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Research sets the course

As a young boy from Belcourt, Nevin Gillis had a simple love for science, specifically biology. Growing up in the Turtle Mountains gives a kid with imagination and curiosity a lot of opportunity to explore. So it is no surprise to those who know him that a majority of Gillis' time at Minot State University is spent in the science lab.

Gillis began research in January 2012 with Dr. Christopher Keller, MSU professor of biology and plant biologist, and Dr. Khwaja Hossain of Mayville State University, who identified a variety of common beans whose micronutrient content differ from other beans. Gillis' project uses microelectrode recoding to determine if the root cells of bean plants, grown from beans with different zinc content, differ in membrane changes when treated with solutions containing known concentrations of zinc.

"Nevin is working on an important aspect of mineral uptake. It will be valuable for his future because he is gaining experience in laboratory methods and the way to interpret the results," said Dr. Hossain. "The collaboration of Dr. Keller and Nevin has important impact and value."

The outcome of this research is to identify common bean plants with higher concentrations of zinc. Zinc is an essential mineral and is vital for over 200 chemical reactions in the body and found in every cell; adequate levels of zinc are essential for good health. As a first phase in their research, Dr. Hossain and Gillis identified some lines, and Gillis is continuing analysis to determine if the higher concentration was genotype specific.

"With the way I am doing my research, I am able to think like a doctor," said Gillis. "I really enjoy what I am working on."

In addition to his involvement in MSU Club Biology, Gillis plans to continue his research with Dr. Hossain and Dr. Keller until he graduates in 2014.

"Undergraduate research opportunities like Nevin's project are tremendously important," said Dr. Keller. "They represent a chance for the student to cement their understanding of the knowledge base, to learn to think like a scientist and to persist in the face of difficulty."

Gillis wants to expand his knowledge base after MSU and continue his education in medical school.

"I really look forward to helping people and persevere in science with my future career," he said.