Nine science students present research at 22nd Annual Argonne Symposium

On Oct 26, nine Lake Forest College students presented biology, neuroscience, psychology, and environmental studies research at the 22nd Annual Argonne Symposium for Undergraduates in Science, Engineering and Mathematics at Argonne National Laboratory. Nearly 300 students, teachers, and scientists attended the symposium, and over 130 students presented original scholarship, from colleges and universities across the nation. Since 2002, over sixty five Lake Forest College students have presented at Argonne.

 “The Argonne Undergraduate Symposium in Science,” said Professor and Chair of Biology Doug Light, “provides an excellent opportunity for students to share their scientific research with an extramural audience, obtain feedback from other students and scientists, and hone their presentation skills.”

The Lake Forest students’ research was conducted at the College, McHenry County Prairie Conservation District, the Chicago Botanic Gardens, and through the LFC-RFUMS summer fellows program at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science. Two students conducted research as first-year students. All nine students are preparing for scientific careers and plan to pursue a Ph.D., M.D., or graduate degrees in life sciences or health professions, or to become science teachers in the K-12 system.

“A major focus of our college’s science programs is to provide our students hands-on research experiences as early as possible and then provide them diverse opportunities for professional communication,” adds Chair of Neuroscience Shubhik DebBurman. “Thus, its not surprising that an increasing number of sophomores and juniors are presenting alongside seniors at Argonne, preparing them well for future national and international meetings when they are seniors.”

The following presentations were given by Lake Forest College students, along with other student co-authors and faculty sponsors:

EFFECTS OF FLORA COMPETITION ON SAPLING SURVIVAL AND HEALTH Abigail P. Brownell ‘15 and Ryan R Drake ‘15 (both presenters) (Faculty sponsor: Dr. Lynn Westley, Biology)

ADOLESCENCE AND GABAERGIC INTERNEURONS Kim Diah ‘13 (presenter) (Faculty sponsor: Dr. Kuei Tseng, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine & Science)

ADOLESCENT EXPOSURE TO CB1 RECEPTOR AGONIST ELICITS A DISINHIBITED PFC STATE IN ADULTHOOD Chanalee Hocharoen ‘13 (presenter),  Daryn Cass ‘10,  Adriana Caballero (Faculty sponsor: Dr. Kuei Tseng, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine & Science)

MAKING A CONSTRUCT TO KNOCKOUT A PUTATIVE TELOMERASE RNA SEQUENCE IN ASPERGILLUS NIDULANS Sajan Koirala ‘13 (presenter),  Saajidha Rizvydeen ‘12,  Zhiyu Deng ‘15,  Natalie Zemela ‘15,  Amanda L Allred ‘14,  (Faculty sponsor: Dr. Karen Kirk, Biology)

ΑLPHA-SYNUCLEIN FAMILIAL MUTANTS IN PARKINSON’S DISEASE: DOES COMBINING THEM AGGRAVATE PATHOLOGICAL PROPERTIES IN YEAST MODELS? Natalie Kukulka ‘13 (presenter),  Ryan Vlaar ‘14  Keith Solvang ‘11,  Michael Herriges ‘15, and Madhavi Senagolage ‘12 (Faculty sponsor: Dr. Shubhik DebBurman, Biology)

• PARKINSON’S DISEASE PROTEIN α-SYNUCLEIN: ARE SOME AMINO ACIDS MORE IMPORTANT TO PATHOLOGY THAN OTHERS? Galina A. Lipkin’15 (presenter),  Katrina Campbell ‘14 (Faculty sponsor: Dr. Shubhik DebBurman, Biology)

UNDERSTANDING PARKINSON’S DISEASE PATHOLOGY IN YEAST: A ROLE FOR ENDOCYTOSIS Maiwase Tembo ‘15 (presenter), Madhavi Senagolage ‘12, Jame Perez ‘10, Alexandra Ayala ‘09, Mithaq Vahedi ‘08, Jessica Price ‘06 (Faculty sponsor: Dr. Shubhik DebBurman, Biology)

THE EFFECTS OF SAVANNA RESTORATION ON ANT DIVERSITY Nicole E Vachter ‘14 (presenter) (Faculty sponsor: Dr. Sean Menke, Biology)

Some Argonne student testimonies:


Natalie Kukulka ‘13, Neuroscience and Biology, on presenting her senior thesis research
: “Presenting at Argonne was a great experience because I was able to interact with a lot of undergraduates who were doing fascinating research and were able to teach me valuable information though their presentations. Aside from the presentation aspect, we were also engaged in different tours of the facility, which broaden my understanding of the applications of the tremendous technology that Argonne offers. I think that the two key factors that really accounted for the success of my presentation were the prior rehearsals and concrete knowledge of my collected data. By the time I had to present at Argonne I was very well rehearsed and I did not have to worry about anything within my presentation. The developed understanding of my experimental results helped me anticipate any questions that might come from the audience as well as help explain the acquired results. Doing undergraduate research has inspired me not only analyze the end problem, but also seek out an understanding behind its development. I have learned to be patient with the experimental process and precise in my analyses. I believe that in the future, as a medical doctor, patience, precision, and a deeper understanding for the roots of an issue will allow me to excel in my career.”


Chanalee Hocharoen ‘13, Biology, on presenting her senior thesis research: “Argonne was an amazing experience. Not only did we get to tour an amazing facility but we got to learn about a lot of undergraduate research. I was able to benefit from Argonne in so many ways. Not only did I get to present my research, but I was able to learn from other student’s styles of presentation. The key to a successful presentation, in my opinion, was to make the presentation entertaining while being clear about my research. I found that it was a difficult balance to achieve. Undergraduate research has really helped me network and familiarize with different fields of research. Although graduation is looming over us seniors in the spring, undergraduate research has prepared me and I am not as intimidated about the “real world” as I was before. I am actually really excited to get out there and do research in the future.”

Sajan Koirala ‘13, Biology: “The 2012 Argonne Undergraduate symposium was my first time presenting at a national level symposium. It was a great experience during which I met other undergrad scientists like myself, learned much about cool new frontiers in the sciences, and developed as a presenter and symposium participant. I really did not spend much time preparing and practicing for my presentation, but I was told I did very well and answered questions with ease. I think having worked in this lab for so long and having read so many articles about my subject in the past 10 months prepared well for my presentation.
I suspect graduate schools and employers find it impressive when an undergraduate student presents at a prestigious facility such as Argonne. In addition, students also develop much as scientists when doing undergraduate research - they develop the logical, scientific, nearly obsessive way of thinking most other students do not have. Undergrad researchers also get an in depth knowledge of lab procedures and learn much about a really cool subject.”

Nicole Vachter ‘14, Biology, on presenting her undergraduate research: “The main benefit was gaining confidence for other presentations that I may be doing for a variety of different situations and topics. The key to my presentation was practice, practice, practice! I am fortunate to have the experience now in field research. I think a lot of the time we have different ideas of what it will be like to experience it first hand, it gives you an idea of what you are getting into”.

Ryan Drake ‘14, biology:  “I wanted to present at Argonne because the experience would only help me in the future. Presenting and speaking in public has always been difficult for me, so practice and experience will help me and prepare me for a professional career. The key in our presentation was explaining our project with confidence and interest, showing others just how much value it had. I have always been itching to get out into the field and do professional level work. For most of my life facts and instructions were always given to me with no real-world relativity (at least for me at the time). I’ve wanted to take the tools given to me and actually applying them to research. This will definitely give me confidence in future scientific work and it makes me look forward to it even more.

Maiwase Tembo ‘15, Neuroscience and Biology, on presenting her first-year summer research : “I came out of my shell and actually loved seeing people learn from something I had spent weeks working on. It felt like my work was being appreciated by a group of people outside the lab I work in. The key was practice. I practiced so much that when our was presenting it felt so natural that I was able to enjoy myself. this research has opened my mind to the many possibilities out there. It is one thing to believe that people research and Create magnificent stuff but to actually be a part of the research or to even to Witness the growth of industry,that keeps me going. I now that I can do both research and become a doctor ”.

Lake Forest College is a national liberal arts institution located 30 miles north of downtown Chicago. The College has 1,500 students representing 47 states and 72 countries.