Friday, April 26, 2013

Celebrating 14 Years of Undergraduate Research - Part II

Today, we'll hear again from sophomore Frank Wu, who recently visited the annual Carolina Undergraduate Research Symposium.

With more than 60% of undergraduates conducting research, you never know what exciting projects your peers may be doing. Below please find my interview with Michele Bresler, who is doing research on mouse intestine cell fission, and Jason Dunn, who is researching unemployment and obesity.

Michele, can you summarize your project?

The intestinal epithelium is one of the most rapidly turning over tissues in the body which makes it very vulnerable to chemotherapy drugs. My research was to isolate the intestinal stem cells which are responsible for replenishing the intestinal tissue after damage and create a culture condition where these cells can survive but not continue to proliferate. Once these conditions were set, we are able to manipulate the cells to discover a trigger for the cell fission in the hopes of finding a drug that can be given to chemotherapy patients to increase the rate of cell fission and the rate of tissue replenishing in the intestine after damage.

What did you learn?

I've learned an immense amount of laboratory skills and techniques that I would have never had the chance to do if I had not decided to pursue research. I even learned to remove the small intestine from a mouse! Besides the laboratory based skills, I've been able to improve my science writing and reading skills through having to read numerous scientific journal articles and write articles and presentations myself.

What connections did you make?

Through my research lab I have been able to form connections  with the doctors, PhDs, medical students, graduate students, and professors that work in my lab and the labs that surround us. Research is very collaborative and I have had the opportunity to work closely with some of the best stem cell researchers in the field.

Do you have advice for other students wanting to do research?

My advice for anyone who is wanting to do research is to take your time picking a place that you want to work in. There are so many opportunities to do research here at Carolina so don't rush into the first opportunity you find. Make sure that the research you decide to pursue is something that you are really passionate about so you are able to dedicate the right amount of time and enjoy what you are doing!

Jason, is there a correlation between unemployment and obesity? What did your research reveal?

I found some interesting relationships between unemployment and obesity, but to draw more conclusions, I would really need to have more information on how individuals spend their time and what they are eating. One interesting insight was finding that after at least three years of unemployment, white individuals gain weight while black individuals lose weight. However, that result was only significant for males.

You mentioned that our faculty was very supportive of your work.
Professor Gilleskie helped guide me through the process of developing my thesis topic, and she was instrumental in helping me figure out how to develop a model to test, determine the regressions, analyze the results, and write up my findings. I met with her weekly to work one on one on my project to ensure that the research was sound and that I met my goal.