My.EOU Portal Current Students Faculty/Staff
October 7, 2014
Photos by Laura Hancock / EOU student Jeremy Bard, left, manipulates samples inside an airtight “glove box.” Fellow student Stone Safaie, right, takes notes while Colin Andrew, professor of chemistry, observes. The ongoing research is funded by a grant Andrew garnered from the National Science Foundation.
LA GRANDE, Ore. (EOU) – For many students and faculty, summer means time for a break. For EOU’s science department it’s an opportunity to accomplish some major research.
Two chemistry professors made significant headway on independent projects with the help of multiple interns over eight weeks during the term.
EOU students Jeremy Bard, a chemistry major from La Grande, and Stone Safaie, a biochemistry major from California, were studying heme proteins with Professor Colin Andrew.
Andrew’s research is supported by a four-year grant from the National Science Foundation and includes stipends for his interns. This is the third successful NSF grant he has submitted. Only about 15 percent were funded this year, making it very competitive.
“NSF is focused on cutting-edge research and science education,” Andrew said. “Our students published a lot of results during the last phase, and NSF supports these activities.”
Everything from regulating blood pressure to neuron activity is tied to how heme proteins are optimized to bind with gases in the human body.
“This is fundamental biochemical research – the chemistry of life,” Andrew explained.
He is hopeful his grant will shed further light on these processes. As part of their study, he took Bard and Safaie to Oregon Health & Science University where they conducted light scattering experiments with lasers using a technique called Raman spectroscopy.
Back at EOU, they spent a lot of time up to their elbows in an airtight “glove box,” which provides a controlled environment for handling protein samples.
“I really enjoy the experience of working in the lab and the entire research process,” Bard said. “There are many different steps involved and we take a team approach, so there’s a lot less second-guessing.”
Safaie agreed. “We start out with all these unknowns, and then the data helps us find out where the pieces fit,” he said.
Both students will continue working with Andrew as part of their regular course of study this fall.
“I encourage our students to start early and do as much research as possible so they realize the amount of work and time required to complete the puzzle,” Andrew added.
Anna Cavinato, left, professor of chemistry, made a breakthrough this summer with the help of interns Jessica Nava, Jessica Clements, Shelby Evans and Molly Blatz (not pictured). In January, Cavinato becomes chair of Project SEED, one of the programs that funds student research positions like these.
In a different lab just across the hall of the Science Center, Professor Anna Cavinato experienced breakthroughs in her DNA sequencing study.
Cavinato and her student assistant Jessica Clements, a chemistry major from La Grande, welcomed returning interns Jessica Nava and Molly Blatz to the project. Nava is a 2014 graduate of Irrigon High School where Blatz teaches science.
Another student from Irrigon had the chance to participate this year, too. Shelby Evans, a senior at ISH, was awarded a Project SEED internship along with Nava. The Richland Section of the American Chemical Society and the national ACS office matched funding for their positions.
Clements is the recipient of a Skeen Scholarship and Blatz’s salary was funded by a Partners in Science grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust.
“This was a good opportunity for me to find out if I like science – and I do!” Evans said.
Nava’s experience also solidified her plans to study biology at Oregon State University this fall.
“You must have passion,” Cavinato said, ”because real science is a lot of trial and error.”
The hard work over the summer months paid off, as Cavinato and her students were able to successfully implement a protocol to isolate DNA strands that specifically bind to a surface protein used as a biomarker.
Cavinato will continue the research with other students to complete the isolation of a DNA pool that will eventually be used to build a biosensor. The sensor will identify the presence of the bacterium in water that causes bacterial kidney disease in salmon.
Beginning January 2015, Cavinato will assume a new role as chair of Project SEED. She is looking forward to ensuring the program provides internship opportunities like these to students in all 50 states during her three-year appointment.
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