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Eastern Biology student wins conference grant

Published on July 02, 2021

Eastern Biology student wins conference grant

Arildsen's research focuses on plant genetics

Kate arildsen at microscope

Kate Arildsen '22 conducts plant genetics research

Biology major Kate Arildsen ’22 of Mansfield has been named the recipient of a Conference Attendance Award from the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) to participate in the organization’s Plant Biology 2021 Virtual Worldwide Summit from July 19-23. 

ASPB’s award selection criteria is based on the science and the quality of a research abstract; her statement on how attending the meeting will have an impact on her career; the strength of letters of recommendation; and ethnic diversity. Arildsen said she is grateful to receive the ASPB award. “This will be my second year attending and I cannot wait for another week of ‘nerding out’ over plant biology.” 

Her award-winning research project focuses on a novel mutant of the model legume “Medicago truncatula.” “Thousands of mutants of this plant have been created to help us understand the genetics behind various plant functions. Normally, M. truncatula is mostly green with a few red spots, which are collections of the pigment anthocyanin. This mutant has many red spots all over the front and back of the leaves. When you hear ‘eat the rainbow,’ it’s to encourage people to consume colorful foods due to the health benefits they provide. Anthocyanin is no exception, and has been linked to improving brain, heart and other organ functions. By studying this irregularly pigmented mutant, it can help other scientists create more nutritious fruits and vegetables.”  

“Kate is an outstanding student and highly motivated to pursue a research career in plant biology,” said Vijaykumar Veerappan, assistant professor of biology and Arildsen’s primary mentor.  “I rarely see a student like Kate who is focused on her future career early on during the undergraduate program. She is hard-working and highly independent.”

Arildsen attributes her liberal arts education to providing her a well-rounded approach to the sciences. “In biology we are taught everything is connected, and I believe that applies to the university experience as well. The skills I’m learning at Eastern help me think outside of the box, and I know that will be invaluable to my future career.”

Written by Dwight Bachman