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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    27th Annual UBRP Conference

    The UA is home to many bright researchers, and in particular, undergraduate researchers. The Undergraduate Biology Research Program at the UA was established in 1988 in order to provide undergraduate students with paid research opportunities.

    Students in the program work in depth with a UA faculty researcher on a project, and are provided mentorship from a professional scientific community. These students presented their research at the 27th Annual UBRP Conference on Jan. 23.

    This year’s conference featured the work of over 130 students.

    Though UBRP is a biology research program, the students’ work included topics in biomedical engineering, cancer, genetics, health and disease, microbiology, molecules and cells, nature and the environment, and neuroscience and cognitive science.

    Suhitha Veeravelli, physiology junior and UBRP researcher, has been studying whether a sensor-based balance training program for HIV-infected patients can help improve their balance and mobility while also increasing their activity level.

    Prior to UBRP, Veeravelli had only presented her research at conferences geared toward other scientists.

    “This is the first setting that was more geared towards the general public, so I really tried to share my research in a way that was accessible, educational and exciting to the public,” she said.

    She was also happy to finally share her work with her family and friends at the UBRP conference.

    Sierra Kaszubinski, biology junior and an undergraduate UBRP researcher that presented at the conference, has been researching a fungus, called Aspergillus flavus, that affects agricultural crops in southeastern United States.

    Kaszubinski hopes to contribute to a better understanding of the ecology of the the southeastern U.S., and believes that her work may aid in the development of a biological control mechanism for the problem caused by pathogenic A. flavus.

    Madison Egan, a nutrition and molecular and cellular biology junior, said, “I am so grateful for the opportunity to participate in UBRP.”

    Over the summer, Egan worked with a nutritional sciences research team to develop and test a Type 2 diabetes prevention program called the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition that led 9-to-12-year-old children through fun, family-based activities.

    Her UBRP project focused on recruitment of children to the study and investigated the accuracy of parent-reported height and weight in children and adolescents. Egan’s research is working on aims to reduce the risk factors, such as parent-reported height and weight, for children and adolescents developing Type 2 diabetes.

    Attendees had the opportunity to learn about how cartilage tissue is being engineered from adipose-derived stem cells; the evolutionary history of specific genes; novel drug targets in asthma treatment; a model for Parkinson’s disease in patient-specific fibroblasts; how scientists are using microbiota presence to evaluate mine re-vegetation success; the effects of estrogen on temperature regulation in mice and much more.

    “It looks like it will be a really interesting conference, with a wide range of projects to learn about,” said Carol Bender, director of UBRP, before the conference.

    Aside from poster presentations by UA undergraduates, there were hands-on science activities, a keynote address by Dr. Mounir Koussa, a UBRP alumnus, on how studying single molecule biophysics shapes his world, and presentations from participants in the Partnership for Native American Cancer Prevention.

    Follow Renee Conway on Twitter.

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