On Friday, April 23, Union College hosted the first annual Intercollegiate Environmental and Health Science Research Symposium. The event brought together students from Bryan College of Health Sciences and Union College in the Krueger Center for Science and Mathematics to present their research and be inspired by a keynote on virology.
The symposium is part of a new collaboration between the biomedical science programs at the two colleges that the directors hope will lead to shared classes and more shared learning experiences in the future.
The event kicked off with a talk by Dr. John West from the Nebraska Center for Virology who discussed globally investigating viral infections and viral tumors. Students from both schools were then given the opportunity to present posters explaining their semester-long research projects.
Many students found presenting in a broader academic environment to be a good learning experience. “I definitely think Dr. McNeill, our biology professor, does everything she can to fully prepare us,” said pre-PA major Abby Langton about the event. Her research evaluated a young pygmy hippopotamus at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo. “I think this project has really helped me, and I think it will continue to help me down the road because I know I will have many more research projects to do.”
Alex Araujo, a senior biomedical science major, transferred to Union from Antillean Adventist University. Alex had previously conducted research on treating cancer using herbs, and she continued with a similar topic at this symposium. She tested the effects of oregano oil, garlic oil, and honey on the growth of E. coli, stating that “E. coli is a bacteria that is a model, so after I can find if it works on E. coli, I can test it out on many other pathogens.”
Araujo said that Union has given her the tools and facilities she needs to perform her research on campus. Beyond academics, she believes the school has cultivated her spiritual life and enriched her personal life, as she’s met many new people from different backgrounds in her time here. She added that “the staff here is very supportive of whatever I want to do, which is quite inspiring.”
Dr. Corraine McNeill, Union’s Biomedical Science Program Director, explained that in a biomedical science degree, “a semester-long research project is key to understanding what a career in science means and certainly gives students a strong, competitive edge when pursuing health-professional programs, graduate programs and industry positions.” Her own love for research was sparked when her general biology professor in college invited her to study the biodiversity and dietary preferences of terrestrial slugs as a summer research project, that easily became a fun, two-year adventure.
Now as a professor, she encourages and cultivates her student’s research interests. “It is a privilege to be able to prepare these students to be ready for the next level of advanced biology classes because I can see first-hand how each student has learned to think critically through challenging ideas, analyze concepts, appreciate the research that they’re doing, and see its significance in the real world.”
McNeill believes the event was a success, and there are plans underway to set up the symposium for next year. She and Dr. Christina Burden-Page wish to thank Dr. Anisa Angeletti and Dr. Amy Knobbe, faculty evaluators and students leaders from Bryan College of Health Sciences for collaborating with Union on this symposium, as well as everyone at Union College—student leaders, faculty evaluators, and logistics staff headed by Peggy Schlegel, who made this event possible.
by Maria Kercher, junior communication major