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November 9, 2020 at 2:19 pm

6 Undergraduates Get Prestigious Kopchick Awards for Research on Diseases

Six Ohio University undergraduate students received funding to support their research projects on health issues including diabetes, cancer and antibiotic-resistant infections.

The awards from the John J. Kopchick Molecular and Cellular Biology/Translational Biomedical Sciences Undergraduate Student Support Fund were presented at the MCB/TBS retreat and Kopchick Awards Ceremony on Nov. 7.

“Translational biomedical sciences are commonly defined as research that is translated from bench to bedside,” says Dr. Sarah Wyatt, professor of Environmental & Plant Biology and Director of the Molecular and Cellular Biology program. “Working alongside faculty mentors and graduate students, undergraduates are encouraged to explore research that can have a real impact on society.”

Dr. Kevin Lee, director of the Translational Biomedical Sciences program, explains that the projects funded with Kopchick awards are experiments done in research labs, but the projects have significant relevance to the treatment of human diseases. “Understanding how their research informs disease treatments is incredibly impactful for our students.”

“Being able to do research as an undergraduate has been my favorite part about being at OHIO,” said Emily Marino, who is studying biological sciences through the Honors Tutorial College. “It’s hard work, but the hands-on experience teaches you so much more than you would ever learn in a classroom. It has also given me the chance to be mentored by some really fantastic graduate students, who not only taught me a lot of lab skills and techniques, but also helped me decide that I want to go on to graduate school as well!”

The Kopchick support fund was established by a generous gift provided by John J. Kopchick, PhD, Goll-Ohio Eminent Scholar and Distinguished Professor of Molecular Biology, and Char Kopchick, Assistant Dean of Students. The goal is to promote a rich interdisciplinary and entrepreneurial environment that fosters discovery research resulting in intellectual property that will bring about the development of new technology and transfer of that technology to the private sector, where it might be deployed for the benefit of human health and well-being.

Lauren Abdella, portrait

Lauren Abdella

Lauren Abdella

HTC Translational Health-Exercise Physiology B.S., Applied Nutrition minor, Diabetes Certificate

Project: Assessing the effects of rapamycin on adiponectin levels in GHRKO and control mice — Growth hormone receptor knockout (GHRKO) mice have no growth hormone action, are obese, long-lived, and insulin sensitive. Rapamycin feeding increases lifespan in normal mice but promotes insulin resistance. GHRKO mice have increased adiponectin; uncommon in obese states, but common with longevity and insulin sensitivity. Rapamycin’s relationship with adiponectin is unclear. My project will assess adiponectin levels in GHRKO and control mice fed rapamycin, as part of a larger study, to determine if adiponectin levels correlate with health measures. A better understanding of the factors that improve glucose homeostasis would be invaluable for the aging population.

Adviser: Dr. Darlene Berryman

Budget: $1,500

Katie Gerber, Students, UndergraduateHonors Tutorial College, Class of 2021, Translational Health-Exercise Physiology in the lab

Katie Gerber

Katie Gerber

HTC Translational Health-Exercise Physiology B.S.

Project:  The Amplification Pathway Dissected: Impacts of Extreme Hyperglycemia — Pancreatic islets are the only source of insulin in the body. Insulin controls blood glucose levels by acting as a signal to take glucose into tissues, thereby generating energy. Once thought to have a ceiling, our lab found that islets can secrete more insulin at higher glucose levels than previously thought possible. The proposed research will examine the mechanism behind this secretion, leading to the potential for therapeutic discovery and better clinical care.

Adviser: Dr. Craig Nunemaker

Budget:  $1,500

Ally Hearne, Undergrad Kopchick research award winner, lab, MCB retreat program

Ally Hearne

Ally Hearne

Biological Sciences B.S.

Project:  Urolithin A decreases human glioblastoma cell proliferation by autophagy — Glioblastoma is one of the deadliest cancers of the central nervous system. Urolithin A (UA) is a natural product that can pass the blood-brain barrier with the potential to treat brain cancer. This research aims to discover the specific mechanisms of UA to reduce glioblastoma cell proliferation and induce cell death by autophagy. This work may result in the production of patent-protected intellectual property concerning the administration of UA as a novel clinical treatment for glioblastoma.

Adviser: Dr. Yunsheng Li

Budget:  $1,500

Jackson Krejsa, working in the lab

Jackson Krejsa

Jackson Krejsa

Biological Sciences B.S.

Project: Effects of adult onset growth hormone receptor disruption on luteinizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone in mice — Studies have shown that removing growth hormone, or its receptor, from mice causes dwarfism and lower reproductive rates while improving longevity and health. Our lab has generated mice where their growth hormone receptor was disrupted at 6 months of age. These mice show no dwarfism and have the benefits of mice born with no growth hormone. Understanding their ability to reproduce could be important for implication in humans.

Adviser:  Dr. Edward List

Budget:  $1,490

Emily Marino, portrait

Emily Marino

Emily Marino

HTC Biological Sciences B.S.

Project:  The Contribution of Small RNA Teg41 to Intracellular Survival of Staphylococcus aureusS. aureus continues to evolve resistance to traditional antibiotic drug treatments. One potential area for future drug design aims to target RNA directly (rather than translated proteins) with small molecule drugs. By identifying important regulatory RNAs that affect the virulence of pathogens like S. aureus, and demonstrating their importance during infection, we can help to inform the development of future RNA-drug treatments for S. aureus infection.

Adviser: Dr. Ronan Carroll

Budget:  $1,500

Hailee Sorensen, in the lab

Hailee Sorensen

Hailee Sorensen

HTC Biological sciences B.S.

Project: Investigation of the Role of the RNA Deaminase TadA in Staphylococcus aureus — This project seeks to understand the regulation of gene expression mediated by the RNA deaminase TadA in Staphylococcus aureus specifically to evaluate its role in the regulation of virulence. S. aureus is the cause of various human diseases which are becoming more dangerous as antibiotic resistant strains of the bacteria, such as MRSA, are emerging. This project could potentially identify a novel antibiotic target to treat infections. Innovative approaches such as this are crucial as antibiotic discovery has decreased dramatically yet resistance acquisition continues to rise.

Adviser: Dr. Ronan Carroll

Budget:  $1,500

Photography by Ben Seigel and Rich Joseph-Facun

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