Recently, seven Knox students received awards from the Illinois State Academy of Science at their 101st annual conference at the Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. Students received awards for presenting projects on a variety of topics.
Senior Kathleen Beeson, a neuroscience major, gave a presentation on “The Effect of Atrazine on Learning and Memory in Young Rats” in the Health Science division. “I started the project a year ago and I turned it into my senior research project,” said Beeson.
Atrazine, which is an herbicide commonly used in the Midwest for broadleaf and grass
weeds, has been known to make its way into both aquifers and local water reservoirs.
“I started taking a lot of environmental science classes last year. I’m a neuroscience major, and I really enjoy environmental science as well. This was a good way to combine two things to do my senior research project. I also was doing this with the Howard Hughes [Medical] Institute last summer, and that was how I started researching.” Beeson may do something similar in grad school. “The findings I found from my first experiment… using perfected procedures weren’t very exciting data. I also had a very small ‘n,’ the number of animals I was working with, and if I had more time I would continue, but I’m running out.”
Senior Megan Brady, gave an oral presentation on “Telomerase Activity during Regeneration” in planarian flatworms, in the fields of molecular, developmental, and cellular biology. Brady started the project as part of a Ford Fellowship. “When I started the project, no one had really looked at telomerase up-regulation during regeneration,” Brady said. “Telomerase is a protein. On the ends of your chromosomes, you have what are called telomeres, which is a repetitive sequence of DNA, and they are there for a whole bunch of different reasons.”
Brady’s project addressed an issue in the study of biology know as the “End Replication Problem,” the phenomena where bits of telomeres are lost each time DNA replication takes place. “This is unfortunate because… if this was coding DNA, let’s say for the sake of simplicity a piece of DNA that coded for your eyeballs,” Brady said, “then each time your cell replicated, you’d be losing good DNA for your eyeballs…Telomeres prevent that, because they’re basically just junk DNA… Telomerase adds telomeres to the end of your chromosomes.”
Implications of such research could include tissue replacement methods or greater insights into cancer and how it can be prevented.
“This happens a lot in cancer cells. So that is one of the reasons they think that cancer cells have uncontrolled division is because they have up-regulated or active telomerase.”