Bio 600 and 610 Students Present Findings at Science Expo

Students gathered in Paresky Commons to see their peers present research ranging from the the evolution of long distance runners to potential therapies for cystic fibrosis at the Science Expo last Sunday.

The Expo showcased independent research conducted in the Biology 600/610 course and the Astronomy Research course and featured four live presentations.

William Bloxham ’13, Max Carrillo-Ostrow ’13, James Falese ’14 and Andrea Vargas ’13 all spoke about their projects. Other students outlined their conclusions in poster displays.

Falese’s research focused on asteroid spectroscopy, which is the study of how different materials and radiated energy behave when they make contact with asteroids. By studying the amount of light an asteroid reflected at different points in its path, Falese was able to approximate the composition of asteroid 9983 Rickfienberg.

Falese plans to publish a paper about his findings this summer.

Carrillo-Ostrow’s project hypothesized that humans evolved as long distance runners, which he found to be true based on a data analysis of two 100 mile races run over the same course.

He analyzed times, consistency and ability to maintain performance in extreme heat, all of which suggested that hunter-gatherer humans could survive using persistence hunting and long distance running.

“I think it is some really interesting research, and I would love to be able continue working on it down the road. To actually get humans and quadrupedal animals on a treadmill and analyze them would be great, given the resources,” said Carrillo- Ostrow during an interview.

Vargas hypothesized that Vitamin D’s anti-inflammatory properties could ameliorate the effects of cystic fibrosis, a disease involving lung infection due to glandular overproduction of mucus. Vargas’ in-vitro study on the cell lining of a patient suffering from the disease conclusively supported her hypothesis.

“Although my research project has not ended yet because I am still gathering information and analyzing data, I am very satisfied about my research this year because I was already interested in the topic before I began, and determining the potential therapeutic effect of Vitamin D in prevention of cystic fibrosis was extremely interesting for me,” said Vargas.

Bloxham examined the different methods of treatment for brain cancer in his research, emphasizing the significance of functional neural pathways when treating tumors. According to Bloxham, it is crucial to determine the location of functional pathways near the tumor in the brain so that surgeons may insert a small scope to perform tumor resections.

“I guess the results and data analyzing were the most satisfying part about the research. Using this information, I came up with the conclusion that these functional pathways can actually be blocked… I am definitely willing to pursue this subject even when I graduate this year because cancer research is something that I am passionate about,” said Bloxham.

Biology 600/610 students worked with Christine Marshall-Walker, Instructor in Biology and the faculty advisor for the event, to organize the Science Research Expo for this year. Marshall-Walker coordinated presenters and presentations and handled the logistics of the exposition on Sunday.

“Dr. Marshall-Walker has been an amazing mentor and faculty advisor. She has pushed me to become an independent thinker in the lab, but she has always been there for me when I needed help. I have grown so much as a scientist thanks to her wonderful guidance,” Vargas said during an interview.

After the success of this year’s program, other New England schools with similar research programs will be invited to attend an Expo next year.

Andover students who presented their research during the poster session included Duke Butterfield ’13, Max Carrillo- Ostrow ’13, Fatou Diarra ’13, Devin Etcitty ’13, James Falese ’14, John French ’13, Greg Fulcher ’13, Saroj Gourkanti ’13, Anna Harrison ’13, Joshua Kim ’15, Julia Lord ’13, Edward Molé ’13, Kevin Newhall ’13, Krissy Pelley ’13, Pallavi Prakash ’13, Lily Scherlis ’13, Kate Shih ’13, Amanda Simard ’13, Chris Teng ’13 and Anna Zhang ’13.