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Undergraduate and medical students conduct research

January 04, 2017 12:00 AM
Pikeville, Ky.
Shaelyn Eversole’s interest in medical research is personal and dates back more than a decade. The University of Pikeville biology major became involved with pancreatic cancer research last year and returned to the lab at UPIKE to continue studying the disease that affected her grandmother.

“I chose to continue my research because not only is it something that I enjoy doing but it is something that I am passionate about,” said Eversole of Hazard. “Knowing that I could potentially make a difference in someone’s life and give them more time with their family is a reward in itself.”

Eversole was among 15 biology, chemistry and osteopathic medical students who worked side-by-side to tackle a variety of projects. Students spent more than 300 hours developing research plans, running test samples and gathering data to support their projects. In addition to searching digital libraries studying the work of other scientists, students tapped into a valuable resource: University of Pikeville and Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine (KYCOM) faculty mentors.

“Research in the laboratory engages students intellectually in a way they have not encountered in class,” said Benjamin Clayton, Ph.D., chair of the division of mathematics and natural sciences and associate professor of chemistry. “They have to learn to think on their feet, problem-solve and plan experiments. That’s why medical schools and other professional programs like to see lots of these experiences on a student’s resume when they are applying for medical school. These students are better prepared to face the challenges of being a physician.”

Eight undergraduate students were each awarded Lee B. Ledford scholarships by the Appalachian College Association (ACA) which provided a research stipend up to $5,120, including funds to purchase equipment. The Ledford scholarship fund supports research experiences for students attending ACA colleges who graduated from high school or were home schooled in a designated Appalachian or contiguous county as defined by the Appalachian Regional Commission.

Undergraduate students completing research on Ledford scholarships include:
  • Shaelyn Eversole: “Examining the oncogenic function of Septins and their interaction with Chmp1A tumor suppressor in pancreatic cancers.” Her mentor was Maiyon Park, Ph.D., associate professor of physiology at KYCOM.
  • Amanda M. Arts, of Pikeville: “Encapsulation of Pterostilbene for Increased Protection and Solubility in Foods and Beverages.” Her mentor was Clayton.
  • JoBeth Bingham’s research focused on “Using Drosophila Melanogaster to determine novel O-glycosylated proteins important in pathological diseases such as heart failure.” A native of Girdler, Ky., Bingham’s mentor was Josh Watson, Ph.D., assistant professor of physiology at KYCOM.
  • Kenneth J. Bowling, of Pikeville, researched “Cataloging Lepidopteran Species that Occur in Pike County, Kentucky” with the guidance of Mathys J. Meyer, Ph.D., associate professor of biology at UPIKE.
  • Logan Cline’s research focused on “Blending Cannabidiol with Appalachian plants for disease prevention.” A native of VanLear, Cline’s mentor was Clayton.
  • Dalton Hammond’s research focused on “Study of the Zooxanthella and Aiptasia pallida Symbiosis.” A native of Jenkins, his advisor was J. Michael Younger, Ph.D., assistant professor of biochemistry at UPIKE.
  • Mackenzie Summers researched “Blending Cannabidiol with Appalachian plants for disease prevention.” A native of Morehead, her mentor was Clayton.
  • Austin Thacker, of Shelbiana, researched “Study of the Zooxanthella and Aiptasia pallida Symbiosis.” His mentor was Younger.
Additionally, Christopher Walker, of Pikeville, received the Keen Scholarship in biology to study “Historical Survey of Vertebrate Diversity in Pike County, Kentucky” with the guidance of Meyer.

KYCOM summer research fellowship program:
Six osteopathic medical students were selected to participate in the KYCOM summer research fellowship program which encourages and provides support to students interested in basic medical, clinical, osteopathic, education and public health research. Working with mentors, student researchers gain valuable experience and appreciation for the potential benefits of research pertaining to patient care.

KYCOM summer research fellows include:
  • Casey Potts’ research focused on “Investigating Fiber Type Changes of the Diaphragm Muscle in Response to Hypoxia in Mice with and without Satellite Cells.” A native of Lexington, Potts’ mentor was Esther Dupont-Versteegden, Ph.D., University of Kentucky.
  • Derek De Mann, of Grand Rapids, Mich., studied “A Drosophila Model for Understanding the Role of Autophagy in Diabetic Cardiomyopathies” with the guidance of Watson.
  • Maria Cacciotti, of McDonald, Pa., researched “Determining Precise Clinical Criteria to Reduce Delay in Recognition and Treatment of Sepsis Among Burn Patients.” Her mentor was Jeffrey Claridge, M.D., Case Western Reserve University.
  • Martin Erlandson’s research included “Non-verbal Use of Smart Phones/Tablets and Associated Somatic Dysfunction.” A native of Onalaska, Wis., Erlandson worked with Meg Wright Sidle, Ph.D., director of institutional research and effectiveness at University of Pikeville, and Jacqueline Van Manen, D.O., Mayo Clinic Health System, Onalaska, Wis.
  • Trusha Mehta, of Lexington, studied “Quantitative Analysis of the Nicotine Concentration Women are Exposed to During and After Pregnancy.” Her mentors were Antoinette Justice, D.O., assistant professor of family medicine and osteopathic principles and practices at KYCOM, and Younger.
  • Zac Slattery, of Hicksville, Ohio, researched “Septins are Oncogenes in Pancreatic Cancer, Whose Activity is Inhibited by Chmp1A Tumor Suppressor” with the guidance of Park.
Undergraduate students presented their research during the Appalachian College Association fall conference in Kingsport, Tenn. Bingham and Summers were awarded prizes for the best presentation and poster, respectively.

KYCOM research fellows presented their work during the annual UPIKE-KYCOM Research Day and are encouraged to participate at regional, national and international conferences.

Caption: UPIKE biology major Shaelyn Eversole, left, and second-year medical student Zac Slattery, right, work with Maiyon Park, Ph.D., associate professor of physiology, in the KYCOM research lab.

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