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Research Opportunities
 

 

Program Description

 

The overall program is designed to give students an opportunity to experience first‐hand the workings of a scientific laboratory while gaining vital knowledge and experience with some of the basic laboratory skills required for today’s health and life science fields. Each week students will have the opportunity to work directly with faculty from Eastern Connecticut State University who teach and work in the modern life science fields including Biochemistry, Organic Chemistry, Biotechnology, Biology, Health Science and Environmental Earth Sciences. Each week will focus on an area of modern scientific inquiry allowing students to gain scientific skills and knowledge.

 

Week 1: Critical Scientific Laboratory Skills and Basic Concepts of Scientific Investigation

Week 2: Research in Isolation of Antimicrobials from Natural Products

Week 3: Determination of Antimicrobial Activity in Plant Extracts

Week 4: Molecular Identification of Nervous System Progenitors

Week 5: Applying the Scientific Method to Analyze Patterns in Related to Health Using Geographic Information Systems

Week 6: Physical Activity Epidemiology and Health

 

 

 

 

 

Week 1: Critical Scientific Laboratory Skills and Basic Concepts of Scientific Investigation

The scientific method demands understanding of how to accurately investigate natural phenomena to support or disprove a scientific hypothesis. In order to succeed in today’s demanding biotechnological research environment basic laboratory skills are essential and scientists must be able to accurately reproduce all of their investigation. In this week of the Summer Health and Life Science Program at Eastern Connecticut State University students will be introduced to several vital laboratory

skills that will be useful throughout the remainder of the program and throughout there education and future scientific careers. The daily programs will consist of introductory information about a specific scientific skill or technique followed by hands‐on in lab experience using the methodology presented.

 

Topics will include:

  •  Basic Laboratory safety
  •  Accurate measurements of volume and mass using scientific methods
  •  Scientific preparation of solutions and basic analysis
  •  Use of standard laboratory instruments
  •  Micro‐pipettes
  •  pH Meters
  •  Spectrophotometers
  •  Modern Electrophoresis Techniques
  •  96 well plate readers

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Week 2: Research in Isolation of Antimicrobials from Natural Products

Plants are an important source of potentially useful novel chemical structures. Some of these structures show antimicrobial activity or serve as starting points to develop new chemotherapeutic agents. The use of medicinal plants dates back thousands of years but even today the screening of higher plants for new drugs is largely unexplored.

Considering the enormous potential of plants to serve as sources for antimicrobial drugs, many researchers systematically investigate phytochemicals as sources of new and potentially useful antibiotics. The goal of this research will be to investigate the roots, stems, flowers, or fruits of a number of “herbal remedy” plants by attempting to extract and purify the active medicinal compounds. Some basic laboratory skills will be required to complete this project and the students will learn basic extraction methods, techniques for purification of complex mixtures, and methods for spectral characterization of

purified components.

 

Proposed study plants

  • Process the Bergamot fruit to obtain the active citrus oil
  • Process Cassia bark (Cinnamon Plant) to obtain the powdered bark
  • Horseradish root to obtain a blended powdered root
  • Steam distill Kava-Kava fruit to obtain the aromatic oils
  • Process Oregon grape roots for extraction
  • Process Arborvitae leaves to obtain Thuja oil

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Week 3: Determination of Antimicrobial Activity in Plant Extracts

This study is proposed to determine the anti-microbial activity and possible chemotherapeutic uses for a pharmaco-active from plant sources. The question we would like answers to is that “do any of the selected plant materials have anti-microbial activity? The objective is to determine if any of these plant extracts can kill any of our bacterial samples. It is expected that some of these pharmaco-active extracts from plants would show some degree of inhibitory activity.

 

It is expected that at the end of the session students will:

 

  • Master concepts in microbiology
  • Learn to describe the basic structure of bacteria
  • Perform and understand the importance of the gram’s staining techniques
  • Learn how to handle and grow bacteria in various cultures
  • Will be introduced to techniques in establishment and maintenance of cell culture
  • Learn about the importance of hand washing
  • Learn how to enumerate bacteria cells in suspension and on semi-solid matrix
  • Learn about development of antimicrobial resistance and how not use antibiotics
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of various antibiotics, disinfectants, and antiseptics on bacteria cultures

 

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Week 4: Molecular Identification of Nervous System Progenitors

We used to think that once your brain was fully formed that it was “hardwired”, meaning that if one were to undergo a traumatic brain injury or stroke, brain cells would die and be lost forever. Now it’s known that there are discrete regions within the adult nervous system where new neurons are produced. New neurons are thought to be produced from stem and progenitor cells, however, the mechanisms that drive neurogenesis are not fully understood. One of the biggest challenges in discovering how neurogenesis occurs, is a common problem in stem cell biology, that is, a lack of markers that can identify progenitors capable of producing the cell types of interest.

       This project will use molecular methods to identify candidate progenitors in the nervous system. Each day throughout this week will consist of classroom sessions regarding the specific techniques and stem cell biology, and include hands-on experience performing the actual experiments in the lab.

 

Classroom and laboratory topics will include:

  • Basic stem cell biology, emphasizing the nervous system
  • The different types of stem cells and their applications
  • Molecular analyses of stem and progenitor cells
  • Immunohistochemistry –to find cells expressing proteins that identify progenitors
  • Laser-scanning confocal microscopy –using triple-labeled fluorescence
  • Processing of digital images
  • Production of a high quality image for presentation

Student Learning Outcomes

Students in this session will gain a more in depth understanding of the different types of stem cells, their biology and applications, and perform hands-on research gaining valuable skills in molecular and cellular techniques, while applying cutting-edge technology. I invite you to join me during this fascinating week of discovery!

 

 

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Week 5: Applying the Scientific Method to Analyze Patterns in Related to Health Using Geographic Information Systems

Geographic information systems (GIS) have been used in a variety of scientific and environmental studies, which include many applications within the health and life sciences. The utility of GIS for health applications begins with data acquisition, which consists of proper data collection, compilation, storage, retrieval, and manipulation to create spatial data. The primary goal of GIS is to use advanced technology to build a model that enables us to recognize, identify, and interpret geographic patterns. The model requires us to think spatially; we must use our knowledge to conduct an analysis and interpret relationships of location to specific spatial properties. In this session, students will become familiar with, and explore, online sites that make health content available to the public, which will then be incorporated and analyzed in a GIS. The techniques shown here, exemplify how GIS can assist in the prevention of illness and assist in future health policies.

 

Student Outcomes

  • Understand how GIS is integrated across all disciplines (geography, computer science, social science, planning, engineering, etc.) and offers the ability to analyze issues spatially.
  • Understand “spatial” data.
  • Be able to identify how and why many health informatics systems are manual and/or nonintegrated. .
  • Use spatial data from CDC Wonder (wonder.cdc.gov) to determine the geographic areas where deaths from lung cancer are more prevalent.
  • Hypothesize as to why certain geographic areas have a higher death rate due to lung cancer and prepare a scientific poster to demonstrate these findings. 
  • Understand the types of maps and their purpose that can be created in ArcGIS®.
  • Explore and understand the many statistical tools available within ArcGIS®.
  • Experiment with ModelBuilder, which is a visual programming tool used to create a model that strings several processes/tools.
  • Learn to geocode addresses in ArcGIS® (create a map of sampled addresses).
  • Obtain data from the US Census Bureau (http://www.census.gov/geo/www/tiger/shp.html), as well as American FactFinder (http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml).
  • Understand how to join not spatially referenced data to spatially referenced data to create more maps.

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Week 6: Physical Activity Epidemiology and Health

This week is to provide an introduction to participants about physical activity and its relation to health and disease prevention. Participants will have opportunities to learn the measurement and assessment of exercise testing protocols and learn the principles of Exercise as Medicine.

 

Topics will include

  • Introduction to Physical Activity Epidemiology
  • Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans
  • Dietary Guidelines for Americans
  • Health Benefits of Physical Activity
  • Risk Factors & Stratification of Physical Inactivity and Chronic Diseases
  • Safety of Exercise Testing and Using Human Subjects
  • Cardiovascular Endurance Testing
  • Muscular Strength and Endurance Testing
  • Body Composition Testing
  • Flexibility and Range of Motion Testing

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