DURANGO, CO - “The Production of TNF-α Inflammatory Cytokines by RAW 264.7 Macrophage Cells as a Result of Exposure to Aggregatibacter Actinomycetemcomitans.” It sounds like the title of a research project you might find in a prestigious scientific journal or being conducted at a large research university. The truth, however, is that this project, and dozens more just like it, are being done by Fort Lewis College undergraduate students.
Over the eight years that the Fort Lewis College School of Natural and Behavioral Sciences (NBS) Undergraduate Research Symposium has been held, student research of this complexity and caliber has become the norm. The Symposium is the College’s opportunity to give students the chance to present their work to an audience of their peers, professors and community members.
The idea behind the Symposium, according to NBS Dean Maureen Brandon, is to provide a capstone to a student’s years of learning and work within their major. “Really the whole idea is to bring everything together,” she says, “from the time you’re a freshman to the time you graduate, all the things you’ve learned, pull it all together.”
For Cristin Haase, the FLC senior Cellular & Molecular Biology student behind the production of TNF-α inflammatory cytokines by RAW 264.7 macrophage cells project, the opportunity to do research in something she is interested in is exciting.
“My research project is something that I set up myself,” Cristin explains. “So it wasn’t a teacher telling me, ‘do periodontitis, link it to diabetes.’ It’s something I came up with myself and did the research on myself.”
“It’s really something you can be passionate about because you get to choose what you want to do for your research project,” she says.
Cristin plans to use her education in biology and public health, and her research experience earned at Fort Lewis College to propel her into dental school this July. Her goal is to earn both a master’s degree and doctorate in the coming years.
The magnitude of the Undergraduate Research Symposium is not lost on Cristin and the other FLC students taking part. For them, the full day of oral and poster presentations is the culmination of months, perhaps years, of work. Understandably, the realization that presentation day has finally come still inspires jitters.
“Today as I was helping students put up their posters and get ready for the oral presentations,” says Dean Brandon, “they all expressed how nervous they are, and it is really a big deal.”
Yet the students are far from alone in this process. Throughout their research work, they’ve had FLC professors as mentors, classmates as helpers, and, of course, family and friends as invaluable support. A piece of every student’s work and success belongs to this group behind the scenes.
“It’s so cool to see how proud the parents are, parents and siblings and family members, other people who have mentored these students along the way,” says Dean Brandon. “They come and listen to their oral presentations, or they come and talk to them in the poster session, and it’s so cool to see how proud they are of these students.”
Learn more about the great opportunities to study science at Fort Lewis College.