WNC Fallon offers ‘exciting’ research | NevadaAppeal.com

WNC Fallon offers ‘exciting’ research

Aly Lawson
The WNC Fallon three-week biomedical research group meets in their lab on campus to study inflammation. From left, back row: McKenzie Feest, Dr. Gary Evett, Heidi Fait; middle row: Vivian Jusino, Ellona Gehman; front row: Christina Bowman, Lana Quint.

Six students are participating in an intensive three-week biomedical research program at the Western Nevada College Fallon campus, purely for the education and value of it.

The project does not involve credit but is meant to introduce students to scientific research and literature earlier in their academic careers. The program, funded by INBRE (IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence) through the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIH), gives hands-on research experience as well as exposes and trains students in a broad range of current cell biology, microbiology and molecular biological techniques used in research.

The project on which this group is working involves an enzyme — a new cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) variant. The group is doing original research on the subject matter involving inflammation.

“It’s exciting research,” Dr. Gary Evett said, adding descriptions of the science surrounding COX-1 and how it relates to inflammation and pain.

The students are studying under the tutelage of instructors Evett and Holly O’Toole, who the pupils said both aided their love of science and inspired them to do the research project.

“They’ve just made it come alive,” McKenzie Feest said.

Most of the time is spent at the laboratory bench working on the research project with valuable equipment, but lectures are inserted where needed to train students in background knowledge and procedures.

Evett said the overall goal of the initiative is to introduce science as early as possible; for example, even in kindergarten with a question such as, “Why that that bug move?” He added the initiative emphasizes “real science” instead book science, “getting hands-on.”

The students also spoke to the hands-on aspect, mentioning how it solidifies material and gives them a taste of laboratory work. They also said the experience looks well on a CV.

“I’ve never had so much lab experience,” Christina Bowman said.

Of the six research students, three recently graduated high school with their associate degree in hand and one is entering her senior year in the Jump Start program. Two others have previous healthcare work experience. The students are aiming to become doctors, a physician’s assistant, a nurse, an anthropologist and a veterinarian. They said they like their small group.

“We’re all smart,” Feest added.

The group also happens to be all women. When asked if they always knew they wanted to do something like their chosen career paths, the students said good teachers played an important part in the direction their studies took.

During the project’s last week, the students will work on making a poster to be presented at a poster session later this summer. Each student will also give a short presentation to the WNC group on some project aspect and the data obtained.

Some other states also participate in the INBRE program, and WNC has funding for four years.