Summer research offers students first-hand experience

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Over the summer, 10 students from across the nation had the opportunity to experience scientific research first-hand through a new Sam Houston State University initiative, the Research Experiences for Undergraduates Site in Genome Science and Computational Biology. 

The National Science Foundation recently awarded SHSU a three-year, $402,562 grant to conduct this program each summer. Sophomore and junior undergraduate students from minority institutions or institutions with limited research activity are eligible to apply, and underrepresented students are prioritized through this program to advance their career development towards higher education.

“We were very happy that the NSF-REU Site grant was awarded to Sam Houston State because it affirms the strength of our expertise in the field of Genomics, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology,” said Madhusudan Choudhary, director of the SHSU Center for Enhancing Undergraduate Research Experiences and Creative Activities (EURECA).

The 10-week summer program gave undergraduate students the chance to learn about scientific research methodology and the cross-disciplinary methods of Genomics and Bioinformatics, as well as participate in collaborative research.

The group included three students from SHSU — Sequioa Smith, Clarissa Ibarra and Benjamin Dawson.

Each REU student was mentored by SHSU faculty members from the Department of Biological Sciences or the Department of Chemistry, and the Department of Computer Science. They attended weekly computing workshops, lectures, group discussions, seminars and two field trips. They also presented their research results at a community event at Houston Public Library.

Research projects included diverse topics emphasizing computational analyses on available structural and functional genomic and other biological data. Of the three participating SHSU students, research titles included: ‘Identification of Novel Differentiation Factors in Drosophila Retinal Development using a Transcriptomics Approach;’ ‘The Emergence and Selective Constraints of recurrent proteins in Rhodobacter sphaeroides;’ and ‘Metabolic Prediction of a Microbiome-derived Metagenome.’

Presentations and a poster session, marking the conclusion of the program, allowed participating students to showcase to faculty and administration how they spent their summer at SHSU not only bettering themselves, but also bettering the Genome Science and Computational Biology fields.

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