Biomedical students granted research opportunities through KBRIN program funds

One attraction of Fort Hays State University to incoming biomedical students is hands-on research.

In an effort to make in-depth research projects routine and to help with high research expenses, FHSU joined the Kansas Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network (KBRIN) three years ago. This program offers biomedical graduate and undergraduate students an opportunity to pursue in-depth research projects that are not offered through a class offering scholarships varying from $3,000 to $25,000.

"For students, it's a great way of getting a little money to pursue a project that they might not be able to do," said Dr. Tom Wiese, associate professor of chemistry at FHSU. "It also establishes a network at other universities that will help them develop professionally."

KBRIN joins FHSU with eight other universities to create a network for biomedical research. The University of Kansas and the KU Medical Center in Lawrence, Kansas State University and Wichita State University serve as information centers and educational facilities for graduate students who wish to earn doctoral degrees. FHSU, Emporia State University, Haskell Indian Nations University, Pittsburg State University and Washburn University serve as recruiting facilities for promising biomedical undergraduates.

"What FHSU does in the program is get outstanding undergraduate students involved in research," said Dr. Mike Madden, director of Medical Diagnostic Imaging and Radiologic Technologies at FHSU. "The students can then go to the larger regent schools to get their Ph.D. This program also gives FHSU an opportunity to allow students to do some current research."

Presently, five graduate and three undergraduate students are participating, up from five participants last year.

Each student teams up with one of the six program faculty members to adopt a research project.

"Usually the professor has a main idea for the student to adopt, but students are able to come up with their own research ideas and have the professor approve it," said Dr. Greg Kandt, associate professor of health and human performance at FHSU.

"I think that the one-on-one work aspect is a real benefit to the program because we get to work with promising grad students in a practical situation," Kandt said. "It provides a better line of communication and understanding."

"The faculty act as mentors," said Jeff Berry, instructor of allied health at FHSU and graduate student in the KBRIN program. "They direct the flow of the students' work and help them plan a type of research; then they stand back and let the students do it. They're still there to answer questions and give help if it's needed, but they give the students a chance."

Berry's research is an attempt to identify an enzyme in chickens that is also found in humans and mice. The enzyme causes rheumatory arthritis and is involved with cancer.

"I harvest RNA from the chicken embryos," Berry said. "The RNA is an instruction packet that tells what proteins to make. I use the RNA to clone bacteria, since bacteria is inexpensive and makes exact copies of itself. I can then cut the DNA out with a DNA sequencer and study it."

Kandt said that he and his student, Carmen Winter, Bazine graduate student, are working on a study of oxygen uptake for stroke victims.

"We work on a study of how oxygen is applied to an individual," Kandt said. "The individuals that we work on are stroke survivors. We try to see how the oxygen use compares to the affected side of their body versus the undamaged side."

"I was taking anatomy and physiology in Dr. Duane Hinton's class," said Kasey Swayden, Medicine Lodge junior. "He asked me what I was doing over the summer and introduced me to KBRIN. I'm a med student, so it works out well -- KU Med and all. I really wanted to get my feet wet in the research side since I'd never had an opportunity to do anything like that before.

"In classes we don't get a chance to do research on this kind of level," she said. "I never would have had the opportunity."

After completing the required paperwork and interviews, Swayden was offered a slot as one of the few undergraduate students to be involved.

"As an undergrad, to get a scholarship like that -- it's a pretty rare thing," she said.

Over the summer, Swayden worked daily with Hinton, associate professor of biological sciences at FHSU, observing a bone protein project.

Swayden said that she wasn't able to get everything accomplished that she wanted.

"Three months is just not enough time really get involved in research like this," she said. "I hope to be able to resume my project next semester. Right now I'm not active in it because I thought that I'd first see how time-consuming my classes are. But I'm working on the paper that I need to submit in order to be accepted for KBRIN again.

"I started in KBRIN as just a peon, just learning how to do the research," she said. "But I was eventually able to learn more about the research process and what it's really like.

"It was really nice to work on the project with Dr. Hinton, too," Swayden said. "He knows so much about research. Since I'm just an undergrad student, a lot of the terminology was just way over my head. I definitely think that the one-on-one partnership is the key."

Berry, Wray, CO. graduate student; Ryan Ausborn, Sublette graduate student; Lance Thrulow, Bogue graduate student; Bart Baxter, Hays senior; Sherrie Millison, Basehor graduate student; and Curtis Murphy, Munden senior are also students in KBRIN.

Participating FHSU faculty members include Dr. Eric Gillock, associate professor of biological sciences, Dr. Helen Miles, assistant professor of health and human performance, and Dr. Mary Morgan, professor of biological sciences and nursing.

Last year, FHSU received $87,000 in student scholarships and $35,000 to support biomedical research project costs from KBRIN.

"The student scholarships are unique in that they take care of most tuition costs," Berry said. "I am atypical in this area in that I'm a faculty member with full-time wages. But, having that scholarship is great because it pays for my schooling. It's pretty enticing for an undergrad to look at the money and want to join graduate school."

"I am thrilled with how this program has turned out," Kandt said. "As long as there is some type of program like this available, I would like to be a part of it."

"KBRIN changes each year as it gets bigger and bigger," Madden said. "Originally it was slated for only three years, but the program has since been expanded into the five-year program, KBRE (Kansas Biomedical Research Excellence), which will begin September 2004."

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