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Gonzaga Students Busy Conducting Summer Science Research in Lab, Field

Riley Meister, a rising senior biochemistry major, also is doing research this summer in Professor Evbuomwan’s lab. (Gonzaga photo by Margaret Maclean)

Riley Meister, a rising senior biochemistry major, is doing research with Professor Osasere Evbuomwan, an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry and a biomedical imaging researcher. (Gonzaga photo by Margaret Maclean)

SPOKANE, Wash. – It may be summer at Gonzaga University, but behind the scenes the campus is abuzz with undergraduate research projects. Sixty-two science students, led by 22 faculty members, are hard at work in labs and in the field gaining hands-on experience producing authentic research on topics ranging from invasive plant species in the Idaho Panhandle National Forests to developing compounds to aid in early cancer detection.

Biology Professor Nancy Staub, who is conducting research on the evolutionary patterns of salamanders, says the summer research work in chemistry, biology, biochemistry, physics and computer science provides Gonzaga’s students with valuable skills to advance their careers and is enjoyable for students and faculty.

horizontal shot web“It’s a really fun process to discover new knowledge, so the more students you have to expose to that, the more creative minds we have attacking these tough problems the world has to face and solve,” said Staub, who was instrumental in applying for and managing Gonzaga’s Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant, one of the sources that provides the summer research funding.

The students were selected for the 11-week research projects from a pool of 86 applicants; 54 receive undergraduate research assistantships of $4,400 each and eight others receive academic credit. As part of their research, the students participate in safety and ethics training, and a weekly pizza lunch where they present their research.

Osasere Evbuomwan, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry and a biomedical imaging researcher, also understands the importance of research in her field for medical purposes. Professor Evbuomwan’s lab focuses on developing novel chemical compounds that enhance the ability to detect diseases like cancer in early stages using MRI scanners.

Professor Evbuomwan (left) works with Symara De Melo Silva, an exchange student from Brazil doing research at Gonzaga on a fellowship. (Gonzaga photo by Margaret Maclean)

Professor Evbuomwan (left) works with Symara De Melo Silva, a chemistry student from Brazil. (Gonzaga photo by Margaret Maclean)

“In the kind of research that I do, we are trying to address unmet clinical needs,” Evbuomwan said. “And the only way to find solutions to these problems is to conduct research.”

Riley Meister, a rising senior biochemistry major who is working in Evbuomwan’s lab, says it’s exciting to consider how this research may have implications far beyond what he learns.

“Most students conducting research at Gonzaga are contributing to or leading projects that may prove beneficial on a scale that reaches far beyond the perimeter of our campus,” Meister says. “With Dr. Evbuomwan’s guidance, I am attempting to synthesize a molecule that would make diagnosing prostate cancer less invasive and more effective. The implications should be apparent, and we are making very recognizable progress in our undertaking.”

In the Idaho Panhandle National Forests, four biology students mentored by Sherry Wood, lab specialist and instructor, are collaborating with Gilbert Moreno, technician with the Coeur d’Alene River Ranger District, in a study of the distribution of invasive plant species along forest roads and in recent burn areas. Moreno, a 2009 GU biology graduate, also participated in research as a Gonzaga student.

Funding sources, in addition to the HHMI grant, include: Gonzaga Science Research Program; St. Francis Research Assistantship; Slobogean Arts & Sciences Research Award; Robert and Claire McDonald Work Award; the Peter Tripp Scholar Award; the Dr. Kay Nakamaye Research Award; and faculty research grants from the W.M. Keck Foundation, the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust and the National Science Foundation.

For more information about Gonzaga-led research, visit gonzaga.edu/undergradresearch or contact Angela Hinz, research coordinator in Gonzaga’s biology and chemistry and biochemistry departments, at (509) 313-5889 or via email at hinz@gonzaga.edu.

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