Students, Alumni, Faculty Attend NH-INBRE Annual Meeting

Two current students, three alumni and four faculty members represented Colby-Sawyer at the NH-INBRE (IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence) Annual Meeting at the Omni Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, Aug. 7-8, 2023.

NH-INBRE is a program funded by the National Institutes of Health to promote biomedical research in New Hampshire. It is comprised of a network of colleges and universities, primarily undergraduate institutions, in the state. NH-INBRE sponsors the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (iSURF) program, a competitive summer fellowship in which students conduct research at Dartmouth or at biotech firms and participate in the state-wide NH-INBRE annual meeting.

Biology major Alycia Ashby ’24 was selected to present one of four oral presentations from the iSURF program. Her research, titled The Effects of PFOA and PFOS on Proliferation and Migration on Human Umbilical Endothelial Cells, explores the effects of PFAs (also known as “forever chemicals”) on human umbilical vein endothelial cells to better understand the chemicals effects on fetal development. Ashby has been working on this research under Colby-Sawyer Professor Chery Whipple for two years.

“My biggest takeaways from this experience have been confidence in my knowledge and research as well as my contribution to science,” Ashby, the senior from Manchester, New Hampshire, said. “Although I may only be an undergraduate, my research has a purpose and place in science. The purpose of NH-INBRE is to inspire and motivate young scientists to get into science — to ask questions, take calculated risks, and most importantly network to create a foundation to be successful in science in the future. I have never felt so confident in my abilities as a scientist and public speaker as I did on Monday during my oral presentation.”

Senior biology major Patrick Murphy ’24 presented a poster on the research he conducted this summer as part of the iSURF program at Dartmouth, A Macrophage-specific Effect for Mycophenolate Mofetil in the Treatment of Systemic Schlerosis. This was a step in understanding this life-threatening autoimmune disease.

“Systemic sclerosis is a rare autoimmune disorder but has one of the highest mortality rates among any other autoimmune disorder,” Murphy said. “The research I focused on was understanding how the drug mycophenolate mofetil affects macrophage activation and viability. This research is important because this drug has been seen to be effective in some patients with the disease, but we don't completely understand why — (and), especially, how — it affects macrophages, which are important in disease progression.”

Following his poster presentation, Murphy was nominated to represent NH-INBRE by presenting his research poster at the Northeast Regional IDeA Conference (NERIC) in Delaware, Aug. 16-18.

Colby-Sawyer alumni Hanna Degefu ’20, Charlie Graffius ’22 and Meredith Ellis ’23 attended the annual meeting, participating in sessions in which they advised current undergraduates on attending graduate programs in biology or health care. Degefu is currently a Ph.D. candidate in immunology at the Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies at Dartmouth. Graffius is starting a master’s program in motor learning and motor control this fall at Columbia University in New York. Ellis is a lab manager and research technician at the Mempel Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

The students and alumni were joined at the annual meeting by four Colby-Sawyer faculty members: Professor Jamie Jukosky, who has mentored students in research and presenting at previous annual meetings; Professor Emeritus Ben Steele, the INBRE principle investigator for Colby-Sawyer and a member of the Steering Committee; Coordinator of Academic Affairs Steve Cornish, who teaches in sociology and coordinates grants; and Kell Da Costa, who will be joining the exercise science faculty as an assistant professor in the fall.