Students participating in research
Published: Friday, February 22, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 22, 2013 04:02
By McKinley Smith
The Daily Barometer
Some undergraduate students at Oregon State University are seizing the opportunity to take their learning beyond the classroom by participating in research on campus.
Deepthika Ennamuri, a junior in biochemistry, student in the University Honors College and research ambassador, spoke with her academic advisor about possible mentors early in her college career. Then she began researching the biochemical processes that occur after an initial spinal cord injury from penetration and compression in her sophomore year.
“I expected to get knowledge of basic research techniques and understand science better,” Ennamuri, a junior in biochemistry, said. “But I [also] learned a lot more about how to manage my time better, take responsibility and be in charge of my own project.”
Ennamuri worked full time the summer between her sophomore and junior years preparing samples in the morning and analyzing them in the afternoon.
Her goal is to understand the mechanisms for secondary injuries as well as to test preventative treatments. She hopes to present her thesis next fall.
“One of the most rewarding components is knowing that even as an undergraduate, I can actually make an impact on something,” Ennamuri said. “I’m not the primary investigator or anything, but just knowing that I was able to contribute to something that I think is really important, that’s really rewarding.”
Ishan Patel, senior in bioengineering, is also an Honors College student and a research ambassador. He said he realized that in order to do research at Oregon Health and Science University, he would have to begin researching early, and started volunteering in a lab his freshman year.
The following summer, Patel was researching at OHSU, modeling blood flow to test the ability of drugs to prevent clotting.
“I created this model for blood flow, and they use that model to test various medicines,” Patel said. “We wanted to kind of mimic the heart and how it works outside of the body so we wouldn’t have to use humans or rats anything like that.”
Patel worked two more summers at OHSU, and presented a poster at an international conference in Japan for the International Society for Thrombosis and Haemostasis.
“Moreso than me presenting at this place was me learning about the scientific world,” Patel said.
Last summer, Patel did preliminary work serving as a bridge between the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York and OHSU.
OHSU wanted to identify cancer patients who are more susceptible to blood clots, Patel said. The process is called novel cancer detection technologies.
“[The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and OHSU] really wanted to work together,” Patel said. “Now, they can easily transfer these technologies between the two labs, write grants and try to get research into this area so they can further develop these tools so that it might one day be used [in] the clinic.”
Carmen Gondhalekar’s work involves non-human subjects. Gondhalekar is a senior in fisheries and wildlife specializing in disease ecology, and first got involved with research after taking a class offered by zoology professor Andrew Blaustein. She applied for a position helping graduate students — changing water, feeding amphibians and performing basic lab cleanup.
That summer, Gondhalekar worked in Blaustein’s lab conducting her own research with funding provided through the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
“We would explore the susceptibility to this pathogen [a chytrid fungus] among three different species of amphibians,” Gondhalekar said. “My specific project regarded studying this in larval amphibians [tadpoles].”
Gondhalekar then transferred to Anna Jolles’ buffalo disease lab. Jolles is an associate professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Under Jolles, Gondhalekar counted and identified ticks on South African buffaloes using photographs taken over a four-year period. The purpose of this is to measure the number of ticks from season to season across different geographic areas.
“It allowed me to travel to South Africa and participate in the data collection that was going on there,” Gondhalekar said.
She spent 23 days conducting her research at Kruger National Park in the northeastern corner of South Africa.
“You could definitely hear all the wild animals walking around, right next to your tent, outside the fence, and roaring and everything. It was terrifying,” Gondhalekar said. “But it was also really, really exciting.”
Research allows her to focus on something and apply it to larger issues. The research she’s doing with ticks is relevant to herders, and her work with amphibian pathogens is pertinent to conservation.
“The downsides about research are that it is very time intensive and it can be really stressful, and getting funding for it can sometimes be difficult.” Gondhalekar said. “It involves a large degree of commitment, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can be hard, at times, to live up to that commitment.”
Gondhalekar has written a fact sheet for the United States Geological Survey on the Northern Spotted Owl and plans to follow that with a fact sheet on the sage grouse.
As a student in the College of Liberal Arts, Katy Krieger defies expectations about what is considered research. Krieger is a junior Honors College student majoring in psychology and English, and volunteers as a research ambassador.
“There’s definitely this myth out there that [only science and engineering majors] can do research, but that is not true,” Krieger said. “You can pretty much do research in any area, and professors would love to talk to students about doing research and possibly bringing them on to help.”
Krieger dove into research her freshman year, working in the lab of Frank Bernieri, associate professor of psychological sciences. Then she received grants to do her own research and presented a poster at a conference sponsored by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. Currently, she is working on her honors thesis as well as serving as lab coordinator.