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Undergraduate Research

 

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From examining the relationship between toxic metals and the development of breast cancer to collaborating on studies designed to protect children from Malaria with faculty in Uganda, Dominican students are engaged in research focused on some of the world’s most pressing needs.

In the past decade, Dominican has developed a research-intensive curriculum raising the bar for undergraduate science education. Today, faculty from the four schools embrace undergraduate research and scholarships as a training tool. Dominican professors train students to work independently on specific research topics early in their freshman year. This provides a unique experience for undergraduates contributing to the success of faculty research programs.

Each year, students from all disciplines present their original research at leading academic conferences, including:

  • Western Psychological Association Conference
  • American Association of Cancer Research
  • Western Political Science Association
  • Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting
  • Ocean Sciences Meeting
  • American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Conference
  • International Conference for Business, Economics and Information Technology
  • American Political Science Association Annual Conference.

 

Examples of Undergraduate Research at Dominican:

Malaria

Dr. Roland Cooper is in a race to stay one step ahead of malaria. Given many parasites can adapt genetically to battle anti-malaria treatments in only a matter of weeks, it’s a race with one other key contender: time.

Working both in Uganda and in his lab at Dominican, Dr. Cooper and his students are examining when and where parasites might emerge as a result of widespread use of anti-malarial drugs. His National Institutes of Health-funded research focuses on the molecular mechanism of drug action and resistance in the human malaria parasite.

Malaria claims about one million lives annually. With a lack of an effective malaria vaccine for the foreseeable future, understanding the relationship between the resistance of drugs and malaria is of critical importance as anti-malarial drugs still offer the best option for reduction of morbidity and mortality associated with this disease.

Cooper, who earned his master’s from the Harvard School of Public Health and his doctorate Pharmacology & Toxicology from the University of Arizona, recently conducted studies uncovering preliminary evidence of rare parasites that might be highly resistant to some of newer anti-malarial drugs. Visit Dr. Cooper’s page

Breast Cancer

With support from the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Maggie Louie’s lab is examining the role certain heavy metals play in the development of breast cancer. Dr. Louie’s research is focused on how cadmium, a toxic metal found in contaminated food and water and cigarette smoke, contributes to the development and progression of breast cancer.

Dr. Louie has shown that breast cancer cells become increasingly aggressive the longer they are exposed to small concentrations of cadmium. While other studies have shown links between acute cadmium exposure, Louie’s study is one of few to focus on chronic cadmium exposure and breast cancer.

This relationship between cancer and chronic exposures at low levels is important to understand because most people are not exposed to high levels of heavy metals. Understanding the role that cadmium plays in the progression of breast cancer is critical research for finding better ways to prevent the disease from advancing.” Visit Dr. Louie’s page

Coral Reefs

Coral reefs are among the world’s most biodiverse marine ecosystems, yet these fragile ecosystems are among the most threatened and are in danger of collapsing within our lifetime. With support from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Dr. Vania Coelho’s research has focused on innovative techniques to slow the decline of coral reefs.

Working with Dominican students on aquaria experiments, Dr. Coelho focuses on coral reef long-term dynamics, coral disease management, coral bleaching prevention, and the study of sensitive invertebrate species that could be used as environmental indicators to determine the role of protected coral reef reserves. Visit Dr. Coelho’s page

Sudden Oak Death

Funded by the United States Department of Food and Agriculture, NORS-DUC is the country's first outdoor research facility focused on studies examining the spread of P. ramorum, the pathogen that causes sudden oak death, in nursery plants.

Sudden oak death has had a devastating impact on oak trees and tan oaks in coastal regions in Northern California and parts of Oregon, as well as larch and oak trees in Europe. It is believed that P. ramorum can spread from plants into the wild, and in recent years more than 100 nursery plants have been identified as P. ramorum host plants.

Today, growers in California face numerous restrictions when it comes to exporting plants, and controlling further spread of P. ramorum is a national priority for the USDA.

Researchers at the NORS-DUC facility recently successfully eliminated all traces of P. ramorum from infested soil using a non-chemical method that could be used at quarantined sites throughout the state.

The research is a giant step toward controlling this serious and costly plant disease. Visit the NORS-DUC page

Biofuels

Using a combination of hands-on chemical assessment of the efficiency of various alternative fuels and a grounding in the theoretical research into fuel technology, Dr. Kenneth Frost involves his students in what will be, inevitably, their future.

Class work begins in the lab, creating ethanol from sugars and biodiesel from animal and vegetable fats, and learning to calculate energy value for these alternatives.

This year, Dominican was awarded a competitive grant by the National Collegiate Inventors & Innovators Alliance that will enable biology, chemistry, and graduate business students to collaborate on research, development, and commercialization of green chemistry products.  Students will learn to both develop and market projects focused on providing sustainable solutions to environmental issues. Visit Dr. Frost’s page


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