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Biology Majors and Faculty Presented at National Meeting

Posted on Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Dr. Karen Resendes, Westminster College assistant professor of biology, and senior biology majors Kaci Batzel and Ashley Grenet presented research at the annual meeting of the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) April 21-24 in San Diego.

Resendes presented a poster on "Determining the Effectiveness of the Hybrid Teaching Method in a Biology Course at a Small Liberal Arts College," an extension of her collaborative work with colleagues at San Diego State University in student learning in a small biology class with non-majors.

Resendes, Batzel, and Grenet presented research conducted in collaboration with Stephanie Woodward, a Westminster molecular biology major who graduated in December.

Batzel's poster, "The Role of Cellular Energy Levels in the Calcium-Mediated Regulation of the Ran Nuclear Transport Gradient," involved a strain of immortal cervical cancer cells often used in the laboratory.  The project examined the function of the Ran gradient that is responsible for movement of a variety of substances into and out of the nucleus of the cell, making it essential to the proper function of the cell as a whole.

Grenet's poster, "Calcium-Mediated Regulation of the Ran Gradient and Karyopherin Nuclear Transport Receptors," focused on the role of calcium in altering transport in and out of the nucleus, the compartment of a cell that contains DNA.  Proper regulation and control of access to DNA is critical not only to the function and survival of a single cell, but also to the organism as a whole.

"The conference was a wonderful experience," Grenet said.  "It opened my eyes to the opportunities for research careers.  I also picked up a lot of ideas and suggestions for future research."

Both posters were presented during the undergraduate poster session, where Resendes served as a judge, and as part of the general meeting, providing an opportunity for constructive input from faculty at other undergraduate institutions as well as knowledgeable graduate students, post-doctoral researchers, and faculty in the field.

Grenet's abstract was also selected for oral presentation to an audience of about 75 in a session where the other speakers were either graduate students or seasoned doctorates.

"In fact, the moderator introduced her as ‘Dr. Grenet,'" Resendes said.  "She corrected the error at the start of her talk, indicating her status as an undergraduate, and this admission garnered her applause and congratulations from some faculty in the audience.  She handled herself with professionalism, answered questions well, and was a great representative of Westminster College."

"Both students were told on multiple occasions by other scientists that they were surprised, not only that Kaci and Ashley were undergraduates, but also by the level and amount of research they were able to accomplish at a small liberal arts college," Resendes added.

Batzel is a daughter of Gregory and Pamela Batzel of Osterburg and a graduate of Chestnut Ridge High School.

Grenet is a daughter of Edward and Mary Grenet of Butler and a graduate of Butler Area High School.

Woodward is a daughter of James and Laurie Woodward of Waterford and a graduate of Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy.

Resendes, who joined the faculty in 2009, earned an undergraduate degree from the College of William and Mary and Ph.D. from Brown University.

Contact Resendes at (724) 946-7211 or email for additional information about the research and the presentations.

Grenet received the ASBMB undergraduate competitive travel award.  Batzel received an undergraduate research grant and both students received travel/presentation grants from Westminster's Drinko Center for Experiential Learning.

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 the Drinko Center website for more information about the Drinko Center and its programs.