Presbyterian College faculty and student researchers joined other scientists at the National IDeA Symposium of Biomedical Research Excellence (NISBRE) this summer.
PC senior physics major Brien Washington, physics professor Dr. James Wanliss and biology professors Dr. Stuart Gordon and Dr. Payal Ray presented research at the symposium held in Washington D.C. June 24-26.
IDeA presenters displayed their work on interactive posters. Other aspects of the NISBRE meeting included forums, keynote presentations, and workshops.
Faculty Research on Anemia
Ray and Gordon presented research that could lead to a better understanding of conditions like anemia, which occurs when a person does not have an adequate number of healthy red blood cells.
Their poster was titled, “Analysis of the Antarctic fish Notothenia corriceps gut microbiome under varying anemic states.”
Ray works on the molecular genetics of development. Her research examines how the human body develops into a complex, patterned structure from a single cell.
For her studies, she uses tiny fruit flies that share 70 percent of their genes with humans. She says they are very easy to grow and manipulate in a lab setting.
“This work reports on the project that aimed to understand the effect of microbes in the gut of an antarctic fish,” Ray said, referring to her and Gordon’s presentation. “Similar to my work using the fruit fly as a model system, Dr. Gordon, who is a microbial geneticist, is using this fish as a model system to examine if anemia can be influenced by the composition of the various bacteria inside our gut.
“Research over the last decade has discovered a correlation between the composition of our gut bacteria and several conditions ranging from diabetes to autism. The research is of high importance in understanding and managing anemia.”
Space Weather Research
Washington and Wanliss presented research on physiological effects of space weather. Space weather is a suite of physical processes, originating at the sun and ultimately affecting human activities on and around the earth.
While the effects of space weather on high technology may be obvious, what is not so obvious is how space weather might influence human physiology.
The role between solar physics and the daily physiological rhythms are well-known. What is unclear in medicine is whether other solar cycles also influence important physiological markers, such as blood pressure and heart rate.
According to Washington, “We’re looking at space science, the physics of the sun and subatomic particles, and we’re measuring the chronobiological side of it. That’s really just the rhythms that your body is operating in.
“You take two blood pressure readings and you probably are a different weight in the morning than in the afternoon because your body is operating in rhythms throughout the day. We’re measuring those rhythms and how they are influenced by the space weather.”
The original research — conducted by Washington, Wanliss, Germaine Cornelissen from the University of Minnesota and Denzel Brown ‘17 — was published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Biometeorology in 2017.
Collaborating with Scientists
NISBRE is a biennial meeting of all institutes that receive funding through the IDeA network, a program developed by the National Institutes of Health for states that receive low funding through grants.
“This meeting was a great opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with other scientists and educators, especially those at Primary Undergraduate Institutes,” Ray said. “Science works best when we collaborate with others, and these meetings are a great place to start and build collaborations.”