Students Awarded for Presentations at Regional Science Conference

Three Bemidji State University biology students presented the results of their undergraduate research at the 11th Undergraduate Research in the Molecular Sciences meeting, held Sept. 30-Oct. 1 on the campus of Minnesota State University, Moorhead.

Students involved in chemistry, biochemistry and molecular biology research from Minnesota, North Dakota and the surrounding region gathered in Moorhead, Minn., for workshops, oral presentations and poster presentations at the two-day conference. Mayo Clinic postdoctoral fellows Dr. Marissa Schafer and Dr. Andrew Haak provided a keynote address on cellular senescence, the deterioration of a cell as a result of its age, and the role those cells play in pulmonary disease.

Two BSU students presented posters recapping their research. Senior chemistry major Caitlin Zeller from Champlin, Minn. presented “Self-Assembled Fluorescent Sensors for Molecular Oxygen,” while Bemidji native and senior biology major Tami Jo Olson presented “Determination of the Transfection Efficiecy of WM-115 Melanoma Tumor Cells.”

Amanda Kooiker, a sophomore biology major from Pipestone, Minn., revisited her work from the Cancer Research Team at BSU overseen by Dr. Mark Wallert, associate professor of biology. Her presentation focused on NHE1, a protein found within cell membranes that is able to contribute to the movement and growth of new cancerous tumors.

“My project looked at palmitoylation, or the addition of a 16-carbon fatty acid to a regulatory region of NHE1,” Kooiker said. “This addition led to increases in the migration and replication of the non-small cell lung cancer that we are working with.”

The BSU trio were among 13 students and four faculty members from BSU’s biology and chemistry departments to attend the conference.

Olson hopes the presentation can help prepare her for her goal of working in the medical field.

“I want to be a medical professional when I’m all done with school,” she said. “The more I can learn the better care taker I can be.”

For their presentations, Olson and Kooiker each received $500 travel awards to the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology National Meeting in April 2017, while Zeller was awarded a one-year membership to the American Chemical Society.

The meeting, sponsored by the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the Red River Valley Chapter of the American Chemical Society, provides undergraduates an opportunity to present their research at a regional meeting. A total of 36 scientific posters and talks were presented at the conference, which included more than 70 participants from nine different colleges and universities.

The students were accompanied by Dr. Mike Hamann, professor of biology; Dr. Holly LaFerriere, assistant professor of biology; Dr. Katie Peterson, assistant professor of chemistry; and Dr. Mark Wallert, associate professor of biology.

Bemidji | 56601 | Tami Jo Olson, senior; biology. Presentation: “Self-Assembled Fluorescent Sensors for Molecular Oxygen.”
Champlin | 55316 | Caitlin Zeller, senior; chemistry. Presentation: “Determination of the Transfection Efficiecy of WM-115 Melanoma Tumor Cells.”
Pipestone | 56164 | Amanda Kooiker, sophomore; biology. Presentation: “Palmitoylation of the Na+-H+ Exchanger Isoform 1(NHE1) as a Novel Regulator of Metastasis in Non-small Cell Lung Cancer.”



Bemidji State University, located in northern Minnesota’s lake district, occupies a wooded campus along the shore of Lake Bemidji. A member of the colleges and universities of Minnesota State, Bemidji State offers more than 80 undergraduate majors and 11 graduate degrees encompassing arts, sciences and select professional programs. Bemidji State has an enrollment of approximately 5,000 students and a faculty and staff of more than 550. University signature themes include environmental stewardship, civic engagement and global and multi-cultural understanding.

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