Undergraduate research initiatives have led to exciting new collaborations both nationally and internationally for students in the Division of Mathematics and Sciences.
This semester, Walsh entered into an international collaboration agreement with Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG) and Mato Grosso do Sul (UFMS) in Brazil. As a part of the agreement, graduate students from UFMG and UFMS will have the opportunity to learn research strategies and techniques in cellular and molecular biology at Walsh over a three-to six-week period of time. Further work is underway to provide Walsh undergraduate students the opportunity to visit UFMG for a three- to four-week immersive experience in Brazilian culture and also participate in graduate-level research projects working under faculty supervision, and have daily interaction with a senior graduate student.
Having worked together for more than a decade, Associate Professor of Biology Adam Underwood, Ph.D., and Dr. Almir Martins, UFMG, in Brazil initiated the collaboration between their universities.
“I’ve been working with Dr. Martins for quite some time, and we’ve been looking for ways to establish a mutually beneficial collaboration between our universities. In December of 2016, this opportunity presented itself when Doctors Martins, Durval Palhares, and Marilene Palhares (UFMS) visited Walsh to discuss details about this collaboration. This is a win-win for us both,” said Dr. Underwood. “The Brazil team’s goal is to provide their students with an opportunity to work in a U.S. research lab and expand the molecular techniques that they use in the laboratory. One of the advantages for our students is they will have the opportunity to work with doctoral students on actual graduate-level research in Walsh labs.”
This semester, Walsh welcomed UFMG/UFMS doctoral student Deborah Ribeiro Nascimento from Brazil to work on her research. At the conclusion of her visit, Nascimento will earn a certificate of accomplishment that outlines the Molecular/Cellular Biology techniques she mastered while at Walsh.
Nascimento’s research focuses on a protein called an ACVR1 associated with a debilitating disease called Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva (FOP), an extremely rare connective tissue disease that leads to bone deposition in soft tissues throughout the body. Her previous experience includes working in Dr. Durval Palhares’s lab at UFMS, that has generated a therapy for FOP. While at Walsh, Nascimento’s goal was to produce molecular-genetic tools that will allow her to identify how this therapy for FOP works. To do this she has learned how to clone the normal ACVR1 gene using various molecular techniques and engineered it to create a gene that can produce the mutated protein linked to FOP. From this experience she now has tools and a set of skills that she can take home to Brazil for further research.
Additionally, under the direction of Doctors Underwood and Freeland, Nascimento, along with a team of Walsh undergraduate students had the opportunity to present their research at the Ohio Academy of Science Annual Conference in Cincinnati on April 8. Walsh University had the second highest showing in undergraduate research with a total of 11 posters.