UA undergraduates display research at annual conference
Undergraduate biology research was put on display Saturday to allow UA students to present their work, which included projects that explored cancer cells and water decontamination.
Nearly 140 undergraduates participated in the 11th annual Undergraduate Biology Research Program Conference, held at the University of Arizona's Life Sciences South building.
Christine Berry, a microbiology senior, conducted research on the anti-cancer properties of coral extracts. She found that coral extracts may be able to prevent cancer cells from dividing.
She said she found this program to be a great opportunity to work with the students and faculty in her department that she would not normally have had contact with.
"It was interesting to see what other students are doing," she said.
Her sister, Laura Berry, an environmental science sophomore, also conducted research for the conference. She worked at a landfill, with the cooperation of the city, to find ways to decontaminate water supplies.
This program, which was started by biochemistry professor Mike Wells in 1988, has been run by molecular and cellular biology director Carol Bender since 1989.
"He started it because he was concerned about the number of bio-medical majors going into research careers," Bender said.
Since the introduction of the program, the number of bio-medical students entering graduate and medical school has risen.
The program is sponsored by grants from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the National Science Foundation, the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics and the National Institute of Health.
In addition to these grants, the program depends on faculty participation.
"This program is successful because we have faculty members who are behind it," Bender said.
Through the program, students are given the opportunity to work in research labs on campus and learn how to conduct professional research.
"The tremendous thing about a research university is that the research is going on right on campus," Bender said. "Students learn a tremendous amount."
Bender added that the coordinators of this program hope to one day be sponsored by an endowment in order to assure that it will continue long into the future.
The UA is part of a growing trend to include undergraduates in faculty research. Students who work in research labs are often able to publish their original research in journals and present them at conferences. Many also continue on to graduate programs or medical school.
The conference included a poster session which allowed the young researchers to show peers, professors and parents their research.
Other students projects included a study of the inner workings of valley fever spores, the impact of arsenic and lead levels in the residents of two Arizona mining towns and how Africanized bees may affect pet populations.