Vermont Genetics Network helps enable student research in science, technology, engineering and mathematics

For Norwich University’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics students, “I will research” could complement “I will try” as a mantra. The Vermont Genetics Network continues to help that research happen.

By promoting biomedical research infrastructure, the network, funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, aims to build and sustain a culture of research at Vermont’s colleges and universities.

“Norwich University’s partnership with VGN for over 15 years has provided our students with cutting-edge research experiences students may not get at other institutions,” Dr. Darlene Olsen, Norwich’s Vermont Genetics Network coordinator, said. “These opportunities are open to all NU students that are motivated and interested in scientific research.”

At Norwich, Vermont Genetics Network-funded projects complement work supported by Norwich’s Office of Academic Research. The office, created in 2007, encourages and supports faculty and student efforts to pursue original research, scholarship and creative projects across all disciplines and exchange their results at all academic levels.

This summer’s Vermont Genetics Network internships will run May 28 through Aug. 7 in Vermont at the Albany College of Pharmacy and Bia Diagnostics in Colchester, the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in White River Junction and in Delaware at Delaware State University in Dover.

Students landing internships will work as Norwich University employees and receive a salary. The lab in which the student is placed will receive additional money to use for lab supplies or intern conference travel (except for students working at Delaware State).

Students from Castleton University, the Community College of Vermont, Northern Vermont University, St. Michael’s College and Norwich may apply for summer research support from the network.

Application deadline is Feb. 18. Visit vgn.uvm.edu/fundingopportunities for information. Norwich students can email Olsen for assistance at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Vermont Genetics Network-funded summer 2020 research opportunities include:

Dr. Karen Glass’ laboratory, Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (Colchester, Vermont)
In this internship, the student will join Glass’ research program, which uses high field nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy; X-ray crystallography; and biochemical and molecular biology to determine structures and functions of chromatin — a collection of DNA and proteins binding proteins — that are implicated in diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurological disorders and parasitic infections.

Bia Diagnostics (Colchester, Vermont)
In this internship, the student will help process samples and learn the science behind enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and polymerase-chain reaction-based food testing methodology in a fast-paced contract testing laboratory.

Mo Stettner performs Vermont Genetics Network-funded research on June 6, 2019, at Shelburne Pond in Shelburne, Vt. (Photo courtesy Dr. Allison Neal.)

Delaware State University (Dover, Delaware)
In this internship, students will join laboratory science investigators exploring new therapies and treatments for veterans and others. Research topics include targeted therapies to reduce inflammation and improve neuropsychiatric symptoms associated with traumatic brain injuries; endocytosis in Candida filamentation, biofilm formation and virulence; therapeutic implementation of new CRISPR/Cas gene editing system for targeting and destroying genes that cause disease.

In summer 2019, with Vermont Genetics Network funding, two students worked at off-campus laboratories and five students worked at Norwich faculty laboratories.

Here’s a recap.

Vermont Genetics Network at-large Undergraduate Research Program
The Vermont Genetics Network’s undergraduate research program funded Elena Shriner, a Norwich nursing major and English minor, from Woodbridge, Virginia, to work with Dr. Karl Miletti-Gonzalez at Delaware State University. Amid her research, Shriner visited NASA-Goddard, the Optical Science Center for Applied Research imaging facility and performed a chick embryo dissection for astrocytes.

Shriner presented her work, “Optimization of Chick Embryo Astrocyte Transfection through Electroporation” in July at Delaware State’s Research Symposium and in October at the University of Maryland Research Symposium in Baltimore.

The network also funded Macall Meslin, a Norwich biology major from Essex, Vermont, to do research with Diane Rivera at the White River Junction Veterans Administration Medical Center. Her project investigated how lung cancer treatment in urban areas compared with lung cancer treatment in rural areas.

* * *

Dr. Allison Neal’s laboratory
Three students worked with Dr. Allison Neal, a Norwich Vermont Genetics Network-funded faculty member and Vermont Women in Higher Education’s Peggy R. Williams Emerging Professional Award winner, investigating trematodes, a parasitic flatworm.

The network funded Mary Nsubuga, a biology major from Malden, Massachusetts, to work in Neal’s lab on “Using Genetic Markers to Investigate the Effects of Intraspecific Competition on Division of Labor in Trematodes.” 

From left, Norwich students Caleb Scully and Dan Dieringer pose Oct. 22, 2019, at North Montpelier Pond in East Montpelier, Vt., where they performed Vermont Genetics Network-funded research. (Photo courtesy Dr. Allison Neal.)

Moira Stettner, a biology major from Springfield, Vermont, was funded to work with Neal on “Microscopic Examination of Division of Labor in Freshwater Trematodes.”

Also, Kathryn Farnum, a biology major and an Honors Program member from Andover, Massachusetts, was funded through the Norwich University Undergraduate Research Program on “Temporal Variation in Trematode Infections Related to Snail Host Longevity.”

All three students presented their work at the Parasitology and Disease Ecology conference at Middlebury College and will work with Neal in the 2019-20 academic year.

* * *

Dr. Thomas Shell’s laboratory
Vermont Genetics Network-funding helped two students join Norwich chemistry professor Dr. Tom Shell in investigating targeted treatments for diseases such as cancer.

The network funded Halee Lair, a biology major and Honors Program student from Litchfield, Maine, to work on her project, “Development of Light-Activated Compounds for the Improved Treatment of Head and Neck Cancers.” Lair presented her work Aug. 14 through Aug. 16 at the Northeast Regional IDeA Conference, which ran in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire.

Shawnae Evans, a neuroscience major from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, received funding from Norwich University’s Undergraduate Research Program to work on her project, “Development of Light-activated Compounds for the Improved Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease.” Evans presented her work at the 2019 Northeast Regional IDeA Conference and the 2019 Women in STEM Summit, which ran April 6 at Wheaton College. Both students will work with Shell during the 2019-20 academic year.

* * *

Editor’s note: Research reported in this (publication, project, release) was supported by an Institutional Development Award (IDeA) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under grant number P20GM103449. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NGIMS) or the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

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