Cell and molecular biology students to share research at symposium

Drew Schertzer

At Grand Valley State University, cell and molecular biology (CMB) senior students have been preparing for months, some for years, on researching innovative initiatives in the field. These students have worked with each other as well as professors to create solutions to complex issues. 

These students will showcase their research on Friday, March 23, and Saturday, March 24, at the P. Douglas Kindschi Hall of Science, Room 1101.

“Research at an undergraduate level is a great opportunity,” said Michael Michalski, a CMB major at GVSU. “There is always new information to be found and new systems to be researched.” 

Michalski will be among the students presenting. He will give a presentation about the effects of intercropping white clover on soil in small-scale market gardens. The clover absorbs nutrients after being planted in between other plants. Then, after the growing season, it decomposes, returning the nutrients to the soil and improving its quality.

The purpose of this is to establish a more sustainable agriculture system, Michalski said. He explained that globally, the current system relies on fossil fuels, and people want to move in a direction that will foster a sustainable, natural ecosystem. Still, Michalski said this process won’t happen overnight and is very complicated, but the future will be a lot more sustainable. 

Michalski’s presentation will be one of 24 taking place over the two-day span. The first session of presentations will begin Friday, March 23, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and will highlight plants and microbes. The following day, session two will go from 9 a.m. to noon and will cover topics pertaining to human health and disease. Lastly, session three will cover animal models from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. that same Saturday. 

“I can tell you all of the topics are very interesting from a scientific standpoint, whether you are broadly interested in cancer, human disease or antibiotic resistance,” said Agnieszka Szarecka, an associate professor of CMB at GVSU. “It’s a great advantage for students wondering what it would be like to be involved in research and to hear from other students.”

For example, GVSU students are researching ways to prevent bacteria from becoming resistant to antibiotics, allowing medicine to work a lot more effectively.

Other research was done to help doctors diagnose certain things that are hard to predict, such as  the progression rate of Parkinson’s disease. It’s hard to tell on a case-by-case basis if the disease will progress quickly or slowly, and students are looking into certain symptoms to help diagnose this, Szarecka said.

The presentations will cover a wide array of subjects. Participants will be given a lot of background information about the problems being addressed by the research and what the students have done to try to fix them. Topics such as cancer and chemotherapy, how crops respond to light, and microorganisms will be covered in the presentations, Szarecka said.

Presentations will be 15 minutes long with five minutes given afterward for questions from the audience. Brief coffee breaks will be given every four presentations, and a free lunch will be provided from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 24. To register, email Szarecka at [email protected]