August 02, 2016
Communications and Marketing
Saint Anselm students don't need to wait until graduate school to do research. This summer, 23 students are conducting research projects on campus funded by the New Hampshire INBRE (IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence) program, which aims to increase biomedical research within the state. While supporting faculty projects, it emphasizes student participation in training, lab work, and independent research.
"I found out through the chemistry department that we have this incredible opportunity as undergraduates to gain valuable and exciting research experience, and I was immediately interested," says Amelia McCue '17.
Through the INBRE grant, Saint Anselm students, ranging in major from biology to nursing to chemistry, are developing their research skills while searching for answers to questions posed by scientists all over the world.
McCue is investigating light-activated drugs in the hopes of reducing overall side effects of chemotherapy drugs. A chemistry major, she has been working with Professor Thomas Shell since May 2015. She and three other students are working with Professor Shell on a project synthesizing drugs which are light-activated with the goal of targeting certain cells.
"The program presents a great opportunity for students, faculty, and the college to explore a diversity of biomedical research," says Professor Derk Wierda, Saint Anselm College's principal investigator for INBRE's research training component. "The vast topical range of the work being done represents a huge array of questions being answered and problems being solved."
The Mentorship Difference
Conducting research not only allows students to focus on diverse subjects of interest but also gives them the opportunity to work one-on-one with a faculty member or mentor and gain lab skills. Undergraduates are trained on equipment, terminology, and library resources and can bounce ideas off of each other and their mentors along the way.
"I've learned a lot of transferable skills," says biology major Emily Fitzmeyer '17. "How to use equipment and also how to talk about my research in a way people can understand."
Fitzmeyer and biochemistry major Trevor Patton '17 are working with Professor Elizabeth Greguske, studying bacteria phages as a way to overcome viruses. They will present their research this month both at Saint Anselm and at Dartmouth College, one of the lead research-intensive INBRE institutions.
Meanwhile, senior natural sciences major Samantha Hennequin is working with not one but three Saint Anselm faculty members from different departments, as she and professors Rajesh Prasad, Carol Traynor (both computer science) and Barry Wicklow (biology) study trout stream temperatures. Their goal is to eventually focus protection efforts on those streams that will serve as thermal refuges to trout and other cold-water species.
Off campus, Jaclyn O'Donnell '17, a nursing major, is completing her INBRE research through Dartmouth College with two mentors. She's working with a nurse practitioner developing a protocol for enteral feedings in mechanically ventilated ICU patients as well as with a perioperative (OR) nurse on a study involving pressure ulcers and spinal surgery patients.
Research can also lead to wider opportunities and insight into possible future paths for students. McCue was selected to represent the New Hampshire INBRE program at the national IDeA meeting in Washington, D.C. (one of only 7 students nationwide), where she had the opportunity to relate her research to political action:
"I presented my research at a poster session and spent an entire day on Capitol Hill where I met with Senator Jeanne Shaheen's staff to share my research and the impact NH-INBRE has had on me, our school, and our state!"
Nicholas Bompastore graduated in May, but his INBRE work continues this summer as he hopes to make a contribution to medical science in his future career. Bompastore will be attending the University of Vermont College of Medicine to earn his M.D. this fall; meanwhile, along with his brother Andrew Bompastore '18, he has been in the lab studying isolated yeast strains exhibiting abnormal DNA content. Since these strains do not undergo normal cell death despite being mutated, they are useful in investigating means of human cancer survival.
"We are hopeful that in the future other labs can use the information we discover to help generate new chemotherapy drugs to treat cancer," says Bompastore.
O'Donnell says, "Going into this fellowship I had no idea what to expect, but the program has so many more opportunities than just working with my mentors on their research. I have had opportunities to sit in on an Institutional Review Board meeting and an ethics meeting. I got to spend some time with the person who works on quality improvement in the hospital. This whole experience has opened my eyes to the many opportunities and paths I can take once I become a registered nurse."