Biology Major to be Honored with Outstanding Research Award

Posted on 10/24/2018 2:28:55 PM

Anna Manges, a junior biology major and geology minor, will be honored by the Pennsylvania Vector Control Association with the Outstanding Undergraduate Student Research Award.

Anna Manges honored with outstanding research award for biology research on Lyme diseaseManges, a student in the Cook Honors College, was nominated for the award by biology faculty member Tom Simmons. Manges has been part of Simmons’ team of researchers examining blacklegged ticks (insects known to carry Lyme disease) and Lyme disease risks since her freshman year.

Scientists say the blacklegged tick is the main vector (transmitter) of Lyme disease, an infectious illness that can cause fever, fatigue, headache, joint pain, neck stiffness, loss of ability to move one or both sides of the face, heart palpitations, and other medical complications. In the United States, Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease, surpassing mosquito-borne West Nile virus and Zika.

“It’s really an honor to receive this award, and an honor to continue the tradition of having recipients from IUP chosen for this recognition,” Manges said. IUP pre-medicine natural science majors Tashi Bharathan and Shannon Tepe, who also worked with Simmons, won the award in 2017.

“It’s great to be able to show the outstanding work that IUP students are doing in the biology department,” she said. “I also want to thank Dr. Simmons. He’s been a great mentor and I’ve really grown as a student and scientist by working with him.”

As this year’s recipient of the award, Manges will present her research: “Ticks in the Burgh: Acarological Lyme Disease Risk in the Pittsburgh Regional City Parks,” at the annual conference of the Pennsylvania Vector Control Association in Boalsburg. Her research included collection of ticks at Pittsburgh’s four regional city parks to determine the density and distribution of nymphs, as well as the infection prevalence of the Lyme disease spirochete.

“Anna is an exceptional student and researcher,” Simmons said. “She has a natural aptitude for scientific research: she can troubleshoot, solve problems and is a super-quick study, with great attention to detail and great common sense for field and lab work. It was a pleasure to nominate her for this award, and the honor is well-deserved.”

Manges, from Indiana, has been an active presenter on the team’s blacklegged tick and Lyme disease research, and is the lead author of “First Record of Aedes albopictus (Diptera: Culicidae) and Second Record of Aedes japonicus (Diptera: Culicidae) Parasitized by Water Mites (Acari: Hydrachnidiae) in North America,” which discusses water mite parasitism of the Asian tiger mosquito and Asian bush mosquito. Simmons and Mike Hutchinson, a scientist with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Vector Management, are co-authors of the paper, which was published in the July issue of Journal of Medical Entomology.

Manges and other student members also have presented on Lyme disease risks to local Girl Scouts and to the Friends of the Park organization. Work by Simmons, Manges and students Nate Peters and Emily Welsh were recently featured in an extensive article by PennLive.com about the current state affairs of tick and tick-borne disease research in Pennsylvania: “Ticks and Lyme disease: The problem no one’s really doing anything about.”

Manges, a dean’s list student, is a member of the Student Philanthropy Council and Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society. She is the recipient of the Samuel Mitrovich Scholarship for the Advancement of the Biological Sciences. She also won an award in the poster competition at the 2017 Women in Mathematics, Science, and Technology event.

Simmons and Manges are currently working on a manuscript about the research project for a professional journal.