College of Public Health staff mentor students during the undergraduate summer research program

Two faculty members from the College of Public Health (COPH) mentored students during the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Joseph Fauver, PhD and Catherine Pratt, MS. sponsored students participating in SURP. The program gives undergraduate students the opportunity to join research teams and see first-hand the wide range of research activities that take place at UNMC.

Gabby Estep shared her research during the SURP poster session at the Truhlsen Event Center on August 10, 2022

Pratt mentored Gabrielle (Gabby) Estep, a student from Northwest Missouri State University majoring in science with a major in biochemistry, and Mohammad Salimi, a student from the University of Nebraska at Omaha majoring in molecular and biomedical biology with a major in biochemistry. Minor in Medical Humanities and Chemistry.

Gabby’s research focused on collecting and testing samples from Nebraska sewage treatment plants to see if various viruses were present.

“I really like environmental chemistry, so the wastewater project really piqued my interest. I think it’s interesting to combine the chemistry of things with biological things as well,” Gabby said.

Mohammad Salimi shared his research during the SURP poster session at the Truhlsen Event Center on August 10, 2022

Mohammad spent his summer testing four different nucleic acid extraction kits and how they work in different settings.

“I had a tube containing a mixture of viruses and I was extracting the viruses. Then I would run a PCR to see which would be more efficient and compare how each works in different environments and how each has different conditions and rules,” Mohammad said.

Pratt said Gabby and Mohammad have done a great job this summer.

“I loved having them in the lab, they immediately integrated into the team. It was great to have new personalities with so many questions,” she said.

“I love seeing the students grow. Watching them go from minimal lab experience at the start to managing their own day-to-day work at the end is very satisfying.

However, one project didn’t get off to a smooth start, but Dr. Pratt said it was a great learning experience.

“A project had a lot of failures at the start (because of the methods, not of the student!). In a way, I’m glad that happened, because one of the most important things to learn in the lab is to fail – because it will happen often! The student persevered, the project succeeded and we got some really interesting data. »

Ethan Sajko shared his research during the SURP poster session at the Truhlsen Event Center on August 10, 2022

Fauver mentored Ethan Sajko, a student at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln majoring in sociology with minors in biology, math, and psychology.

Ethan’s research has focused on sequencing the genetic information of the bourbon virus, which is found in ticks.

“I also created a pipeline to use this genetic information to create an evolutionary tree to track the evolution of bourbon virus in ticks,” Ethan said.

Ethan said his research is similar to how variants and different strains are tracked with COVID-19.

“I was excited about the topic because it allowed me to explore a technique called next-generation sequencing and genomic epidemiology. It’s kind of the new ‘cutting edge’ thing. COVID really has it popularized. I think that’s going to be pretty crucial for public health and epidemiology in the future.”

To learn more about the SURP, click here.

If you plan to participate in a SURP in the future, Pratt tells you to do it!

“It’s a great opportunity to gain research experience. You get an income for the summer and experience what it’s really like to work on a research team. You may or may not be sure you want to work in research, but gaining this experience can help you determine if this is the right career for you (or not!). »

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