Opening doors to research possibilities

Mount Mercy University students will have even greater opportunities to pursue research and collaborate with faculty on research projects thanks to the new Undergraduate Research Laboratory, funded in part by a $125,000 grant from the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust.

With additional contributions from the University, Mount Mercy’s Natural and Applied Sciences program was able to renovate space in Basile Hall and purchase state-of-the-art equipment, expanding opportunities and allowing more students to participate in faculty-mentored undergraduate research. The new lab, which opened last Spring, is available to students both inside and outside of classroom time.

New features of the lab include a mammalian tissue culture room with a biological safety cabinet and double-stack CO2 incubator, an inverted and fluorescent microscope and a UVP Bioimaging system that can take pictures of DNA and proteins. It can also detect chemiluminescence, making Mount Mercy one of the few schools in Iowa to have such a research tool in-house.

Four students — sophomore Aaron Lacy, seniors Ben Reinhart, Courtney Marks and Joe Zach — will be working on projects throughout the summer in the new lab, collaborating with professors in biology and chemistry to investigate converting algae lipid oils into biodiesel fuel and researching toxins that lead to illness in fish, livestock and people. Students will also be exploring how proteins interact with each other, which can help scientists understand memory and learning, as well as diseases such as cancer and schizophrenia — all of which could have longlasting implications for medicine.

“Our students now have the opportunity to learn different experimental techniques, which can be applied to millions of questions and scientific hypotheses,” says Assistant Professor of Biology Alesia Hruska-Hageman, Ph.D. “Research allows students to problemsolve, develop critical thinking skills, and gives them a greater ability to understand the overall process — which they will be able to apply to any problem in life.”