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September 2007 Issue

David Fan, a biomedical engineering major at Duke University, spent the summer working in bioinformatics.
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Undergrad Students Collaborate on Major Research Projects Through Summer Program

Published September 2007

Summer undergraduate research programs—several of which are sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—provide undergrads the chance to work one-on-one with faculty and other student researchers in some of UC’s most active laboratories and research facilities.

This year, UC’s programs drew more than 150 students to campus, and nearly half of those students participated in research projects at the College of Medicine.

David Fan, a biomedical engineering major at Duke University, was accepted into the NIH Research Experience for Under-graduates in Cell Biology and Functional Genomics.

Fan spent his summer under the supervision of UC’s Jarek Meller, PhD, and found himself enjoying an area of research he never expected to even be part of—bioinformatics. This computer-based science uses informatics, statistics, computer science, artificial intelligence and biochemistry to solve some of the world’s toughest biological problems.  

More specifically, Fan worked on piecing together the genome for Pneumocystis carinii, the parasitic fungus that can cause an often deadly pneumonia in people with suppressed immune systems.

Fan’s task was to use the computer to form large, useful sequences of DNA from shorter, known DNA fragments. These longer fragments will be used by UC’s Pneumocystis Genome Project researchers to find specific genes, which will hopefully lead to therapeutic discoveries.

“I never anticipated doing this sort of research,” says Fan, “but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. Every day I was required to think in different ways and solve ‘unsolvable’ problems.”

And to top it off, Fan says, he’s hopefully made an important contribution to the scientific and medical community.

All College of Medicine summer programs were capped off with a poster symposium and competition in August. The event was judged by UC faculty, who awarded prizes to six students for the top four places.
The winners and their UC mentors are:

•  First Place: Traci Lynch, Wofford College, and mentor Ann Akeson, PhD, pediatrics/pulmonary biology, for “Pulmonary Lymphatic Development in Mice.”

•  Second Place (Tie): Kari Davis, University of Saint Francis, and mentor Winston Kao, PhD, ophthalmology, for “Differentiation of Mesenchymal Stem Cells Into Keratocan-Positive Cells in the Mouse Cornea,” and Christine Pellino, West Virginia University, and mentor Phil Howles, PhD, pathology and laboratory medicine, for “Carboxyl Ester Lipase Is Expressed in Pancreatic Islets and May Affect Insulin Secretion and Glucose Metabolism.”

•  Third Place (Tie): Charlotte Crowley, Notre Dame Univer-sity, and mentor Andrew Hershey, MD, PhD, pediatrics/ neurology, for “Drawings by Children With Headache Are Good Predictors of Migraine Symptom,” and Josh Bernstein, Kenyon College, and mentor Marc Rothenberg, MD, PhD, pediatrics/allergy and immunology, for “The Opposing Function of Paired Immuno-Globulin-Like Receptor B Regulating Eosinophil Chemotaxis.”

•  Fourth Place: Michael Bechill, University of Saint Francis, and mentor Dan Hassett, PhD, molecular genetics, biochemistry and microbiology, for “Two-Pronged Survival Strategy for the Major Cystic Fibrosis Pathogen, Pseudomonas Aeruginosa, Lacking the Capacity to Degrade Nitric Oxide During Anaerobic Respiration.”

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