Archive for August, 2010

By Beth Liles

Two undergraduates on the MBL campus are excitedly preparing to present talks on their summer research tomorrow: Diara Townes and Victoria Morgan, both students in the Woods Hole Partnership Education Program (PEP).

Now in its second year, PEP immerses undergraduates in the rich scientific and academic culture of the Woods Hole research community, and introduces them to leaders and colleagues in their fields of interest. Sixteen PEP students are being mentored in several Woods Hole institutions this summer, including Townes, who is from Hampton University, and Morgan, from Cornell.

PEP student Diara Townes works with MBL veterinarian Amy Hancock in the Marine Resources Center. Photo by Tom Kleindinst

PEP student Diara Townes works with MBL veterinarian Amy Hancock in the Marine Resources Center. Photo by Tom Kleindinst

“This has been the most exciting summer in my undergraduate career,” says Townes. “Not only am I gaining exquisite research experience, but I am also making lasting friendships and amazing professional connections.”

Designed primarily for juniors and seniors interested in marine and environmental science, the PEP curriculum consists of a four-week course followed by six-to-eight week individual research projects. The students are presenting their research findings tomorrow, August 13, from 8:30 AM to 1 PM in the Tilley Conference Room, U.S. Geological Survey Woods Hole Science Center, 384 Woods Hole Road (Quissett Campus), Woods Hole.

MBL veterinarian Amy Hancock in the Marine Resources Center has been mentoring Townes. They are evaluating a new fish anesthetic on various ornamental species to observe its effects on the animals. Townes is also working with Kristy Owen at NOAA’s Woods Hole Science Aquarium. They are measuring dissolved oxygen (DO) levels in the facility’s three main reservoirs and six exhibit tanks to determine if there is a correlation between DO levels and the fish disease exophthalmia (“pop-eye”).

Morgan is working with Ecosystems Center scientist Jim Tang, testing the method to measure carbon dioxide emissions from soils and measuring stem respiration from the Center’s Harvard Forest field site. The project goal is to examine the climate change impact on ecosystems and the feedback of ecosystems to the climate.

Victoria Morgan places soil samples into an oven in order to get a dry measurement of the bulk density of the soil. Photo by Tom Kleindinst

Victoria Morgan places soil samples into an oven in order to get a dry measurement of the bulk density of the soil. Photo by Tom Kleindinst

“I’ve learned more about the oceans and climate change than I expected,” Morgan says. “I’ve met lots of wonderful people, and I’ve had experiences that will remain with me for years to come. I plan on spreading the good news to my fellow Cornellians: PEP is a wonderful program and I really want others to participate in it!”

PEP is a partnership between the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) and the Woods Hole Diversity Initiative, a multi-institutional effort to promote diversity in the Woods Hole science community. Members of the Diversity Initiative include NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC), Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USGS Woods Hole Science Center, SEA, the MBL, and Woods Hole Research Center.

The science institutions in Woods Hole are committed to building a diverse and inclusive community. People from all cultures and all backgrounds can feel welcome in Woods Hole, whether they are visiting, spending a season as students, or spending part or all of their careers working here. PEP is just one of many Woods Hole Diversity Committee efforts. To learn more, go to http://www.woodsholediversity.org/

2010 PEP students and directors: Top Row:  Zachary Williams, George Liles (PEP Program coordinator, NEFSC), Delawrence Sykes, Alexander DeLeon, Nam Siu.  Row 2: Lucy Flores, Emily Motz, Christopher Cepero, Brian Redding, Ambrose Jearld (PEP Program director, NEFSC).  Row 3: Joniqua Howard, Lane Boyer, Melika Uter, Rachel Rochon, Victoria Morgan  Bottom Row: Angela Anorve, Delores Toledo, Anna-Mai Christmas, and Diara Townes. Photo by Sateesh Rogers

2010 PEP students and directors: Top Row: Zachary Williams, George Liles (PEP Program coordinator, NEFSC), Delawrence Sykes, Alexander DeLeon, Nam Siu. Row 2: Lucy Flores, Emily Motz, Christopher Cepero, Brian Redding, Ambrose Jearld (PEP Program director, NEFSC). Row 3: Joniqua Howard, Lane Boyer, Melika Uter, Rachel Rochon, Victoria Morgan Bottom Row: Angela Anorve, Delores Toledo, Anna-Mai Christmas, and Diara Townes. Photo by Sateesh Rogers

Chelsea Connolly, a BDWH student, stands next to a Western blot she is using to detect target proteins.

Chelsea Connolly, a BDWH student, stands next to a Western blot she is using to detect target proteins.

By Sarah Stanley

Chelsea Connolly, an undergraduate at Valdosta State University, is spending her summer at the MBL as part of the Biological Discovery in Woods Hole (BDWH) program. She is working in the MBL’s Josephine Bay Paul Center, with Chief Academic and Scientific Officer Joshua Hamilton acting as her mentor.

“I’ve gotten to meet lots of people with similar interests here,” Connolly says. “I’m happy to have found this opportunity.”

Connolly is contributing to a study investigating the effects of low doses of arsenic in human cells. Specifically, she is looking at how arsenic affects receptors of hormone molecules that influence DNA transcription in embryonic kidney cells. DNA transcription is the first step to protein synthesis, so altering its course can significantly affect a cell. Connolly says that preliminary data indicates current standards for acceptable levels of arsenic in drinking water may be too relaxed.

“The lab is well funded and has good equipment, so we can explore multiple avenues,” Connolly says. “We can look at proteins, mRNA, and other data to tie a lot together.”

Connolly has been involved in research at Valdosta State University, where she studied the molecular biology of plants and algae. This is the first time she’s had the opportunity to work with human cells.

Paul Malchow, a faculty member at University of Illinois, Chicago, and Allen Mensinger of University of Minnesota, Duluth, co-founded BDWH, which provides undergraduates with research experiences they may not have access to at their own institutions.

“Paul and Al are really helpful, especially when it comes to giving advice about grad school and careers. I’m lucky to be here,” Connolly says.

More information about the BDWH program can be found here: http://www.mbl.edu/education/courses/other_programs/reu.html

Chelsea Connolly, a BDWH student, uses human embryonic kidney cells in her research project.

Connolly uses human embryonic kidney cells in her research project.

Connolly examines human embryonic kidney cells under a microscope.

Connolly examines human embryonic kidney cells under a microscope.

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Earlier this summer, MBL CEO Gary Borisy snapped a shot of the newly painted rosettes on the facade of Lillie. Photo by Sally Casper

This summer, the facade of the Lillie building was treated to a facelift. While the red brick, concrete bands, and painted copper panels were cleaned, research was performed to determine the original intentions of the architect. Richard Cutler, the MBL’s director of facilities, thought the copper panels decorated with marine images may have originally been unpainted, and he and his team were prepared to restore them to their original state. However, it turns out they were intended to be painted from the start.

“The relief on the copper panels is now more prominent to the naked eye with a fresh coat of paint,” Cutler says. “Two things had changed over the years. There used to be four lights on the main entrance. We’re looking to restore that look. And changes to the windows had given the building a slightly different look. We made it better, in my opinion, by painting over the off-color window panels to match the rest of the paint.”

Lillie was built in 1924, and was originally called the Main Laboratory.  The director of the MBL at the time was Frank R. Lillie, for whom the building is now named.

EllenWalker

Ellen M. Walker, a student in SPINES (Summer Program in Neuroscience, Ethics and Survival) from University of Texas at El Paso, snapped this shot of her workspace at the MBL. Her story behind the photo:

“Throughout my summer here at MBL–whether it was preparing for a presentation after one of my course modules, reading about myosin Va and its action in the neuron for my independent study, or looking for journals the old-fashioned way, in the stacks, and marveling at finding the first volume of Nature and getting caught up in words like ‘whoso’ or ‘hitherto’–this desk on the fifth floor of Lillie has given me a sense of academic solace I cannot adequately or eloquently put into words.”

As a graduate student at University of Texas, Walker is studying how the brain affects behavior in nicotine and alcohol addiction. At the MBL, she has been working with Roy Larson of University of Sao Paolo, a visiting researcher in the Cellular Dynamics Program. Her independent project investigates the visual processing center in the brain of the migratory squid, Loligo pealei.