Azusa Pacific University Hosts the 39th Annual West Coast Biological Sciences Undergraduate Research Conference

             Students and their faculty advisors representing more than 30 different institutions gathered in Segerstrom Science Center on Saturday, April 12 to hear from their fellow colleagues and to present their original research projects.

            The day-long conference featured presentations that covered subjects from within the field of biology such as cellular biology, ecology, immunology, microbiology, biochemistry, marine biology and molecular biology.

            “The conference allows students from diverse undergraduate experiences and demographic locations to share research experiences. Students begin to realize that research at small, private colleges and universities has similar challenges and scope of research projects as do larger, research-oriented universities,” Conference organizer Dr. Kathleen Tallman of Azusa Pacific University said. “In this way, the conference promotes interdisciplinary conversations about scientific topics and an appreciation of the universal nature of scientific inquiry as experienced at small and large universities.”

            Dr. Pat Levitt, inaugural director of Developmental Neurogenetics Program at the Institute for the Developing Mind at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the W.M. Keck Chair in Neurogenetics at the Keck School of Medicine and the director of the Neuroscience Graduate Program at the University of Southern California delivered the keynote address to open the conference.

Levitt’s lecture, titled “From Human Gene Discovery to Basic Mechanisms of Neurodevelopmental Disruptions”, focused on the neurology behind autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and the changes needed to better diagnose and treat the disorder.

Tallman said that Levitt’s was chosen to speak due to his renowned research in the field of neurogenetics. “An international expert in autism and other neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders, Levitt and his lab have ongoing research programs on the role of genes and the environment on the developing brain,” Tallman said.

Levitt said he appreciated the purpose of the conference. “Building knowledge of biological systems is valuable in itself,” Levitt said.

The rest of the day consisted of student presentations in the form of seminar and poster sessions. Attendees had the option of going to two of the eight subject specific seminars, one in the morning and one in the evening. In between seminars, they had the opportunity to view the poster projects hanging in the atrium of the science center. The conference ended with an awards presentation for the highest scoring student presentations.

According to Tallman, the conference was the product of the work of her fellow planners Dr. Abby Hodges, Dr. Jon Milhon and Dr. Yun-lan Wong and the support of more than 50 faculty, staff, and students in the department.

“The goal of the West Coast Biological Sciences Undergraduate Research Conference is to promote excellence in undergraduate research in the biological sciences. By bringing together undergraduates from diverse research experiences, the conference develops the next generation of leaders and researchers in biology-related fields.” Tallman said.  

The winners for the oral presentations were Julie Herman of Santa Clara University for ecology, Shannon Esswein of University of California, Los Angeles for biochemistry, Kate Weskamp of Nebraska Wesleyan University for cell biology, Jake West of Westmont College for immunology, Hannah Mittelstaedt of Seattle University for marine biology, Timothy Borgogna of Point Loma Nazarene University and Amanda Kobayashi of Creighton University for microbiology, and Jennifer Spencer of California State University, Fullerton for molecular biology.

The winners for the poster sessions were Dana Emerson of Seattle University, Aaron Wilk of Westmont College, Ashley Barnett and Mariah Webb of Point Loma Nazarene University, Brandon Bauer of, Stephen Louie of Loyola Marymount University, Lewis Rogers of Azusa Pacific University, Austin Wu and Julie Filo of Claremont Colleges Keck Science Department and Brandy Kwak of Loyola Marymount University.

Note: This information is current for the 2014-15 academic year; however, all stated academic information is subject to change. Please refer to the current Academic Catalog for more information.