INBRE research at MSU highlighted in North Dakota Medicine magazine
The IDeA Network Biomedical Research Excellence researchers at Minot State University are featured in the Summer 2008 issue of North Dakota Medicine. The North Dakota Medicine magazine is published five times a year by the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Grand Forks. The article, written by Patrick Miller, public information professional for the North Dakota IdeA Network Biomedical Research Excellence at the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences, appears below:
Partners in Time: INBRE Expands Horizons for Undergraduates Statewide
Seven years ago when science faculty members at Minot State University (MSU) were asked what it would take to get their students more involved in research, the answer was: less time in the classroom and more time in the lab.
Since then, two grants to the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have enabled faculty at North Dakotaís four baccalaureate institutions and five tribal colleges to spend more time getting undergraduates involved in research.
"The money has meant that I can spend a lot more time on my research, and student involvement has more than doubled," says Chris Keller, Ph.D., associate professor and MSU biology chair.
In 2001, the medical school, in partnership with NDSU, received a three-year, $6-million grant from the NIH National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) to establish the North Dakota Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network (BRIN). The program was renewed in 2004 with a five-year, $16.3-million Institutional Development Award (IdeA) for the North Dakota IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE).
"One of the major goals of the INBRE program is to create a pipeline of undergraduate students from the stateís primary undergraduate colleges who would go into biomedical research, behavioral research and the health sciences, such as medical, dental school and pharmacy," says Donald Sens, Ph.D., professor in UNDís department of pathology and INBRE principal investigator. "As soon as we placed INBRE funding at Minot State, they expanded their faculty to take advantage of the opportunity," he notes.
After six years, the results are paying off. Perhaps itís most evident at MSU where research has expanded from four to seven INBRE-funded projects, a molecular biology lab has been added, up to 75 students have received research experience and more of the universityís graduates are pursuing careers in science and healthcare professions.
In addition, researchers at MSU are collaborating with Sens and scientists at NDSU to study heavy metals in the environment.
"We have some good environmentally based programs at Minot State that interface well with our laboratory expertise, which is the effect of heavy metals on human health," Sens says. "We look at heavy metals and how they impact on the development and progression of bladder cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer and kidney disease."
Today, thanks to the BRIN and INBRE grants, researchers at MSU and other institutions across North Dakota not only have more time to conduct research, but also better equipment.
"Iíve done things at Minot State that I never dreamed I would be able to do," says Heidi Super, Ph.D., associate professor of biology. "I have the equipment that pretty much any lab in the United States or internationally would have to do DNA expression analysis. Itís been a wonderful thing."
INBRE funding enables Super, who specializes in leukemia research, to take students to the annual American Association for Cancer Research meeting. Last April in San Diego, one of her students - Aileen Aldrich, a junior chemistry major from Minot - finished second in the associationís undergraduate poster competition.
"When you go to this meeting, you see how much each person doing their own research contributes to moving cancer research forward," says Aldrich, who plans to apply to medical school at UND. "It was definitely a good experience to be immersed in so much knowledge."
With INBRE funding, MSU also developed outreach programs for American Indian students at Fort Berthold Community College and Turtle Mountain Community College that enable them to participate in research projects, both in the lab and in the field on the reservations.
"Itís been a really good, growing collaboration," says Chris Beachy, Ph.D., professor of biology at MSU. "Itís been productive and weíre thankful for it. Itís been great for the students. They love it. They want to keep coming back."
Involvement in INBRE research gives MSU students such as Steven Lewis, a chemistry major from Burlington, a new perspective on the future.
"When I came to college, it was with the idea of becoming a pharmacist," he says. "Now that Iíve done research, I see that there are a lot of exciting possibilities. It definitely opens your eyes to the different horizons in the chemistry field."
- Patrick Miller