posted April 26, 2012

Students Honored at National Research Meeting

Multiple Hope College students received awards in the 16th annual Undergraduate Student Poster Competition during the annual meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), held in San Diego, Calif., on Saturday-Wednesday, April 21-25.

Senior Caitlin Peirce of Portage won the “Best Poster in Systems Biology Award” out of approximately 250 entries, for research conducted collaboratively with Dr. Virginia McDonough, who is an associate professor of biology.  Junior Marshall Willey of Holland won the "Best Poster in Lipid and Lipid Signalling Award" out of approximately 460 entries for research also conducted with McDonough.  Junior Nick Hazekamp of Janesville, Wis., and sophomore Josh Kammeraad of Bethel Park, Pa., received an Honorable Mention in the competition and were also chosen to give an oral presentation regarding research they conducted with Dr. Matt DeJongh, associate professor of computer science.

Also attending the conference from Hope and presenting a poster was junior Danielle Goodman of Big Rapids, who conducts research with Hope biologist Dr. Joseph Stukey and received a travel award for the event from the ASBMB.

Peirce received the “Best Poster” award for her research project “Isolation and identification of the ‘NR01’ gene, which is responsible for recognition of fatty acid species in the yeast ‘Saccharomyces cerevisiae.’”  Willey received his "Best Poster" award for his research project "The Role of Nro1p in Recognition and Signaling the Presence of Dietary Unsaturated Fatty Acids."

Fats, or lipids, come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and may be used by the cell either as an energy resource or as building blocks.  They are expensive for a cell to make, but there may be lipids available to cells in their environment from the diet, which cells will readily take up for use.  Both students used molecular biological and biochemical techniques to investigate how cells recognize the type of lipid they just consumed, and how that information is transmitted to the nucleus for a cell response. Peirce is a biology and chemistry major who will be attending the University of Michigan medical school after graduation.  Willey, a biology major, will be continuing his research this summer as a Cronkite Scholar with McDonough, supported by an NSF-REU grant.

Hazekamp, who is a computer science major, and Kammeraad, a mathematics major, were recognized for their work on “CytoSEED,” bioinformatics software that is now used by scientists around the world.

“CytoSEED” enables viewing, manipulating and analyzing metabolic models created using the Model SEED.  The release of CytoSEED in the summer of 2011 represented the culmination of three years of work by DeJongh, more than a dozen computer science students and one local high school student.  The package is available for free on SourceForge.net, and has been downloaded hundreds of times.

Founded in 1906 and based in Rockville, Md., the ASBMB is a nonprofit scientific and educational organization with more than 12,000 members. The society’s purpose is to advance the science of biochemistry and molecular biology through publication of scientific and educational journals, the “Journal of Biological Chemistry, Molecular & Cellular Proteomics,” and the “Journal of Lipid Research”; organization of scientific meetings; advocacy for funding of basic research and education; support of science education at all levels; and promoting the diversity of individuals entering the scientific workforce.