Colby-Sawyer College students and faculty presented research findings at the 2019 New Hampshire IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (NH-INBRE) Annual Meeting at the Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods, N.H.

Supported by an Institutional Development Award (IDeA) from the National Institutes of Health, the IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence is a federal grant program that promotes the development, coordination and sharing of biomedical research resources within 24 states. NH-INBRE is a partnership among eight institutions, including Colby-Sawyer College, the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth and the University of New Hampshire. The annual meeting is its largest networking event, providing students the opportunity to connect and exchange ideas with representatives from other institutions as well as access to career resources.

During the conference’s poster presentation session, biology major Hanna Degefu ’20 of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, shared research conducted during her INBRE Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (ISURF) at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center with Dr. Yina Huang of the Geisel School of Medicine. During her fellowship, Degefu studied the formation of memory T cells by examining the interaction between a specific kinase and a transcription factor alongside graduate students and post-graduate fellows.

“Working closely with graduate students and post-doctoral fellows allowed me to learn about the rigor that goes into a research career,” Degefu said. “Working in the lab, I gained new skills and got to apply the techniques I learned in class on a bigger scale. Thanks to the program, I also got to attend different panels, talks and seminars on various fields related to immunology which was a very informative experience and broadened my perspective on potential fields to pursue a career. Overall, I really enjoyed my experience as an ISURF student. It made me realize how passionate I am in pursuing a career in biomedical research and also figure out what my next steps should be after graduation.”

Biology major Matt Kelly ’21 of Merrimack, N.H., was among seven students from the NH-INBRE network selected to present research. Speaking to an audience of about 200, Kelly shared findings from bumblebee studies conducted on campus during his summer research assistantship.

“I had never spoken to a room of that many strangers before,” Kelly said. “The experience really boosted my confidence and I'll carry that with me as I give more presentations in the future.”

Alongside Associate Professor Jamie Jukosky and fellow biology majors Megan Bishop ’21 of New Port Richey, Fla., and Cameron Stephens ’21 of Shirley, Mass., Kelly spent five weeks screening bumblebees for disease and pesticides, and measuring the effects of pesticides on motor activity. The group also presented the findings during a poster session.

Associate Professor Chery Whipple addressed conference attendees with research on Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a project she began on campus this summer with biology majors Morgan Seebeck ’22 of Fryeburg, Maine, and Ashlynn Mayberry ’21 of Duvall, Wash. During the poster session, Seebeck presented the team’s poster, “The emergent contaminant, PFOA, and its impact on the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans’ viability and growth.”

Two additional on-campus research teams presented posters. Nursing major Smriti Sapkota ’21 of Jhapa, Nepal, biology majors Miranda Belizaire ’19 of Brockton, Mass., and Ruth Padilla ’21 of Stratford, Conn., and Professor Whipple presented the effects of an anti-diabetic drug on cancer cells, while exercise science major Brianna Griffin ’20 of Brewster, Mass., presented the effect of high intensity training on resting energy expenditure with Professor Kerstin Stoedefalke.

Professor Emeritus Benjamin Steele, who represents Colby-Sawyer on the NH-INBRE steering committee, praised students for their contributions to research and evidence-based practice projects.

“It is exciting to see students presenting their research at a professional academic conference,” Steele said. “They rise to the occasion. Matt Kelly gave an excellent oral talk, and all the others clearly explained their posters to many other scientists and other students.”

Steve Cornish, Ph.D., Colby-Sawyer’s academic affairs coordinator, attended the conference as the college’s NH-INBRE grants administrator. In his role, Dr. Cornish works with NH-INBRE’s lead institution, the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, to administer grant funding on behalf of Colby-Sawyer students and faculty.