Through the student-friendly class sizes offered at Duquesne University and faculty encouragement, undergraduate students are supported in gaining significant hands-on research that is not always available at other schools.
“Undergraduate research opportunities are one way that Duquesne expresses its mission of serving students,” said Dr. Alan Seadler, associate academic vice president for research. “We encourage undergraduate students to take advantage of the unique opportunities at Duquesne to interact directly with our faculty researchers and even to present their work during our annual Undergraduate Research and Scholarship Symposium.”
A study, Germ Plasm in Eleutherodactylus Coqui, a Direct Developing Frog with Large Eggs, published in October in EvoDevo Journal and co-authored by Dr. Richard P. Elinson, a developmental biologist in the Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, with former undergraduate students Cara Fisher of Towanda, N.Y., and Michelle Sabo of St. Louis provides an example of the quality work that undergrads can contribute.
“Undergraduates at Duquesne can play key roles in original investigations, and a significant contribution by an undergraduate is more probable at Duquesne than either a liberal arts college or a big research-intensive university,” said Elinson.
“High quality, inquiry-based approaches in undergraduate science education are a hallmark of the programs offered by the Bayer School, and intensive student participation in a long-term and externally funded research program represents an ideal mechanism for our students to be prepared for careers as scientific professionals,” said Dean David W. Seybert of the Bayer School “We are exceedingly proud of Cara’s and Michelle’s involvement and successes in Dr. Elinson’s research program.”
Fisher, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and a master’s in forensic science and law in Spring 2010, is a research technician at the Broad Institute near Boston. Sabo, who received a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences, entered the MD/Ph.D. program at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and recently defended her doctoral dissertation. Working with DNA, these two students helped to determine that the germ plasm, which is necessary for later formation of sperm and eggs, may have played additional roles in the evolution of large frog eggs.
Besides advancing basic science knowledge and appreciation of the natural world, the experience proved invaluable to Fisher, who is continuing her work in genetics. “It gave me a leg up on some of my other classmates just because I felt more comfortable in the lab and had more to put down on my resume,” she said. “I don’t think that I would have the job I have right now if I hadn’t done undergraduate research.”