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Biology major presents research on American paddlefish at national conference

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Posted on Tuesday, April 4, 2023

A Westminster College biology major was able to present his undergraduate research project at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) annual conference in Austin, Texas, in January. 

Jimmy Oberlin, a senior from Dubois, Pa., presented “Musculature of the Gill Arch of Paddlefish: A Role in Gill Raker Orientation and Function?” Oberlin investigated the arches of paddlefish to discover if the gill arches—internal components that appear to be unlikely in the assistance in food acquisition—contained skeletal muscle, which would explain how gill rakers and their orientation optimize filter-feeding. 

Oberlin dissected both adult and juvenile paddlefish gills exposing the underlying tissue layers that were removed and rinsed before being placed under a microscope.

His results hypothesized that if skeletal muscle is identifiable within the gill arch the localization will support a role in gill raker-based feeding, with the alternative hypothesis that skeletal muscle may not play a role in gill raker form and function. 

Oberlin, who received a travel grant from Westminster’s Drinko Center for Undergraduate Research to attend the conference, was mentored by Dr. John Robertson, associate professor of biology.

“SICB provided me with plenty of information and resources within integrative and comparative biology. Presenting my research allowed me to gain self-confidence in the work that I do. Seeing others presenting their research also helped me improve my communication skills,” said Oberlin. 

After graduation this spring, Oberlin plans to attend the LECOM School of Dentistry in Bradenton, Fla., where he will specialize in pediatric dentistry. 

For more information on the Drinko Center for Undergraduate Research, contact director Dr. Karen Resendes at

For more information on the biology department, click here.