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Biology Students Teach 110 Fourth-graders about Ticks

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Eighteen students in the environmental biology course taught 110 fourth-grade students from Eisenhower Elementary School how to safely explore the woods in “How to safely explore the woods: The ecology of the blacklegged tick.” The fourth-grade students spent their day on the IUP campus learning about science.

The educational outreach program on tick ecology was one of the science sessions held in the Biology Department laboratories in Weyandt Hall. IUP environmental biology students who are majoring in early childhood education and special education led the fourth-grade students though six teaching stations. The teaching stations included the following:

  1. Tick bite prevention: How should your dress for a walk in the woods?
  2. Life stages of the tick: How does the appearance of the tick change from larva to nymph to adult?
  3. Tick behavior: How do ticks “ambush” their hosts?
  4. Tick removal: How do you safely remove a tick?
  5. Lyme disease: How is Lyme disease spreading in the United States?
  6. Biodiversity loss: How are people destroying ecosystems?

The fourth-grade students especially enjoyed using the stereomicroscopes to look at the ticks in their various life stages as well as what to wear and how to walk on the trails in the woods.

Educational Outreach Environmental Science 2014 Educational Outreach Environmental Biology 2015

Photos: Environmental biology students display the instructional materials and children’s literature used for the educational outreach project. 

A Statement from Alumna Ashlee Long

(People) Permanent link

I graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2012 with two bachelor degrees in psychology and biology with a minor in chemistry. I then returned to IUP and graduated again with a master’s degree in biology.

Through IUP, I was able to gain a good education and foundation that will serve me well in the next stage of my career. More than the education, though, it was the research that I performed during my graduate career at IUP that really helped me grasp a thorough understanding of biology and its applications. The research, in Dr. Bharathan’s lab, taught me many key techniques in biology as well as helped me work on my presentation skills through poster sessions at many research forums.

Through IUP and the opportunities it has given me, I was able to successfully gain entrance into numerous doctoral programs with full tuitions and stipends as well as fellowship offers. I will happily be joining the cellular, molecular, and developmental biology PhD program at University of Alabama–Birmingham (UAB), which is an excellent program and offers a large competitive stipend, tuition waiver, health insurance, and an extra moving package. Overall, UAB is an excellent next step for me, and I feel very grateful that my success at IUP is what helped me gain admission to such a wonderful school. 

Department of Biology

Phi Eta Sigma Celebrates 2015 Inductees and National Scholarship Winner

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The IUP chapter of the national honor society Phi Eta Sigma welcomed its new inductees in a ceremony held on April 24, 2015, in the Ohio Room. N. Bharathan, professor of Biology, organized and hosted this annual event. Caleb Finegan, professor of history and director of the Cook Honors College, was the keynote speaker.

Mary CheyThe induction ceremony was followed by more to celebrate: Bharathan received news this week that Mary Chey (right), from the IUP chapter of Phi Eta Sigma (current chapter secretary and chapter president-elect), was awarded a Phi Eta Sigma national scholarship in the amount of $6,000. Chey is a sophomore from the Biology Department majoring in cell and molecular biology. As an active member of the society, Chey has established several innovative projects on campus and volunteers her time on events like building a community garden; hosting the university ping pong club; IUP Red Cross Club for AIDS Awareness Week, Adopt-a-Highway project, Four Footed Friends, and Earth Day.

According to chapter adviser Bharathan, nearly 70 students have received $100,000 in national and local scholarships since 1999. The 2014–15 recipients of the National Scholarship include Catherine Zisk and Brianne Lenhart.

Congratulations to Mary Chey and all of the new chapter members!

Biology Students Recognized at 2015 CPUB Conference

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Five undergraduate and graduate students representing the Department of Biology received awards at the 2015 Commonwealth of Pennsylvania University Biologists (CPUB) Conference held at Indiana University of Pennsylvania on April 11, 2015. Students attending the 14 Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education universities are eligible to compete for platform presentation awards and poster presentation awards at the annual CPUB Conference.

David Ampofo is a senior in the Widzowski Lab majoring in psychology and biology who became interested in his research topic, the interactive effects of neurotransmitter signaling and rodent pup handling on maternal care behavior and subsequent responses to stress in the pups, based on readings in his classes and discussions with faculty. Ampofo is excited about having a career in psychology and neuroscience research and will pursue his interest in a doctoral program at the University of Maryland in fall 2015.

Victoria Stone is a middle-level education major who plans to teach science to students in grades 4–8. She used survey research to assess the knowledge of undergraduate students to inform curriculum review with her project on the Pennsylvania Academic Standards and toxicology. Stone presented lessons for elementary school students on human health and toxicology at the 2014 Pennsylvania Science Teachers Association Conference.

Nicole Robinson is a junior majoring in natural science. She became interested in studying early arboreal mammals from the Jurassic of China after taking the Advanced Human Anatomy course with Shundong Bi. Robinson plans to attend graduate school to study human evolution using comparative and functional anatomy.

Natalie Verbanes is a senior in the Ruby Lab majoring in biology/pre-vet. Her project in the lab centers around the effects of caffeine on circadian rhythm regulation. She presented her research at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting, a particularly noteworthy achievement for an undergraduate student. Since joining the lab, Verbanes has developed a keen interest in the neuroscience of circadian rhythms and has shifted her focus from veterinary medicine toward graduate studies in the circadian field.

Alexander Hess is a graduate student in the Townsend Lab, and his thesis research centers around the ecology and evolution of congeneric salamander assemblages. Hess is currently studying resource partitioning and character displacement in aquatic/terrestrial Desmognathus assemblages in Pennsylvania and terrestrial/arboreal Bolitoglossa assemblages in Honduras.

 Congratulations to the students and their research advisors.

Bio Students

David Ampofo - First Place: Undergraduate Poster Presentation - Cellular and Molecular Biology
“Are there interactive effects of maternal 5-HT2C inhibition and mouse pup handling on maternal care behavior?”
Daniel Widzowski - Research Advisor 

Victoria Stone - First Place: Undergraduate Platform Presentation - Biology Education
“Human Health and Toxicology – Determining Educational Outreach Needs for School-age Students”
Anne Simmons – Research Advisor

Nicole Robinson – Second Place: Undergraduate Poster Presentation - Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology
“Lifestyle of Earliest Arboreal mammal (Arboroharamiya jenkinsi) from the Jurassic of China”
Shundong Bi – Research Advisor 

Natalie Verbanes - Second Place: Undergraduate Poster Presentation - Cellular and Molecular Biology
“Caffeine potentiates circadian photic phase-resetting and delays light-entrained onset in mice”
Christina Ruby - Research Advisor 

Alex Hess

Alex Hess – Second Place: Graduate Platform Presentation - Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology
“A phylogenetic approach reveals a case of cryptic sympatry in lowland salamanders of the subgenus Nanortiton (Plethodontidae: Bolitoglossa) from Honduras”
Josiah Townsend – Research Advisor

Biology Students Receive Dean’s Awards for Excellence

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Four students working with biology faculty received Dean’s Awards for Excellence at the IUP Undergraduate and Graduate Scholars Forums on April 8, 2015. The IUP forums encourage students to discuss their academic work and share their research with students and professors.

Victoria Stone, first place, College of Education and Educational TechnologyVictoria Stone - First Place Award

IUP Undergraduate Scholars Forum
Dean’s Award for Excellence, College of Education and Educational Technology
“Human Health and Toxicology—Determining Educational Outreach Needs”
Anne Simmons - Research Advisor

Stone is a middle-level education major who plans to teach science to students in grades 4–8. She used survey research to assess the knowledge of undergraduate students to inform curriculum review with her project on the Pennsylvania Academic Standards and toxicology. Stone presented lessons for elementary school students on human health and toxicology at the 2014 Pennsylvania Science Teachers Association Conference.

Matthew Dovey - First Place Award

IUP Graduate Scholars Forum
Dean’s Award for Excellence, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics
“Photoperiod Regulation of Mammalian Circadian Phythms through Social Inerations and Aggression”
Megan Knoch – Research Advisor

Dovey is completing his graduate thesis in the Knoch Lab, where he has been extending the finding from a previous study in which long-term social interactions seem to enhance circadian clock resetting in mice. Dovey has continued this work by demonstrating how the type of social interaction, i.e., mice exhibiting aggressive behavior, results in a more robust circadian response to light.

Timothy Hummel, second place, College of Natural Sciences and MathematicsTimothy Hummel - Second Place Award

IUP Graduate Scholars Forum
Dean’s Award for Excellence, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics
“Spatial Ecology of the Eastern Hellbender in Pennsylvania: Seven-Year Analysis”
David Janetski – Research Advisor

Hummel is a second-year graduate student in the Janetski Lab. Hummel’s thesis work seeks to better understand the life history of Pennsylvania’s largest amphibian, the Easter Hellbender. Using a seven-year dataset, Hummel will help elucidate the habitat preferences and home range sizes of hellbenders in streams of western Pennsylvania. This summer, Hummel will test the utility of environmental DNA as a tool for assessing hellbender distributions.

Michael Itgen, third place, College of Natural Sciences and MathematicsMichael Itgen - Third Place Award

IUP Graduate Scholars Forum
Dean’s Award for Excellence, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics
“Offensive Tail Autotomy within Tropical Salamanders: Osteological Variation of the Basal Tail Region”
Josiah Townsend – Research Advisor

Itgen is a graduate student in the Townsend Lab, where he studies the systematic, evolution, and development of tropical salamanders. This thesis work focuses on an evaluation of species boundaries in the subgenus Magnadigita in Honduras using molecular phylogenetics, external morphology, osteology, and cytogenetics.

Congratulations to the students and their research advisors.

Biology Students Receive Sigma Xi Awards

(Events, Programs, People) Permanent link

Two biology students received Sigma Xi Awards at the 2015 IUP Undergraduate Scholars Forum on April 8.

David Ampofo is a senior in the Widzowski Lab majoring in psychology and biology who became interested in his research topic, the interactive effects of neurotransmitter signaling and rodent pup handling on maternal care behavior and subsequent responses to stress in the pups, based on readings in his classes and discussions with faculty. David is excited about having a career in psychology and neuroscience research and will pursue his interest in a doctoral program at the University of Maryland in fall 2015.

Rebecca Kruise is an environmental health major in her junior year at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She has been a member of Tom Simmons’ Disease and Vector Ecology Lab since fall 2013. Rebecca has been studying the population biology of the blacklegged tick, which vectors the Lyme disease pathogen in Western Pennsylvania. A manuscript based on her work has been submitted to the Journal of Medical Entomology for publication.

Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society, is the international honor society of science and engineering founded in 1886 to honor excellence in scientific investigation and encourage cooperation among researchers in all fields of science and engineering. The Indiana University of Pennsylvania Chapter was chartered in 1969.

Congratulations to the students and their research advisors.

Dr. Daniel Widzowski and David Ampofo
Photo: David Ampofo, Sigma Xi Award - First Place: “Are there interactive effects of maternal 5-HT2C inhibition and mouse pup handling on maternal care behavior?” with Daniel Widzowski, research advisor 

Dr. Tom Simmons and Rebecca Kruise
Photo: Rebecca Kruise, Sigma Xi Award - Second Place: “Seasonal Activity and Density of Ixodes scapularis and Infection Prevalence of Borelia burgdorferi, Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Babesia microti Pre- and Post-Winter in Mid-western Pennsylvania” with Thomas Simmons, research advisor

Department of Biology

Biology Faculty and Student Present Research at Princeton University

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Robert Major, Cuong Diep, Eric Wieschaus, Daniela Alarcon, and Vishal KeshariBiology student Daniela Alarcon (from Robert Major’s lab) and Cuong Diep presented their research at Princeton University during the Society for Developmental Biology Mid-Atlantic Meeting, March 27–28, 2015.

Diep gave a platform presentation on kidney development in zebrafish, while Alarcon presented a poster on the circadian gene, timeless, in planarian regeneration. Graduate student Vishal Keshari and Major were also in attendance.

The keynote address was given by Nobel laureate Eric Wieschaus (pictured in the middle).

Department of Biology

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    Indiana, PA 15705-1081
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