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Above, MCLA students attending NCUR at the University of North Carolina at Asheville visit with the College’s former president, Mary K. Grant, Ph.D, now the chancellor of that university. Below right, from top, Sara Peck ’17, Monique LeMay ’16 and Annie Gagnon ’17 were among those who presented posters at the conference. Bottom, Evan Patev '16 presents his paper.

MCLA Students Showcase Research at NCUR

05/04/16

For biology major Evan Patev ’16 of Leominster, Mass., the opportunity to present his work to a large, national audience of scientists, educators and undergraduate researchers like himself was the highlight of his experience at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR).

He, along with nine other MCLA students recently traveled to the University of North Carolina at Asheville to join nearly 4,000 other undergraduates from throughout the United States who presented their work aimed toward finding solutions to real-world problems.

According to Justin L. Golub, Ph.D, assistant professor of biology at MCLA, “Undergraduate research is a rewarding experience for students.  They get to see their ideas and hard work come to fruition. Attending conferences like NCUR allow students to then share their findings with others.”

At NCUR, Patev presented his work on transgenerational immune priming (TGIP) to scientists.

He first began his work in transgenerational immune priming – when a parent primes its offspring’s immune system for a disease before birth – last summer, as a participant in the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program at Northeastern University in Boston, Mass.

“My hypothesis was that Manduca sexta mothers pass on live bacteria to their embryos to promote variolation as a means of transgenerational immune priming,” Patev explained.

“Variolation is like receiving a vaccine, where weakened bacteria are introduced to boost the immune system,” he continued. “I found that live, whole bacteria are not being transferred, ruling out one of the many possible mechanisms of TGIP.”

Monique LeMay ’16 of Dighton, Mass., a psychology major with a minor in behavior analysis, presented her poster, “Examining the Relationship between Test Anxiety, Social Comparison, and Socially-Prescribed Perfectionism,” which detailed thepreliminary findings of her senior thesis.

LeMay’s NCUR experience increased her confidence as an independent researcher. “I am fortunate to have completed this project under advisors invested in my success,” she said.

Like LeMay, biology major Annie Gagnon ’17 of Seekonk, Mass., presented a poster at NCUR.

Gagnon’s poster, “Exploring the Genetic Mechanisms of Exfoliation Syndrome and Glaucoma,”

concluded that a list of potential genes will need to be studied further, and provided new data on the further development of a mouse model for exfoliative glaucoma.

Interested in a career in human genetics, Gagnon said, “This research has helped teach me many lab skills that could be important for my future career and graduate school. It has also directed my focus towards a healthcare career, rather than a purely lab-based research career.”

A highlight of the conference for Gagnon was the opportunity to see the work of other student researchers from colleges and universities throughout the nation.

LeMay agreed: “It always gives me joy to see a student or faculty member from another university who, regardless of their respective major or professional affiliation, comes to develop an understanding of these topics, as well as how they may relate to their own life experiences.”

She added, “Presenting at NCUR has assured me that MCLA’s dedicated faculty and ample resources for undergraduate research have prepared me – and other students – to be competitive contributors to our respective fields of interest.”