Students succeed in undergraduate poster competition at ASBMB Annual Meeting

Group photo of UW–Madison biochemistry students and attendees at ASBMB Annual Meeting

For years, the University of Wisconsin–Madison Department of Biochemistry has sent undergraduates to the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) annual meeting to participate in its undergraduate research poster contest. The students are always successful and bring home numerous awards, and the 2018 annual meeting in San Diego, Calif. was no exception.

Under the tutelage of Professor Michael Cox, fifteen promising undergraduate researchers made the trip to present research posters this year. Will Flanigan took the top prize in the Cell and Developmental Biology, Immunology and Microbiology category, and Wenqi Shen earned an honorable mention in Metabolism, Bioenergetics, Lipids, Signal Transduction and Pedagogy.

“As always, we had a very competitive group, representing about a dozen different labs,” Cox reported. “Numerous judges forwarded favorable comments about all of the students. They are talented young people and it was a privilege to accompany and spend time with them.”

Flanigan is a biochemistry and biomedical engineering major performing research in the lab of Pamela Kreeger, associate professor of biomedical engineering and cell and regenerative biology. In the Kreeger Lab, Will studies ovarian cancer, particularly the DNA mutations and environmental factors that cause it. Shen is an undergraduate major doing research in the lab of chemistry professor Helen Blackwell. She is aiming to understand the roles of quorum sensing during bacterial infection. Quorum sensing is a chemical communication process that allows bacteria to regulate gene expression based on changes in population density and environmental cues, thereby enabling bacteria to coordinate their behaviors on a community-wide scale.

“It was incredible to hear feedback from the judges and scientists on how to improve my research,” Flanigan says. “The ASBMB annual meeting exposed me to some of the newest findings in experimental biology and it was an outstanding experience to be immersed in scientific discussions with experts in my field. Research has made a profound impact on my undergraduate experience and it has been quite influential in my decision to pursue graduate school.”

Also participating in the trip were: Kamya Gopal and Joe Trimarco (Cox Lab), Jonathan Doenier (Kimble Lab), Emily Hinds (Romero Lab), Sadie Gugel (Carey Lab), Meng Lou (Huttenlocher Lab), Christina McNerney and Lulu Callies and Rezwana Karim (Record Lab), Akshayaa Lakshmana (Attie Lab), Melissa Seman (Catherine Fox Lab), Helaina Von Bank (Pagliarini Lab), and Jennifer Day (Bement Lab).

Many of the biochemistry students on campus are involved in the ASBMB student chapter, which serves as a resource for students wanting to get involved in research and get the most out of their education in biochemistry or related fields.