Faculty/Student Collaborative Research
Wheaton College Biology faculty have designed their research projects so that undergraduate students can participate in a way that allows them to understand the processes involved in experimental design and to develop laboratory skills. During the academic year, students may become involved either as volunteers or for academic credit. They become familiar with a particular aspect of the mentors research and, with faculty input, write a proposal describing the background, rationale and proposed experiments.
Each student learns the necessary laboratory techniques from the mentor or from other students who have experience and are working in the mentor's laboratory. Students may do this program during any phase of their time at Wheaton but several have begun to participate in their freshmen year and have continued to do research until their graduation.
Before having this type of research experience, many students view biology as a series of topics or facts to be remembered but have little understanding of the scientific process that had been used to develop the current models of biological structures and functions. Most students, who have this experience, find that they have a better understanding of how science works including the limitations and applications or the scientific process. This understanding helps them to relate the scientific method to other ways of knowing and to their Christian faith.
Students also have opportunity to work with faculty during the summer. For the past several summers 10 to 29 students have been provided a stipend and housing on campus for a 10 week period for research with Science Division faculty.
Students are encouraged to present the results of their research at scientific meetings and to publish journal articles in collaboration with the faculty mentors. Several students have presented research results at the national meeting of the National Council for Undergraduate Research, the Argonne Science Symposium and the annual meeting of the Federation of Experimental Biologists. Some students are publishing papers with their faculty mentors.
Science Division Summer Research
The Science Division Summer Research Program - Each summer the Science Division of Wheaton College provides opportunities for students to conduct funded research with Wheaton faculty members. Students work for 8-10 weeks during the summer conducting research with faculty mentors. They receive a stipend provided by various sources of funding to the College and free Housing provided through the College.
The Selection Process - During the academic year students have many opportunities to learn of the research being conducted by their professors, and often they may even be able to begin doing research with them. Students who are interested in participating in the Summer Research Program should contact faculty members directly and express their interest. If a faculty member has research opportunities available for the summer, the student and faculty member may jointly file an application for the Summer Research Program.
Benefits of Participating in the Summer Research Program - Students who do Summer Research derive both short- and long-term benefits from their participation. Students learn important scientific concepts, master new skills, and get first-hand exposure to the world of scientific research. This experience enriches their education and also helps them to know if a career involving research might be right for them.
The long-term benefits include those that relate to success in the future. Students routinely find that it is beneficial to list research experience on applications for graduate school, medical school, jobs, and research opportunities at other institutions. Success in one area often leads to successes in other areas as well! Often, in addition to simply completing the project, students have the opportunity to present their research at scientific meetings or even to co-author a publication with their faculty mentor. Such accomplishments are well worth adding to one's resume.
A final benefit of conducting research is sharing in the process of discovery with other scientists. For faculty members at Wheaton, making a scientific discovery is more than just an academic achievement -- it's a way of seeing God at work in his creation!
Dr. Jennifer Busch
Dr. Busch’s research focuses on cyclic nucleotide-dependent protein kinases, specifically the cAMP-dependent protein kinase and cGMP-dependent protein kinases. These enzymes regulate numerous cellular and physiological processes such as DNA transcription, blood pressure, gastrointestinal motility, and nerve activity. Her interest is in how these kinases are regulated. Her research attempts to answer the question, “What amino acids in these kinases are important for controlling the enzymatic activity?”
Dr. Nadine C. Folino-Rorem
Marine & Invertebrate Zoologist
Dr. Folino-Rorem and students are addressing ecological and molecular aspects of the invasive colonial hydroid, Cordylophora. One specific ecological area of interest is the hydroid's coexistence with the dreissenid mussels in rivers and lakes. In addition, her interests address the ecological role of freshwater Cnidaria in aquatic habitats.
Dr. Raymond J. Lewis
Dr. Lewis' research involves characterizing the factors that control the growth and reproduction of marine brown algae. Specifically, growth and gametogenesis of microscopic gametophytes of the large and ecologically significant kelps are characterized in response to salinity, pheromones, pH, and nutrients.
Dr. L. Kristen Page
Dr. Page's primary research interest involves answering questions about how diseases are transmitted, and trying to understand how disease transmission changes as humans alter landscapes/habitats. Many of the projects conducted with my research students investigate the transmission dynamics of raccoon roundworm in urban landscapes.
Dr. Pattle P. Pun
The majority of the human genome is comprised of non-protein coding sequences. The function of much of this non-coding region remains unknown. We have used a technique for collecting transcription regulation information of the non-coding regions and a process for characterizing some regulatory differences between recently positively selected SNP flanking sequences and recently non-positively selected sequences. Analyses performed on the data include a gene proximity test, transcription factor categorization, and unique sequence scanning. We found around three quarters of the flanking sequences of the SNPs from the non-protein coding regions of chromosome 16 play a significant role in transcription regulation. The results may have implications on the evolution paradigm on genomic functions.
Dr. Rodney J. Scott
Dr. Scott uses techniques of molecular biology to conduct studies in conservation genetics. He studies a phenomenon called “multiple paternity” in the endangered species Blanding’s turtle, which occurs Illinois. The goal of this study is to learn how frequently multiple paternity (a phenomenon that increases genetic variation in populations) occurs in habitats where populations of Blanding’s turtles are highly fragmented. He has also recently initiated new studies using molecular markers to assess the population genetics of several species of freshwater turtles in Costa Rica. These studies represent the first studies of this kind to be conducted with these tropical species.
Dr. Gregory Vanden Heuvel
Dr. Vanden Heuvel’s research focuses on understanding the transcriptional regulation of cell proliferation in kidney development and kidney disease. Ongoing projects involve the characterization of transgenic mice carrying mutations in genes involved in the development and progression of polycystic kidney disease.