From the bench: Grad students win for research into HIV, prions, reproduction and more

More than 300 Colorado State University graduate students presented their work at the Nov. 11, 2015, Graduate Student Showcase, organized by the CSU Graduate School and the office of the Vice President for Research to foster multidisciplinary collaboration.

Nine students from the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences came away with awards. Here, they explain their projects:

Hayley Benham, biomedical sciences Ph.D. student

hayley benhamProject: Timing of Superovulation and Embryo Collection in North American Bison

Description: Determining the best day to collect embryos after superovulation of bison.

“We studied five bison females to see when they actually came into heat after superovulation by observing when they were bred after being placed with bulls. It turned out to be 12 to 24 hours earlier than we originally thought, so we have now adjusted our protocol and hope to collect more embryos.”

Award: Alumni Association Forever Green Top Scholar

Mentor: Dr. Jennifer Barfield

Paige Charlins, cell and molecular biology Ph.D. student

Paige Charlins croppedProject: Lentiviral Vector Mobilization for Treatment of HIV in Humanized Mice

Description: Examining a novel approach for using gene therapy to treat HIV infection.

“We have developed a treatment for HIV that allows us to take advantage of virus’s life cycle. Because HIV wants to continually replicate, we are going to have HIV package a therapeutic treatment instead of itself so that other cells can be treated. Our goal is to develop novel therapies for treatment of HIV and ultimately a cure.”

Award: College of Business Sustainability Award

Mentor: Dr. Ramesh Akkina

Kristen Davenport, DVM/Ph.D. student

Project: Novel in Vitro Assessments of Prion Disease Species Barriers

Description: Using biochemical methods to assess and predict prion disease species barriers.

“Some prion diseases are known to transmit from one species to another, while others don’t cross to new species, and this research may help us understand the risk and potential preventive measures. I’m interested in biochemistry and zoonotic disease ­­– animal disease with the potential to infect humans – and this project allowed me to do both.”

Award: Great Minds in Research Honorable Mention

Mentor: Dr. Ed Hoover

Sarah Kane, cell and molecular Biology Ph.D. student

Sarah Kane croppedProject: The Good, Bad, and Ugly of the Prion Protein

Description: Understanding the importance of the prion protein in fighting off bacterial infection.

“Prion protein is involved in disease, but we also wanted to know what it normally does. So we took a step back and asked, ‘What does this protein normally do?’ We found that it helps the immune system fight off infection. It sounds counterintuitive and complicated, but most research is.”

Award: Top Scholar for University-Wide Graduate Programs

Mentor: Dr. Mark Zabel

Phillip Knabenbauer, microbiology, immunology, and pathology master’s student

Project: Establishment and Systematic Characterization of Mycobacterium Tuberculosis in Bioreactors

Description: Creating higher quality materials that are enriched for viability for TB research.

“This research will allow for more accuracy in analyses to give us a better understanding of TB and how it works, in order to develop better vaccines and drugs.”

Award: Best Poster by a CVMBS Student in a Non-thesis Project

Mentor: Dr. Karen Dobos

Nora Jean Nealon, DVM/Ph.D. student

Project: Understanding how Lactobacillus Reduces Salmonella Growth with Rice Bran Prebiotics

Description: Multi-drug resistance makes it difficult to treat Salmonella infections, and a natural route may involve using Lactobacilli and rice bran synbiotics.

“I am looking at rice bran and asking how it influences the gut’s probiotic bacteria and how it can protect us against pathogens such as salmonella, E. coli and rotavirus.”

Award: Graduate Student Council First-Year Graduate Student

Mentor: Dr. Elizabeth Ryan

Luisa Nieto Ramirez, microbiology, immunology, and pathology Ph.D. student

Project: Immune Response Against Mycobacterium Tuberculosis after Acquisition of Isoniazid Resistance

Description: Virulence, pathology and immune response of the TB bacterium.

“My work is focused on the bacterium that causes tuberculosis and its resistance to one specific drug called isoniazid. I studied what happens to the tuberculosis bacterium when it becomes drug-resistant.”

Award: CVMBS Best Poster by a PhD or MS-Thesis Researcher

Mentor: Dr. Karen Dobos

Lauren Radakovich, combined clinical pathology DVM residency/Ph.D. student

Project: Evidence of Inflammaging and Gastrointestinal Bleeding in Old Dogs

Description: Understanding how aging affects routine screening tests, such as the complete blood count and serum biochemical profile.

“I wanted to look at how normal aging affects bloodwork values in healthy dogs. I learned that even in healthy dogs, as they age, they have bloodwork evidence of low-grade inflammation as well as likely gastrointestinal bleeding, which is a cause of anemia. This will help us better characterize causes of anemia in dogs and identify patients who would benefit from iron supplementation.”

Award: Great Minds in Research

Mentors: Dr. Christine Olver and Dr. Kelly Santangelo

Rachel West, biomedical sciences Ph.D. student

Project: Lin28B Regulation of Mammalian Trophoblast Cells

Description: Investigating the role of specific proteins in human and ovine placental development.

“Pre-eclampsia is still the No. 1 cause of maternal death in the U.S., and I am trying to figure out the molecular structure behind that. We want to understand what genes are important in the early growth and development of the placenta.”

Award: CVMBS Best Poster by a PhD or MS-Thesis Researcher

Mentors: Dr. Quinton Winger and Dr. Jerry Bouma