Published Friday, December 1st, 2023
Parker Tinsley, Jason Franklin, and Isaac Richards were three of approximately 50 students from Nebraska colleges and universities who presented their biomedical research.
Three Wayne State College students were among about 50 students from Nebraska colleges and universities who presented their biomedical research during the Institutional Development Award Program (IDeA) Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) program’s annual conference in Nebraska City in August.
According to the University of Nebraska Medical Center website, the program, which is funded through the National Institute of Health’s INBRE grant, is aimed at creating a biomedical research infrastructure that provides research opportunities for undergraduate students. It also serves as a pipeline for those students to continue into graduate research.
The Wayne State students, also known as INBRE Scholars, were Jason Franklin, York; Isaac Richards, Omaha; and Parker Tinsley, Neligh.
Tinsley, a junior, is majoring in Biology with a minor in Chemistry at Wayne State. Tinsley’s research dealt with malignant tumors, which are known to be pro-inflammatory. Tinsley said an increase of infiltrating leukocytes are thought to be responsible for this inflammation causing increased progression and metastasis. Tinsley said previous research found that progression of PDAC is associated with an increase of neutrophil infiltration. Tinsley’s research concluded the balance of anti vs. pro-apoptotic genes sways heavily toward anti-apoptotic upon neutrophil-PDAC interaction and could be linked to the increase survival of neutrophils.
Franklin, a senior, is majoring in Chemistry Health Sciences at Wayne State with a minor in Biology. His research covers pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), a deadly disease which has an estimated 51,000 people dying from it in 2023. Franklin’s research investigated the Ring Finger Protein 2 (RNF2) as a possible protein of interest for PDAC, playing a role in metastasis and inflammation. Franklin said his research group previously identified RNF2 as a protein overexpressed in tumors from African American patients, where it may play a role in the racial health disparities for this disease.
Richards is a junior majoring in Life Sciences and Biology at Wayne State. His research involves isolating and sequencing Circular Extrachromosomal rDNA Elements (CERE) from the two amoeba species – Willaertia magna and Tetramitus thorntoni. Richards said these amoebas are closely related to the Naegleria fowleri, the brain-eating amoeba; however, very little research has been done on them, most likely because they are non-pathogenic. The CERE contains certain rDNA elements, which are necessary for the processing and creation of proteins in cells. Richards said CERE could be a potential drug target, but more research needs to be done.
“Wayne State College is proud to be one of the nine undergraduate institutions that serve the network as training and mentoring institutions,” said Dr. Shawn Pearcy, professor of biology, at Wayne State.
The UNMC website also states the two-year scholars program provides opportunities for mentored full-time research during the first summer in the program. This takes the form of a Research Foundations Workshop and is executed on one of the Ph.D. granting training campuses. The scholars then commit to part-time research on their home campus during the following two academic years and full-time research on their home campus during their second summer in the program.
Financial support is provided for these undergraduates throughout their tenure as INBRE Scholars. Scholars are required to present their research at the annual INBRE meeting and at the annual meeting of the Nebraska Academy of Sciences in April.
The Nebraska INBRE program strives to enhance the competitiveness of biomedical research in Nebraska. This is accomplished by developing the research infrastructure and providing research opportunities for students and faculty at Nebraska's institutions of higher education, according to the UNMC website.