Students Conduct Summer Research Through INBRE Grant

Dan Martin '12 has created three molecules that only exist in his tiny vials in Saint Anselm College's chemistry lab. Elizabeth Craig '14 is running three different experiments with a squad of rats while Erin Albiero '13 investigates the mysteries of odor memory.

"Professor Wenzel calls us pseudo grad students, we get so into our work," says psychology major Albiero.

This summer 14 Saint Anselm College students are on campus conducting research funded by the New Hampshire INBRE program, which aims to increase biomedical research within the state. While supporting faculty projects, it emphasizes student participation in training, lab work, and independent research.

Fourteen students conducting research:

Erin Albiero '13, psychology
Bianca Ciuffredo '12, psychology
Elizabeth Craig '14, psychology
Allyn Doyle '13, psychology
Morgan Gaythorpe '14, computer science
Logan King '13, biochemistry
Ryan King '13, biochemistry
Ann Lehto '14, natural science
Katharine Lunny '14, biochemistry
Dan Martin '12, chemistry
Jephte Nabosse '14, biochemistry
Jennifer Pace '13, biochemistry
Ethan Sylvain '13, chemistry
Molly Walsh '13, biology

Through the INBRE grant, Saint Anselm students, ranging in major from biology to chemistry to psychology and computer science, are developing their research skills while searching for answers to questions posed by scientists all over the world.

In the Lab

Christina Palmieri '11 worked with Dan Broek researching yeast as part of the INBRE grantRecent chemistry graduate, Martin explains his lab work as a chef might a recipe, except his splicing and mixing could result in an increased concentration in dopamine that he hopes would help an ADHD or Alzheimer's patient. Martin and three others are working with professor Lisa Bonner to design and synthesize chemical modulators of dopamine.

In the lab upstairs, Craig and fellow researcher Molly Walsh '13 run 64 rats through the beginning stages of experiments to learn more about drug abuse relapse. Spending at least six hours a day in the lab, she runs the experiment, preps and cleans, and discusses data with psychology professor Joseph Troisi.

In addition to studying dopamine, drug addiction relapse and bioinformatics, students are investigating cancer and otherwise gaining valuable research skills through training and hands-on experience.

Research Training

Undergraduates learn basic lab skills as they are trained on equipment, terminology, and library resources. Then they work alongside their faculty mentor, asking questions as they go.

In addition to research skills, "young scientists gain and cultivate manifold life skills," says psychology professor Adam Wenzel. Those include oral and written communication, analytical inquiry, self-reliance and self-confidence.

Martin attributes his time management and communication skills to his time in the lab. "There are four of us in the lab at one time so we need to know who is here and work together. We share the same equipment so if your research is based on using one piece and someone else is using it, you're in trouble."

INBRE's goals bring Saint Anselm College's educational mission to life by creating a partnership that benefits the students first and foremost.

Four Saint Anselm professors received grants through NH-INBRE

Dan Broek, biology –  Investigating yeast as a model system for understanding a common defect in human cancers.

Adam Wenzel, psychology – Research on improving eye health and consequently reducing risk for retinal disease (and maybe improving visual function), in obese and non-obese invidiuals.

Joe Troisi, psychology – Analyzing extinction of motivated behavior under specific drug states to understand drug abuse relapse.

Lisa Bonner, chemistry – Stuyding the design and synthesis of chemical modulators of dopamine as potential therapeutics.

"INBRE wants to build and sustain a research culture and we already have that so it enhances our current opportunities," says Derk Wierda, Saint Anselm College's principal investigator for INBRE's research training component.

"As a liberal arts, undergraduate college, we like to train students and give them critical thinking skills through research. INBRE helps us do this while also providing additional tools," says Wierda.

Saint Anselm, only in its second year of a five-year grant, has (to date) benefited 80 students, received each of the three types of grants and also received the Director's Initiative Award (see right column for grants).

Senior biochemistry major, Jen Pace was working in Professor Bonner's lab when the INBRE grant was first awarded to the college. Working under the grant, she has developed nine new pieces of matter and fallen in love with lab work. Pace says she most enjoys the problem solving that comes with research. She plans to apply to medicinal chemistry and drug development doctoral programs in the fall and attributes the INBRE program for giving her future a direction.

"This experience at Saint Anselm makes the world of research and psychology more tangible than any textbook or lecture could show," says Craig.

Coins and Chemistry: Students Analyze an Ancient Artifact

Students from Bedford High School, 45 in all, used the beakers, solutions and instruments of Professor Mary Kate Donais’ chemistry lab to travel through time. Sophomores, juniors and seniors in the high school’s forensics and archaeology classes took a trip to the Syrian mints of the ancient Roman Empire in December, as they cut, dissolved and analyzed an unmarked ancient coin.

The coin was unearthed by Saint Anselm students, who each summer travel to Italy to work at the college’s archaeology site near Orvieto. By analyzing the metal content of coins, archaeologists are able to date them and even determine by their recipe which ancient mint produced them. Professor David George, chair of classics, manages the Orvieto site and spoke to the students about what they could learn from the artifacts.

The collaboration started with a request by Bedford High archaeology teacher Laura Dreyer that Donais speak to her class. Instead, the chemistry professor offered something better: to lead students through an experiment that she had already devised for non-science majors at Saint Anselm.

"I hope the students learned that science can help provide information for many disciplines, even in the social sciences and humanities," she says.  "As well, I hope they learned that science can be done by anyone with a little guidance – they shouldn’t be intimidated by it."

Even criminal justice majors might find the results of this experiment relevant. Donais says she is confident that the coin the students analyzed was an ancient forgery, referred to as a foure.

Caitlin McGee '10 Travels to Italy with Research Grant

Caitlin McGee'10, classics major from Nashua, N.H., traveled to Orvieto, Italy this past summer for her third consecutive archaeological dig. However, this summer was unique for McGee. With a $3,500 stipend she won through Saint Anselm's Undergraduate Research Scholar Program (URSP), McGee was able to conduct archaeological research at the college's Coriglia excavation site, about 150 miles northwest of Rome.

"My first year on the dig was my first time in Europe. Italy has allowed classics to come alive for me," said McGee, who discovered her passion for classics on the five-week annual excavation, led by professor David George, Ph.D.

McGee, who intends on attending graduate school, has always been curious about the different kinds of research related to her field of study (classics). Her hopes of taking part in the dig for a third time were high but with her busy schedule during the year, including being a resident assistant, she was unable to work to fund it. The aid from the URSP scholarship has allowed her to literally, dig a little deeper…She returned to Orvieto this past summer with not only the knowledge and understanding from her past two excursions but the will to theorize about her discoveries through a mix of archaeological field work and trips to museums to gather information.

McGee's research was centered on pottery found at the Coriglia site. "I found pottery interesting because of the implications of art, culture, and economy…it is what first caught my eye on the initial dig," said McGee.

McGee spent five weeks at the site, accompanied by 10 other students, all but one from Saint Anselm. The dig began in 2006 with seven Saint Anselm College students. Saint Anselm Classics professor David George, served as McGee's mentor. Dr. Claudio Bizzari, faculty of science and archaeology at the University of Camerino, in his role as co-director of the dig, provided additional guidance in Italy. McGee spent these days digging, photographing the pottery findings, putting it into catalogs with corresponding information, and conducting her own additional research at the end of the day.

In addition to the trip's day-to-day activities and completing her research, McGee was given more responsibility this third time around. She was appointed leader of a trench on site, meaning she was in charge of a particular digging area, given her experience. To her surprise, it amounted to more than just a leadership position. "It aided my research because I became more aware of the locations where certain pieces of pottery were found," said McGee.

This experience gave her the ability to have in-depth conversations with expert staff members about the workings of the site and particular findings. "I learned a great deal about archaeology and envisioning how the site works," she said.

McGee is in the process of turning her research into a paper to be presented to the college and hopefully extended to other venues. McGee believes that this opportunity will give her a competitive edge in graduate admissions. She hopes to attain a Ph.D. in classics where she can incorporate archaeology with an emphasis on language.

The URSP seeks to promote scholarly undergraduate research, inter-institutional mentoring, and increase the number of successful admissions to graduate school for students attending a small, four-year liberal arts college.

Chasing the Mourning Warbler; Dr. J on Doing Research in the Field

This is our first of two podcasts with professor Jay Pitocchelli; in our second podcast, he discusses the four song and geographic regions of the Mourning Warbler.

Mourning WarblerWhen nature shows the first signs of impending summer, migratory birds that have wintered in southern habitats begin growing fidgety and restless for the biannual journey northward. In his Goulet Science Center office, with a window overlooking the quad, biology professor Jay Pitocchelli experiences a similar sensation.

Saint Anselm College’s resident ornithologist packed his jeep this spring to continue his research on song variation in the Mourning Warbler. Pitocchelli, the preeminent expert on this olive-green and yellow warbler, named for its black bib and grey hood, has identified four regions with specific variations on the species’ song. This summer alone, he has observed and tracked the Mourning Warbler in Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin, as well as the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

While he drives the estimated 4,000 miles by himself, he keeps students, colleagues, and family updated on his blog, He also posts audio, digital video, and photos of flora and fauna.

In this podcast, we asked him about his research, use of technology, and the art of bringing the two together in pursuit of science.

Photo: Courtesy of Flickr