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Ferris Well Represented at West Michigan Regional Undergraduate Science Research Conference

Ferris State University
The largest contingent of Ferris State University students to present at the West Michigan Regional Undergraduate Science Research Conference gathered Saturday, Nov. 9, at the Van Andel Research Institute in Grand Rapids. Katelyn Brown (second from left), a sophomore from Shelby studying Biotechnology, made one of the six Undergraduate Student Talks at the conference, addressing research done as a Student Research Fellowship participant in Summer 2019.

The shortened name is WMRUGS when the West Michigan Regional Undergraduate Science Research Event is the topic for the colleges and universities who participate in the annual Van Andel Research Institute Conference.

The short view of WMRUGS, for Ferris State University’s supporters and participants, is an unqualified success, based on the 17 students who presented their research projects at the VARI in Grand Rapids on Saturday, Nov. 9. The university had more than 30 students and faculty in attendance at the prestigious event, which provides the opportunity to learn from and meet with the area’s professional scientists.

Professor Brad Isler is the advisor for Ferris’ Biological Sciences department and coordinator for the university’s participation in the conference.

“This was the 13th year that Ferris sent a contingent of participants to the Van Andel Research Institute, with the greatest number of presenters we have had at any conference,” Isler said. “A good number of the posters are ‘home grown,’ in that the research was actually conducted on campus.”

Isler explained that in many instances over the years, students would conduct their studies during internships completed during the summer at other institutions and locations.

“The availability and assets of the Shimadzu Core Laboratory for Academic and Research Excellence are driving more scholarly activity on campus,” Isler said. “Three of the university’s presenters did all of their research there; another participant had a portion of their content derived from activities in the Shimadzu Lab. Being able to conduct this kind of research on our campus speaks well for Ferris, and heightens the positives for the university when we gather with our regional peers.”

Katelyn Brown, a sophomore from Shelby studying Biotechnology, gave one of six undergraduate student talks on anthracyclines, which are materials derived from natural products for use as anti-cancer or anti-bacterial agents. Her presentation came from research conducted as a Student Research Fellow with the guidance of Eric Nybo, an assistant professor of Pharmacy.

“There was an auditorium full of professors, research mentors and other very qualified students,” Brown said. “It was interesting to see the work of other people in my field, doing studies as I have, which made me realize that my time invested in lab work was paying off.”

Office of Research and Sponsored Programs Director Thomas Dowling, an assistant dean and professor in the College of Pharmacy, said it was a valuable experience for Ferris’ presenters to gather with more than 350 students and professionals who took part in the 2019 WMRUGS Conference.

“I want to credit all of our faculty members, but especially Dr. Isler, for his work coordinating our greatest level of participation to this date,” Dowling said. “WMRUGS is a premier research conference, with wonderful facilities at the VARI, and all our presenters have reason to be proud of their presentations.”

College of Arts, Sciences and Education Dean Kristi Haik said the WMRUGS participants extend themselves as learners by investing their time and effort to create presentations of quality and insight.

“We are so proud of the research our students and faculty do collaboratively,” Haik said. “This is a perfect example of their great work.”

Brown said she looks forward to furthering research opportunities as she advances toward her Bachelor of Science degree.

“Dr. Nybo is directing study at this time into new anti-cancer drugs, with a focus on exciting bacteria from soil materials to produce antibiotics,” Brown said. “I intend to work with and learn from him, as long as I am on campus.”