Westminster College Biology Majors Receive Drinko Research Grants

Monday, December 3, 2012

NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. - Westminster College senior biology majors Ryan Nicklas and John Ryniawec received undergraduate research grants from Westminster's Drinko Center for Experiential Learning.

Nicklas' project, "The Effect of Host Identity on Sex Ratios in the Model Nasonia vitripennis," is conducted under the supervision of Dr. Ann Throckmorton, Westminster professor of biology. Nicklas is examining a species of jewel wasps that have been the focus of many studies involving genetics and behavior. He will be exposing the Nasonia to three different fly species as hosts and monitoring the effects of the different hosts on the resulting offspring. He seeks to provide insight into the host-parasite relationships, as well as reproductive patterns within this species. These organisms have been extensively utilized in agriculture to control fly pests, and a greater understanding of Nasonia can be applied to the control of disease-spreading organisms and farming without the use of harsh, toxic chemicals.

Nicklas is a son of Steven and Julie Nicklas of Evans City and a graduate of Seneca Valley High School.

Contact Throckmorton at (724) 946-7209 or email for additional information. 

Ryniawec's project, "Effects of Citral on Expression of Msx-1 During Limb Regeneration of Ambystoma mexicanum," is conducted under the supervision of Dr. Joshua Corrette-Bennett, Westminster associate professor of biology and chair of the department.  Ryniawec is studying the effects of citral, a product of lemon grass, on limb regeneration in the Mexican axolotl, a salamander found south of Mexico City. Specifically, he is looking at citral's effect on the expression of certain genes associated with starting limb regeneration. He is expecting that citral will shut off gene expression and stunt the growth of the regenerating limb.

Ryniawec is a son of Carla Carr of Coraopolis and a graduate of West Allegheny High School.

Contact Corrette-Bennett at (724) 946-7208 or email for additional information. 

The Drinko Center for Experiential Learning was created to enrich undergraduate education at Westminster through advancing world-class teaching as well as by participating in collaborations that address community and regional needs including strengthening K-12 education.  The Undergraduate Research Initiative provides funding for students to conduct research and to present their research at regional and national conferences. 

Visit www.westminster.edu/drinko for more information about the Drinko Center and its programs.

About Westminster College...
Founded in 1852 and related to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Westminster College ranks first in the nation as "Best College for Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math," according to Forbes.com. Westminster is a top-tier liberal arts college and a national leader in graduation rate performance, according to U.S. News Best Colleges guide. Westminster is also honored as one of "The Best 377 Colleges" by The Princeton Review, and is named to the President's Honor Roll for excellence in service learning.

Nearly 1,600 undergraduate and graduate students benefit from individualized attention from dedicated faculty while choosing from 41 majors and nearly 100 organizations on the New Wilmington, Pa., campus. Visit www.westminster.edu/advantage to view "Advantage: Westminster" A Strategic Plan 2010-2020.