Students present research at microbiology conference
By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU News Bureau
Grand Canyon University biology professor Dr. Galyna Kufryk and three of her Research and Design Program students — Martina Miranda, Chloe Hager and Vianna Mulholland — presented talks at the recent virtual Boston Bacterial Meeting, organized by Harvard University.
Fellow conference attendees and project collaborators Joseph Rice, Austin Reed, Brittany Boatwright and Grace Bolton contributed to the research and talk preparation.
Kufryk’s work centers on developing a clean, renewable source of energy. She is focusing on molecular hydrogen, a biofuel produced by cyanobacteria. She and her students have been looking at ways to increase hydrogen production in cyanobacteria. The goal is to manipulate cyanobacteria to produce enough molecular hydrogen to meet the world’s energy needs.
Miranda, who completed a summer internship recently for the Phoenix-based Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), spoke to attendees on “Genetic deletion of uptake hydrogenase and increase of hydrogen production in cyanobacteria.”
Hager’s topic was “Genetic modifications of bidirectional hydrogenase and increase of hydrogen production in cyanobacteria.”
Mulholland spoke about “Genetic modification of nitrogenase and increase of hydrogen production in cyanobacteria.”
“It was really an interesting experience for the students because it was their first presentation at this caliber of conference. They were very excited,” said Kufryk, who noted that this was the first time GCU participated in the Boston Bacterial Meeting, which offers a cross-section of current microbiology research.
One unique aspect of this event is that students were given the opportunity to be paired with a faculty mentor for the duration of the conference, based on the students’ interests.
“One of my students, Joseph Rice, actually carried it out so that they’re still in touch with that researcher and they’re still interacting because they really found a good and fruitful relationship,” Kufryk said.
Miranda loved being paired with a mentor scientist: “It is a great networking opportunity,” the pre-med junior said.
Mulholland, a biochemistry and molecular biology sophomore, said the conference experience was incredible: “I loved creating a presentation for it because I think it gave me a deeper understanding of everything we are working on. People say that the best way to learn something is to teach it. … Second, the talks that I was able to watch were really interesting. They really inspired me and made me excited about research.”
Rice, a sophomore in GCU’s biology for secondary education program, said the conference helped him solidify the direction he would like to take in his research career — in virology and viral genetics — and he gained an appreciation for being around fellow researchers.
“Science is not a bubble but instead a collaborative community,” said Rice, who would like to work with other researchers on future projects.
“They learned a lot from this experience,” Kufryk added. “I think it helped them boost their confidence, that they were able to be selected at this level of presentation. … They did a very good job.”
Almost 550 researchers from more than 100 academic institutions and biotech companies attended the meeting.
GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-7901.
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