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Labs host experimental studies for sciences

Story by Emily Sadecki
Photo by Luke Nankivell

research1-w2000-h2000Within the walls of Harvey Ingham, Olin, Cline and Fitch, Drake University faculty and students are hard at work in labs experiencing science hands-on by investigating current scientific questions from the effectiveness of energy gel packets to the effects of blood donation on blood flow.

Aside from teaching, professors in the Drake science department have individual research projects that they are working on, which many students choose to participate in.

Junior Kaila Wechsler is working with Kimberly Huey, associate professor of health sciences, in studying how energy gels affect fuel metabolism during exercise, or to put it in simpler terms, testing how well various energy supplements work while you are getting your sweat on.

Wechsler said the study consists of a base trial where the participant is put on a treadmill as the lab assistants gradually increase the speed. The information gained from this is then used in a formula to determine the parameters for the next two trials.

In the next two trials, the participant takes an energy packet before they start and then bikes for an hour, with the lab assistants taking respiratory, glucose and lactose measurements while they are riding.

“This is my first time doing research at all so that in itself is exciting,” Wechsler said. “This one in particular is pretty interesting because I work out a lot so it is interesting to see whether or not these gels have any effect on your performance. Also, Dr. Hue is pretty brilliant.”

In another study, students are working with Associate Professor of Biology Charisse Buising to study the effects of blood donation on aortic blood flow, by doing measurements while students are in three different positions after giving blood.

Drake students who are interested can participate in these and other research endeavors by getting in contact with the students involved. For the energy gel study contact Kaila Wechsler (kaila.wechsler@drake.edu) and for the blood donation study, students can contact Meryl Brune (meryl.brune@drake.edu).

Jacob Vandervaart, a sophomore biochemistry, cell and molecular biology student, is planning on going into research as a career path. Vanderwaart’s major interest is working in areas of bioinformatics, which adds aspects of computer science to the world of biology.

“Research is interesting because it is not you sitting in a lecture,” he said, “in experiments you are finding out for yourself.”

When Buising was asked what she enjoyed about working with students in research, she said it’s for “those aha moments.”

“I like to see them discover their potential and where they can go with it,” Buising said. “There is a lot of freedom during that opportunity that allows them to not be constrained. You really get to see their creative activity with how they solve a problem.”

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