Biology Students Present Research

Four students attend national biochemistry event

By: Becky St. Clair

Semotiuk is one of a very small number of undergraduates to present to this national organization.

During the week of April 6-9, David Lindsey, professor of biology, attended the annual meetings for the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) in San Diego.  Four WWU students attended with him: Crystal Leanza, senior biology; Andrew Semotiuk, senior biochemistry; Stephanie Shin, junior biology; Ashley Goodacre, junior biology and business.  

On April 9, Leanza and Semotiuk were given an opportunity to present the group’s research as a poster.  In addition, Semotiuk was invited to give an oral presentation on April 7.  Semotiuk’s travel and conference expenses were paid in full by a National Science Foundation Travel Award.

The title of Semotiuk’s presentation, and the research the group was bringing to the conference, was “The Role of An Ubiquitin Processing Protease, UbpA, in the Growth-to-Development Transition of Dictyostelium Development.”

In basic terms, their research is an attempt at trying to understand how cells make the decision to stop growing and start developing into mature cells with specific functions.  The group studies a social ameba, but the problem is related and applicable to stress response and stem cell function in humans.  They are just beginning to work out one of the mechanisms by which growing cells sense starvation and respond to that stress by developing a fruiting body.

“Andrew did very well,” says Lindsey.  “This opportunity was quite an honor, and his presentation a great credit to WWU.”

Semotiuk’s presentation was unique not only because the group’s approach to their research was somewhat novel, but also because the large majority of the other presenters were post-doctoral fellows or research faculty.  Semotiuk was one of a very small number of undergraduates who have ever presented for the ASBMB.

“I really enjoyed learning what other labs are working on, and meeting some of the scientists whose work we study in the classroom,” says Semotiuk.  “It was also nice to see a small school like WWU present at this event, where many of the other speakers were from Johns Hopkins, Harvard, and other large, well-known schools.”

In addition to presenting their research, the group listened to other scientists present their research, discussed ideas and theories at poster sessions, and visited with vendors about research equipment and supplies.

The students who accompanied Lindsey to the ASBMB event were those who expressed interest when Lindsey presented the idea to those who work in the lab.

“They have shown a strong interest in science and have made contributions to the research,” says Lindsey.  “The knowledge, experience, insight, and the well-deserved confidence they gain (not to mention networking), is worth far more than anything they can get in a classroom.”

Their research is about halfway to being printed in at least one research publication.  Though Lindsey admits it takes a lot of work in the field to get to that point, he also believes that having it published will just be the “next chapter in what could be a lifelong project.”

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