Today@Sam Article

SHSU Hosts Third Summer Research Program

Aug. 8, 2023
SHSU Media Contact: Campbell Atkins

Poster pic social

Sam Houston State University hosted the third annual Research Experiences for Undergraduates Site in Genome Science and Computational Biology (REU-GSCB) program, an initiative funded by a National Science Foundation grant. The program brought together 10 students from across the country and their research projects, three of which attend SHSU. 

Poster pic Ogg

“We have really expanded from the first year to gradually encompassing bigdata science and machine learning and how to apply that in the various biological research including identification of species,” said Madhusudan Choudhary, director of the REU program. “One of our goals is to increase opportunities for women and minorities and to encourage them to go towards higher education.”

Eight of the 10 students chosen are women and at least half of the participants since the program’s inception have been minorities or first-generation students. Students spent 10 weeks on the research with mentors and, sometimes, co-mentors. They displayed their projects in the Lee Drain Building’s atrium July 27 in the presence of undergraduate students, faculty members and parents.

The diverse range of projects combined biology and computer science research. Faculty members came together from multiple departments to mentor the students. Sophomore and junior undergraduate students from minority institutions or institutions with limited research activity were eligible to apply.

The three SHSU students chosen to participate included Ashleigh Ogg, Megan Hicks and Oyinoluwa Bola. Ogg and Bola will be seniors beginning in the fall semester and Hicks will be a junior. Ogg is a biology major and her project was titled ‘Identification of Homologous Genes in Rhodobacter sphaeroides using Differentially Expressed Genes in Acidovorax under Normal Gravity and Microgravity and focused on how certain bacteria grow at normal earth gravity versus experimentally simulated microgravity conditions.

Poster pic Bola

“My project was aimed at looking at how bacteria grow in these conditions and examining which different genes are expressed under microgravity,” Ogg said. “We found bacteria grow much more rapidly under microgravity and a number of genes involved for bacterial growth are differentially modulated.

Ogg was co-mentored by Choudhary as well as computer science professor Hyuk Cho. Cho is a Professor of the Computer Science and co-director of the REU program.

“The program was a really good experience,” Ogg said. “I had a lot of fun, got to meet new people and connected with a lot of them. It was nice to learn some different skills and get more exposure.”

Hicks’ project was titled ‘Evolutionary Analysis of Leptin Receptor Homologs in Avian Species with Varying Longevities’.

“Essentially, we were interested in looking at the proteins sequences of different Leptins in birds,” Hicks said. “We used several bioinformatics software to analyze protein sequences and we wanted to see if there were any correlations in how the sequences diverged in the longevity of the species.”

Hicks is a biomedical science major and was mentored by James Harper, associate professor of biological sciences.

“This program really helped me and taught me what graduate school is all about,” Hicks said. “I definitely want to apply to graduate school now.”

Poster pic Hicks

Bola’s project was titled ‘Construction of Surveillance Database of Huntsville Lake Freshwater Fish Species using Environmental DNA (eDNA)’ and collected water samples at Lake Raven in search of finding DNA for specific fish.

We were able to send the samples off to be sequenced and see what species that we have,” Bola said. “But I was able to come up with a protocol that would allow me to identify fish species using a database.”

Bola was mentored during the program by Sharmin Hasan, assistant professor of cell and molecular biology.

“I thought the program would be very beneficial to me as a biology major and someone who wants to go into research, specifically in microbiology,” Bola said. “This program was very important to my future career because it gave me hand-on experiences needed for my future research field.”

Other students selected for the program included Taylor Schababerle (Washington State University), Rosa Kwon (Kenyon College), Sarah Kushner (LeTourneau University), Alice Jenks (State University of New York-Farmingdale), Samirah Jackson (Houston Christian University), Pedro Gamez (University of Texas-Permian) and Raul Ivan Acevedo (Wharton County Junior College). The other faculty mentors who participated in this year’s REU program were Todd Primm, Mardelle Atkins, Chris Randle, Rachel Houston and Li-Jen Lester.

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