Undergrads showcase summer research


Undergraduate students from a number of universities gathered on Wednesday to present findings that ranged from finding their own genomic medicine story to characterizing parts of the HIV-I infection.

The ninth-annual Summer Undergraduate Research Conference, which is hosted by the University of Iowa Graduate College, held poster presentations on Wednesday in the IMU.

“I grew up in Iowa City, so I’ve seen these poster sessions at the Old Capitol mall and have always been, ‘I want to be one of those people,’ so I jumped at the opportunity to present my findings,” said UI sophomore Gabrielle Bui.

Bui presented one of the 142 projects.

The research project she had worked on the past summer was about how vinculin activators, a type of protein, can cause melanoma to be significantly more sensitive to chemotherapy treatment.

The conference had fewer participants this year, the first time participation had dropped since it began. Part of the reason was a grant arrived late for one of the research labs at the UI, and it was unable to send recruitment material out in time.

The research program has attracted many students from different parts of the nation and even some international students.

“Most of these programs are geared toward recruiting graduate students and provide students with an opportunity to do research and see what it’s like to do full-time research,” said Minnetta Gardinier, an associate dean at the UI Graduate College. “It allows them to network a little bit among themselves and meet one another beyond the little program that they might have been a part of.”

It has also given Iowa a chance to showcase what is available at the UI by having these students live here for a while Gardinier said.

Appproimately fewer than 10 percent of the students participating were from the University of Iowa.

“It was a really, really, really nice experience,” said Adriana Toledoof the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras. “I really liked it. We got a lot of resources and not only in the research but also the process of applying to graduate school.”

Toledo did research about the role of literature in sports, and she had gone through Latin American literature and French literature in her preliminary research and classified the texts by genre, language, and sports.

Humanities research is rather uncommon, with very few in the program doing research on it. However, Toledo has had a good experience because other researchers in different fields have been interested in finding out more because of how different her research is.

Zachary Fritz, an undergraduate research assistant from Mount Mercy University, believes that his way of contributing to society is through research.

His summer research was about why viral resistance of a particular virus to vaccinations was occurring.

The hypothesis for this was that there are two strains of a similar virus in one cell, and they exchange genetic information, giving rise to a super virus. Fritz was using transmission electron microscopy to verify if it can occur.

“What makes our project really interesting compared to others is that many [transmission electron microscopy] cells that you see in textbooks and things come from cultured cells, whereas the tissue that we’re sampling from actually comes from nature,” Fritz said. “We’re actually taking it from the skin around the feather follicle in chickens.”

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