Summer Research Scholars to present findings this spring

Summer Research Scholars to present findings this spring

Indiana University East awarded four scholarships for the 2009 Summer Research Scholar Program. Undergraduate students received $2,000 to conduct a research project under the supervision of a faculty mentor.

Funding for the program is provided by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research and is matched by funds from IU East. The competitive program has since expanded from the first award given to include up to six students each summer.

All recipients will present their research findings during the sixth annual Student Research Day in spring 2010.

Melanie Cope, Richmond. “Comparative Functional Analysis of She2p RNA-Binding Protein in Yeast.” Biology major, working with Dale Beach, assistant professor of biotechnology.
Cope researched the regulation of the transition of RNA to proteins which is a process called translation.

Human DNA contains 25,000 genes which can produce 125,000 different proteins. Yet, any one cell only produces a fraction of those proteins demonstrating how genes are regulated exquisitely by the cell. A fundamental question of cell biology is to understand how the mechanism of gene expression happens. It is known that the expression of any gene produces an RNA, and an RNA can be turned into a protein. From gene to RNA and RNA to protein regulation can take place.

Cope and Beach said regulatory proteins that bind RNA can affect when and where translation occurs. Model organisms, such as yeast, are simplified examples of how this process works. Cope used genetic systems in yeast to experimentally study this process.

“By comparing the same process in closely related species, they can identify the evolutionarily important mechanisms that may be found in humans,” Cope said. “Therefore, by studying these mechanisms in yeast we can apply the findings to human health and welfare.”

Mark Howell, Hollansburg, Ohio. “Efficiently Using the Sun to Generate Electricity without Solar Panels.” Bachelor of General Studies with a concentration in Natural Science and Mathematics working with Ron Bingaman, lecturer in physics.
Howell’s research project is to power an engine by the sun. He said as part of the project, a large lens will focus solar energy on the engine and allow it to turn a generator. The goal is to produce useful energy, like a solar panel. However, Howell’s method will attempt to produce more electricity than a solar panel of similar size.

“My grandfather is a model engine machinist. He is known throughout the world for his designs and his craftsmanship. Like him, I have an interest in model engines,” Howell said. “This project is an excellent way to dive into the hobby of model engine building and also create something that might have a practical purpose.”


Jacquelynn Steele, Centerville. “Biculturalism through the Art Forms of Paraguay.” Working toward a B.A. in Humanities with a concentration in creative writing. Mentored by Teresa Henderson, lecturer in foreign language.
Steele traveled to Paraguay to complete a self-designed study abroad academic program to research indigenous people and traditional art of Paraguay. She spent the first three weeks with a host family in the capital, Asunción, and then traveled to Villarrica to stay with a friend for the month. While in Villarrica, Steele took numerous trips to traditional artisan communities throughout Paraguay, where the Guaraní Indians are still very much present and active in all areas of society and where Spanish shares official national language standing with Guaraní (an unusual status for an indigenous language). She gathered photographs and video of artistic production, interviews with the artisans, and samples of their artesanía. She investigated sculpture, textiles, silver and many other forms of art. 

Steele is creating a multimedia presentation for the 2009 IU East Hispanic Heritage Celebration in October and hopes to display her work in the Meijer Artway, Earlham College, and Richmond Art Museum. The display will highlight the overlooked culture that has consistently valued indigenous, European, and Mestizo traditions and thus maintained a rich, nuanced blended culture. She will provide the community with a complex yet accessible window into a distant, fascinating culture, and will bring her new skills and knowledge into service to her community.

Ashley Julian, Greenville, Ohio. “Investigating Necrotizing Meningoencephalitis (PDE) in the Pug Dog.” Biology major, working with Kimberly Greer, assistant professor of biology.

Julian collected DNA samples from Pug dogs to determine the genetic and environmental causes of Necrotizing Menigoencephalitis (NME), also known as Pug dog Encephalitis. The disease is an invariably fatal breed-specific brain disease. Julian’s primary responsibility is to extract DNA from samples that have been collected from Pug families for further analysis.

“I am also organizing and maintaining data records for the study samples (more than 5,000 dogs are currently participating in the investigation). We are working with primary tissue cultures, PCR techniques, and  evaluating DNA sequence data for design of a genetic test for the disease,” Julian said.

For more information about the Summer Scholars Research program at IU East, contact Mary Blakefield, associate vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, at (765) 973-8522 or e-mail

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