.6% and 17.6%, respectively; p=.75).

Faculty mentor: Dr. Anne Spain, Biological Sciences
Project: Horizontal Gene Transfer in the Presence of Antiseptics
Student Research FellowAustin Vanwyk, Biology/Pre-Medicine

Antibiotic resistance among bacteria is arguably one of the more troublesome topics in medicine today. Genes for resistance can be transferred between bacteria, and it has been found that environmental stressors such as antibiotics can increase the rate at which transfer occurs. However, little research has been done to see what effect antiseptics may have on transfer of resistances. Chlorhexidine was selected as the antiseptic to be used in this research because of its wide spread use in hospitals. Door handles and other regularly touched surfaces from clinical and non-clinical sources were swabbed and then plated, using a type of agar for gram-positive bacteria and another for gram-negative. Ten gram-negative and 20 gram-positive isolates were obtained and assays were done to determine their resistance to six different antibiotics. Four-gram positive isolates had resistance to the antibiotic ceftriaxone. To asses gene transfer, multiple combinations of ceftriaxone resistant gram-positive bacteria and susceptible gram-negative bacteria were grown together with varying levels of chlorhexidine, the hospital antiseptic. The cultures were incubated for 24 hours then plated on agar containing ceftriaxone. The gram-positive isolated were able to grow on the ceftrixone plates; however, no gram-negative isolates were grown. This indicated that no resistance transfer occurred, though, more trials could yield different results, preliminary data supports that chlorhexidine does not induce transfer of antibiotic resistance genes.

Faculty mentor: Dr. Mark Thomson, Physical Sciences
Project: Geometry Optimization and Energy Calculations for hydrogen bonded 1:1 co-crystals of carboxylic acids with sulfisomidine and sulfamethazine
Student Research Fellow: Jordan Lee, Biotechnology Major

A co-crystal is defined as two or more compounds forming a unique crystal with unique properties. Co-crystallization is currently being explored as a method of change drug storage, delivery, and action by co-crystallizing drugs with other compounds. This project focuses on the co-crystallization of sulfamethazine and sulfisomidine, two antibacterial drugs, with various carboxylic acids. These drugs only differ chemically in the position of a single nitrogen atom, but sulfamethazine forms co-crystals in the lab with relative ease while it is far more difficult to form a co-crystal using sulfisomidine. This project attempts to explain this phenomenon using Gaussian 09W software to complete DFT energy calculations and geometry optimizations. An energy calculation was performed on the original co-crystal, followed by an optimization calculation, and finally a second energy calculation. This sequence of calculations determined that sulfisomidine must change its conformation from the ideal optimized structure more than sulfamethazine does, and therefore must overcome a greater energy barrier. The eventual goal is to apply these findings to practical pharmacological scenarios to improve the effectiveness of these sulfa drugs in the body.

Faculty mentor: Dr. Anil Venkatesh, Mathematics
Project: The Luckiest Abelian Group: Investigating the Error Term of Cohen-Lenstra Heuristics
Student Research FellowBenjamin Doyle, Applied Mathematics

This project explores the class number problem, a conjecture of Gauss that relates to the property of unique factorization. Every integer can be factored uniquely into primes (up to order and sign), and this property extends to some larger number systems as well. For example, the Gaussian integers (complex numbers with integer components) also have the unique factorization property. The extent to which a number system fails to have unique factorization is measured by an abelian group called the ideal class group; the larger the group, the farther the number system is from having unique factorization. In rough terms, Gauss conjectured that the size of these groups tends to infinity as we take more and more “complicated” number systems (specifically, this refers to imaginary quadratic extensions). One of the main tools for studying class numbers is the Cohen-Lenstra heuristics, which give an asymptotic prediction on how frequently each abelian group will arise as a class group. In this talk, we provide a brief overview of the history of the class number problem. We give concrete examples of the relationship between class group and factorization. Finally, we outline our algorithm and reveal the “luckiest” and “unluckiest” abelian groups relative to the Cohen-Lenstra prediction.

Faculty mentor: Dr. M. Beth Zimmer, Biological Sciences
Project: Effect of upper cervical spinal cord injury on the hippocampus: structure and function
Student Research Fellow: Hunter Pope, Biology/Pre-Medicine

It has been observed through previous studies that spinal cord injury (SCI) causes acute memory and learning deficits in Long-Evans rats. This is thought to be due to neuronal loss or neural plasticity in hippocampal tissue (above the site of injury) as a result of injury-induced changes and microglial activation. It is hypothesized that through this neuronal response to injury, there is a significant loss of the protein brain-derived-neurotrophic-factor (BDNF) and the neurotransmitter serotonin. Because BDNF and serotonin are involved in the mechanism for long-term potentiation, it was hypothesized that loss of said proteins should be observed as correlative to the memory and learning deficits seen in previous studies. The objective of this research project was to measure and analyze the levels of BDNF and serotonin in rat hippocampal tissue through Western Blot analysis and immunohistochemistry. We optimized data collection, analysis, and imaging techniques for these procedures. Results showed no significant differences in the levels of serotonin between sham rats and SCI rats. Further optimization is needed to better analyze the relationship between SCI and BDNF and future experiments will be conducted.


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